Breaking News
Home » Community Blogs » Reflections on Wilderness and Mountain Biking
I’ve had debates with mountain bike supporters over the question of whether bikes and, by extension, other wheeled vehicles, should be permitted in designated wilderness. The mountain bike crowd feels their activity should be allowed in wilderness areas. Many mountain bikers oppose any wilderness that does not permit biking and/or at least if designation closes a trail that mountain bikers have come to use. Since by definition of the Wilderness Act, mechanical access is prohibited, any lands designated under the 1964 Wilderness Act is automatically off limits to mountain biking. There are many reasons to exclude mountain bikes from wilderness--not the least is that recreation is not the prime reason for wilderness designation.

Reflections on Wilderness and Mountain Biking

I’ve had debates with mountain bike supporters over the question of whether bikes and, by extension, other wheeled vehicles, should be permitted in designated wilderness. The mountain bike crowd feels their activity should be allowed in wilderness areas.

Many mountain bikers oppose any wilderness that does not permit biking and/or at least if wilderness designation closes a trail that mountain bikers have come to use. Since by definition of the Wilderness Act, mechanical access is prohibited, any lands designated under the 1964 Wilderness Act is automatically off limits to mountain biking. I ride a mountain bike on trails. It’s great exercise. I like the challenge. But I oppose mountain bikes in any designated wilderness and/or areas under proposal for wilderness.

Many mountain bikers react to the exclusion of mechanical transport, including mountain bikes, in wilderness with indignation. Wilderness designation does not exclude them from wilderness. They, and all people are welcome in wilderness. What is not welcome is many modern forms of transportation. One is not being denied access to wilderness by a ban on wheeled access any more than someone who like to ride on dirt bikes are being denied access because dirt bikes are also banned.

Mountain bikers can walk which is the most equitable and democratic form of access. Walking requires little more than a pair of sneakers. In a sense, the ban on wheeled access equalizes access for everyone. All people are welcome in wilderness, just not their bikes—and that is how it should remain.

Such exclusions are no different than the ban on smoking implemented across the country. One can’t smoke in public libraries, on planes, in many restaurants, public schools, and so forth. People who smoke are permitted to enter these public places; they just can’t smoke their cigarettes in such places.

Unfortunately some mountain bikers react to this ban on mountain biking by opposing wilderness designation if it curtails present or perceived future mountain bike use. If they can’t access it on a bike, than they are not going to support wilderness designation. In some ways this shows better than I could explain why mountain bikers as a group (and there are exceptions) are not wildlands advocates. They are recreation advocates—and a very specific recreation advocates—wheeled access.

There is nothing wrong with being an advocate for a sport you’re passionate about. But just because you’re an advocate doesn’t mean that your particular activity is appropriate in all locations, including in all public holdings.

I know many passionate hunters. But hunting, with just a few exceptions, is not permitted in national parks. Yet many of the avid hunters I know still support national park designation even though they cannot enjoy hunting in those places. They appreciate that national parks preserve many public values, including protection of watersheds, wildlife habitat, and scenery.

Yet the distinct feeling I get from mountain bikers –at least the mountain bikers who I hear from—tend to put mountain biking first. They cannot accept that there are public lands where wheeled access is restricted.

There is an unfortunate context to this issue. Many trails were “captured” by mountain bikers without any formal discussion or public review. Basically mountain bikers just started riding those trails and over time established a use as other thrillcraft (ORVs) did. There were no public reviews as to whether that use was appropriate. There was no environmental review. Now mountain bikers feel they are “losing” access that was never formally granted.

As mountain bikes have improved, more and more trails can be ridden. Places that twenty years ago would never have been traveled by a bike are now regularly traversed. Just as with other thrillcraft, mechanical and design improvements have allowed mountain bikers to access more and more remote country. And I have no reason to believe that this trend will not continue.

The Wilderness Act explicitly excludes “mechanical transport”. That is why not only mountain bikes, but other recreational pursuits like para-gliding, snow sailing, and so forth are also excluded from designated wilderness.

Though mountain bikes may be the machine of today, who knows what kinds of new wheeled vehicle will gain popularity in the future? I can envision muscle-powered four wheelers, backcountry skate boards, and what have you. Human ingenuity is endless and new technologies and materials may make it possible for many new kinds of wheeled machines to be invented. If mountain bikes are permitted in wilderness, then how can other muscle-powered wheeled vehicles be denied access?

That is why wilderness designation is so important. Wilderness designation is an act of humility. With the designation of wilderness, we as a society are saying this is a place that is different. It is not like all other public lands. It is a place where we don’t do the same things we might find acceptable elsewhere.

We are implicitly saying that wilderness is a place set apart. To the degree that we have any kind of sacred ground in America, wilderness and national parks and other special land designations represent “hallowed ground.” While certain types of recreation have always been practiced in wilderness including things like hiking, fishing, cross country skiing and canoeing, the primary purpose of wilderness designation is not to provide recreational opportunities. If that were the case, there would be no reason to designate a wilderness.

One can hike, canoe, and so forth outside of a wilderness and for that matter one can mountain bike outside of wilderness too. And we have many, many more acres of public lands that lie outside of wilderness and/or any potential wilderness where mountain biking as well as many other recreational pursuits are acceptable.

Organizations that are wilderness supporters do not make recreation the main goal of wilderness designation. It is the Wilderness Society for instance, not the Backpacking Society. And that’s one of the differences between organizations like the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and wildlands supporters. IMBA exists to expand trails and trail use by mountain bikers—which in itself is a fine goal in appropriate locations—but it is not about wildlands preservation.

Many mountain bikers (see my recent post on Omnibus Wilderness for a taste of these comments) seem to think that the only reason wilderness advocates objections to mountain biking in wilderness is because we want to selfishly have all the trails to ourselves. I suppose since the only rationale that mountain bikers see for being involved in public lands issues is to expand places where they can ride their bikes, they can’t imagine that anyone would just be supporting wilderness for its own sake. But that is exactly why many of us support wilderness designation.

Though I have hiked, skied, canoed, and otherwise traveled in many wilderness areas and proposed wildernesses, whether I can do any of these things in any wilderness is not the reason I am a staunch wildlands supporter. Indeed, I will never visit; much less fully explore most of the areas that I support for wilderness designation.

Rather I support wilderness for a host of reasons other than recreation and/or their economic value. I can cite the way wildlands provide us a base line for how natural systems work, and as a home to many species that cannot thrive in the mangled landscapes we called “managed” lands. And of course, wilderness preservation also protects other things that benefit all of us like fountainheads for clean water, soil protection and so forth.

But the real reason many strong wilderness advocates support wilderness is because we believe that some lands should be self-willed and to the degree possible in an age of global warming—lands that are beyond human manipulation. We feel there should be places where humans accept limits on what we do and where we do it.

This is an old human tradition. All cultures have traditions that attempt to promote the best attributes of human nature. And all cultures recognize that there are some activities that you are not appropriate everywhere.

Wilderness designation automatically says this is a place we don’t do all the things we might do elsewhere. We are not going to log the forest. We are not going to mine the land. We are not going to drill for oil. We are, in other words, going to treat these lands as something special. And one of the things we have decided not to permit in a wilderness is wheeled access—whether muscle powered or not.

I suspect this may be hard for some mountain bikers to understand. But another way to think about it is to imagine a place like the Arlington National Cemetery. I imagine one could have a fun time riding among the ground stones, maybe jumping some of the tombs and creating a nice trail through the cemetery. All but the most crass mountain biker would understand why someone would be outraged if a group of mountain bikers insisted on creating a trail through the cemetery. It is hallowed ground.

For many of us who are advocates of wildlands preservation, wild places are already so scarce that we believe any remaining lands should be set aside as special places. And these grounds are steadily shrinking under the onslaught of industrial society. To permit even one more intrusion by mechanical advantaged machines, even muscle-powered ones, is a step towards degrading many of the special qualities of wildlands.

Though I am sure there are mountain bikers who love natural areas and appreciate wild places, the main reason people mountain bike is not to show reverence for a place. And I am not speaking of religion necessarily here, but respect. Careening down a trail at high speeds does little for reverences. Though not all people who visit a wilderness necessarily think of them as sacred places, the very quality of going slowly at least encourages thoughtful appreciation.

I suspect some mountain bikers would respond by saying how is their activity any different than a white water kayaker running a rapids and/or a backcountry skier swooping down a mountain slope. Is someone focused on the next Class Four drop really thinking about reverence or just thinking about survival?

However, one of the explicit rationales behind the Wilderness Act is to preserve “heritage values”. Heritage values including things like our heritage of unmanaged landscapes, scenic values, clean water, and so forth. But it also applies to how one approaches wilderness. Human travel in these places is based on the kinds of traditional access that has been used for centuries whether it be hiking skiing, canoeing or on horseback. In many cases, these modes of travel have been the dominate way of transport for humans for thousands of years. These are in a sense an authentic part of the experience that wilderness designation preserves. Bikes were not part of the traditional heritage of wilderness.

Many mountain bikers are quick to say that horse travel (which is permitted in designated wilderness) does more damage to trails and even the experience of other visitors than mountain bikes. And in one sense they are correct. But I do not think this justifies promoting another activity that potentially degrades wildlands.

Mechanical advantages such as mountain bikes shrinks wilderness. The main objective of most mountain bikers is the challenge of the trail, not the experience of a sacred ground or communion with nature.

Again I suspect mountain bikers would respond that the average backpacker, wilderness fisherman, or backcountry skier is not seeking sacred ground either. And in that regard they may be correct, but some activities are more conducive to reflective moments than others. And one of the implicit goals of wilderness designation is the promotion of reflection about the human relationship to nature.

