The future of transportation is here. Hoverboards are real. Self-driving vehicles are in production.
Okay, so the hoverboards don’t really hover (they have wheels) and they’re pricey. Autonomous driving technology isn’t showing up on the Raleigh beltline quite yet. Still, can a George Jetson flying car in every driveway be that far off? We have seen the future, and it virtually guarantees a smooth ride.
Members of Triangle Off-Road Cyclists have looked down that same road, however, and they’re doing what they can to make sure at least a few paths remain, well, bumpy.
Dedicated to ensuring the future of Triangle-region mountain biking through the promotion of responsible riding and stewardship of the resource of rustic trails, TORC members relish the roots and rocks. They live for the twists, turns, and berms.
TORC President David Houskeeper said the most rewarding thing about his club’s work for him is the establishment and maintenance of trails and conservation of natural areas.
“For me, it’s about the trail work and conservation efforts,” Houskeeper said. “There are a lot of conservation opportunities out there for all trail users, and that’s the most gratifying thing to me: that some green space is being set aside for different groups of people.”
Mountain biking had been popular throughout the Triangle for decades, and many of the trails now enjoyed recreationally in Chapel Hill – including Carolina North Forest’s network of single track trails – were first forged by cyclists. But there had been no unified initiative or overarching resource for enthusiasts.
Founded in 2005 as the Triangle area chapter of Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, TORC unified a community which had previously been served by individual mountain bike clubs, providing local cyclists a stronger voice. Today, TORC boasts over 330 paid members.
If you see mountain bike riders on local trails, chances are they’re either TORC members or affiliated with a scheduled “meet-up.” TORC sponsors clinics, events, and numerous rides each week tailored for all different skill levels.
The group recently conducted rides at Umstead Park in Raleigh, Briar Chapel, New Light (near Falls Lake), Little River Natural Area, Pisgah Forest and Angler’s Ridge in Danville, Va., said Valerie Myers, a three-year TORC member who has been the group’s event director for the past three months.
“We just did a meet-up ride in Greensboro at Bur-Mil Park,” Myers said. “We had a huge event over at Harris Lake with around 60 people who came, and we had a ride and a nice cookout.”
TORC often sponsors rides for novices, as it did last Wednesday through Carolina North Forest.
“This is a ‘no-drop’ ride,” Myers said last week. “A lot of different levels come out, but a lot of people want to know that we won’t be hammering it the whole time. They can come out for a casual ride. This beginner group is very popular.”
Houskeeper said those interested in joining a group ride should check for meet-ups on the event calendar at meetup.com/torc-nc#calendar.
Riders don’t have to be TORC members, though Myers said membership helps the club meet its goals.
“TORC meet-up is different than a TORC membership,” she said. “We have around 2,700 meet-up participants; we have about 330 paid members. Those fees go a long way toward helping us build and maintain trails and advocate for more trails and more members.”
TORC also sponsors several races each year, each of which usually has multiple competitive categories, so cyclists can compete with others at their own skill level as individuals or as a team. Upcoming races include the Beaverdam South Loop Time Trial on Sunday (Sept. 13), the Umstead Gravel Grinder 50/100-miler on Oct. 31, and the 6BC Endurance Race on Nov. 8.
One of the strongest assurances of TORC’s lasting legacy, however, is its single-track trail development and maintenance throughout the region, reflecting the International Mountain Biking Association’s trail-building best practices.
Trail workdays are scheduled throughout the year and are also listed on the club’s meet-up schedule.
“We just had two huge workdays,” Myers said. “We’re building a skills area at Little River, and we had around 12 people working out there. We also had a workday at Harris Lake on the same day, and we also had around 10 or 12 people come out for that.”
TORC fully understands that the continued popularity of mountain biking means growing the sport with young riders. Prior to the novice ride at Carolina North this past Wednesday, Christopher Mumford hosted a ride tailored just for youth.
“We started these kids’ rides about three months ago though – around the beginning of the summer,” said Mumford, a TORC member for around 18 months who regularly sees around a half-dozen kids showing up for his rides. “TORC has really put in a big push into the development piece, so we have a youth cycling team. In the winter we do cyclocross, and in the summer we do mountain bike riding.”
The most important lesson for kids is resilience, Mumford said.
“We teach kids to have a whole lot of fun,” he said, “and we teach how to overcome obstacles and setbacks. After a crash, we say the number one thing to do is laugh. Number two: get back in.”
“We’re also doing monthly skills clinics starting this month,” Myers said. “We can take up to 12 people, and some come every month, but you can just come to a few of them. We’re shooting for doing this about eight times a year. Right now, we’re doing this at Lake Crabtree, but we could eventually move them.”
Even with so many members and regular riders, TORC’s influence and permanence is fortified through partnerships with numerous area agencies, including park and recreation departments in Wake, Durham, and Orange counties, and relationships with the Briar Chapel community, the Research Triangle Park, the like-minded Trailheads running group, and businesses like Cycling Spoken Here, REI, the Bicycle Chain, Rally Point Sport Grill, Performance Bike, and Back Alley Bikes.
So, dust off the mountain bike, visit TORC’s website (torc-nc.org), check for a meet-up, and head for the trails. TORC has seen the future, and it’s green, but it’s a bumpy ride.
After all, where would a decent future be without a few twists and turns?