ARE MOUNTAIN BIKERS
CAUSING GLOBAL WARMING?
Writer Jerome Tan attempts to find a balance, or at least an entry into the big topic on mountain biking versus the rest of the nature loving community. It's just a first step but we are sure he will be back with more views. For now, ride along with him on his train of thought(s).
We love to get involved with our sport! Whether it's watching our local events or just taking our own bikes out onto the trail. But the sport wouldn't be what it is without that trail to begin with!
First up, the title is an exaggeration, I admit. But it's not a wholly unrealistic claim to make, as you will soon read.
Just a while back, I noticed a post on facebook put up by ACRES (If you’re not aware of them, these guys do admirable work in caring for our local wildlife, and are central to eco-conservation here in Singapore) of a long-tailed macaque (i.e. a monkey) that was apparently run over by a mountain bike along Bukit Timah’s MTB trail.
What struck me keenly, but isn’t all to surprising, is the vehement, vivid, downright poisonous comments put forward by online supporter of ACRES on facebook. Some might comment, “This is Singapore, what’s new?!”, and that’s quite true. But with that said, it still struck a rather raw nerve with me, being an avid mountain biker myself. However, the questions didn’t stop there. Is there an iota of truth at the root of this alleged problem? Are mountain bikers, or the sport as a whole, adverse to eco-conservation, or the well-being of any ecological system at that?
Wooden structures at Gangsa may be a little something eco-conservists tend to gripe about or cringe when it comes to our adrenaline filled sport
I think, at face value, some might agree with me when I say that yes, mountain biking is adverse, it harms the environment, etc. I mean, we chop trees, erode soil stability and in so doing, affect the vitality of the land. Just noting the sheer volume of mountain bikers rolling into Bukit Timah MTB Trail every weekend (let’s leave hiking out of this for now) is enough to make anyone cringe at the idea of how much soil displacement is going on. Not to mention, clumsy riders like myself, who bulldoze their way through saplings and young plants in an attempt to find flow, or in failing to do so, crash. Messily.
But if we look a little deeper, we may note a few things that will stop us in our tracks along such thoughts, and think “Maybe we aren’t as bad as we think after all”, or, if we are so environmentally detrimental, we may want to consider changing our ways.
What’s mountain biking without a mountain? Or more accurately in a local context and at the very least, a trail. We ride our bikes, bringing rubber to dirt and mud, every spare moment we possibly can in between work and other obligations. I think we can agree here that the natural element is central to what we love about the sport. There’s something deeply gratifying about getting mudded up from head to toe, feeling the bike soak up every ounce of speed we can possibly pump out of the trail, and even the sensation of perfectly dialled suspension soaking up the network of roots and rocks that litter our forest floor.
Clearly, all of us as mountain bikers, have an interest in protecting the trails and upholding the sustainability of the sport. That’s not to say that no one’s doing anything, of course. The regular Trail Days which keep Bukit Timah MTB Trail up and running help to maintain some level of sustainability. Ever since it’s revamp, sustainability in trail works has been a key consideration. However, it can’t be ignored that more and more trees seem to be toppling over, blocking up the trails every other day or so. Let me guarantee you guys, those trees are not falling on their own volition. So equally obvious is the observation that, while things are being done to preserve the sanctity of the trails, perhaps more could be done. It logically follows, “What else can we possibly do as a Mountain Bike Community”?
For a start, may I suggest that we, as mountain bikers, ride with as much fun as we can muster, but keeping in mind that we should always be mindful about trail safety (humans and animals alike), trail cleanliness, hygiene and etiquette? Now this should open up a whole new can of discussion worms. But discussions can be constructive. So bring it on!
As we ponder over this, and while a lot of people outside the sport are pointing fingers and screaming impotent abuse for mucking up the trails, or damaging the eco-system, or running over monkeys, or just plain not having enough love for things natural and untouched by Man, somewhere out there, there’s a lone mountain biker, sitting in the middle of the woods, realizing that there’s no place else he’d rather be.
Keep riding with that green feel.
Rider Writer (no we didn't title this wrongly … the Writer is a Rider, and the column is for Writer Riders … get it?)
Jerome Tan is part of the Bikezilla Editorial Team. He is currently off the saddle nursing some broken bones from a bad crash on the trail. When he is not writing about his passion, he is mugging his way to be a lawyer or enjoying his freedom somewhere in the trails. He enjoys spending time in the green rather than in urban jungles. Some may mistake him for a random homeless person living off the land in the depths of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. With all that said and done, Jerome enjoys wanton mee, and excessive amounts of laksa with equally excessive amounts of chilli just before a day out riding. You know, just to make things interesting.
Photos by Jerome Tan