I would encourage mountain bikers who want to help protect public lands from industrialization—a worthy challenge—to begin land protection campaigns to set aside lands that are not part of any wilderness proposal and/or large block of roadless terrain. The majority of public lands fit these basic criteria. There are far more acres of public land that will never be considered as potential additions to the National Wilderness System than there are lands that could be designated.

The opportunities for this kind of distinctive conservation effort would be welcomed by most wilderness advocates. There are certainly many lands that could be designated as conservation unit—open to mountain biking. For instance, in Montana the Bangtail Hills between Livingston and Bozeman are suitable for mountain biking as well as other non-motorized users but is not now in any wilderness proposal. Yet the Bangtail Hills have conservation value as a linkage and biological corridor between several other proposed wilderness and some kind of protective status would aid overall conservation goals. If mountain bikers were to focus their efforts on such areas, they could avoid this unnecessary conflict with wilderness advocates, garner more public lands that are open to mountain biking and at the same time help the bigger goal of long term conservation efforts.

Wilderness is not an outdoor gymnasium. We should not reduce its value by allowing more and more activities that compromises any values in wilderness. Wildlands are under assault everywhere. We don’t need to add to that assault by allowing mountain bikes to contribute to that decline.

About George Wuerthner

George Wuerthner has published 36 books, including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy

Check Also

Interior Secretary Zinke Hails Effort to Fight Invasive Mussels

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced a new initiative to combat the spread of invasive ...


  1. I predict that this topic as introduced by George is just a red herring issue, designed to enflame bicyclists. Good luck to everyone who tries to bring logic to this topic. We’ll never get any resolution or truth when continually being affronted by terms such as “thrillcraft”. Shame on New West for encouraging and publishing such polarizing articles. New West is lacking ethics.

  2. This is all a question of who is more selfish.
    Gene thinks HIS wheels are better than MY wheels. And George thinks HIS feet are superior to Genes wheels and my wheels.
    For instance, who pioneered the Moab experience? Miner motorheads. And when, one spring, the Crested Butte guys “discovered” that bomber bikes could do stuff….
    MTBers, you need to understand that part of the point of wilderness and part of the motivation to have it designated is an unwillingness to share, or have any intrusion into the primitive illusion. All the yap about pristine ecosystems is simply deflectionist mumbo jumbo to cover up the desire to have something all to oneself.
    I would love to do a psychological study of wilderness advocates, or even some of you “correct” MTB people, to find out if the social skills portions of your kindergarten report cards noted how well you played with others or if you shared the common pool of classroom toys.
    Some of us learn to share, but some sure don’t.
    The fact is, MTBers need to look to other users in mutual support rather than try to cut deals in which everyone loses — except the anointed, of course.

  3. Gene

    It’s even worse where I live. I don’t live near wilderness. But I enjoy riding through the local city-owned golf course by my house. But the city is thinking of prohibiting bike riding in the park. These selfish people think I shouldn’t ride my bike there, as if they have a soul right to the golf course–it’s public property. My bike does less damage than those little carts the golfer ride around in. I have paid taxes too.

  4. In one of those truly American results, the people who don’t pay are trying hard to deny use to the people who do pay. I buy a box of shotgun shells, and part of the money goes to support NWR’s that don’t allow hunting, although most all of them did. The dollar bill on the string to behind the fence at Interior pulled every buck away. All of them. They got the money, and hunters got zip, zero, nada. And, lost fine hunting areas.

    So it is appropriate to extend the Pittman Robertson and Breaux Wallop taxes to bicycles, and not let them on Wilderness trails. It is how our government does things. Tell you one and do another. I would like to see all that specialized bicycle gear and clothing excise taxes to support open areas without bikes. That is how hunters and fishermen are treated, by the very same country, government, and citizens. Tax the crap out of bike stuff to allow them to buy a license to ride on public roads and open trails.

  5. George,

    De ja vu all over again… Didn’t we just watch this movie?

    You sanctimoniously paint with such broad generalizations and stereotypes about what you think mountain bicyclists believe and do that you invalidate your message. Riding in Arlington National Cemetery as a (W)ilderness analogy? Please!

    You continue to muddy the waters with by using (W)ilderness and (w)ilderness interchangeably. Lame.

    You suggest protecting the Bangtail Divide for bicycles. Does that mean fighting to remove the existing and Travel Plan sanctioned motorized uses to prove our conservation chops to the conservation community? No thanks! Enforcement of current regulations would go a long ways to protect this heavily used area though. If the Bangtails are such an important touch stone for you, maybe you could rattle the local (W)ilderness coffers for some much needed trail maintanence funding as they are bragging about money available for front country trails as a means to conceal their bad bicycle policies and tactics elsewhere on the Gallatin National Forest.

    How about the conservation community embracing bicyclists for a National Protection Area for the Lionhead area of the Henry Mountains to permanently protect a deserving landscape, an important wildlife corridor and the quiet, non-motorized trail use presently allowed? Sounds like a win/win to me.

    Since you state again much of what you said in the comments of your previous post, I will restate a question from there that you sidestepped completely.

    Keeping in mind that (W)ilderness is not a religion or first amendment right but a land protection tool – what are WE protecting with a Congressional (W)ilderness designation that cannot be accomplished with a well written, strongly worded, legally binding and collaboratively supported companion designation that offers the SAME protection from mining, logging, new roads, structures and expanded motorized use but still allows bicycling on SOME important TRAILS within a larger protected LANDSCAPE that could / would include new bicycle banning Wilderness acreage?? Are these not the goals of the (W)ilderness advocate? What IS the argument here? Is it the color of my skin – er – mode of quiet recreation you reject?

    NEWS FLASH – Rep. Obey from Wisconsin, Chair of the Appropriations committee, blocked the Tester bill tonight.

    Wilderness IDEAL meets political reality 2010. What’s it going to be – another 25-year land protection drought in Montana?

  6. Pragmatist and others:

    There seems to be a misunderstanding among mountain bikers. Somehow they feel like they are being excluded from wilderness. Nothing could be further from the truth. You’re all welcome. It’s just your bikes that are not welcome.

    To suggest that this is the same exclusions of women from clubs or other discrimination demonstrates poor critical thinking skills. The ban on mountain bikes, 4wd drive pick ups, dirt bikes, ride on lawn mowers, chain saws, etc. from wilderness is similar to a ban on smoking in public libraries and/or other public areas. Anyone is free to enter a public library. No one is free to smoke there.

  7. Fenske

    Yes I have been in the Bangtails–I have ridden my mountain bike there, hunted there, and so forth.

    Yes it has some clearcuts and roads. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have conservation value, especially if no further industrial development is excluded.

  8. O.K. George, I won’t quibble over words too much. The area does deserve protection. The area is compatible with motorized recreation as well. (I am not a motorized recreationalist)

    However “some” clearcuts and roads is downplaying the fact that Plum Creek devastated the Bangtails before they traded it to the USFS. It is in no way deserving of Wilderness designation.

    To return to the myth that because I ride a bike in order to enjoy the wilds yet I am less reverent or pure due to my chosen method of recreation.

    What gives you the right to judge how I view the land?

    Thanks in advance.

  9. Fenske

    I’m not judging your love of wild country. If you love wild country you will support it everywhere–as I do. And I encourage you to enjoy wild country when and where you can by accessing them without a bike and/or other mechanical transport.

    I suspect you already do on occasion as is likely the case for all mountain bikers. That’s all I’m suggesting–go without the bike–you and anyone else is welcome in wilderness–just leave things like chain saws, generators, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, go carts, motor boats, jet skis, four wheelers, para sails, etc.etc. etc. and bikes at home.

  10. The author is sadly mistaken on several points. I’m dismayed that he continues to get a pulpit from which to spread such poorly researched writing. Examples include:

    1) The largest membership-based mountain biking organization is on record with its support for literally dozens of Wilderness proposals:

    2) To compare a healthy outdoor activity like cycling to smoking in public areas is a gross distortion. Mountain biking promotes good health.

    3) Wilderness is not the only designation capable of protecting land from development and extraction.

    4) It’s asinine to argue that supporting land protection should be unrelated to recreation interests, then rail against the impact bikes have to — not the natural world — but a competing recreational activity, namely foot travel. What’s the basis of the argument? That bikes degrade ecosystems or that they degrade competing types of recreation? Constantly conflating the two is illogical.

  11. Wilderness? What about the sacred cow of horses in wilderness areas? Messy, horse crap all over the trails, campsites heavily impacted, special ramps built for a small portion of the recreating community. Why would a bike be excluded from wilderness and horses not? If it’s walk into wilderness areas how about getting these destructive “non-mechanized travel” vehicles out of wilderness areas also?

  12. What we have here is an aesthetic judgment masquerading as an ethical judgment. In other words, at a (perhaps) unacknowledged level George finds mountain biking “ugly” – a thrill sport. From there it is not huge leap to adjudging it “wrong” – more or less. If your core aesthetic sense is that humanity is a scourge on the earth you can’t help but select “the picture” the most devoid of it. You will ask people to “respect” that picture. You will miss the irony of believing that bicycles should be banned from some places on earth while you gather hundreds of dollars worth of the highest tech outdoor stuff an unjust global economic system can deliver and with assistance from a global motor vehicle manufacturer and fuel supplier travel to the boundary of one of those places.

  13. Bob:

    I’ll try once more with a different tack to try to explain things.

    I do not view mountain biking as “ugly” as you suggest. I ride one myself.

    It’s a matter of where those machines are used. On a lot of public lands, bike riding is appropriate, but not everywhere.

    I like riding my bike. I encourage more bike transport. I’m a big supporter of urban bike lanes, bike bridges, and other efforts to increase biking as a transportation option as well as for pleasure riding. I think biking is great exercise.

    It’s a matter of where these things occur.

