Author: Steve Pretzel
It's coming up for seven years now since I first got involved in trail bike issues and there's one question I still wrestle with. Regularly. What are the things that we as riders can do to help ensure the sustainability of our sport?
I'm not talking about lobbying government for more land, less restrictive regulations or funding to build trails. Those things are fairly obvious and in many cases reactive.
What I mean is: what are the things that I can do as an individual that will make a positive difference?
I have a fair idea of the things that I can do as an individual. I can make sure my bike is no louder than it needs to be and that I ride it quietly when I'm around people (on trails or in houses). I can stay away from areas where I know I shouldn't be such as walk trails, water catchment and dieback areas. I can work on riding smoothly so that I can be fast without ripping up the trails.
I know I can do all of these things, but will they make a positive difference?
What does it matter that I consciously try to do the right thing when there are lots of other riders who don't know or don't care?
We all talk about the 'irresponsible minority' that threatens to ruin things for us. Surely what I do or don't do won't influence them, will it?
I don't ride with the 'irresponsible minority' so they can't watch and emulate me (and anyone who has seen how I ride wouldn't want to emulate that anyway!).
I don't think I even know anyone in the 'irresponsible minority' - and even if I did they probably wouldn't listen if I tried to enlighten them.
If I'm doing the right thing then very few people will even know I'm our there riding so the 'community PR' value is lost (only the 'irresponsible minority' make the news).
Now it's easy to get disheartened when you look this way at the power of the individual to make a positive difference.
But I think it comes down to this. There will always be an 'irresponsible minority' and they will always cause us trouble. But the more marginal they become the less trouble they will cause.
I can't influence people who neither know nor care about the impacts of their actions on other people, on the environment and on our sport. That's out of my hands.
What is in my hands is the influence over what I choose to do, where I choose to do it and who I choose to do it with. I can make these decisions for no other reason than knowing that I am doing my bit for the future of riding.
If enough of us just focus on what we can do maybe ... just maybe we can make that positive difference after all.