Story By Chris Denison · Photos By Drew Ruiz · From the March 2013 issue of Dirt Rider Magazine
You’re not stupid. How do we know? First off, you’re reading Dirt Rider—that’s an early identifier of above-average intelligence. But beyond that, we know you’re well aware of the many challenges that face our great sport. You know riding areas are being reduced and closed at an alarming rate. You know excessive sound and irresponsible behavior are two gigantic threats to sustaining a public perception of motorcyclists. And you also know a small, tenacious sampling of riders is doing more than their fair share of the work to ensure the overall population has somewhere to ride. We don’t have to beat these things into your head, because if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be reading this.
Rather than dedicating these pages to the perpetuation of doom and gloom, we wanted to provide readers—you, specifically—with a constructive, realistic example of ways you and your friends can make a positive difference while also having a great time on and around motorcycles. And so, working hand in hand with legendary promoter and responsible riding advocate Eric Peronnard, we gathered a handful of our closest riding buddies and set out for one of the most majestic and unique riding areas in the world. Our purpose? To make a positive impact, to leave the place better than we found it and to create a structured example of how you can capitalize on a fun trip by preserving the ethos of responsible recreation. Here’s how you can make it happen:
Step #1: Pick An Area
Utah has some amazing off-road riding and is, by and large, a very rider-friendly state, but there’s something about Moab that sets it above the rest. From its postcard-quality scenery to the wide variety of terrain, Moab is an off-roader’s paradise and is currently supported by a strong following of riders who work diligently to protect the area. A lot of people enjoy Moab and do it responsibly; that’s why the area is still accessible. But with so many tourists visiting Moab on an annual basis, we wanted to do our part to ensure that the trail system was getting the proper amount of care and consideration from two-wheeled enthusiasts. There are thousands of riding areas all over the U.S. that can benefit from some involvement, but there’s only one Moab and it’s vital to keep it alive and well.
Step #2: Get Your Friends Involved
Once we’d settled on an area, we went about picking some riding buddies to come out and help us. The key here is to find riders who see the importance of being respectful and responsible, but it doesn’t hurt if they’re top off-road racers as well! We kept the invite list small and secret, but in the end the Dirt Rider splinter cell of Peronnard, Lindsey Lovell, Kris Keefer and I were joined by EnduroCross greats Geoff Aaron, Mike Brown, Kyle Redmond, Destry Abbott, Louise Forsley and Max Gerston. Alan Stillwell from Stillwell Performance also attended the ride, along with Max’s father Marshall, Destry’s son Cooper, photographer Drew Ruiz, up-and-coming motocrosser Matt Bynum and former DR publisher Sean Finley. Trials hero Colton Haaker joined us the night before but had to take off early when his father banged himself up on a mountain bike. But still, this was a solid group of guys and girls who aren’t afraid to invest a little time and effort to help keep an area open.
Step #3: Contact A Local Group
With an area and an invite list in mind, we knew it was time to reach out and make contact with a local organization. In this case, a call was placed to Moab local Jim Ryan from Dual Sport Utah. An old-school racer who now spends his time conducting tours in the area, Ryan also sells and rents KTM, Gas Gas and Beta motorcycles, and he’s extremely well connected with the Moab riding scene. Unfortunately, a broken wrist before the ride prevented Ryan from joining us, but he was able to put us in touch with Clif Koontz, program director for Ride with Respect, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building trail awareness and—as the name suggests—riding with respect.
Supported by the Trails Preservation Alliance, Ride with Respect members are 100 percent responsible for the trails in Moab and have been working in the area for over 10 years. If it weren’t for them, motorcyclists would have very little usable trail left to enjoy. These guys truly are the unsung heroes of Moab. The reasons for connecting with a local group are numerous, but the main objective is that this is the most direct way to support an area and to determine what work needs to be done. Far too many out-of-state riders go to Moab, do some riding and then leave, while the local groups are working double time and need all the help they can get.
Step #4: Identify An Action List
After talking to Koontz and Ryan, we were able to develop a list of “actions” for our trip to Moab. We determined that our crew would make a run through one of the more popular (and difficult) trails in the area, picking up trash and cleaning up the trail along the way. While riding, we would also be able to help rebuild any portion of the trail that needed a little TLC and block any off-trail tracks. Additionally, we found that this trail was greatly in need of a new sign/donation box at the entrance to help gather fees from two- and four-wheeled users. The current setup was simply a metal box housing a clipboard, and while the honor system typically works very well with off-roaders, we knew we could build something better. Koontz helped us to decide what the sign itself would say, and after a few more emails and leads we had a dedicated list of actions for when we arrived in Moab.
Step #5: Come Prepared
Of course, we were also going to Moab to enjoy some of the epic riding the area has to offer, and as such we packed all of the usual bikes, tools, spares and gear that we would bring on an out-of-state trail ride. But we also packed trash bags, a few shovels and all of the necessary concrete and equipment to install a new sign. The sign itself was constructed by DR test rider/metalworker extraordinaire Michael Allen, and it was literally bulletproof. A tough metal lockbox was made to house donations, while the text portion explained what the fees were for and reinforced some of the rules for riders.