    As much as I am an advocate of bikes as transportation, I would not support bikes on sidewalks with pedestrians. I would not advocate bike riding in schools, libraries, cafes, and a host of other places that are incompatible.

    It is no different than with my vehicle. I drive to the trailhead. But I don’t drive on the trail. Even if I could argue that my vehicle might have less impact than horses or other other use (and some thrillcraft probably do have less immediate impact on trails than a big pack string of horses) that does not mean it’s appropriate to expand vehicles into wilderness.

    It’s amount of limits. That is what growing up is all about. I have teens right now who think they should be permitted to do anything they want. Why can’t I stay out until midnight, they will ask me or why can’t I go to this party or whatever. I don’t let them do whatever they want–a good parent recognizes that one must learn to live with limitations.

    As I have said numerous times before, everyone is welcome to enter a wilderness. But mechanical transport is not welcome. And I fear if this limitation is violated, there will be no effective way to argue against any other new or improved use that comes along–perhaps things we could never imagine.

    When I was a kid, I don’t think any of us riding our bikes ever imagined we could climb mountains on them. The technology just wasn’t there. You and I can not even begin to imagine what will be.

  14. Mark E.

    Sometimes New West offers a soapbox to bikers. It has happened.

    What I would like to see is an objective article addressing the many points that have been brought up in this ongoing debate. Wilderness advocates cannot write objectively and neither can bicycle advocates.

    Bill Schneider came close with his wilderness lite articles, but still missed the mark. I keep thinking about the title of the PBS radio show “All things considered”. An article could strive to reach conclusions, or not. But to find the truth, all things must be considered.

    An article written with an inclusive goal may even take a collaborative effort from several authors. It would point out the strengths, weaknesses and fallicies of everyones position, the problems with our land managment laws, and how these laws can effect or benefit wildlife, society, and our economy.

    New West, be responsible and step up. Or let the ranting continue. Your choice.

  15. Bearbait-

    your claim that helicopters are’nt allowed in wilderness for rescues is not true.

    I personally participated in a helicopter resuce for an injured hunter/stock user out of a wilderness area this fall with the local search and resuce and the forest service.

    Signs are not being removed either, though mileages to certain areas are often removed becuasse that info. should be available on your forest map.

    Thanks for statting some facts about the trail damage bikes do. It’s astonishing the way that mtn bikers refuse to admit their bikes have impacts on the trails and often cause closures of them due to rampant overuse with large numberso bikers traveling together. For examplt the Rattlesnake Recreation Area outside of Missoula has numerous trails closed to all due to overuse by bikers. Guess what the bikers remvoed the obstacles to the trail and contniue riding it illegally.

  16. Larix,

    I cannot write objectively. I’m partially handicapped by age related breakdown and therefore wedded to my bicycle. I’m an amateur writer on my best days. Just because I have vision doesn’t mean I’m capable of writing. But teamed with a couple other people I could probably bring balance and objectivity to an article that would attempt to find the truth of the matter.

    Ain’t gonna happen this month. plus it’s up to New West to intitiate the concept.

  17. Bob Allen asks a great question, George. Respectfully, would you mind answering it?

    “Keeping in mind that (W)ilderness is not a religion or first amendment right but a land protection tool – what are WE protecting with a Congressional (W)ilderness designation that cannot be accomplished with a well written, strongly worded, legally binding and collaboratively supported companion designation that offers the SAME protection from mining, logging, new roads, structures and expanded motorized use but still allows bicycling on SOME important TRAILS within a larger protected LANDSCAPE that could / would include new bicycle banning Wilderness acreage?? Are these not the goals of the (W)ilderness advocate? What IS the argument here? Is it the color of my skin – er – mode of quiet recreation you reject?”

  18. Geo, thanks for your response. We’re going to have to agree to disagree. If you spend any time around serious mountain bikers (as opposed to the type who happen to have a mountain bike in the basement and ride it on a dirt road or easy trail every couple of weeks or less often), you’ll learn that our bicycle is integral to our reason for being. It’s a whole lifestyle and a passion, not just a hobby like stamp-collecting, model trains, or ferret ownership. This may seem odd or foolish to you, but it’s a fact. And it’s why the argument we can always walk in Wilderness won’t persuade us. Actually, I have done a lot of walking in Wilderness. It’s not the same thing at all; it offers nice scenery but little personal challenge and relatively minimal physical fitness benefits.

    So your invitation that we’re welcome in Wilderness if we’ll walk, while undoubtedly sincere, just doesn’t cut it. I don’t mean to compare apples and oranges, but you might as well tell gay people that they can always marry, as long as they’re willing to find someone of the opposite sex, or a religious minority that they’re welcome in a neighborhood with restrictive housing convenants as long as they’re willing to convert to Christianity. (Again, no precise comparison intended about the forms of discrimination; I’m talking only about how unpersuasive such arguments are going to be to mountain bikers as an excluded group, whether people think such feelings are justifiable or not.)

  19. Monaco: First, how dare you inject racism in the argument. We have a black President, a Black Caucus in Congress (and no white caucus), and race has little to do with who rides a bicycle, except I would guess the vast majority interested in trammeling the Wilderness with bicycle ruts are well educated white males. Just speculation. My prejudging.

    That said, “quiet” does not prevent erosion or conflict. Quiet implies “good” mechanical means. The law says no to mechanical means. Living organisms, like people, horses, mules, burros, llamas, dogs are allowed. That transportation forged from flame and earth are not. The law is anachronistic because it was written before computer code, high tech metals, and REI. Bikes are not ever going to be allowed in Wilderness. Never. Unless, of course, you can find a Supreme Court that will legislate from the bench. And then Katy-bar-the-door. Ten to one you would have a Honda trail bike case that expanded the intent of the Supremes, and then all is lost.

    The Wilderness Act is one of those things like a mostly dried out cow flop: innocent use of space until kicked, and then even though mostly green on the inside, it will be messy for a while longer. Better the flop left alone. Better the Wilderness Act left alone. If you want to ride bicycles on trails, don’t make your fun area into a new Wilderness. Pretty simple, really. And I do believe some places are best off being Wilderness, and then with access so difficult and trying as to discourage 99% of those who would want to access it. That way the security of the whole is much better protected. If you want a zoo, make some more National Parks, and have your drive through, ride through, Wildlife Safari experience. This country is large enough to have that, too.

    Remember, the most egregious misuse of public wildlands right now is Mexican dope cartel grow sites. Hundreds if not thousands of them, and every one a certain and destructive degradation of the landscape and watershed. The reason they exist, in such numbers, is that public land law enforcement is not doing its job. Not enough people, boots on the ground. Not enough Mexican Americans to be plain clothes cops in small rural towns to see who is buying the large grocery loads, sacks of fertilizer and pesticides. Who is getting drip tube and fittings? And we will never know because you would have to “profile” for Hispanics to make a dent in the abuse of our public lands. Illegal alien civil rights come first, and they get to use your wildlands while law abiding public users wait for permission. Not fair, maybe, but the way things work. And not riding a bike on Wilderness trails might not be “fair”, but it is the law of the land. And a law I don’t see being changed in my lifetime.

  20. I guess serious mountain bikers are going to have to claim their part of the public lands from other than Wilderness.

    Fifty years ago, in a mid sized town in Oregon, I hunted pheasants on my way to school off my Schwinn paper boy bike. Kept my shotgun and shell vest in my locker, the Model 12 broke down. I always carried a pocket knife. I got in fist fights at noon or after school, in that teenage king-of-the-mountain sortie into enemy territory and the establishment of the pecking order. I didn’t study and got a 1365 SAT score. If it were not for football, college would not have kept me interested. In summer, we rode single speed bikes down the ski runs in summer just to keep the need for speed intact. In winter we would shoot the whole mountain in the fall line for the same reason. The skiing public hated that, and so they should. It was selfish, greedy, and not a proper use of a facility for all. And then you get older. You start to lose micro managed reflexes at about 28. You no longer can jump from this stump to that stump. At forty, you begin to run out of air non stopping it up the unit from the bottom. And you finally figure out that what is lost is lost for good in your fifties. And recreation is taken at a slower pace, and your scope of interest has widened considerably. Hiking at a brisk pace becomes more like hiking at a possible pace. You no longer hear as well. You don’t see as well. And then here comes some young asshole on a mountain bike running you off the trail, invective is hurled, and the last you see is some kid blasting down the trail, his head turned your way, and the third metacarpal extended right at you. And that is why Wilderness will always be verbotten to bicycles. My vote. My influence. My interests. And my extended middle finger. Touche’.

  21. Bearbait, I missed where I wrote anything regarding race or racism. Please enlighten me.

  22. If you look closely you’ll see [ “” ]. Those are called quotation marks. I did not pen the question asked, just reposted it. It is a valid question, one the author of the article continues to side-step.

  23. Sorry, Larynx, you’ll just have to remain disgusted. (Have you ever considered enrolling in an anger managment class?) I made my point clear: the discriminatory effects are not the same, nor are the forms of discrimination the same. It’s the attitude of each excluded group that is going to be the same, or similar, i.e., bitter resentment and an unwillingness to tolerate unfair discrimination. I detect that you are a semiliterate ignoramus, so I don’t expect you to grasp such subtleties. Undoubtedly the more intelligent people on this thread will.

  24. Your asking if the color of your skin is the reason to deny mountain bike use in Wilderness. Said, implied, quoted, all make no difference. That is what you wrote. And color of skin has nothing to do with who can and does own a mountain bike. Karl Malone was an early mountain biker in Utah. It is not he is being rejected for who he is, but for the bike in Wilderness, no matter who rides it.

    Some Wilderness, and parts of many, are so fragile, and tenuous, that not fighting forest fires, allowing unrestricted use and visits, and other impacts degrade those special places to where the original protection has no meaning, offers no protection, and possibly produced a negative result.

