In all honestly, I was initially not going to comment on this podcast because I had not taken the time to listen. However, as a concerned local San Diego rider, I figured I should at least hear what was being said. After listening, I felt I needed to respond more now than I did before.
While a lot of cool and wonderful things were said about SDMBA and all of the work they are doing, I don’t feel any of that work is ever shared to the level it should be nor do I feel represented by them. Its probably also the reason that even with a “300-400% increase” in riders across the country, that local membership has not increased. Below I figured I might as well address what I noticed as member of SDMBA and other local rider groups on social media over the past couple of years plus general feedback I have received from both riding buddies and random riders on the trails I’ve chatted with.
1.When I was a member of SDMBA, all I got was an email about all of these “perks” and “discounts” and then a monthly email telling me about a bunch of stuff that basically doesn’t apply to me or really any of the other people I ride with. In a way its pretty much just SDMBA spam trying to raise money or push some partner. So, it begs the question, what are we REALLY getting with a membership?
Yes, the emails also have volunteer opportunities. However, said opportunities are usually in non-local place or some obscure section. Noble is a great trail, but when nearly every opportunity to work is only there, it’s not very motivating. What about regular maintenance on PQ, Black Mountain (other than Black Widow), or any of the more central riding areas that are frequented the most? If people saw you out working on those trails or saw they were closer, wouldn’t people be more inclined to show up and volunteer?
Also, I get the issue of not always digging on trails, but where are the organized trash clean ups? Why aren’t the group rides advertised more and done more often? I’m originally from the PNW and they’re literally running circles around us with this kind of stuff. Especially with regards to advocacy and local programs. Just today, saw Evergreen MTB is starting a Trail Ambassador program. The main goal is just to have people out connecting with riders and making sure everyone is having a “good time” riding in the most popular locations. Think about how that would increase membership!
2.Piggy backing off of the maintenance days in more central areas, why doesn’t SDMBA have more of an actual presence on the trails, at trailheads, and local rider events?? That’s great you go and pop your tents up every once in a while at a trailhead and hand out a few bells. However, that is only one aspect. Not only does that need to be done on a monthly or bi-monthly basis at multiple locations throughout the county, there also needs to be more from the ranking members of the organization. How can people connect with an organization if they don’t see them present in the very environment they are supposed to be advocating for? They’re literally getting paid to do this, so why aren’t we seeing more of them? Where are the membership dollars going otherwise? Why not pop up the tent at some of the non-sanctioned spots to show those riders you’re thinking of them and have your support too? If you can’t pop up a tent for “political” reasons, at least show up and hang out in the parking areas and talk to some of the riders there. This to me is the one of the main reasons the organization continues to struggle with membership. The progressive riders here DO NOT feel represented SDMBA in the slightest. You can see this in the sentiments expressed in the FB groups by local riders. SDMBA is viewed as a joke. Due to their own inaction, SDMBA is missing out on making a very important connection with the younger riders in the area that could carry the torch in the future. Let’s be honest, the bikes are way more capable today than when were kids riding. This means the kids are going to be starting to progress at earlier and earlier age.
I’m sure Trailfest and all of those long distance rides like Arch and Waffles are great, but where are the SDMBA sponsored rides/races for the more progressive and/or Enduro riders of SD? Are they to forever going to have to rely on organizations outside their home area to provide this type of community? Seems like this would be a no brainer and an easy way to attract people to the organization.
Another glaring example of the lack of presence was felt again this weekend during the Transcend MTB meetup at Vail Lake. I know that members of SDMBA are a member of pretty much every main Facebook rider group in the area with Transcend being the largest. You would think with as many riders that planned to and DID show up on Sunday, SDMBA would’ve at least made an attempt to come engage. Again, if you can’t have a tent at the very least show up and meet some of us. But no, not a single representative. This is also not the first time this has occurred. I’ve personally attended 3 of these meetups myself and never seen the first person there from SDMBA.