Step #6: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
You may have noticed you didn’t read about this event on our website or on Dirt Rider’s Facebook page. Why? Because it’s not good form to talk up a trail maintenance day too much before it has taken place. Yes, it would have been epic to ride with more good people, but it’s also not a good thing to form a single-day group that’s too large for the trail. Plus, anytime you make an event like this public, you run the risk of riders coming out who may not be on the same page as the rest of the group. For these reasons we decided to show up and put in the work rather than talk about it too much beforehand.
Step #7: Make It Happen
To say the trip went perfectly would be an understatement. When all was said and done, this ride turned out precisely as we wanted it to, and we couldn’t have asked for a better group, more fun terrain or a more successful first run at a potentially annual event. Our crew arrived at the trailhead and got to work installing the sign while it was still bright and early. Seeing five different factory riders work together on a task like this was an incredible thing in itself. All of these pros are in amazing shape and possess an extraordinary work ethic, which means one off-road pro can outwork a normal rider 10-to-one when it comes to manual labor. It didn’t take long to dig a proper hole, cement in the sign and get everything cleaned and covered up. Once the sign was in place and the group was ready, we had a quick riders’ meeting and rolled out onto the trail.
In between photo stops and technical slickrock canyon sections, our somewhat large-but-mobile group stopped when we saw fit to work on a section, lend a helping hand or just admire the scenery. We didn’t find a lot of trash out in Moab, but riders could be seen picking up organic nature bar wrappers (left behind by environmentalists, maybe?) and shoving them in their boots for later disposal. At one point, Geoff Aaron and women’s EnduroCross star Louise Forsley stopped to restack a pile of rocks at the bottom of a tricky staircase. Others soon joined in to help, and seeing these superstars work together—Monster and Red Bull helmets side by side—was incredibly cool. At one point, one of the non-pros in the group commented that you wouldn’t typically see Chad Reed, Ryan Villopoto and James Stewart helping each other work on a motocross track. This element of camaraderie is what makes off-road riders so awesome; the community is so tight-knit that even the closest of competitors can cooperate and be friends off the track, especially when there’s a common goal in mind.
Of course, the star power in the group grabbed some attention on the trail. A handful of other recreational users were shocked to run into a 10-time AMA National Trials Champion (Aaron), a desert racing legend (Abbott), an AMA Pro Motocross Champion (Brown) and some young extreme enduro stars (Gerston, Redmond and Forsley), all in one group. Eric, our official French tour guide, knew the area like the back of his hand and pointed out some amazing viewing points, scenic spots and notable segments of the trail; it was a blast getting some facts on the region from someone who knew it so well. Another highlight was the interaction between our crew and the many clusters of other enthusiasts that we saw. Each time we came into contact with hikers, four-wheelers or mountain bikers, our pack would stop and spark up a conversation that soon had everyone laughing and swapping stories like they went to high school together. The chemistry between everybody was unbelievable, and further reinforced that all recreational trail users are truly in this together. We literally did not see one example of animosity toward dirt bikes; everyone was friendly, polite and stoked to be there. In the end, we had an amazing time and most certainly accomplished our goal of gathering everyone together, investing in a local trail system and also having some fun with our fellow enthusiasts.
Step #8: Follow Up With A Local Land Manager
As productive members of society, we OHV users have as much right to use an area as any Sierra Club member does, but we’re notorious for not working with land managers more to exercise these rights. In the case of Moab, the local land manager is the Bureau of Land Management, and a letter, email, phone call or face-to-face meeting to discuss the positive aspects of our sport and talk about productive rider involvement will have a bigger impact than you know. If you take the time to visit an area and work with a local group to do some work, take a few extra minutes to let the land manager know about your efforts. Stress the economic impact of your trip (how much you gave back to the local economy by way of money spent on food, fuel and hotel rooms), and politely remind the land manager that OHV users are responsible, thoughtful and are not going away. Think about it: If every person who came from out of state to ride Moab joined Ride with Respect, made a donation and wrote a letter to the BLM, it would make a strong statement that off-roaders care about the area and want to see it thrive.
Step #9: Do It Again
Our trip to Moab was a successful test that proved how easily a small crew could travel to an area, coordinate with a local group and make a difference while enjoying what the region has to offer. We’re already buzzing about doing a similar trip in 2013, and since the Moab trip, even more top pros—including some big-name, factory-level motocross guys—have expressed interest in joining us the next time we do this. It goes without saying that we urge you to consider taking a similar trip with your buddies. You’ll find the experience to be fun and rewarding, and we’re sure you’ll have a blast in the process.
If you’re interested in supporting Ride with Respect, please visit www.ridewithrespect.org. Another good link for the Moab area is www.moabfriendsforwheelin.com, and www.coloradotpa.org is a great resource for keeping trails open and engaging with areas in need. And if you’d like to know more about rentals, shuttle service and guided tours in the area, check out www.dualsportutah.com.