Here at NTX Trails, we’re huge advocates for local off-road clubs and organizations. Why? Simply put, if you regularly ride trails created or maintained by members of a local club, you should at the very least join and contribute membership dues. It’s the right thing to do.
If that’s not enough to persuade you, then below are ten more reasons why you should join your local off-road club.
Trail Building & Maintenance
Where do your membership dues go? While we can’t and won’t attempt to speak for how local clubs apply funds, you can be sure a large chunk of their yearly expenditures goes toward trail building and maintenance. Every time you see a trail workday announced or get to ride a trail that’s been freshly trimmed, expanded, or repaired you can bet there was probably some club money behind the work that got done.
While the latest round of trail building or maintenance you see may not have been funded by a new injection of money from the club, you can be sure that the club has used resources in the past to help supply the tools the volunteers used on the trail. It’s also quite likely club funds paid for gas for the mowers and probably provided a meal or two for the workers.
And what about trail features such as kiosks, boardwalks, and bridges across creeks? Have you ever added up the cost of the wood alone? It’s a big expense, and the local club probably had a hand in paying for at least some of the construction.
Trail Advocacy and Representation
The members of your local club’s board—along with trail stewards and other volunteers—have taken on the responsibility to advocate for local trails to city, county, and state governments on your behalf. Don’t think that’s a big deal? It is. Some cities are open and welcoming to trails while other have to be persuaded to see the benefits of opening up park land for trail creation and use. Other cities right here in North Texas are considering selling land with existing trails to developers. Your club representatives are on the forefront of trying to avoid that outcome, or at least persuade cities to offer alternative for new trail locations.
There’s also strength in numbers. The more members a local club has, the more influence that club can have when speaking to government officials. And it’s not only government bodies, it’s also businesses and investors who consider giving grant money to local trails. These entities want to see that there is serious local involvement before they throw money at something, so your membership in the local club gives them a little more legitimacy and influence.
Clinics and Education
Who often takes on the task of educating new mountain bikers about how they should act on the trail? Who takes the lead in providing (often free) skills training to new riders? It’s very often your local club. Volunteers are the heartbeat of these clinics, but those volunteers need support, and that’s what the club offers them. Depending on the club, the volunteers who teach at clinics get support in the form of equipment, meals, and possibly accident insurance. The club also often provides some swag or prizes for clinic leaders to hand out during the day.
And you want to know another way to boost trail building and advocacy in your area? Get new riders involved! What better way than letting the borrow your spare bike, offering to drive them to a beginner clinic, and encourage them as they hit dirt the first time?
Tourism and the Local Economy
Unless you’ve not been paying attention to the mountain biking scene outside your own back yard, you’re probably aware of the huge boom in mountain biking tourism in Northwest Arkansas. Admittedly, NWA has above-average terrain suited for mountain biking, but what they’ve accomplished in the last few years is a model for any area of the country that wants to create something similar. Yes, it took a huge injection of funds from the Walton Foundation to kickstart the incredible MTB scene in NWA, but if you know the whole story it was cooperation between investors like the Waltons, municipalities and counties, bike clubs and orgs, bike shop owners, and loads of volunteers who love mountain biking.
At NTX Trails, we have a long-term vision for something similar happening in North Texas. We already have hundreds of miles of trail available, some first-class local clubs, and thousands of riders. Imagine if we could cooperate on such a level and find investors willing to invest in local trails. We believe we could see a boost in the local economy similar to what’s been experienced in NWA—earlier this year it was reported that cycling has boosted NWA’s economy to the tune of $137 million. Representation and advocacy on the part of our local clubs is the lynchpin to making something like that happen.
Similar to education above, one of the biggest benefits of an active and growing mountain bike club is that it fosters a local knowledge base. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve had questions about something mountain biking-related and found the answer on DORBA’s Facebook Group. It doesn’t matter if someone’s just wondering if a local trail is actually open or looking for advice on bike sizing, maintenance, or repair. The group is friendly, helpful, and highly knowledgeable.
