April 26, 2006


Chewing the Fat Tire, pt. 2

Well, Frank DePinto has fired back in his inimitable grammar-lite way. And he's trying to recruit the governor of Tennessee to his, um, cause. Observe:

..numbers don't negate the destructive physical and spiritual activity of mountain biking, it just confirms the nasty and insensitive aspect of that many people, including yourself. its a shame we are 'evolving' that way, if your numbers are correct; if there are not corrective actions.

..your numbers did not separate it seems urban/asphalt mountain bikers from destructive, forest mountain bikers. i ride a moutain bike, am a u/a biker; not a forest destroyer. i have enough sense and respect.


Governor Bredesen
Governor's Office
Tennessee State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243-001

Re: Banning of Mountain Biking In State Forests.

Dear Governor Bredesen,

I am submitting this request to you with a grave concern about the current and increased use of 'mountain bike' trails in our states national, state and county forests.

My initial response to several folks was based on an article in the Chattanooga Free Press article entitled 'Urban Trailblazers,' 4/13/06. The article was accompanied with a photo of Rachael and Nat Lopes (International Mountain Bicycling Association) in the process of urging a State ranger to allow mountain biking on a forested trail that currently had a 'no mountain biking' sign on the trail.

My point is that one: 1) 'mountain biking' should not be allowed to ruin the physical, environmental, aesthetic, recreational and spiritual tranquility of our beautiful federal, state and county forests. To have 'mountain bikers' use the same trails as hikers with their speed, noise, physical danger to hikers, eroding trails is destructive to the integrity of 'recreational hiking areas.'

2) If there are people who feel they 'need a bike' to enjoy areas with access other than the city, county streets and roads; please do not allow their 'environmental destructive activities' to occur in our states wonderful, beautiful forested areas. Please, put these people in very low impact areas.

The mountain biking industry is a very well monied commercial industry, and there will be alot of pressure on our state officials to degrade our states environment for their profit.

Frank DePinto

Very Concerned Citizen

CC: with article to be sent.

I wish Chris Farley were still around so he could "narrate that letter." Anyway, you know I would just had to "respond to this bullshit:"

Dear Frank,

I’ll begin by saying that I have been advised to avoid public confrontation with you, as from the experience of others in the trails community you are deemed to be one who thrives on having a platform from which to bullhorn his views. I will gladly continue to discuss and even debate the issue of trail use, trail building and especially forest conservation in a private forum but only if you can be civil and maintain a modicum of respect. If not then this will be the last you hear from me, and my email blocking option will likewise help ensure my peace.

I am going to avoid any debate of the “spiritual activity” of mountain biking, as it seems you regard yourself as a peaceful, nature-loving, forest saviour who delights in pigeon-holing others outside your myopic view as careless, rash, crass, and ignorant “destroyers” who seek to preempt the claims of upstanding residential developers by weaseling in the heinous construction of their scarring pathways through the woods and then claiming conservation of the land in the name of all that is holy among Mountain Dew / Red Bull drinkers (forgive me for going all Faulkner on you there - I write for a living). It seems that the likes of you and I debating the spiritual aspects of our particular love for trails would compare closely with a doctrinal debate between a Mormon and a Southern Baptist. Both lay claim to eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, but “there ain’t no way that other dude is a.) a member of the elect b.) getting to the promised land c, d, e, f...) any number of dogmatic afterlife yearnings that avoid thought of the here and now.

Regardless of who inherits the earth, if you could wrap your brain around some science, I’d be glad to go a full fifteen with you. But first a bit of cultural background:

The history of trails is about lands and peoples. From ancient inhabitant to the dawn of modern industry, each trail user left their mark on the mountain routes. The first trail builders were stone-age man. The Langdale Valley in northwest England has evidence of neolithic settlements with trade routes for exporting stone axe heads via the mountain passes to the coast. This “coast road” remained in use until the nineteenth century.

The Romans turned up in Britannia in the second century, while on their way to build a wall around Scotland. True to form, they started building roads and forts. One example of a road along the broad mountain ridges is High Street, which still exists for much of it's length.

In the middle ages monasteries like Furness Abbey were industrial centers, and they needed a network of tracks for commerce and communication. The church regarded building and maintaining tracks as a pious and holy act, and path builders were occasionally granted indulgences from sin (it seems few employers offer this benefit nowadays, though I’ve pondered forming a partnership with the pope as a method for boosting volunteerism). The hills were also being mined for copper, iron ore, slate etc. These activities led to an increase in trails as new ones were constructed to remote mines and workings. Environmentalists often regard these intrusions as defacing the landscape and industrial heritage is seen as anathema to conservation. However, they stand as testament to some incredible achievements by very hard workers.

