RIDE, perhaps the first mountain-biking special section in a New England newspaper, was launched because it was clear the sport was taking off in the Stowe area. People were out in the woods, building trails and bridges and then trying them out, and then celebrating with a well-earned adult beverage afterward.
A highly individual sport quickly broadened, first into the Stowe Mountain Bike Club and now into the Stowe Trails Partnership, with sponsors and members, volunteer workdays and a youth riding academy.
Year by year, the sport built. And suddenly, between national politics and the coronavirus crisis, things got complicated.
• The U.S. imposed tariffs on goods imported from China, and that included lots of mountain bikes and mountain bike parts.
• The prices of bikes and bike parts have spiked upward. If you can find a new bike, it’s going to cost you. Used bikes could be a hot market, provided parts are available.
• Social distancing required during the pandemic has cut into volunteer workdays and social gatherings in a highly social sport.
• Money is harder to come by; a lot of the biggest supporters of mountain biking efforts have been hit hard by pandemic-related restrictions on economic activity.
• And, in some parts of Vermont, trail networks are being disrupted over landowner objections to trail use. Negotiations are under way, but it’s tough to build a trail network exclusively on public property or on conserved land that’s required to be open for public use.
This year’s RIDE section explores some of those consequences of the pandemic and other issues.
Nevertheless, mountain biking itself remains a blast. We‘ll introduce you to some people who wanted to stay safe in the pandemic, but wanted to take to the trails, too — and so they made their own, on their own land.
And when things return to normal, as they one day will, mountain biking is sure to regain its joyful progression.
— Tom Kearney