Mountain Biking – Time to Look Outward – Part 1

OPINION | By Ben Welnak

Outdoor recreation continues to quickly change, adapt, and mature because of technology, land access, changing demographics, climate, changing work habits and schedules, and many other factors. As we go along here in the world of The Outdoor Route (if you’re here now and unsure of what The Outdoor Route is, head over HERE), I’m certain we’ll explore a lot of the details of those factors in one way or another. For purposes of this post, the point is not to dig into those specifics. The point is to bring some attention to the fact that the mountain biking user group is only a piece of a larger outdoor puzzle.

For many of you, you know that I have been really focused on mountain biking through the world of Mountain Bike Radio for a long time. Therefore, I’ll probably approach many of these type of posts and topics from a mountain biking perspective – at least early on in this process of The Outdoor Route.

Mountain Bike Radio has allowed me the opportunity to talk to many people and observe many types and levels of discussion regarding almost every aspect of mountain biking and the mountain biking industry. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where mountain biking has been, where it’s at, and where it’s going.

As a mountain biking community, I think we’ve done a good job of organizing and getting trails done relative to some other trail users. We’ve also found some success by focusing on what’s best for gaining and maintaining access to mountain biking trails and generating and strengthening local relationships surrounding those trails. While I’m sure some of you reading this will send me an example of lost access and strained access, I will respond to that right here. Go open up Trailforks, MTB Project, FatMap, Strava, or any other mapping software and you’ll find 1000’s of trail options open to mountain biking. That doesn’t happen on accident.  

What we haven’t historically done well is look outward to other user groups. We’ve failed to recognize that a large base of current mountain bikers, as well as potential mountain bikers enjoy a broad range of outdoor activities. Whether out of necessity or a conscious effort to take part of leading the way, I feel as though some people, companies, and other organizations throughout the industry have started leading the way in broadening the conversation and working together with other user groups. That’s good, but right now we’re only in the startup phase. Where do mountain bikers fit in and what can they do to help us all continue to enjoy the outdoors and our outdoor lifestyle?

Watch for Part 2 of this post….


Author: Ben

Ben is originally from Southeastern Wisconsin. After graduating college at UW La Crosse, he lived in several Midwestern cities, Denver, and Western North Dakota before relocating to Hayward, Wisconsin in 2017, providing a lot of opportunity to experience the outdoors throughout the country. Ben started mountain biking in 2006 after five years of other endurance sports including running and triathlons of various distances. In 2012, he created Mountain Bike Radio and has been dedicated to mountain biking since. He has a lot of experience racing all distances, including 24 hour solos, 12 hour solos, 100 miles, 50 milers, XC distance, fatbikes, gravel, and everything in between. He’s married to wife, Amy, with two young children – Claeson and Paige. Ben hopes that his passion for mountain biking and the outdoors drives his commitment to creating, improving, and maintaining opportunities in the outside world.