Trails feature disparate cultural elements, like song and local folklore. Many paths lead to sacred places or form part of pilgrimage routes used by travelers on foot, horse, cart and carriage (you know, them wheeled thingies used for getting places) All these elements are part of the unique history of trails and their social culture.

Today, ancient tracks are under pressure from increasing numbers of recreational users. Tourism is the industry that wasn't even considered by the original markers of the ways. But what would you have the people interested in outdoor activities do, strip to their birthday suits and observe strict codes of silence while gaiting along toe-heel? Would you also ban trail runners and climbers (and their “gimmicks”) who enjoy the physical challenge of rough terrain just because they don’t focus enough on the “tranquility and spirituality” of the forest as you see it? I know I said I wouldn’t debate this, but I can’t help but ask - who the hell are you to judge some else’s spiritual experience, especially if they contribute to conservation efforts (as many mountain bikers, climbers, and hunters do)? Should they all just leave your woods alone and stay at home playing video games? I seriously doubt that you’ve given much non-selfish thought to the cause and effect of your narrow-minded proposal to ban mountain bikes from the public forest.

I am ashamed of mountain bikers who disrespect other trail users whether through ignorance or selfishness, just as a conscientious backpacker would be of a large group that camps right next to a scenic waterfall or an equestrian or hunter who observes the litter of beer cans often left by the uncouth rednecks among their number.

In reality it’s not about the method of travel but the mindset of the traveler. You say that you ride a mountain bike on asphalt. Do you annoy strollers on the Riverwalk or piss off drivers on the street? If not, then congratulations, you’re a good citizen who respects others’ space and should be able to get along with a diverse group of outdoor enthusiasts. If only, Frank, if only...

Oh yeah, the science. Chew on the report below. It was written/compiled by Gary Sprung, an avid mountain biker and former national policy director for the International Mountain Bike Association who has worked in conservation for decades. Sprung served as the principle leader of a 13-year effort to protect Fossil Ridge, a 77,000-acre piece of the Gunnison National Forest ten miles northeast of Gunnison, Colorado, as a federal Wilderness Area. Congress protected Fossil Ridge as such in 1993. The same act protected the Oh Be Joyful Valley asWilderness, along with a million other acres in Colorado. Sprung was an integral part of other successful conservation programs in Gunnison County/Crested Butte area. He served on the High Country Citizens' Alliance board for 18 years, and was its paid President for seven years. Founded in 1977 to fight the proposed Amax molybdenum mine, HCCA has flourished. They have successfully fought for Wilderness and sustainable forestry, and against mining and transmountain water diversion. They seek responsible ski development and affordable housing for a diverse community. Good people.

If the objectivity in this report does not astound you, Frank, then you are a robot.

Natural Resource Impacts of Mountain Biking

A summary of scientific studies that compare mountain biking to other forms of trail travel

By Gary Sprung

In recent years, hiking and environmental groups have often lobbied to ban mountain bikes from trails on the grounds that mountain bikes damage the environment. Some land managers have closed trails to bicycling because of alleged, excessive resource damage.

Do mountain bikers truly cause more impact on natural resources than other trail users?

The empirical studies thus far do not support the notion that bikes cause more natural resource impact. What science does demonstrate is that all forms of outdoor recreation - including bicycling, hiking, running, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, bird watching, and off-highway-vehicle travel - cause impacts to the environment.

Social scientists have conducted surveys to study the feelings, perceptions, and attitudes of cyclists, hikers, equestrians and motorized trail users. This information, along with anecdotal evidence and media reports, show that trail users sometimes do not get along. User conflict is fairly well understood and demonstrably real.

People involved in user conflict sometimes simply state their preferences and ask decision-makers to take action. In a democracy, the allocation of trails based on users' differing interests is a normal, appropriate course of action by land managers. But when people make unsubstantiated allegations regarding natural resource damage to justify prioritization of their type of trail use, land managers should be wary. To make rational, non-arbitrary, less political decisions regarding which groups are allowed on particular routes, managers need scientific studies that compare the impacts of the various user groups. Objective information that is independent of conflicting human desires can form a basis for sound policy decisions. (emphasis mine – ed.)