3.Speaking of the FB groups, this is another area where SDMBA is severely lacking. Their online presence in those groups is basically next to nothing. Other than the occasional post from Susie, a rebuttal from another board member when something gets called out about SDMBA by normal group members, or some event to raise MORE money, we pretty much hear nothing about what SDMBA is doing for us. If you’re advocating and representing us, SHOW US!! There should at least be a weekly or bi-weekly run down that goes around all of the groups that show what they have been doing to help the community at large. Again, how do people connect with an organization they hardly know anything about?? Don’t think this works? Look at what Jeff Lanuzo of Transcend does every week on Tuesday and then look at how many people show up to the events. Little things like that go a long way with people.
This also goes for the website. If you go to their website right now, you would think the company is barely hanging on or no longer in business. The monthly meeting they push so hard for everyone to come to, is not that easy to find. For something so important, shouldn’t this be a permanent link on the homepage? In addition, the minutes from both meetings are all from last year and even then, 4 of them are missing from the Board Meeting. The Volunteer Opportunities page is significantly out of date, the news feed has nothing current, and the list keeps going. This page should be not only up to date but also well-informed resource for riders in the area plus visitors. The website isn’t even meeting the bare minimum.
4.I was happy to hear that SDMBA has made steps to become a 501.C4 non-profit but this begs the question; If we have been losing trails in San Diego since the 80s, why in the hell was this not done sooner?? Susie referenced the “environmental groups”. What she didn’t say was how they literally wipe the floor with us riders on a regular basis. Sierra Club, Democrats for Environmental Action, Equestrian riders, and multiple other groups have essentially adopted a hostile attitude toward mountain bikers. Yet we continue to deal with horse shit all over the trails and hoof marks permanently in the trails. While I fail to see how this affects the ecosystem any less than a mountain biker does, they still continue to get their way just like the other groups. That means that someone is allowing it to happen versus standing up to it.
Then we have the “we can’t build because its protected” thing or some other environmental excuse only to have it sold to the highest bidder 2-3 years later. This has happened more often than not here in San Diego, and it will continue to happen. PQ/Del Mar Preserve is a prime example. Less and less trails every few years. Fanita Ranch is another one that is coming up and again, it’ll slowly spread and take away more and more trails. Its great there is all these committees being created and legislation being passed, but to act globally you must first think locally. My concern is not with the rest of the state as most of it already has leaps and bounds better riding and representation than what we do as I’ve seen and experienced it firsthand. My concern is with the trails in the county where we all live and ride. What is being done on a local level to push back on this stuff?? When is enough, enough?
5.The last point of concern I have are the trails themselves. If you want people to believe in your cause, give them something to believe in. In Mountain Biking, trails are basically the essential element. However, if the local advocacy group that is supposed to be building the trails doesn’t appear to even push for any sort of progressive features to be added to even the expert rated trails, what is the whole point of progressing?? This also applies to the quality of the trails. If trails like Black Widow and bike parks like Greg Cox are the example that SDMBA wants to set, then we got problems. Also makes me much more happier Global Actions Sport is doing the actual building at the Indian Reservation and any of our local representation. There are literally local kids on IG that can probably build better than the people at SDMBA. For all the work and time that went in to build a trail like Black Widow, couldn’t it have been made to be more fun and less like all the other XC trails we have? Should have been called Daddy Long Pedal-Legs instead.
The point here is, like a lot of riders, I am wanting to know is when is SDMBA going to stop with “wait and see” approach and start ACTIVELY pushing for change? Keep us over informed on what is going on, stage large meetups or even a protest to get some attention, have an actual presence in the riding community, and give people a reason to show up and actually support the organization!
We have been hearing the same excuses for years now and the riders here are tired of it. If you need membership for change, then act like you give a crap about ALL OF THE RIDERS in SD and DO MORE to show them, not just the ones who ride the easy and intermediate stuff. If you need membership for change, come out and have a presence at ALL the places we ride. SDMBA should see by now that even with 300-400% increase, people aren’t going to just come to you. You have to give them a reason and so far, SDMBA is failing to give most of the riders in SD a reason to do so.