Mountain-biking is one of the world’s fastest growing sports and WA has become a hotspot for the popular activity.
The runaway success of Margaret River’s annual Cape to Cape mountain-bike stage exemplifies the immense popularity of the sport for locals and tourists alike.
Trails in Kalamunda, Jarrahdale, Busselton, Pemberton, Albany and Karratha are visited by hundreds of thousands of riders each year.
Recent government investment in trails in the State’s south, including an unprecedented $10 million into Collie and $8.5 million in Dwellingup, highlight the importance of mountain-biking to the State.
But the continual challenge of keeping up with demand for trail infrastructure is compounded by a lack of resources at industry level.
WestCycle chief executive Matt Fulton said the landscape needed to change if his organisation was going to properly accommodate the rapid expansion of mountain-biking in WA.
He said WestCycle needed a full-time mountain-bike general manager to represent the community’s interests and compliment the advisory group, but the current funding model made this impossible.
“The reason we don’t have a mountain-bike manager is because of membership model in place,” he said.
Road and Track cycling have a dedicated General Manager as does Transport and Advocacy in addition to BMX having a CEO. Not having a General Manager for Mountain Biking is an obvious missing element in the structure. A portion of Cycling Australia membership fees go back into WA to pay the salaries of road cycling representatives at WestCycle, but Mountain Bike Australia retains every dollar they receive from its members.
“There is no revenue source to employ a mountain-bike manager, it’s as simple as that,” Mr Fulton said.
“Government provide us some grant funding but it’s not enough to employ a full-time resource. It is one of the big broken aspects of our model at the moment.”
Mr Fulton said WestCycle would shake-up its membership structure in a bid to attract that revenue source, by introducing the ‘WestCycle Supporter’ option.
Aimed at those who don’t need cycling insurance but want support from WestCycle on issues such as trail development, junior pathways or appointing a mountain-bike general manager.
“We are going to launch a membership product purely for mountain-bike trail advocacy, to employ someone to do that role,” said.
A WestCycle Supporter membership will cost $50 and will go towards an area the member chooses.
WestCycle released the State Mountain Bike Strategy in 2015 and in two years later the Perth and Peel Mountain Bike Masterplan, which act as frameworks for mountain-biking’s expansion in WA.
The documents guide strategic investment into the State’s trail network in ways that support the sustainable growth of the activity.
The heavy involvement of government authorities in trail development has drawn some criticism from those at grass-roots level, but Mr Fulton said a staged approach would benefit mountain-bikers in the long run.
“The way we’ve gone about advocacy and achieving results has been strategic and planned,” he said.
“We need to get that across to the community that we can’t always react to every opportunity because there’s a bigger game we’re working on.”
He said rogue actions like people building their own trails would hamper the growth of mountain-biking because authorities would intervene if proper processes were not followed.
“That will hinder the development of mountain-biking, whereas strategic development will grow it,” he said.
“It has taken a number of years to get to the point where we are unlocking significant funds.
“The $10 million for Collie is the single greatest investment in mountain-biking in WA ever – that hasn’t just come about because someone woke up one day and went ‘let’s build some trails in Collie’’. It has been a planned and deliberate approach.”
Mr Fulton also acknowledged the conflict between hand and machine-built trails and said there should be a mixture of both in WA.
He said there was extensive planning in the pipeline for mountain-biking in WA and the riding community could expect its expansion to continue for years to come.
WestCycle’s mountain-bike advisory group, comprised of Mark Wardle, Damian Muller, Nathan Devenport, John Wallace, Neil Brodie, Tony Tucknott, Steve Janeic, Jodie Stembridge, Ben Witton, Alex Wade and Bryan Stevenson, will act as a conduit to their community.
The group consists of members from some of WA’s largest mountain-biking clubs, including Perth, Burrup, South West and Denmark.
WestCycle also appointed a trail development advisory group, which includes mountain-bike event manager and Wembley Cycles owner John Carney, former Kalamunda Mountain Bike Collective president Shane Williams, Dave Lance, Margaret McIlroy, Will Fizzell, Jeff Phillip and Cameron Wishart.
Once WestCycle secures the funding to appoint a mountain-bike general manager, that person will work mainly in the trail advocacy space.
“People want an advocate, they want someone sitting in every meeting, to realise opportunities,” Mr Fulton said.
“’We need someone who can go in sit in meetings with departments during the day, someone driving the strategy.”
A key priority for the manager would be to outline every trail development project in the State in terms of its progress, creating a convenient reference guide for those with an interest in mountain-biking.