Better understanding of the differing impacts of the various recreation forms can guide political debate and public policy. This document looks at differences in three main categories: physical impacts to trails or facilities, vegetation damage, and effects on wildlife.

In each case, several studies have examined the topic, but only a handful have compared the effects of bicyclists with other trail users.

No scientific studies show that mountain bikers cause more wear to trails than other users.
Trails deteriorate over time. To what extent do bicyclists cause this, and how does that compare with the impacts of other trail users? Many people have hypothesized based on ideas involving the characteristics of tires versus shoes, skidding, area and pressure of impact, and other factors. But as of 2003, only two empirical studies have scientifically compared the erosion impacts of bicycling with other forms of trail travel.

Wilson and Seney: Hooves and feet erode more than wheels
In 1994, John Wilson and Joseph Seney of Montana State University published "Erosional Impacts of Hikers, Horses, Motorcycles and Off-Road Bicycles on Mountain Trails in Montana." (12) The study tracked 100 passages by each of the four groups over control plots on two trails in national forests. For some of the passages, the researchers pre-wetted the trail with a fixed quantity of water using a rainfall simulator. The researchers measured sediment runoff, which correlates with erosion.

Wilson and Seney found no statistically significant difference between measured bicycling and hiking effects. They did find that horses caused the most erosion of the trails, and that motorcycles traveling up wetted trails caused significant impact. They also concluded, "Horses and hikers (hooves and feet) make more sediment available than wheels (motorcycles and off-road bicycles) on prewetted trails and that horses make more sediment available on dry plots as well." (p.74) Wilson and Seney suggested that precipitation will cause erosion even without human travel and this factor may significantly outweigh the effects of travel. Trail design, construction, and maintenance may be much more important factors in controlling erosion.

If you are uncontrollably titillated by this topic, read the full report

Rest assured I sent the whole damn thing to Frank.

Dammit, Tim! Why are you 'evolving' like that? I TOLD you to 'evolve' differently! I even sent you a chart! Damn amateurs..................

If I were you, I'd send my rebuttals to the Gov, instead of tilting at this guy's windmill. Then, when mountain biking is allowed, I'd leave tire tracks all over his spiritual ass.
I like to mountain bike on trails as well. would not ride on a "foot only" or horse trail as those people deserve the same respect that you and I do. That being said, I feel that horse trails are more destructive than bike trails. The hooves tear up way more than tires or feet. I too can't stand to see anybody throwing trash in the woods. I don't want to sound like an old fart, but I notice that the most destructive and "just don't care" jerks are between the ages of 14-22, and generally don't care about anyone or anything other than themselves. I think we should outlaw people whose only purpose in life is to interfere with the rights of others. Gun control, anti-porno, anti-(fill in the blank).
I really have to wonder if maybe DiPinto is talking about dirt bikes (motorcycles)??????
Jen has a good point there. If that is what he's thinking, he might be less of a wuss than he sounds.

Cap-- I said before that it's easier to tell where a horse has been than a bike, and the reason has nothing to do with hooves. Maybe the guy thinks horse shit is beautiful and spiritual.
Hey, where's Mark? If he's going to bitch at you about posting, the least he could do is read what you post!
Well said, O'Tim.
BTW, how's that anger management class working for you, Joe?
Well, if THAT isn't the proverbial pot/kettle verbal exchange.....

There was no anger there..... just telling it how it is.....
I think not, Joe.
If you boys in the commentariat are gonna rack up the numbers in here, at least go read Archer's "Insult Gap" post so we can spice things up.

Actually, Joe, I, was referring to this:

"I'd leave tire tracks all over his spiritual ass."

I was joking.

And if you have something to say, say it to me. Don't leave it as a comment on someone else's blog. See you in Vegas.
Ahhh.... it's a good idea to quote what you're referring to, so people wil know.

Oh, and you've been badgering me about posting, but not on MY site. Kind of a double standard, wouldn't you say? Why come when you give me grief it's a joke, but when I give it back it's an insult?
Like I said in my e-mail to you, Joe, I don't want to do this anymore, okay?

Let's just end it amicably nad commit to a fresh start.
That note was written before the e-mail was, which I just saw because I just looked for it.

And let's leave our nads out of this, eh??? :-)
Agreed. Nads out of it. ;o)>

I'm looking forward to Vegas. You better be there.
Hey,MountainBike Justice Dude, I love what your say'n. I've been rolling fat tires since 1990. It's the only way to fly. this dispute is a kin to the one some skiers have waged on snowborders. It's a big rock, can't we share it.

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