    Some places are incubators for species that spread to land beyond that protected by Wilderness. Best we do as much as possible to protect the incubators. And not denying mountain bike use, and creating trails and access, defeats the very purpose of the specific need for Wilderness designation of that area.

    My opinion and quarter, and you still can’t buy a hamburger. I accept that. But Wilderness has its place, and so do mountain bikes. Just not in Wilderness. A lifetime logger, I accepted Wilderness long ago. And for areas I don’t think are in need of some sort of very restrictive protection provided for by the Wilderness Act of 1964, I oppose the designation. I also oppose National Monument designation as a way to circumvent the public process as per Clinton-Babbitt….I very well know how restrictive Wilderness designation is. I accept it. I think it is just, in some places. A pinch of salt can make something desirable, and a cup of salt can kill all desire. That is the lesson of “dose.” How much to use. And Wilderness can be an overdose in some instances. So I would think the mountain bike lobby needs to identify and protect their interest, and not try to carve it out of already specifically protected land. When you show up late at the table, don’t expect all you can eat and hot, too.

  25. I’m having a really hard time with George’s idea that mountain bikers have no reverence or respect for the land in which we travel. He has latched onto his “thrillcraft” idea and wants to pound into people’s heads that we are simply a Mountain Dew commercial in the mountains. If the idea is that we are simply using the mountains as a gym, then I guess we better disallow trail-runners as well. They move way too fast, and cover too much ground, and therefore can’t possibly respect the wild places they are running through…

  26. Thank you, George for your continued efforts to educate and dissuade mountain bikers of the notion that using a mechanized vehicle is appropriate to use in Wilderness areas. Mountain bikers argue that they have a right to do what they want to do in Wilderness because its public land and they own it. This is illogical reasoning. Some of these mountain bikers insist that those of us who want to uphold the Wilderness Act of 1964 and continue to say “no” to mtn bikers in Wilderness, do not like mountain bikes and want to keep Wilderness all to ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. This thinking is also completely bogus.
    Wilderness, as defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964, is “an area where earth and its community of life are untrammelled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain…where the effect of man and his civilization do not exist…” The main reason for Wilderness is to provide a balance to offset the effects of civilization and satisfy the basic instincts of man. The act further states that “considering the non-renewability of Wilderness areas, constant attention must be aimed at preserving its quality and integrity.” In Section 2 (a) of the act it says, “ In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the U.S. and it’s possessions, leaving no land designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition.”
    So why are we continuing to have this discussion? Mechanized vehicles are not compatible with Wilderness. Maintaining watersheds and critical habitat for animal and plants life, as well as preserving the natural world and the aesthetic values of wilderness are the hallmarks of Wilderness. There’s a spirit of wilderness that spirit is compromised by the ever growing assault from technological advances of civilization. Wilderness is a safe haven from which humans can seek relief, refuge and solitude from this fast paced technological world we live in.
    Let’s go even beyond what humans can get from Wilderness, let’s consider the importance of wilderness for the sake of wilderness. This takes humility and self-restraint. It’s the opposite of being egocentric. In fact, some of the arguments and statements from mountain bikers are rather narcissistic in nature. Narcissism is defined by a grandiose sense of self-importance and sense of entitlement; lacking in empathy and understanding for anything but their own interest; and an arrogant and sometimes haughty attitude. There’s no place in wilderness for these attitudes.
    Wilderness is a place greater than us. It’s a place where we are not in control and thus allow nature to be nature without interference from humans. It’s a place that is left alone, unimpaired and unchanged for future generations.

  27. “So why are we continuing to have this discussion?”

    Another person who confuses trails with Wilderness.

    Why are we continuing to have this discussion?

    Because demagogues like George want to tell us what we are doing offends his sensibilities.

  28. No matter what personal take you might possess on bicycles on Wilderness trails, the law says no bikes, among myriad issues and manufactured things precluded. No bikes. That is the law. And I will tell you that the law is NOT going to be changed. Existing Wilderness precludes bicycles. Illegal. Not unlike illegal alien. No matter the humanity of the deal, or the advances in technology, the law is pretty explanatory, and has been interpreted as to say no bikes. NO BIKES…

    If you want bikes allowed in proposed Wilderness, then you are talking about another issue altogether. Each Wilderness is voted in on its own merits and inclusions or exclusions. Grazing, the boundary gerrymandered around a road that has to be kept open to access private lands, there are always issues.

    The Hells Canyon NRA has a road that was intended to be NOT in the Wilderness. After the passing of the legislation, it was discovered that a small piece of the road had mistakenly been included in the Wilderness portion of the NRA legislation. So that road is closed. And the USFS is in the process of building a jeep road around the Wilderness boundary to connect the two sections of a 17 miles road with a half mile section mistakenly included in Wilderness. No matter. Building a by-pass, a jitney road, a shoo fly, is much easier and possible than changing existing Wilderness designation. Nobody wants to open the can of worms. Let the genie out of the bottle. That example is why the issue of bikes in existing Wilderness is a foregone conclusion: NO BIKES. It is the law.

  29. Clear yes, accurate no.

    Think about it: if the law were clear that bicycles aren’t allowed in Wilderness, why would George Wuerthner and many others write about the topic so much? They could just sit back and let rangers write tickets. There’d be nothing to discuss.

    The reason bicycles in Wilderness is debated on the policy level (when there’s a mature debate, which often there isn’t) is that the legal foundations for the no-bikes rule are exceedingly shaky. The Wilderness purists know this, otherwise, as stated, they’d clam up; it would be water under the bridge as far as they’re concerned.

    As I explained in my 2004 Penn State Environmental Law Review article (linked to below), here’s the state of the law:

    1. The Wilderness Act of 1964 was silent on bicycles. It did forbid “mechanical transport” in Wilderness, which sounds like it ought to include bikes, but the bill’s legally significant background showed that members of Congress meant to allow light transport even if mechanically assisted. They were worried about other things that required permanent installations (like sailboats) or that shepherded around people and cargo (like wagons and barges).

    2. The Forest Service correctly understood this intent and in 1966 it put out a regulation, which is still active and in force, saying that “mechanical transport” meant transport that is NOT muscle-powered.

    3. Unfortunately, in 1977 someone else in the Forest Service issued a contradictory regulation saying no bikes in Wilderness. This was a Forest Service employee or department, not Congress, which is supposed to write our laws. But because of other laws, the Forest Service regulation is enforceable, i.e., you could get a ticket by violating it even though Congress never acted on the question of bikes in Wilderness.

    4. The Forest Service has never corrected the inconsistency in its 1966 and 1977 regulations. Were it to do so, it almost certainly would have to allow bikes, because all the evidence is that Congress did not intend to forbid them.

    5. Later, the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management went along with the Forest Service. But in each case the agency regulation is wrong and not supported by the Wilderness Act.

    6. Thus, it is only a matter of time until the agencies rewrite and overturn their own regulations, or someone successfully challenges them in court.

    7. And that is why the Wilderness purists engage in this debate—because they know this too.

    I hope the foregoing is even more clear than prior statements on this thread. Please read my law review article for more detailed information on this subject: You do not have to be a lawyer to understand it, just an intelligent reader.

  30. Let me clarify what I just wrote. In point #1, I said Congress meant to allow light transport even if mechanically assisted. To be precise, it meant to allow light *human-powered* transport. In fact, Congress was *eager* for people to get around in Wilderness under their own power and at no point did it say, in its debates on the Wilderness Act, that people could not use mechanical devices that people powered themselves to do it.

    A key member of Congress explained what the no-mechanical-transport rule meant: no towing around people or cargo. The legislative record suggests that that’s the true meaning of the “mechanical transport” prohibition, even if it’s not the agencies’ most recent interpretation of it.

    The Forest Service read the Wilderness Act correctly at first and issued its 1966 regulation, which is still good, that says human-powered transport is OK. It’s the contradictory 1977 regulation (also still good) that’s the problem. It has much less to back it up than the 1966 regulation does.

    That said, one never knows how a court is going to rule on something this complicated and subtle. So don’t go on a bicycle ride in Wilderness in hopes of getting a ticket and challenging the law. You could lose even if the better legal argument is in your favor, as I’m convinced it is.

  31. Ted Stroll

    Good paper covering legal aspects of the Wilderness Act. I can tell you’re a smart guy. Wish you could just want to preserve wilderness for its own sake–not based on whether you or anyone else can ride a bike or roller blade or whatever in wilderness.

    Most wilderness proponents I know work to protect lands that in most cases they will never set foot on. They do this not to further their own particular recreational activity but because they believe it’s important to have places where we draw a line in the sand and say no. I only wish mountain bikers would adopt this same philosophy.

  32. When I see you and others working to protect wilderness without trying to make it a place to mountain bike, you will all be a welcome addition to the wilderness movement.

  33. I sort of thought that Congress passed laws. The House and Senate both passed a law in their chamber, and then that went to a Conference Committee appointed by both chambers to hammer out the compromise and final bill, and then they were approved or rejected in another vote, and if approved, the President signed the bill, and it became law. The Federal Agency which has jurisdiction then passed administrative rules to carry out the law, and published them in the Congressional Record, and they are the law of the land until challenged. That is what the Federal court system is for: challenges to administrative rules as written out and carried out by the Administration by its agencies. And the Supremes get the final say if they so desire. Not thinking there need be an Appeals Court decision overturned, the Supremes can decide NOT to hear an appeal of an Appeals Court decision… and that is where the law become chiseled in stone.

    So, I don’t think that bicycles in Wilderness has yet to make it to Federal Court, and some wise commentator noted that when you take something like that to the Courts, you have no idea of what the result will be. In this case, and address, the 9th Circuit would hear the arguments of any decision appealed out of a District Court. Good luck with those people.

