A bad comparison
September 22, 2009
Tony Vagneur’s column dated Sept. 5 regarding the alleged impact of mountain bikes seems to be completely off the mark. Once again, mountain bikers are being forced to defend themselves against dirt bikers. I am not writing this to attack dirt bikers and their activity of choice; I will let them address their rightful place in our common back yard for themselves.
But I want to call a spade a spade. Comparing a mountain bike to a dirt bike is like comparing a rickshaw to a truck. Can we please get off that? The only similarity between a mountain bike and a dirt bike is the fact that they both use wheels. A dirt bike weighs 200 to 300 pounds. A mountain bike weighs 25 pounds. A dirt bike has an engine, a throttle and large, wide tires. A mountain bike has legs, no throttle, and 2.5-inch tires.
Differences in speed are of similar magnitude. If you go to an area where only mountain bikes are allowed, and the Loma area down in Grand Junction comes to mind, you will see that trails that were established many years ago and are getting used a lot are not rutted, are not multiplying, and remain narrow. If you go into remote national forest areas in the Roaring Fork Valley where very few people go by any means of transport, mountain bikes help smooth out trails and are heavily involved in the maintenance of those trails. The people I ride with yield to horses by getting off their bikes, we yield to hikers, and we always exchange a positive greeting. No noise, no profanities, no trace.
And one final note. Tony’s editorial is the context of the Hidden Gems wilderness campaign. Mountain bikers are not against more wilderness areas. We are not asking for existing wilderness areas to allow bikes. But what we are asking for is a careful determination of what truly qualifies as Wilderness, what should get an alternate designation, and what should be left accessible to multiple user groups. Horses have impact. Hunters have impact. Cattle have impact (huge). Education can work.
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