Last night was the Backcountry Bicycle Trail Club's (BBTC) first "Tent Days" event at Tiger Mountain and, from my seat at the burger-flipping, beer swilling membership drive, it was quite a success. The BBTC was founded in 1988 as a grassroots reaction to the growing movement to ban mountain bikes from public land in western Washington and has since grown to be a highly respected organization with nearly a thousand dues-paying members, a small cadre of paid full-time staff, and a ride calendar that averaged just under two organized group mountain bike rides a day for 2005. The club is responsible for the trails at Tiger Mountain being open to mountain bikes and can also be credited with the year-round maintenance that goes into keeping the Seattle area's most heavily used trail system in shape. It was a natural place to begin the series of events.
But before one can get their grub on, they have to earn it.
Jon Kennedy (Volunteer Director), Brian Jones (former President) and myself met at the trailhead around four o'clock to get a quick ride in. The "classic loop" at Tiger consists of a 3.2 mile forest road climb up 1200 feet to the Preston Railroad trailhead. From there, it's a three mile rocky, root-dropping descent to another forest road. A mile or two on a gravel road winds its way over to the Northwest Timber trail, which features about 2.5 miles of flowy singletrack with a couple of small semi-technical features.
This time last year, when first riding Tiger and after coming off my three year hiatus from all-things-athletic, I couldn't make the initial climb without at least pausing to rest once or twice. By mid-summer I was able to climb it pretty quickly, getting my time on the climb down to rougly 28 minutes. After that, I simply skipped the road and pedaled up the singletrack. Well, if I may pat myself on the back for a moment, I must say that I impressed myself yesterday by doing the entire road climb (actually, the entire ride) in the middle chainring. I would have never thought this possible, but it's clear that the road biking is really helping to build my climbing strength. When I bought my road bike in March, it was as a means to an end. That end is here -- I'm a much stronger climber than I was last summer. Go me!
But enough about the riding, this post is about the membership drive. We were fortunate in that the rain held off for most of the night and the six of us in attendance were able to raise quite a bit of money for the club. To help entice people to join, we would lure them over to the tent with the promise of hamburgers and beer and chips after they finished their ride. And I can tell you from experience, that there are few things a mountain biker wants more after a ride, than a nice cold beer. Those who signed up or donated money would have their hunger and thirst sated care of the BBTC.
We had plenty of pamphlets and stickers on hand, in addition to snacks, and even had one of the old-school credit card machines that don't require a phone line and electricity. And, fortunately for us, nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. Or maybe it was the scent of the burgers I was cooking up?
Either way, one of the nice things about a membership drive for a club such as the BBTC is that the club's benefits to the mountain biking scene pretty much speak for themselves. Not only is the club responsible for the trails these riders had just finished riding, but many others as well. Not to mention the Colonadde trail system being built under Interstate 5 and the 120 acre skills park that is being planned for another nearby area. And then there's the social benefits. As someone new to the area, I could go on all day about the benefits of being a club member and the friendships I've made and the trails I've ridden thanks to the club. There's no hard-sell needed. Just honest excitement about a mutual interest. And the money and membership applications come roaring in. And the ride calendar grows with new names...