More Than Just Mountain Biking
Getting into the nuts and bolts of Roswell-Alpharetta Mountain Bike Organization
A long-standing partner with the City of Roswell, and one that does an immense amount of work at Big Creek Park and beyond, Roswell-Alpharetta Mountain Bike Organization is arguably one of the most hand-on groups of all volunteers making a positive impact to our parks and community. In this blogpost, we dig a little deeper with RAMBO vice president Stuart Thiel to learn the ins and outs of the organization's mission, tasks and accomplishments.
Visit Roswell: Tell us about the history or RAMBO – its inception and how it all came to be in its earlier days of its founding.
Stuart: As with most outdoor adventure hobbies it starts with a group of friends with a shared interest and a willingness to put in the time to attract others and build a community and spend time together outdoors. RAMBO was founded in 1996 with a simple purpose to protect, expand, and maintain the existing off road cycling trails at Big Creek. After becoming a chapter within the Southern Offroad Bicycle Association (SORBA) we were now part of much larger entity with membership dollars to begin financially supporting the trails which was a critical step to protecting them under formal agreements with the property landowners. In our case, all of our trails are located on city or county parkland. We later expanded into Alpharetta with the addition of Mt. Adams Trail located off the Greenway, then into Forsyth County with trails at Charleston Park, Matt Park, and Haw Creek. We now currently have roughly 24 miles of trails including XC (Cross Country Single Track), kid-friendly green trails, blue trails and pump tracks; a more advanced Freeride area at Big Creek with jumps and technical features, and now our most recent addition is the new Skills Kitchen with short feature rich trails for riders to progress their abilities within a safe and familiar park.
Visit Roswell: Give us the rundown on your members. We know you drive a lot of riders to Big Creek Park and we’d love to learn more about who they are, where they come from and make makes your membership makeup so special.
Stuart: Although we would like to think of ourselves and our trails as “special” we hope that our success as an organization is not unique. The sport of Mountain Biking has seen sustained growth for many years and our chapter is evidence of that. Only a few years ago we had roughly 140 members and now we have broken the 400 mark and it keeps climbing. People want to be outdoors; they want to exercise in an exciting way and people love GEAR. Mountain biking scratches all those itches and it does it in a social way that brings people into a community that is open-minded and welcoming with a splash of competition. I have traveled to many trail systems across the country and visited many private (pay to ride) facilities. Our trails at Big Creek and others in Forsyth and Alpharetta are home. Our riders live nearby and many ride here multiple times a week as part of their active lifestyle. We get visitors from out of state who stop here over night to ride on their way to visit other trails systems around the southeast or they come here for our Quick Six Enduro in October. I believe our supporters love the vibe, the variety, and the accessibility of our trails and RAMBO is passionate about protecting that experience for future generations.
Visit Roswell: You all do a lot of work at Big Creek Park, through a partnership with the City of Roswell. Tell us about all the ways in which you build trails, maintain them, update them, and add to the experience through the work that you do. Talk about your riders and the various skill levels. Is RAMBO – and the trail system at Big Creek Park - for everyone?
Stuart: Over the past view years we have seen a huge shift in the way local governments support the sport of mountain biking and the City of Roswell is playing their part in a big way. RAMBO has worked with the city to learn how to present new trail projects to them in a manner where they can formally process and understand the intent so that all parties are comfortable with what we are proposing. We are users asking them to modify tax-payer owned property, so we must be clear and transparent about what we are asking for. Mountain biking is a known activity but how trails are built and maintained is very much a special trade. Proper drainage, erosion control, trail speed, rider line of sight, shared trail user experience, access for maintenance and safety are all part of the equation when designing and maintaining trails. We must also keep in mind the wide range of skill level for the riders using our trails. We have seasoned race veterans, world cup level athletes, young children and active adults all using our trails at the same time. We try to offer trails at varying levels of difficulty to entertain all these users and mitigate any trail conflicts that put them at risk while enjoying the parks. I believe this is one of the biggest reasons why Big Creek has become such a successful trail system.
Visit Roswell: Let’s talk about your programming. From night rides to the annual Quick Six Enduro, what all types of events do you coordinate and execute?
Stuart: The RAMBO board and its trails is built with volunteers. We are all cyclists, many are parents, some are young professionals, some are retired, and we try to provide programming that we ourselves as riders would want to take part in no matter what our social/economic circumstances are. From our family-friendly group rides to our annual Quick Six Enduro race, we try to engage all ages and skills levels with our events. During the winter months we host a series of group night rides where we string up lights, fill the coolers and put on some music for our own little party in the woods. We move the rides around the park to light up some of our XC trails, our pump track or our downhill freeride trails and jump-lines. Depending on where the ride is that week, we get a different group of riders who like to ride those types of trails. Riders bring their headlamps or light up their bikes with holiday lights and we spin a few laps and socialize with our MTB family. We typically see anywhere from 25 to 65 people show up for each of the events and it is always a great time on two wheels.
Visit Roswell: Give us the rundown on the Quick Six Enduro. This ride continues to grow, with participants coming from all over and vendors making up a healthy makeup of the day’s festivities. What’s this event all about?
Stuart: The Quick Six Enduro is our favorite day of the year at Big Creek. This event is a 6 stage enduro race with 200 participants competing in a time-trail structure using 6 trails within the park. Each rider gets a timed, single race run down each of the 6 stages and the shortest overall time wins. The event is structured into 11 race categories based on age and skill level with a bountiful basket of prizes for each of the winners supplied by our amazing sponsors. We take over the field at Northwood Elementary school with our vendors and sponsors and it becomes a little bike festival at our home trails. Each year we continue to see more and more spectators come to watch the event and each year more and more sponsors want to take part. Last year the event sold out within 1.5 hours. Because we are a non-profit and this event is our main fundraiser, we can keep the entry fees low. The cost of racing other events is typically very expensive and we don’t want that to be a barrier for our supporters. These are familiar trails with a “hometown vibe,” so we try to encourage folks who might have never raced before to give it a shot and sign up. Although there are some stellar athletes that come into town to race this event, we take pride seeing the young ones and the first timers coming to share the race with us.
Visit Roswell: What do you see as the future of RAMBO and what you all plan to accomplish at Big Creek Park?
Stuart: There is only so much land available at Big Creek and without turning the trails into Spaghetti Junction we are limited on expansion options. We do however have plans for a Dual Slalom course, a splattering of new trail features on the XC trails, and the end game goal of an enlarged and paved pump track. The city has been very supportive of all our efforts and if we raise enough funds and present a clear project and a plan to execute it, we can turn Big Creek into a major MTB destination. RAMBO also has plans for an Adaptive Trail along the Greenway in Alpharetta catered to handicapped riders along with trail expansion and rework to our trails in Forsyth County. Our high school and middle school riders who compete within the Georgia Cycling League and NICA leagues are also in desperate need of more trail mileage within the Roswell, Milton, and Alpharetta areas, so we are exploring new trail opportunities with those cities. You may see a call to action from us soon to show support for these projects, so please join us!
Visit Roswell: Feel free to add anything else you’d like to include that perhaps wasn’t mentioned in the above.
Stuart: Big thanks to Andy and the Visit Roswell team for all your support. After every meeting with the City we are still astonished but the rapid improvement in our relationship and the support we are receiving. It takes a village to make a village cool and you all are crushing it!
To learn more about Roswell-Alpharetta Mountain Bike Organization, including upcoming rides, programming, the Quick Six Enduro, supporting, and more, please visit Roswell-Alpharetta Mountain Bike Organization (rambo-mtb.org), or follow along on Facebook and Instagram.