I grew up in small-town America. Blue collar, agricultural, and no hype. The local economy was tied to farming and ranching. One of the main industries in town was the meat-packing plant and livestock auction. Not much in terms of recreation and certainly not a tourist destination (not until later on when a casino opened).
I’ve been gone now for over 25 years. Every now and then on a return visit I drive around my old stomping grounds. In particular I drive by our old house and the downtown where I had spent a lot of time cruising in my 1982 Pontiac Grand Prix. That was the high school thing to do for many … cruise around the couple blocks that made up our downtown and then park and hang out at the civic center. Today a drive through downtown finds most businesses shuttered. Paint is peeling and buildings look worse with each passing year.
The same can be said for many similar communities across the US and Canada. However, there are those who are intentional about rebounding in this post-industrial economy. As mines closed, logging operations slowed, or small farms swallowed up by larger corporations some communities have cast their lot all-in on mountain biking to revitalize their economy and pump life back in.
I was reminded of this yesterday. After a full weekend of roasting (and visiting other roasters) I had a small window of time to squeeze in a ride. I didn’t have time to load my bike up to head to Sandy Ridge or Hood River. Instead I pedaled over to the Gateway Green bike park here in Portland. I downloaded the latest episode of the Front Lines MTB podcast, popped in my earbuds, and headed over to get some laps in. The episode was titled “Creating New Bike Communities: Interview with Patrick Kell of IMBA.” The focus was on a small desert down two hours north of Las Vegas, NV called Caliente.
As I listened (jealously) about the soon-to-be-hundreds of miles of new trails, millions of dollars in grant dollars for new trails and facilities, and so on, I was ecstatic and encouraged to hear of another community seeking out a better future for themselves. Not only that, but using mountain biking as the focal point. The town was all-in, welcoming, and embracing of this new future. I couldn’t be happier. As I rode I was more interested in the podcast than an hour of laps.
Closer to home in Oregon according to the Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition website, bicycling tourism brings in $400 million into the state’s economy each year. That is very substantial and good news. What it means is this … keep riding. Not that we need that much encouragement to do so, but you get the point. As you plan out your next ride, travel and visit new places to ride in your region. Every time you stop and eat, grab a pint or a coffee, spend the night in a motel or AirBnB, camp, etc what you’re doing is actually helping support the local economy. It sounds small, but it does add up.
I find that the mountain bike community is incredibly generous and giving. And one of the ways to do so is to keep riding in new places and supporting their economy when you’re in town. Sounds pretty easy, right? Not only that, but share on social media about these locations as well. When we do so we’re spreading the stoke, one town at a time.
Words by Sean Benesh, Loam Coffee Founder and Brand Manager. Photo by Aaron Lesieur