Friday, September 5, 2014

IMBA Summit Day 4 - Ice Bags and Hot Springs

You may already know that Steamboat Springs is actively engaged in becoming Bike Town USA.  It's a resort town.  In winter, skiers and snowboarders come for the downhill runs.  But in summer, the town's tourism industry dwindles.  So, the town decided to invest in cycling as a summer tourism opportunity.

Judging by the miles of beautiful, flowy trail and the fun downhill runs, they are well on their way.  And hosting the IMBA Summit was a great idea.  Steamboat Springs is investing another $5.1 million in the next few years on cycling infrastructure.  I will be back to check on their progress for sure.

But who is the mountain bike tourist that Steamboat Springs is wooing?   Well, the average mountain bike tourist is a middle-age, middle-class, white male.  (Trust me, I went to the seminars).

Hooray, I'm a target demographic!
According to data provided by Harry Dalgaard of Ride Oregon, cycling is more popular than golf, tennis, and skiing combined.  Over 25% of US Americans cycle. 
Slides courtesy of Harry of Ride Oregon
And cycle tourists, according to Harry, spend 20% more per visit than other tourists.  I'm reasonably certain that the vast majority of this spending is on special themed jerseys.  Jerseys are the concert t-shirts of the cycling world.  Just like how people buy concert shirts as proof of their concert attendance, and by association, their awesomeness for loving the band - that's also how people shop for bike jerseys.

Because it's the easiest way to tell the world that you bought a bike jersey in New Zealand
There are even concert t-shirt bike jerseys, resulting in an infinite loop of awesomeness.  This jersey tells the world "I ride bikes and I like to bite the heads off bats." 

I'm pretty sure this is what Ozzy had in mind.
Of course, Ozzy himself didn't need a bike jersey.  When you're that metal, you ride in leather pants.

And if you're not into places or bands, you can proclaim your religious affiliation on bike jerseys too.

Nothing says "I'm saved" like pop-culture satire.
Where were we?  Oh yes, biking Oregon.  Of course, part of Harry's presentation was aimed at showing us that mountain biking in Oregon is awesome.  With scenery like this, it's not a hard sell.

Photo from Ride Oregon

Harry also produced what may be The Best PowerPoint Slide And Venn Diagram Ever, which he used to explain Oregon's cultural confluence in cycling.

This one got a good laugh, and I thought it was worth sharing, so thanks Harry, for letting me use some of your slides!

But back to Steamboat Springs.

The bikes pictured above were loaded on top of the shuttle by Bike Town USA's Executive Director, Tyler Goodman, proving that he's willing to roll up his sleeves and do the dirty work.

Tyler loves cycling and this was probably a big reason that he sought out the job he has.  Unfortunately for him, this means that, instead of riding bikes, he has to drive the shuttle around while other people ride bikes.

This is the irony of working in the cycling-tourism industry, or really any aspect of the cycling industry.  In order to be paid to do what you love, you have to give up opportunities to do what you love.  And, given the demographics, you'll have to watch upper-income, middle-aged males ride bikes while you're working.  I'll let that sink in. 

Tyler helped shuttle us to the rides today, and we got to chat with him.  Originally, he was supposed to take us on our "epic" ride of the World Summit.

When I originally read about this ride, I was stoked.  25 miles of trail, with something like 2,000 feet of downhill over the last 10 miles.  I thought about it every day at the conference, even going so far as to make sure that I didn't overdo it on prior rides, so I'd still have enough gas in the tank to really enjoy the miles.

But when I woke up on the appointed morning, I was bummed to see that it had rained all night.

Stupid rain.  I hate it so much!
So, they cancelled the epic ride.  The trail was too muddy.  Thee followed a flury of text messages and emails as everyone tried to figure out what to do - were other trails rideable?  Should we go road ride instead?  Everybody was trying to salvage the day.  We knew we wanted to ride, but when and where?

After a couple of hours, good news arrived: there were a couple local trails that were still rideable, the Mad Creek trails, so the shuttles were running to them instead.  So, I did what any sensible person would so, and wrapped my feet in hotel ice bags.

Nothing good ever starts with plastic bags on your feet
The ride was great.  Breathtaking scenery and breathtaking elevation.

"No . . (huff, huff) . . .I'm fine . . .(huff, huff).  Just stopping . . . (wheeze,, cough) . . . to take . . . a picture."
And the group I rode out with included MTB legend Hans "No Way" Rey!

From his FB page

My ride for the day was a Pivot Mach 429.

The best part was, after 12 miles and 1,600 feet of climbing, the trail ended up at a natural hot springs, which I proceeded to immediately soil with my presence.  I'm not sure whether you're allowed to drink in there, but I may have seen somebody drink a beer there.

It was me.  I drank a beer there.
What an amazing way to end the ride!  True story, these springs are owned by a guy named Don Johnson.

After muddying up the hot springs, it was back to the hotel for BBQ and an outdoor screening of "Singletrack High," a documentary that follows several teens in their Northern California MTB racing league.  It was inspiring to watch the high schoolers connect with their bikes at an age when I was obsessed with getting a car.  And in doing so, the teens found a community of friends and the drive to reach new goals.

Brindley, me, Chip, and Andy from the IMBA Great Lakes Region enjoy the film with Mike, SRAM's mechanic extraordinare
That wraps up my coverage of the IMBA World Summit.

Go be brave!


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