“Finding the hidden treasures,” that’s what mountain biking is all about to Pete Oprsal, founder of the Bike Pirate website. Oprsal is a die hard downhiller who wants to share his passion for the sport with other bike lovers in Western Canada.
Based in Canmore, Alberta, Oprsal started the mountain biking site two years ago to promote community trails and get people out riding.
“It’s really hard right now to get info on one place,” Oprsal said over the phone from Canmore. To address the problem Oprsal started bike pirate’s Trail Report page that lists the status of some trails in the B.C., Alberta, Utah, Washington and…New Zealand?
“Yeah, I spent a whole year out there,” Oprsal said, “I even thought about staying there but decided Canada was my home so I came back.” Even so, he still has an attachment to the place, and hopes to get back there again. If he does, he’ll be able to check his own website to see if the trails there are open before heading out for a ride.
The Trail Report page is popular, and its list of trails is only getting larger.
“I still have a lot of postings to put up for Utah,” Oprsal told the Arrow Lakes News, “We have a lot of postings for St. George and Moab, because those are two destinations a lot of people from Canada love to hit, especially western Canada.” In general though, Bike Pirate has been focusing on covering as much of western Canada as they can.
There are pros and cons to promoting community bike trails to a broader spectrum of rider. The plus side is connecting new riders with new riding possibilities, and the negative is getting too many riders on trails that can’t sustain the numbers.
Alex Marshall and Amber Ens, two dedicated Nakusp downhill riders and trail builders explain that although it’s great to share local highlights with visiting riders, too many riders can become a burden on limited volunteer power that maintains and builds trails.
“If we meet someone in town who is interested in riding, we’re more than happy to take them out with us,” said Ens, but says she is reluctant to post trails on an external website. She and Marshall are currently asking local downhillers if they want to share their trails online.
Both Ens and Marshall were also cognizant that new riders might need a guide to make it through unfamiliar trails safely.
For both pro and con camps, cross-country trails are seen as a great starting point for inexperienced riders and families to get out and familiarize themselves with the joy of biking.
“It’s a great way to get out,” said Bike Pirate’s Oprsal. With more experience, it’s easier to make the decision whether to invest time and money into road or downhill biking.
Either way, the sport is thriving, said Oprsal.
The bike pirate says more and more communities are realizing the value of bike trails, and some like Devon, Alberta are even dubbing themselves as “bike towns.”
Bike Pirate, now two years old, has been capitalizing on the popularity of biking and the highly mobile nature of bikers who are always on the look out for the next great golden ride.
“It’s a well-known fact that mountain bikers travel and stay overnight,” asserted Oprsal, who has found hotels in biking areas to be keen advertisers on his site.
Books are also cherished items among the biking class, with guide books being another good seller: easy to pack around without worry of damaging it, unlike an electronic device.
Whether or not you pack a wireless gadget or a book, getting out on a bike is easy to do, and can be fun for the whole family. Arrrrr, matey!