With all the interest in downhill mountain biking, bike parks, pirate trails and going huge I thought it would be the perfect time to get some insight into the mountain biking scene. I caught up with a local Tahoe trail and dirt jump builder, Kevin Bazar to get his opinions on some issues I have heard pop up recently. Kevin was a part of crew that built a slope style course at Woodward, worked on the trails at Northstar when they opened up their Zephyr Chair and helped rebuild the dirt jumps at Northstar last year. If You Build It They Will Ride | Interview w/ Kevin Bazar, Tahoe MTB Park Builder | Unofficial Networks

If You Build It They Will Ride | Interview w/ Kevin Bazar, Tahoe MTB Park Builder

If You Build It They Will Ride | Interview w/ Kevin Bazar, Tahoe MTB Park Builder

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If You Build It They Will Ride | Interview w/ Kevin Bazar, Tahoe MTB Park Builder

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A mountain biker races the downhill course at Northstar-at-Tahoe

Interview with Kevin Bazar
by Ryan Salm

With all the interest in downhill mountain biking, bike parks, pirate trails and going huge I thought it would be the perfect time to get some insight into the mountain biking scene. I caught up with a local Tahoe trail and dirt jump builder, Kevin Bazar to get his opinions on some issues I have heard pop up recently. Kevin was a part of crew that built a slope style course at Woodward, worked on the trails at Northstar when they opened up their Zephyr Chair and helped rebuild the dirt jumps at Northstar last year.

RS: How did you get started in the mountain bike trail building world?
KB: I just wanted more exciting things to ride and they weren’t around. It started off with dirt jumps. A friend of mine started working on these jumps when I first moved here and that’s what I wanted to ride.  I wanted to see them even bigger. There was a spot called Bloody’s that got closed down. So, I started building because I wanted to ride and there weren’t many choices.

RS: How has the sport of downhill mountain biking evolved since you started?
KB: I have been downhill riding for about 10 years now. Back then the sport was changing phases from strict racing mindset to free-riding. There were a lot of guys in Utah that were jumping off big cliffs, building jumps in the desert and hauling ass down big fall line descents. At the same time a bunch of Pacific Northwest stuff was popping up with ladder bridges, goofy skinnies and teeter totters. My interest and entrance in the sport was sparked through friends here who were into racing but also into the free riding flowy stuff,  the jumps, drops, and berms. Now it seems like racing is coming back in fashion. The ladder bridges and skinnies are falling by the wayside. The biggest thing is the bikes are so much better now then they were. Going from beginner to competent is much easier and quicker like skiing on rockered skis.

RS: How has the trail building world evolved?
KB: Every trail, every section, every feature is a reflection of what the builder wants. I like to build trails that are speed oriented. I want to use gravity for speed. Hopefully not a lot of brake dragging but not too much emphasis on the pedals either. When I build something there will be jumps and drops but it is tailored toward momentum. It is different for everyone though. The builder builds what he wants to eventually ride. Most people aren’t motivated to build these trails but people will come out at some point.

RS: How much work goes into building these trails?
KB: A lot. It depends on what they are. We are pretty lucky around here as we don’t have to many roots to deal with. The dirt here isn’t great but isn’t that bad either. Clearing out a section or trench cut is much easier here then some other areas. Though, once it dries out it turns to crap. Putting up ladder structures and wood structures means you have to acquire the wood, drag it out, have tools and have a plan. You don’t want things to collapse. It’s much more than raking leaves. When you have trails that need to be safe to ride at speed they need to be repaired each season. You don’t have too much time between snow melt and when it gets too dry. There is a degree of fine tuning after you construct it. All these little things are what the people who just ride the trails never see.

Kevin and Brooks beating the earth into submission.

RS: How would you describe the satisfaction involved with riding a trail you built?
KB: It is the best thing ever. If you have a decent idea of what you are looking for and you accomplish it, you have filled the void you set out to fill. Especially with dirt jump lines because you don’t need a chain or breaks and it’s a great feeling to have something tuned in perfectly. You are creating a situation where the bike can do exactly what it’s meant to do. There is a lot of work to dial it and it’s a great feeling to accomplish it.

RS: I have recently been hearing that there are a lot of trails being built on both private and public lands. Do you see this as being a good thing?
KB: I see it as absolutely a good thing. You look at places like Galbraith, Bootleg  Canyon, Post Canyon, Lynn Woods or the Teton area and all these are somewhat legitimate now in response to illegal trail building. If it’s on public property like Forest Service or BLM it expresses the need for that infrastructure in that particular area. The land managers can either then try and clamp down on it or they can recognize mountain bikers as a valid user group and allow the infrastructure. There are examples from all over the country where people built illegal trails and they became popular. When the trails became threatened  advocacy groups formed to take responsibility for keeping the trails up, keeping them safe and building the trails to certain environmental standards. These groups can assure the landowner that people are in fact paying attention to these things. The more people want to go out and build the more validation mountain bikers will get as a user group in these areas.

RS: What are the repercussions of this and can it be a problem?
KB: It absolutely can be a problem. I have seen it. Unfortunately, the best way to make our voices heard is to go out and build these trails. But, you can’t have everyone building in the woods. You can’t have some 15 year old kid building a ladder bridge with palettes. There needs to be follow up on the projects and there needs to be responsibility. You have to know where and how to build the trails and avoid erosion nightmares. If you are going build features build them well, don’t just walk away.

KB: The obvious detriment to this whole thing is that it may be illegal and you may get arrested. Not everyone owns acres upon acres of hillside land to build on. Do it at you own risk as it may not be your land.

RS: What are the main differences involved in building trails for a place like Northstar versus a pirate mission in the woods?
KB: Northstar is its own beast. They have so many self imposed regulations that they can barely function. They have risk assessment people that allow 60 foot tables and kinked handrails in winter but won’t allow a 20 foot table for bikes. They may not know exactly what is safe in this sport. A place like Northstar may worry about things that an independent trail builder needn’t consider.  A user built trail provides a bit more leeway.

RS: Are there any examples of the Forest Service and the biking community working together?
KB: Yes, the Teton Freedom Riders. Some people built trails in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The Forest Service found about about it and began to rip it out. The riders rebuilt it and it went tit for tat for a while. One guy contacted the Forest Service and asked if there was away to do it legally, safely and respectfully. They had a district manager who was down to help. They made a plan and had a goal in mind. Now they are a full non profit organization that exists as trail managers in the Bridger-Teton. These were the guys who built the trails, acted responsibly and know how to deal with the trails. The Teton Pass area is the only place I know about with a full time trail crew made up of mountain bikers building progressive mountain bike-specific trails with Forest Service approval on FS land.  I’d love to see more of that.

There is some of this starting in South Lake with TAMBA and the the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit on the Corral Trail and Armstrong Connector. The amount of work that the folks who have restarted TAMBA have put in should be recognized.  They’ve been putting in a lot of time with the Forest service in South Shore, organizing trail days and putting forward a solid front for mountain bikers in the area.  If you know any of them, buy them a beer.

Tyler & Adam shaping a tranny at Galbraith

Here are some useful links to learn more on this topic:

http://mountainbiketahoe.org/
http://www.tetonfreedomriders.org/
http://www.ridegalbraith.com/Index.cfm
http://www.whimpsmtb.org/
http://www.bootlegcanyon.net/
http://www.ormtb.com/Hood_River/HR_Trails/PostCanyon.html

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