How the West Was Won


Not far from the glistening neon halo that cushions a certain reputation of the state of Nevada, lies a burgeoning mountain biking scene that stands to dramatically alter the perceptions of those who come for the riding, instead of the revelry. The story of mountain biking as it unfolds in Southwestern Nevada is much different than the one that’s been marinating for decades in the hills around California, Oregon, and Washington. Here, the rocks and sand of the arid Mojave don’t readily beckon, as they must still be harnessed and sculpted before they can be tamed on a bike.

Rising to that challenge is the Southern Nevada Mountain Bike Association, a rapidly growing and passionate group of individuals united under the same banner that we all fly: mountain biking. SNMBA’s challenge is not one of ridership or land ownership, but of limited trail availability. In seeking to expand upon the few popular ride locales on the outskirts of the city, they are working closely with the US Forest Service who has secured funding and opened up land usage permissions to build a new system of over twenty miles of professionally-designed, multi-use trail in and around Middle Kyle Canyon.

Obviously, plans and permissions are nothing without funding, and none of which are worth a damn without a determined army of shovels, chainsaws, and McLeods. Luckily, SNMBA is growing that army and are slowly transforming the thirsty hills of Middle Kyle into a fast and flowy network of cross-country singletrack. When we recently joined up with one of their work parties, it was immediately apparent that SNMBA understands the foremost Universal Truth of Trailbuilding: nothing is lost in the universe. A trailbuilding experience invested pays off in dividends. Every square foot of earth raked, every rock removed, and every shrub carefully manicured for the passage of singletrack is an investment in the future of the sport, and one that could someday help Middle Kyle rival MTB household names like Fruita or Moab.

There was also a tangible maturity and a sense of pride about those who came to help out. Here was a group of cyclists who accepted the fact that unlike many of their peers around the world, they were not entitled to an inheritance of world-class trails. There was an impassioned understanding that in order for the area to have such world-class trails, it’s the “now” generation tasked with leaving behind the legacy for those who follow to inherit. SNMBA is joining a growing line of pioneers in our young sport because they have chosen to properly maintain and break new trail in the area, rather than merely surrender existing trails to entropy.

The SNMBA trailbuilders haven’t been left to their own devices either. Just like our experience in the Pacific Northwest where the DNR played an active role, the US Forest Service lent several of their own experienced local dirt sculptors to educate the team of volunteers and ensure that each section of trail made the most of the land’s lay while meeting drainage and erosion standards for future conservation. Yes, apparently it rains in the Mojave. Who knew?

Southwestern Nevada will be a riding destination because SNMBA is making it so, and not because it was there when someone discovered it. Even the US Forest Service Techs who were on hand to help out knew they were part of something special. So much so, that one of them felt compelled to buy a mountain bike and take up riding just so he, and his future children could enjoy the very trails and the legacy he was helping shape.

Like any good work weekend, we capped off our time in the desert with a rousing St. Paddy’s day group ride. Just a short drive from Kyle Canyon where we were working, lies the Coyote Springs development: a large tract of still-undeveloped housing property. The story of this area begins much like many of the stories that extend beyond The Strip — with the bursting of the housing bubble. One of the property development executives was an avid mountain biker who saw potential in the cancellation of the housing construction on the land. So naturally, he brought in an expert trailbuilder from St. George, Utah to sculpt a private network of challenging and fun trails all within short drive from the fabled Vegas Strip. But until SNMBA approached the developer and was granted permission to hold official group ride days, these trails went largely untouched by mountain bike tires.

We met at a small truck stop on the north side of ‘Vegas, where everyone signed a waiver and applied sunscreen before joining the long caravan of vehicles snaking their way towards Coyote Springs; a vast, gated expanse in the middle of the desert. It’s an extremely unique opportunity to join a large group of people who all love to ride, but moreso with a group who are collectively riding a large series of trails for the first time. This tangible excitement combined with the St. Patrick’s frivolities made for an especially festive, and memorable atmosphere at both points of the ride.

Most equally exciting and inspiring about the motivations of trailbuilding in places like Southwestern Nevada, is the clear awareness that local riding is only ever as good as those who come out to lift a hand and make it so. Therein lies the joy of mountain biking: it’s not just felt in riding a great trail, but also through giving back, paying it forward, and leaving something for the next generation.

You can find a few more photographs from the work party here on our Facebook page. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list or follow us on Twitter as we continue to reveal the races, festivals and trailbuilding events that comprise our rapidly unfurling summer travel schedule. [zp]

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