April 19/20 Newnan, GA

Sorba Development Director Jen Flavin interviewed Brian Peachey about the event.

Brian, tell us about the newly founded organization. What sparked the idea to create this coalition?
Well, even though the AMTB Trails Project is a fairly recent development, the idea behind it has been in my mind for a couple of years now. When I got my Lasher full suspension handcycle almost three years ago, it had the promise of opening up a whole new world of places to ride. Suddenly I wasn’t limited to riding on paved roads or hard packed cinder rail trails. This bike was so much more capable than anything I had ever ridden and I was stoked to get out and ride as many places as I could. I was fortunate enough to be doing a lot of traveling around the country at that time so I was looking forward to riding everywhere I went. But I quickly realized that it was very difficult to find information about where I could take my bike. All of the apps for finding trails listed many trails and trail systems, but there was not much information about whether or not the trails were friendly to adaptive bikes. It wasn’t long before I realized that finding information about adaptive trails was a bigger challenge than the physical obstacles on the trails. And as I met more and more adaptive riders I found that this was a universal problem. So that’s what really got me motivated to do something about it.

How does the process of trail assessment and evaluation work?

The main work we do is in finding trails that we can ride, assess and provide detailed information for others to use. We’re going to have a team of adaptive evaluators who are trained to assess and rate trails, and then fill out an evaluation form that will be readily available on our website and on trail finding apps like Trailforks. Our system of assessing and rating will be different from anything currently being done. We’re using subjective ratings of difficulty and whether or not support riders are needed and supplementing that with objective details of what specific features and obstacles are on the trail. This will describe the trail and everything that a rider can expect to see as they ride. We’ll decide on which trails to assess based on several different criteria. We will be taking suggestions from individuals, trail systems or biking organizations, really anyone who knows of a trail that may be a good candidate for adaptive bikes. We’ll also make an effort to assess and verify trails that are already marked as adaptive but don’t have the evaluation form attached to them.

Are you already visiting trail systems and providing feedback?
Yes, we’ve already started riding and assessing trails. We are looking to expand and grow as fast as possible. We will continue to assess trails that we know about, but a big part of finding trails to assess will come from requests from the community. Anyone interested in having us ride their trails can email me directly at brian@amtbtrails.org.

How has this initiative been received so far by trail leaders and local community members?

The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive! The general feeling is that people want to help make trails better for adaptive riders, but they don’t know where to start. They’re willing to do whatever it takes and sometimes even have funds to put to work, but they’re not sure what needs to be done or who to contact for help. I’m really encouraged by it, because there’s so much willingness to help, and we can work with all of these groups to make it happen. The demand for adaptive mountain biking trails is growing fast and we can help trail systems and communities keep up with it.

Are there any common misconceptions about adaptive riding?

The biggest misconception is that to make a trail adaptive friendly, you have to water it down and take all the fun and challenge out of it for regular bikes. But the overwhelming majority of the time, there are a few minor changes that can be made that allow for adaptive bikes but still have challenging obstacles and are a lot of fun for anyone to ride. Sometimes all that needs to be done is to put a ride-around line to avoid a tree gate or a mandatory gap. Or maybe building up a short section to lessen the amount of off-camber trail tread is all it would take. Also, the capabilities of the adaptive bikes and riders is often underestimated. These bikes and riders can hit some pretty gnarly trails, so we’re not always looking for easy, smooth trails.

What was your experience like leading riders at the Summit? How were the trails?
The SORBA Summit was an awesome experience! I hosted a presentation to introduce people to the AMTB Trails Project and educate people about adaptive mountain biking. The response was really supportive and we made a lot of great connections. After the presentation, we rode the trails at Browns Mill Park. I was joined by several riders and stopped along the way whenever I saw an opportunity to point out how certain trail features affected our adaptive bikes. The trails were really good there, nothing crazy or sketchy, just really fun trails with some roots, elevation changes and really fun turns. One of my favorite types of riding days is when I get to show other riders what these bikes are capable of so it was a good day.

What’s next for the aMTB Trails Project Coalition?

Once the word gets out about the Trails Project, I think we’re going to be very busy. We’re going to focus on getting nationwide coverage for our team of evaluators, and expanding our offerings to include advisory services for trail design as well as on-trail signage to indicate difficulty and obstacles on the trails. There’s not a standard right now for any of this, and we want to make that standard and reach as many trails as we can. Also, an important goal for us is to offer our services at a very low cost to trail systems and municipalities, so raising money to fund our operations is a big focus right now. We are also searching for adaptive riders who want to be a part of the evaluator team, as well as people who want to be a part of the executive team and help us move forward by volunteering their time and talents to the cause.

How can people learn more?
We want to be able to make a meaningful connection with anyone interested in working with us, so anyone can reach me at brian@amtbtrails.org. For an example of what our evaluation form and assessment look like, you can check out Trailforks for the Floyd Fox trail, https://www.trailforks.com/trails/floyd-fox/

Thanks, Brian, for your time and for joining us at the Summit! SORBA is grateful for your work and we are excited to partner with adaptive riders and expand the sport of mountain biking together!