This knowledge gets extended off the web and out into the real world. Local club representatives often pitch their tent at local events or bike shops to meet people and encourage folks to join, but they also do their part to strengthen the local MTB scene by offering advice and collective knowledge about local trails and what it takes to ride those trails. In addition, some of these clubs have websites or Facebook pages that provide updates on trail conditions and offer a calendar of events.
The mountain biking community is notoriously a bunch of good people. Head out to any local trail, and unless you’re there alone, you’re going to meet folks who will welcome you to join their group, give you advice about the trail you’re about to ride, or stop to help you when they find you along the trail.
The members of your local club are often the cream of the crop. They’re willing to go above and beyond to guide you and help you as needed. And you need never ride alone if you don’t want to. Group rides are a regular occurrence within most clubs, just check the club’s online presence (typically Facebook) to see when and where these rides happen. If there’s not a ride already schedule when and where you’d like to ride, post up and invite people to come join you. You’ll likely get someone who’ll join you because mountain bikers are cool like that.
Depending upon what mountain biking disciplines you’re into, such as races, there are periodically events that are open to members-only. Why is this such a big deal? Well, for one it gives you somewhat exclusive access to the event. This gives you a better shot at placing well since not just anyone can drop in and compete against you.
Sanctioned events and races like this are often better prepped and organized. You can be sure that if a local club is putting their name behind an event, then that club will do everything it can to make sure the trail is trimmed, manicured, and race-ready. This makes the event more enjoyable and successful for everyone involved.
Discounts and Dividends
Now we get down to some of the more selfish reasons to join your local club. Or rather we should say, down to the direct benefits you get from club membership. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, many of the local bike shops participate in discount or dividend programs with local cycling clubs. Many of these stores give you either a direct 10% discount off of (some) in-store purchases, while other shops offer a dividend-type program where you earn points or discount coupons toward future purchases.
Now, we challenge you to do the math. If you’re an active enough cyclist, you can almost certainly more than earn back your yearly club dues with deals like these. Think about how much you probably spend on nutrition alone over the course of a year, not to mention clothing, parts, and repairs.
Boosts Your Reputation
Another direct benefit to yourself is that, as a member of your local club, you’re building your own reputation among your fellow MTBers. Being a member lends you immediate respect from most cyclist because they recognize you as someone who’s chosen to invest at least some of your money back into the community that supports the sport you love.
It Just Feels Good
Joining the club just makes you feel good. You know you’ve done the right thing, you know your money is going to support local trails, and you get all the benefits listed above. What’s not to like?
Have you joined your local club yet? If not, below are links out to the local North Texas clubs of which we are aware. Some of these clubs have membership dues while other don’t. We encourage you to join these clubs, contribute at least your dues, and also consider volunteering for trail work days and events when you’re available.
If you know of a North Texas off-road cycling club that’s not listed below, please let us know in the comments.
DORBA (Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association)—The big dog among North Texas off-road clubs. Membership is $15 for Juniors, $35 for Individuals, $50 for Family, and $100 for Corporate.
FWMBA (Fort Worth Mountain Bikers Association)—Supports the two major trails in Fort Worth, Sansom and Gateway. One-year membership is $30 for Individuals and $35 for Family. Multi-year memberships are also available.
NTX MTB (North Texas Area Mountain Bike Group)—Supports the trails in the Sherman/Denison area. No membership fees.
WMBC (Weatherford Mountain Bike Club)—WMBC is a local IMBA chapter. To join WMBC, you’ll join IMBA and list WMBC as your local chapter.
Tyler Bicycle Club—Supports trails in the Tyler area. Membership is $30 for Individuals, and $35 for Family.
Waxahachie Mountain Bike Club—Support trails in the Waxahachie area. Membership is $35 annually.
Waco Bicycle Club—Supports trails in the Waco area. Membership is $20 annually.