    So, we are back to the crusted over cow flop: Do you really want to kick it? Do you really want to pick that scab? Whose “weegie” board do you want to be “the decider?” Or, in a moment of sanity, would the bicycle proponents use their heads and make sure in any additional Wilderness, specific language be added that permitted bicycles (and you had better damned well describe exactly what will now and forever be constructed and construed to be a “bicycle”) in the new Wilderness? You will get a fight, for sure. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Compromise. That is where conflict is resolved. In Congress, in the public discourse. When so many have issues, and feel invested, without compromise there will never be a decision, steps forward taken, strife laid to rest. That rubber has met the road in Congress, this week, in a compromise that the far left and far right do not like in any way. The leaders of this country for the next decade are right now being forged in this crucible of divergent ideas that only can be resolved by compromise. The strongest will emerge and I will bet President Obama will be stronger for his play in the game, and the most strident of the far left and right will be once again lonely voices howling for their own ears. The outcomes will chart the course of this country for a decade or more. Bikes in Wilderness are not going to rise to the forefront of the political discourse according to my crystal ball. We live in interesting times.

  34. Geo,

    First, thank you.

    Second, I think you’ll find few people more fervent about preserving America’s wildlands than the mountain bikers capable of riding in them. But a Wilderness designation isn’t necessary to preserve a natural setting.

    If I were confronted with a situation in which a beautiful area could ONLY be designated Wilderness or strip-mined, I’m sure I’d favor Wilderness for it even if I couldn’t ride there. Those aren’t the only options, however.

    IMBA has come up with what it calls “companion designations” that will protect the land and yet allow quiet human-powered activities. I don’t know how much headway it’s made with those land-use alternatives, but that’s where we need to go.

    Frankly, I see things the other way from you: because Wilderness devotees are adamant that only 19th century means of travel (foot and horseback) are morally tolerable in Wilderness, THEY are willing to risk sacrificing majestic National Forest areas to grazing, mining, logging, etc., through a loss of a more protective designation if that’s what it takes to keep bicycles out.

    Someone above said, well, what about other ingenious forms of human-powered transport that could come along in the future? I’d allow them in Wilderness: mountain boards, unicycles, snow kites, pogo sticks, the lot. Humans operating under our own power are never going to be able to scar the landscape, nor will we annoy other users unless they have the fabled princess-and-the-pea level of sensitivity. And in that case, let them pool their resources and (borrowing from the princess and the pea metaphor) buy the equivalent of forty mattresses in the form of some private land where they won’t have to see anyone other than their mirror images.

  35. Good points, Bearbait. You’re basically correct about federal law. One minor point: proposed agency rules are published in the Federal Register, and if adopted they go into the Code of Federal Regulations. It’s congressional debates that go into the Congressional Record.

    I’m all in favor of grandfathering bicycle use into new Wilderness legislation, on trails where bicycles have been ridden. Then I wouldn’t have to oppose such legislation. I have the impression, however, that the Wilderness activists would regard any such initiative as the equivalent of hacking away at Michelangelo’s Pietà with a hammer (as László Tóth infamously did in 1972).

  36. P.S. to Bearbait: yes, I’m willing to kick the crusted-over cow flop. There’s nothing to lose. We can’t ride in Wilderness areas now. A ruling saying we can’t do so won’t make any difference. On the other hand, I’m not willing to invest my very modest personal fortune in such a venture. I couldn’t afford the legal fees!

  37. Ted Stroll, Bearbait and others

    It’s interesting to see all your comments. Many of you are articulate and well informed. And you often make very good persuasive points.Thanks for sharing your passion. Oh do I wish we had you working that passion for more wilderness regardless of bike access. Guess I can always hope that will come.


  38. Ted: I sympathize. If you were in the shadow government of the environment, the favored NGOs, you automatically would get Equal Access to Justice Act reparations payments from the Justice Dept. But as an individual, there seems to be some sort of discrimination going on there. I see in Range magazine that individuals, who have prevailed against the US Govt and their allied preferred NGOs, have been denied EAJA compensation. I guess under that law some are MORE equal than others.

    Hey, if you have “standing” (hard to prove nowadays, if you have not been an active participant in writing letters of appeal or disagreement with the decision to ban bikes), have the money to get started, can find more than adequate counsel, find enough free interns or whatever to dig out the evidence to back your position, you can challenge the Feds. It is far easier if you are in their inner circle every day, a part of all decision making on land management issues, as are the leading NGOs and all their local affiliates. Maybe you can find a law school to take your issue to court. Or a prominent NGO…and maybe some snow balls in hell. The deck is more than stacked against mountain bikes in existing Wilderness. The Mother Earth lobby will protect its gains with all it possesses.

    So, you might kick, and miss many, many times, that crusted over cow flop. That is how the American Way is stacked against Joe Sixpack these days. If mountain biking in Wilderness is a cause celebrated in the hallowed halls of the elite universities and colleges that seem to lard the halls of government with bright young minds and bodies, it might have a chance. The problem, of course, is all the alums of the very same schools, of a certain age, are against you. Maybe it is just a deal where it is going to take time and timely deaths to gain any foothold. I have lived in the rural West, and have watched the true suffering and societal rot from past decisions to protect the precious environment. Every morning I read of another school district, another county government, all in areas of former economic stability when the government sold timber, deciding to close another school, lay off another phalanx of teachers, shorten the school year another ten days. 35th or whatever it is we are now ranked in the world of education, is last year. We are hell bent to be in the 50th percentile and lower. Shaboom shaboom, has been replace with dissident “Kaboom!!!” Whether to ride a bike in a Wilderness or fund a school is our present choice of how public money and effort should be spent. This bike deal gets pretty frivolous and petty as it continues to be discussed.

  39. There is a man who has a hand driven, tracked, wheel chair he has used to climb one or more mountains in the PNW. Really low geared, and he just pumps those arms, and inch by inch, he gains altitude. I don’t remember enough of how he does final technical parts of the climb. But one tough dude. And the television report I saw made no rememberable reference to Wilderness preclusions for his mobility assistance.

    Stealth mountain biking in Wilderness: how is that different from SSS?

  40. Bearbait, you’re referring to Bob Coomber, whom I know. I see Bob on our local trails. He’s going to try to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in his wheelchair! Bob and I share the accomplishment of climbing to the summit of White Mountain Peak, in eastern California, on wheels. White Mountain Peak, at 14,246 feet, is only 250 feet below the summit of Mt. Whitney, highest point in the lower 48. It took Bob three days but he did it. Google him and you’ll see. He’s been featured on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News for his accomplishments.

    It is correct that Congress allowed wheelchairs into Wilderness areas by statute. (42 U.S.C. § 12207.) The wheelchair lobby has more clout than the mountain bike lobby and wouldn’t tolerate third-class status, so it got the bill through. The result is yet another irony: if you have two wheels side by side, you can ride in Wilderness all you want. If one wheel is in front of the other, you can’t, even though Congress hasn’t prohibited it!

    Of course moves are afoot to turn White Mountain Peak into Wilderness, meaning Bob could still go on his wheels but I wouldn’t be allowed to on mine.

    Incidentally regarding Kilimanjaro, ultrafit athlete Martina Navratalova just had to abandon her attempt to climb it. She got pulmonary edema, couldn’t breathe, and had to be carried down. Heard it on the radio this morning.

  41. Bearbait said: “Whether to ride a bike in a Wilderness or fund a school is our present choice of how public money and effort should be spent. This bike deal gets pretty frivolous and petty as it continues to be discussed.”

    I have to agree. I feel slightly embarrassed posting on this topic when two million people are about to lose their unemployment benefits and could wind up homeless. Truly, this is a debate among the privileged, including me. I’m well aware of it.

  42. Ted: The fact remains that you can walk to the top, and Coomber cannot. Ever. And a compassionate country allows exceptions for those who have the misfortune to lose ambulatory mobility. Thank your lucky stars, as in “..but for the grace of God, go I…”

  43. True. And I do.

  44. Gee Larix thanks for enlightening me.

    FYI I worked for 6 seasons as a Wilderness Ranger in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, I am quite aware of the management of Wilderness.

    Just like I am aware of the mechanical advantages that rafters are allowed in that Wilderness. Or the grandfathered in allowance for aircraft, jet boats and gasp!!!!! automobiles. Or the cherry stemmed roads to mining claims or other in-holdings.

    If you want additional Wilderness you are going to have to compromise. That is a basic tenet that this country was founded on. Mountain Bikers have compromised again and again only to lose access to more and more areas.

    Not another inch!

  45. This article should be called: Wilderness according to Geo… YOU want to protect wilderness because YOU won’t be excluded from it, but cyclists will be. The fact that you can’t get even grasp that basic fact is puzzling. We’ve already been excluded, incorrectly, from over 50 million acres in the lower 48. We’ll stop fighting wilderness when you start accepting us. That sounds to me like a very fair trade. You’ve even admitted yourself in your oped that there is no rational reason for the exclusion. You also know that things could change at any time, especially with the new majority. I think it’s time for IMBA to actively lobby the Republicans in the House.

  46. Ted,

    I have old ties to Bishop Ca and had ridden my bike up White Mountain Peak. I am aware that it is now surrounded by Wilderness designation except for the cherry stem road to the summit. Is there a new effort building to take the cherry stem road in a wilderness bill as well?

  47. No, not a new effort, as far as I know, and I shouldn’t have said “moves are afoot,” since that suggests an ongoing active effort that’s going full steam ahead. I retract that characterization with apologies. The desire is always there, of course, or so I’ve been told, but it didn’t materialize into anything in the last Wilderness expansion. I don’t know the politics involved, but it could be that the University of California wants to operate its high-altitude Barcroft research station there without interfering rules, so perhaps it opposed a Wilderness designation that would have gone from the bristlecone pine area to the White Mountain Peak summit. Great ride, isn’t it? Congratulations on completing it. Not everyone could do so.

