In October 2012, The 24-Hours of Moab Off-Road Bike Race Will Feature Family Fun and Environmental Consciousness
In November 2011, as I wrapped up my coverage of the 24-Hours of Moab off-road bicycle race, I did so with a heavy heart. Behind the Rocks, in Moab, Utah, Granny Gear Productions race promoter Laird Knight had just told the assembled race crowd, “We don’t know if we are going to be able to do this again in 2012. Attendance was down this year, and we did not cover our fixed expenses. We’ll head back home, think it over and let everyone know by the end of the year.”
Having attended each 24-HOM since 2008, I was disappointed that the race might not go on. I was such a strong supporter of this family race event that I had developed my own Moab24Live.com website. Each year, I wrote several blog articles here and then archived them at Moab24Live.com. In 2011, I broadcast a live webcam from the event for the full twenty-four hours. Via the internet, I wanted others to see and feel what it is like to attend, or perhaps compete in a twenty-four hour human-powered race. After the October 2011 announcement, I put the 2012 race out of my mind, thus allowing the universe to find a way.
In early 2012, I looked at the GrannyGear.com website, but could not believe what I saw. Featured on the home page was a banner proclaiming, “2012 Registration is OPEN! Let’s Race!!” In disbelief, I ignored the banner until early April. In October 2011, the race was dead. In April 2012, could it live again? I decided to find out for myself. In an email to Laird Knight, I said, “After your speech last October, I was pleased to see you making plans for 24-HOM 2012. That had to be a big decision for you. Please tell all the fans of 24-Hours of Moab what led you to go forward.”
The next day, Laird Knight emailed back, "It's been a tough year but I'm feeling better and better about my decision to move ahead with the 24-Hours of Moab. The ground swell of support has been heart-warming.
This event has become an integral part of the culture of mountain bike communities throughout the Rocky Mountain region. Kids that raced as juniors back in the mid-nineties now have kids of their own coming to the 24-Minutes of Moab kids’ race.
For many of the "old-codgers" of my generation, being ready for the 24-Hours of Moab continues to be a source of inspiration and motivation… to keep riding and stay healthy and fit. But when it's all said and done, it's just about having fun, and enjoying some fine time with your friends and family." I could not say it better, Laird, so I will not even try.
In the past, the 24-Hours of Moab has received a fair, and maybe an unfair share of criticism for its environmental impact at Behind the Rocks. Critics charge that some racers have gone off course, damaging environmentally sensitive areas. From the articles and pictures I have seen, critics accuse a lot, but offer very little demonstrable evidence of supposed environmental damage. To be sure, there are some photos available of bicycle tracks that deviate from the course. Still, there is not one posted image of a 24-Moab racer making those tracks.
During the 360-days each year when there is no bike race at Behind the Rocks, the place reverts to its cow pasture origins. During 98.6% of each year, cattle, off-road vehicles (ORV), bicyclists, hikers and equestrians traverse and sometimes trash the area. During night racing, a few cyclists may deviate inadvertently from the established line. However, these are dedicated racers, not Kamikaze pilots looking to wipe out as much cryptobiotic soil as possible. A few wheel tracks in the softer soil may be evident, yet that impact is insignificant when compared to local potash mining or uncontrolled ORV usage on BLM and SITLA trust lands.
As Laird Knight told me, “On a mountain bike it never benefits you to cut the course and trade the highly efficient, low rolling resistance "line" that is on-course for the deep sand that you would encounter off course. I have never seen any evidence of intentional off-course travel. We do educate folks about the importance of cryptobiotic soils and of staying on course. As for the venue itself, what I see every year, for the last seventeen years, is practically the same as what I saw the first time I visited the site.
We do clean up the venue and the course of litter both before and after the event. I can assure you that the volume of accumulated trash that we remove from the course before the race is much greater than that which we clean up after the race. We do educate folks about the importance of low-impacts. Their alignment with this ethos shows up in the practically immaculate condition in which they leave their campsites. The trash that we haul out is sorted and recycled. All that said, I would welcome critiques and suggestions for ‘how we could do it better’.”
On the subject of environmental impact at Behind the Rocks, I believe it is time for the environmental critics of this relatively low-impact, family event to come out and see for themselves. It is all too easy to sit in a faraway office and study other people’s documentation or photos. It is quite different to experience a great race powered only by the human body and spirit. On the racecourse itself, other than human breath, there are no emitted hydrocarbons. Again, compare the low environmental impact of this bike race to any motorized gathering in Moab.
As I told Laird Knight, I am an environmentalist and write often about environmental issues. This race and its culture of low-impact, family fun are too good to lose. Thank you Laird Knight and Granny Gear Productions for accepting the financial risk and once more allowing us the thrill of a classic Moab Live race event.