  48. George,

    Thanks again for another thoughtful response and giving advice to the other ‘Bob’ on parenting and growing up – whatever that means. Your last responses continue to side step the standing question of why not a companion designation or boundary adjustment in tandem with new (W)ilderness to protect future landscapes? I will also try a different tack to put my question in another context. Do not construe my comments to mean that I am advocating getting bicycles into existing (W)ilderness areas. I am talking about protecting wildscapes that are presently being visited, valued and cared for by TRAIL BASED bicyclists.

    Besides wildscape protection and opportunities for recreation on our public lands, there is another important factor that has yet to be explored in this endless chase-our-tail-blogging-babble. The economics of recreation is another key leg of the tripod that must balance landscape/wildlife protection, recreational access and economic potential.

    A great case study of where a Wilderness designation severely and needlessly limits the economic health of a community is in Lima, Montana. This example again begs the question – what are we protecting with a (W)ilderness designation only?

    Sitting as a remote gateway between the Lima Peaks and the Centennial Valley in the extreme southwest corner of Montana, LIMA is a one exit town of 250 residents that clings to a presently non-existent railroading past, cattle ranching and the economic blip of hunting season. Not much commerce comes to the dramatically and starkly beautiful southern end of Beaverhead County. The Continental Divide runs down the mountainous spine west of town that is the Montana / Idaho border and casts a long shadow over this once vibrant hub town now in decline. 100 students and shrinking in the K-12 school.

    7 miles west of the Lima Interstate 15 exit is the trailhead of the Middle Fork of Little Sheep Creek. This non-motorized trail climbs to the south eventually joining the CDT and dropping over the top to Sawmill Creek. Little Sheep Creek is the kind of trail that folks go out of their way to ride. Starting in a beautiful timbered drainage the trail eventually climbs above tree line for limitless views east up the Centennial Valley and over on the Ruby, Snowcrest and the Gravelly ranges. A spectacular and special place!

    All summer long people on their annual pilgrimage in their FAMILY THRILL CRAFT-sters make their way too and from Montana along I-15. Many of these fine upstanding gasoline using American citizens (and multi-national tourists) have bicycles on the roofs of their cars. And having evolved with the mountain bicycle they have come to appreciate and search out worthy rides while exploring what it means to be a visitor to American’s unmatched public lands. Maybe they’ve been to Moab, Fruita, Hurricane, Downiville, Asheville, or not, but they have in their collective minds examples from around the world where mountain bike tourism has made a positive impact on small communities. They come, they ride – then eat, drink and be merry, and then tell their friends. And so it goes.

    Lima has the potential to be such a hip and obscure spot on the mountain biking radar. A great backcountry trail through a beautiful, protection worthy landscape combined with a gas station, comfortable motel, cafe, in town camping and a road house that lets you cook your own steak on a grill in the bar – what else could you want? No bs-ing – Lima wouldn’t ever see the kind of growth or usage that Fruita, CO has seen but this type of drive-by bicycle tourism is real, and with time, planning and promotion, possibly a needed life line to HELP keep Lima on the map. Problem is that the Little Sheep trail (and equally spectacular Italian Peaks to the north) are really the ONLY worthy established singletrack options in a 50 mile radius of town that would attract interested riders. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest Plan recommended these areas for Wilderness consideration (Recommended Wilderness Area), and this past June closed these trails to bicycles under the Region One RWA ‘philosophy’ that manages RWAs as defacto-Wilderness. (I won’t go into how Garfield Mountain (Lima Peaks) Unit was added as a RWA after public NEPA comments had ended on the Forest Plan – and over the vocal objection of the Beaverhead Country Commission) Senator Tester’s FJRA embraced the BDNF Forest Plan and its Big ‘W’ fate is presently being debated in D.C.

    For two years running in anticipation of the possible closure of these trails concerned bicyclists from around the region converged on Lima to ride the sublime and then give to the towns (Dell too) some economic development – mountain bike style. The second year, in 2009, the somewhat spontaneous Backcountry Bicycle Festival drew nearly 150 folks to ride, eat, drink, camp in town and dance the night away in Lima – and in the process gave the town one of the best economic weekends they’ve had in decades. Rest assured that this one weekend surge on the trails should not be extrapolated to the area being over run – no more impact than one string of pack animals – Lima is after all in the middle of no-where.

    The community had their eyes opened to what could be a regular stream of people stopping by to enjoy a quiet spin into the woods on their bicycles and then sampling an authentic slice of rural Montana hospitality. It was truly an outstanding event because of the landscape, a narrow ribbon of a trail through it and a great supportive community. Lima’s businesses and residents were keen to develop a marketing plan to get the car-touring cyclists off the highway and through town on their way into the hills. It was heart breaking this year to have to decline their enthusiastic invitation to bring the Festival back because of the great (already non-motorized) trails had been closed to bicycles. What exactly are we protecting here?

    If you have a moment – check out the photographic Festival recap:

    So George, or Geo, the question becomes could you support some bicycle access to such a landscape that would be permanently protected from all the evil threats to our public lands (except bicycles) by a companion designation or boundary adjustment and new proposed Wilderness to benefit a very deserving wildscape and community? There are examples all over the country of MOTORIZED corridors into (W)ilderenss – can you support a NON-MOTORIZED corridor or boundary adjustment? If you can’t see this as an appropriate, viable and legislatively permanent compromise, PLEASE EXPLAIN WHY? What are we protecting with only a Wilderness designation that we can’t package more creatively and collaboratively for the benefit of all?

    In the meantime maybe you can help throw a Wilderness Festival down in Lima to see who shows up to promote and protect these hallowed grounds. I’m sure a Wilderness burger at the Peat Bar will be a big hit…?

    Oh, I forget, it already occurred:

    As a related side note: At a fall 2009 meeting with supporters of Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership after Senator Tester’s FRJA introduction, cyclists were told by a representative from Trout Unlimited that they could not support bicycles in Little Sheep Creek drainage as it is an important cutthroat trout watershed. They said that the sedimentation cased by bicycles was too great a threat to the fish habitat. There was no mention of other users impacting the fish, trails and run off – just that bicycles were bad.

    When bridges were suggested to deal with USERS crossing the creek and a volunteer effort to pro-actively mitigate water issues on the trail, we were met with a blank stare. So now bicycles are banned but there is no signage or attempt to educate the ACCEPTABLE users on how their impact affects the fishery? Tell me horses don’t stir up the creek? Ban bicycles and call it good? There is a great disconnect here between the Wilderness-or-nothing ideal and what really happens on the ground, and to surrounding communities.

    What are we protecting with a Wilderness designation that can’t be accomplished another Congressionally sanctioned way?

    Sadly the Lima Peaks looks to be a done deal and highlights the need to have the Region 1 FS look at the RWA issue on a trail-by-trail basis and not just a area wide bicycle ban. Another such opportunity sits at the opposite end of the Centennial Valley in the Henry Mountains outside of West Yellowstone. A world class made for bicycles trail sits in a RWA where it has been legal to ride a bicycle on the NON-MOTORIZED trails forever. Protect it? Absolutely! From bicycles? No Way!

    There is a better way to manage bicycles on public lands.

  49. Bob:

    Funny you mention Lima Peaks. It’s one of my favorite places in Montana. I first climbed Mt. Garfield in the early 1970s and have been visiting the area a lot over the years–as recently as two years ago. I’ve hiked over most of that roadless area at one time or another (as well the other mentioned area Italian Peaks to the west).

    In order to respond honestly to your question about whether I could support a boundary adjustment at Lima Peaks or any other place, I would have to see on a map exactly what is proposed, and how much I think that might affect the integrity of the whole.

    Boundary adjustments and/or non-motorized corridors in some instances may be a viable alternative. There are, as others have noted in this commentary–cherry stemmed roads in many wilderness areas–the Boulder Canyon Road in the AB wilderness for example goes some 20-25 miles south into the heart of the AB Wilderness. I wish that road were not there, but it pre existed the wilderness, and as you may know has a lot of summer cabins and church camps along it, as well as campgrounds.

    And of course, there is the road that penetrates the Rattlesnake NRA by Missoula up the drainage quite a ways that is open to mountain bikes as you probably know.

    I recognize that the Boulder is not analogous to the Lima Peaks situation because that road is open to all vehicles, but my point is that sometimes corridors or cherry stemmed access is acceptable if there is a significant amount of protection given to the whole.

    But every one of those are going to be specific decisions specific to each particular place.

  50. George – do you not recognize all of the Wilderness designations that the MTB community has supported as evidence of their value as allies? I mean, these are your EXACT words. Grab someone from IMBA – they’ll point you to 50 of them. Here’s your quote:

    “When I see you and others working to protect wilderness without trying to make it a place to mountain bike, you will all be a welcome addition to the wilderness movement.”

    We support Wilderness where appropriate. Absolutely. But the continued marginalization of historic bicycle access can’t continue. I’m fine with some trails being off-limits to cyclists…as long as we’re evaluating each on merit rather than subjecting it to some mindless blanket ban because “that’s the way we’ve always done it so it must be right”.

    I’m for Wilderness. Absolutely in some cases. But where its designation eliminates current access I feel that it’s important to look for alternate means to protect and preserve. Or at least to evaluate true impact rather than perceived (read: biased).

  51. Bingo by George!

    Your ‘point is that sometimes corridors or cherry stemmed access is acceptable if there is a significant amount of protection given to the whole.

    But every one of those are going to be specific decisions specific to each particular place.’

    In a nutshell this is what bicyclists are asking for in the areas we now ride that deserve some bicycle consideration AND permanent protection.

    The Widerness and defacto-Wilderness blanket bicycle bans without specific and detailed discussions about options, trail alignments and boundaries is a huge but simple issue for bicyclists.

    Bring us to the table as partners in conserving an area’s environmental and economic health – you just might be surprised at what we have in common.

    With access does come responsibility from the quiet, human powered bicyclists to all the stakeholders and the wildscape. Bicyclists will have to prove their conservation chops in this process.

    Education, good will and the ability to share among the stakeholders will take us far.

  52. Geo,

    That proposal is frankly a non starter. You’re simply trying to figure out how little you can give up to get MTBers to support Wilderness. This does not address the fact that we’re kicked off 53 million acres in the lower 48 for no good reason.

    I don’t see how tenable it would be anyway to say: bicycles are allowed in new wilderness but not old one. I’m pretty sure that we can document how somebody has ridden pre 1984 in just about every existing wilderness area.

    Mind you, I don’t think that bicycles should and will be allowed on every single trail out there, but we need to start with a position that bicycles are legal in wilderness and then look at the situation on the ground for each trail to see what makes sense.

  53. Sorry, meant George. No disrespect intended.

  54. This debate is interesting, but I can’t see it changing the situation. I doubt many federal agency employees are reading it, and they’re the ones who’d have to change the regulations. There is zero chance that wilderness activists would support such a change anyway. They’d rather have no wilderness expansion, incredible as that may be, than allow bicycles in wilderness.

  55. Thanks, George. I suppose I’m pessimistic, but I’ve read enough of these discussions to sense they’re not going to go anywhere. Still, they’re interesting.

    The politics of this confuses me, but for as long as the Republicans maintain control of the House, which could be the next 20 years, I doubt there’s going to be much more wilderness unless some compromises are made.

    Here’s what I think might work: convene a conference of advocates who are authorized to set policy for major wilderness organizations, professional mountain bike advocates (meaning IMBA), and high-level Forest Service staff. See if something can be hashed out. Maybe REI, Patagonia, Columbia, Specialized, and similar companies would be willing to sponsor it.

  56. amen! i love to mt. bike, but i’m in 100% agreement with the author.

  57. So you see mountain bikes as “thrillcraft” operated by mindless, uncaring adventure seekers Finn? And you don’t see them as potential allies in the pursuit of more Congressionally protected public lands? And you’re OK with the trails you ride now being taken away from you, even when a companion designation for the trail when married to a Wilderness designation surrounding it would accomplish the same thing?

    I just find that incredibly…ridiculous.

  58. Pragmatist…bravo. That’s been the line of the Wilderness B movement from the beginning…”Imagine what we could accomplish together.”

    It doesn’t mean bikes everywhere. It doesn’t mean your hike or Wilderness experience irreparably damaged (unless YOU let it be…and let’s be honest, if a cyclist ruins your hike the problem may just be with YOU and not the cyclist.) It also doesn’t mean wholesale destruction of wild places…and to suggest it does is self-serving fearmongering. Go that way and risk losing the respect of everyone on this side of the issue.

    Finding a workable compromise means that in the face of an unfriendly body politic we could all work together to impose our collective will upon our ELECTED officials. But the time for the “Our way or no way, Wilderness or NOTHING” ethos has passed. It’s a dinosaur. And our ENTIRE body (with the notable exception of Finn) will bang the companion designation drum until we stop eliminating mountain bike access for lands of sub-par Wilderness quality where mountain bikes have enjoyed historical access.

    Say the word and we’ll be on your side. I think by now you know the terms of the truce. And if you don’t we’d be happy to run them by you again.

  59. George,

    Cyclists rode in most wilderness areas in the late 70s and early 80s until the reinterpretation of the Act by the Feds in 1984, hence the 1984.

    I honestly really don’t see what’s fair in your compromise. It’s basically: stay off the existing 53m acres, and we’ll get to keep access to the next 3m. While it might work in the short term, it won’t resolve the main issue. The banning of bicycles in wilderness is not justified logically, and these kinds of discussions will keep coming up until cyclists get their rightful access to wilderness.

  60. George,

    I understand your proposal, which is why I don’t agree with it. Limiting access to wilderness that had cycling preexisting its designation will de facto cut off access to anything that was designated pre late 1970s. At any rate, that grand fathering concept is non sensical at best and will never see the light of day. Usage should be based on something a bit more logical than whether usage was a fait accompli by some user group.

    With all due respect, your reasoning puzzles me. How would it be fair to wilderness advocates if we allowed bikes where they never rode before? What is that supposed to mean? We are talking about public land here, not wilderness advocates’ private playground. Frankly, it’s just one more example of the real crux of the issue. Wilderness “advocates” just don’t want to share.

    As for reinterpreting the Act, the Feds did it in 1984 in case you forgot.

    You might not like my attitude, but I’m not interested in compromises that don’t achieve access parity. If you really cared about Wilderness, you’d grant us meaningful access, and we’d be your best ally, but somehow, you seem to have a hard time getting past that sharing concept. 🙂

    With the Republicans in control, one would think that you’d be looking for new allys.

  61. Evidently everyone here agrees that the wild lands in debate are special. The details are the devil. I think what is important is that this debate is occurring at all. A few years ago it wasn’t possible, or as critical.

    Bravo George W. for acknowledging the point Bob Allen made a few posts above. That recognition is pretty pivotal for some of us following this thread.

  62. George S.,

    Which question would you like me to specifically answer?

    I don’t claim that Wilderness areas were ridden pre 1964, although there is a remote possibility that somebody did it at some point, but I claimed that quite a few wilderness areas were ridden pre 1984, when the Fed reinterpreted the Act.

    Allowing bikes in all wilderness areas (but not on all trails) is fundamentally fair. It’s a quiet human powered means of transportation that has the same impact as hiking and way less than horse riding. Again, your proposal basically says: “we were here first, so too bad for you”. This is fundamentally unfair, at least on taxpayer funded land, and I just can’t get past that basic element of discrimination against cyclists.

    Here is another twist on your proposal: many areas are currently off limits to cyclists because they’re managed as wilderness eventhough they’re not wilderness areas yet. So your proposal would be a self fulfilling prophecy. Bikes were not ridden there because they could be wilderness, so bikes won’t be allowed there when they become wilderness. Bottom line, cyclists would remain excluded.

    Frankly, I don’t know what you’re afraid of. What would happen in reality, if wilderness was open to cyclists, is that encounters would be fairly limited as cyclists would fan out through the trails and would go in the backcountry where few actually go. A lot of trails would not even be used by cyclists as they’re not rideable (on a bike).

    Bottom line, I want to support wilderness but only when it’ll be fair to cyclists.

  63. Here are some stats for the area around my county and the adjoining Bitteroot National Forest.
    Ravalli County 1,538,000 acres.
    Bitterroot NF 1,587,000 acres. 1,110,000 acres in Ravalli County
    Current wilderness 743,000 acres.
    Recommended Wilderness by FS 76,800.
    Of this IMBA and local bike community supports Wilderness designation for 45,000 acres and support of other designations for the rest.
    Under NREPA an additional 329,000 acres would be designated Wilderness.
    If NREPA was approved 73% of the Bitterroot NF would be wilderness. Now maybe we should be happy to ride on the remaining 27% except for the fact that that remaining 27% is nearly devoid of trails or is other wise blocked by private land for access.

    I fully support George’ s need for spiritual rejuvenation. It would seem like that should be possible in the existing 800,000 acres of designated and proposed wilderness that mountain bikers support.

    The biggest area of contention, Blue Joint adjoins the 1.3 million acres in the Bitterroot-Selway and the 2.3 million acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Addition of the this to the adjoining wilderness will not appreciably change any of the characteristics of this area, but it would a major loss to mountain bikers as one of the few spots in the vast wilderness that we can ride.

    It is nice that George supports by ability to ride in an area 6 hours from my house. However when you get down to the specifics for certain locales the arguments as to why every roadless area needs to be free of mountain bikes seems less realistic.

  64. The whole concept of disallowing specific uses is absurd, in Wilderness or anywhere else. The Forest Service made a major blunder when it started prohibiting devices rather than impacts. If public lands are worthy of being designated wilderness, they should be managed for quiet uses with minimal environmental and social impact. They should not be managed to allow Devices A and B (for example, mechanical climbing equipment and wheelchairs) while excluding Devices C and D (for example, mountain bikes and the game carriers hunters could use to get their catches out of wilderness more easily). Then there wouldn’t even be this discussion. Instead we might have a discussion about a permitting system for wilderness areas that are overused generally.

    As soon as the Forest Service enacted a rule against bicycles specifically (along with hang-gliders, and isn’t that weird?), this never-ending debate began.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t care if I saw a Segway in a wilderness area as long as the area isn’t overrun by Segways. It’s motorized, meaning it’s categorically banned by Congress, but it’s quiet and I’m sure its environmental and social impact is about 5% as great as that of two horses and two mules or whatever is used in packstock these days. I’d much rather encounter three people on Segways than three people swilling beer atop pooping trail-ripping fly-attracting steam-disturbing giant mammals with brains the size of a walnut that weigh half a ton or more.

    Sorry if my last couple of comments were rather over the top, but when I read silly posts about walk in wilderness if you’re man enough, I feel like responding with something equally ludicrous.

  65. Yeah, it’s a bit broad and I didn’t mean to say you can NEVER prohibit a specific thing. But I think the Wilderness Act say no commercial enterprises are allowed rather than listing a bunch of prohibitions like casinos and brothels, along with auto body shops, funeral homes, and so on.

    I’m just saying, what are we trying to preserve in wilderness regions? Is it quiet and environmental harmony, or is it the hoof and the Vibram sole while excluding a tire tread? Picking and choosing the way the government has done not only is unfair when you look at what’s allowed in wilderness and what isn’t, but it seems counterproductive too, because we’re having this argument.

    BTW, the San Francisco newspaper had a big story this weekend on a luxury dude ranch trip near the Grand Tetons, with tenderfeet (if that’s the right word) mostly on tame horses. I thought it was gross–the mean-sounding guide was making fun of the guests and the guests were stuffing themselves on one fancy meal after another. There’s even an employee to take off the guests’ boots at night! I bet these trips go right into the local wilderness areas if there are any. The article said they go into the national park there. But no bikes! I wish the story had said how much this trip costs. I bet thousands. Here’s the story:

  66. As far as I can see now, I would have little problem with Segways in Wilderness, although I’d have to think about it. Maybe their use should be restricted to people who can’t walk or ride a bicycle. As was alluded to above, the Segway is an innocuous device. It moves as slowly as bicycles do and could be even slower on certain downhill trails, it’s quiet, and it wouldn’t have any greater environmental or social impact than permitted Wilderness uses do now.

    But the question is academic, because the Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits any recreational use of “motorized equipment.” (16 U.S.C. § 1133(c).) There is an exception for wheelchairs in another law, 42 U.S.C. § 12207. As I read the statute, motorized wheelchairs are allowed.

  67. Now, we got 2 years to work with the new Congress to repeal the Feds interpretation of the 64 Act.

  68. While Senator Tester’s FJRA and its proposed new Wilderness might be stalled for now – most of the areas in the bill that were to be designated Big W were already closed to bicycles this past June by the USFS Region One ‘philosophy’ that manages Recommended Wilderness as Wilderness with no Congressional review or blessing. Roughly 400 miles of singletrack were closed in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest by the 2009 Forest Plan.

    As other regional forests go through their Forest Planning process, the Region One stance will continue to close historically and economically important bicycle trails regardless of any ongoing or stalled Wilderness legislation highlighting the need for a trail-by-trail analysis rather than broad area-wide bicycle banning defacto-Wilderness.

    There is a better way to manage bicycles on our public lands!

  69. You’re right. The best way is to lobby your representative to alert them of the issue. Most of them have no clue that wilderness bans cycling. The only solution is to restore the intent of the act and reverse the inane ban on cycling.

  70. congress has a lot more important things to do than worry about wilderness cycling.

  71. “Trails you ride now being taken away from you”, “inane ban on cycling,” “don’t like being discriminated against”, “Exclusionary wilderness,” “anti cyclists go in their reasoning to somehow justify their discriminatory practices,” “If you want the mountain biking community to be allies, you must first treat us as allies.”

    Poor, pathetic, victimized mountain bikers…I would have cut n pasted the poor fellow who claims his earthly essence is derived from his beloved mountain bike, but the more I read through the mountain biker posts, the more I threw up in my mouth.

    It’s interesting that the cyber-stalking creep Dave Skinner, brought up the word “selfish.” Those of us who oppose bikes in wilderness are selfish. Mountain bikers who insist on using their consumer products wherever they want are enlightened, progressive, open-minded folks who do more to protect wilderness than anyone else. And they are discriminated against. They are excluded. They are banned. They are hated and reviled. Interesting use of language by small-minded consumers who who think their form of recreation is covered under the Bill of Rights and the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

    Selfish people want the wilderness for their own use. Generous people want wilderness for its own sake.

  72. Mass,

    “Selfish capitalist”. The1960s called, they want you back. 🙂

    Anyway, please let us know when you’re willing to share. With Christmas around the corner, one never knows.

  73. Remove them? Why? With the damage he’s doing it’s almost like he’s on our team!

  74. everyone here needs to chill. both sides are whacked out and its not even about wolves.

  75. I am wondering how other anti cycling folks (especially George W.) feel about masswasting posts. Is he speaking for all anti cycling advocates (I can’t call you wilderness advocates, since we’re technically all pro wilderness, cyclists are simply against the current incorrect interpretation of the act)? Is any cycling opponent going to come out and speak against this loon?

    Anyway, this discussion has run its course. Mountain bikers once more have proven to be the reasonable bunch. We’ve explained in great detail why the current regulations are unfair and unreasonable, and nobody has been able to prove us wrong.

    Happy holidays to all (especially Mass who seems pretty angry and definitely needs some holiday cheers).

  76. No mechanical devices in wolderness, period. They don’t even use chain saws to clear trails in wilderness in Montana. WALK.

    For the record, I appreciate and consider bikers good people with solid values who leave other people alone. Anyone who has the ambition to ride a bike many miles over difficult terrain has my respect. Merry Christmas, Bikers!

  77. The take away lesson for the bicycling community is to stay pro-actively involved with the process of travel and forest planning in your area whether that be in National Forest, BLM, National Park, county or city park. If the local cycling clubs haven’t reached out to the local managing ‘authority’ to establish a bicycle connection and voice in your area, then you are already behind the needed curve.

    Much has been accomplished in the past few years by organizations such as IMBA in educating the public, elected officials and land managers that bicyclists do have an invested history of riding on, valuing and maintaining trails in an area, that there are other solutions for protecting public lands besides the Big W alone and that bicyclists are a huge conservation constituency that wants worthy wildscapes protected.

    Whenever public input is requested for future land management decisions, cyclists need to be that table from the beginning of the process to provide SOLUTIONS to perceived and real issues on the ground. No budget for trail work? Organize and empower volunteer trail workdays. Real or potential user conflict on a trail? Promote trail redesign, trail sharing and education to manage speed, line of sight blind spots and trail sustainability issues. Conservation issues? Heck ya bicyclists can support conservation.

    Gone are the days where it is excusable for bicyclists come to the party late and then whine ‘what about us’ when CONTINUED trail access is discussed. We need to stay ahead of the curve by establishing trust and working relationships with our local land managers AND providing SOLUTIONS to the agencies whose budgets and employees are already stretched to the limit. The bicycling community is uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of conservation, recreation and the related economics of riding bicycles in the (w)oods.

    If boundary bumps, corridors or companion designations are considered and implemented up front; the whole bikes-n-Wilderness becomes a moot point for that specific piece of ground. Bicyclists can and do support new Wilderness.

    The COLLECTIVE APATHY from bicyclists nation-wide AND the bicycle industry has been our greatest weakness in recent land management legislation and National Forest management decisions. Don’t count on others to carry your load. Get involved today – and stay involved – it’s the duty of the citizen cyclist…

    Merry Christmas to all! May it be a better 2011…

  78. Bob — Another excellent comment. I’d like to add one thing. Apathy may be our greatest weakness, but another problem is the nature of mountain bike manufacturer advertising. I wince when I see another ad of a bike flying through the air, roaring down a trail at 25 mph, or careering down a 50° slope with the rider in full body armor. It sends a bad message and also a distorted one, because most trail riding (i.e., riding other than on the antiquated fire roads we have around here) averages about 7 or 8 mph and is contemplative.

    Those ads, in the minds of mountain bike skeptics, put us on a footing with giant pickup trucks, for which car manufacturers also offer up a bevy of land-trampling advertising.

    On self-victimization: to the contrary, I consider myself extremely lucky to be as injury-free and riding-capable as I am in the midst of middle age. I count my blessings every day.

  79. Ted

    Your last comment about advertising is right on target. As someone who is skeptical of mountain biking motives, such ads only confirm what I perceive to be nothing more than a non-motorized thrillcraft. The iconology and message is exactly the same as ads for dirt bikes, and so forth. And it is that kind of behavior and attitude that I believe is inappropriate in wilderness areas, national parks, or any other landscapes we have designated as “special.” It may be appropriate for a Nascar stadium but not something I want to promote on public lands.

    So yes this advertising is self defeating for your cause.

  80. Geo,

    Exactly so, and it’s hard to get people who are skeptical to begin with to set aside the further doubt that these ads engender. It is asking a lot of any human being to do that.

    The scope of this problem became fully apparent to me this summer when I mentioned to a lawyer, whom I would characterize as a mountain bike skeptic re Wilderness travel, that the ads don’t reflect what mountain bikers do. He picked up on this and let on that the ads have influenced his perceptions. I detected that the influence had been significant, and of course negative.

    Bicycle and bicycle component manufacturers, please take note.

  81. If there are to be negotiations on mountain bike use on Wilderness trails, there has to be some give and take, some tit for tat.

    I think that I would happily allow mountain biking on Public Land Wilderness in exchange for the right to shoot them as they trespass on private land in some short cut from public land to a public road. The destruction of public land is a public issue. The destruction of private land, what with all the congressional mandates about clean water, and gun point enforcement of point source pollution, which a renegade mountain bike path is, in fact, needs an equal right granted to the private land owner to defend, at the point of a gun, the right NOT to suffer mountain bike trespassers and the attendant damage. The trespass entitlement mentality needs to end.

  82. Ted’s point is very salient. The average mountain biker climbs at speeds of 3 to 6 mph, and his/her tires barely if ever leave the ground. Of course, that does not sell magazines, so we all print pictures and make movies of extreme riding. While extreme riding is very entertaining to watch, it’s not pertinent to the wilderness debate but gets brought up nonetheless. Cycling in nature, especially over distances over 20 miles, is at a pace much closer to hiking than most think.

  83. Let’s be clear, the fact that we’re not allowed in wilderness is unfair, smacks of currently allowed user groups not being willing to share and is discriminatory. 🙂 That won’t go away until we’re allowed in, one way or the other. Like Ted, I would guess that the evolution will come from the current generation of federal employees wildernuts retiring and giving way to a generation that grew up with MTBing. They will see the opportunity and make us part of the solution.

  84. A comment made by GW, 5-24-2009 – “A wise judge might read these comments and consider, who sounds responsible? Who sounds mature? Who sounds like they can be trusted with public land? Who respects other people and the land in question?”

    GW’s comment could just as easily be used against the anti-mountain biker crowd in this thread.

    link here: