It’s always good to help your fellow biker, basking in that warm glow when we have successfully saved someone’s ride. However an experienced collective from the bike mad Tweed Valley in Scotland have taken it a step further and set up a volunteer bike patrol service, the Tweed Valley Bike Patrol. It’s time to find out more about these selfless heroes and the important job that they do.
We have all been there, miles from anywhere with a snapped chain, puncture, or in the worst cases, an injury. We never mean to ride without spares but it’s always so tempting to leave the heavy bag at home, it’s only a short ride right? This carefree attitude is especially true at the legendary trail centre in Glentress, attracting over 300,000 visitors a year, where the waymarked trails induce a ‘what’s the worst that can happen’ approach. A motivated group of mountain bike leaders noticed this worrying trend and have joined forces to form the Tweed Valley Bike Patrol (TVBP).
The original concept behind the Tweed Valley Bike Patrol (TVBP) was conceived by one local Tweed Valley Resident, Carl Lane, back in 2005. Carl was a man who was instrumental in the development of biking in the valley, his warm personality, selfless nature and passion for the sport inspired generations of junior riders to take up a life on two wheels. Between 2005 – 2006 he tirelessly rode the trails of the Valley as a lone patroller providing help and support where it was needed. After long consultation with the local Forestry Commission, the official Tweed Valley Bike Patrol was born in 2007 and volunteer numbers have swelled, now numbering 15. Sadly Carl passed away in 2015 and his loss to the valley is palpable, but many of his legacies live on.
The TVBP patrollers are all experienced volunteers who give up some of their own ride time to help others. Each patroller wears a distinctive red jersey and carries more than the average rider, providing a welcoming face and helping visiting riders with assistance and information. All patrols are logged and patrollers feedback to the Forestry Commission about issues on the trails. An important part of the TVBP’s work is to source funding to facilitate first aid and leadership training, providing volunteers with the experience and equipment needed to perform effective bike patrols. They also help with event support, showing a presence at local events to help riders in need.
We sat down with patroller Tom Nash (currently driving the Tweed Valley Bike Patrol forward) and a group of passionate volunteer patrollers to find out more about the group.
Where does this motivation come from to help others?
“For me it’s giving something back to sport that I love, as experienced ride leaders we would normally carry more than most anyway so it’s not a big inconvenience. You only have to experience an accident or mechanical once and you soon realise that it’s good to to be prepared. These experiences have prompted me look more carefully at what I carry and what skills I need, and it’s great to work more constructively within a more organised group.”
“Although we call it a patrol, in reality we are just normal riders, out and about, it’s completely voluntary and on our own time. The only difference is that we are all first aid trained, we all have UK MTB guiding qualifications so have all had exposure to incident management and dealing with emergencies. We also have some highly experienced members too from the local Mountain Rescue team. We also carry a lot more than most riders would, at this time of year we have group shelters, survival bags, first aid kit, spare clothing.”
What sort of issues do you deal with most?
“We help with all sorts of issues, but we do see a lot of mechanicals, snapped chains, punctures and so on. Many people travel for hours to ride at Glentress and are facing a ruined ride when something goes wrong, fuel and hire bikes are expensive especially if they are with their family or a group of mates. They are always overwhelmed when we help them for free, and it’s easy to save their day with just a spare tube or chain link. All we ask if they make a small donation at the trail centre hub if they would like.”
When it comes to funding is the industry helping you?
“The support that we get is fantastic, we are only a small group but the response has been amazing. For us, it’s important to be seen, and the Cycle Jersey has made us some great kit, all bespoke to what we require. Silverfish (UK distributor of EVOC) have also been amazing, sending us a 20L EVOC Back Protector Rucksack for the patrollers to use, perfect for our needs with good storage and protection. The Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland also helped by connecting us with brands like Scottish jacket manufacturer Keela who want products field tested; we rack up a lot of trail time as a group so can feedback on longevity. Lots of local businesses have also rallied around us to providing us with support, photos and help, it’s been fantastic and quite humbling.”
The TVBP is having to evolve too, Tweedlove and the Scottish Enduro Series have shown the world some of the amazing hidden trails that lie beneath the Larch and Pine, and this has started to draw riders away from the increased safety of the trail centres and into more remote corners of the valley. With huge patches of mobile phone black spots the Tweed Valley Bike Patrol are now starting to head off piste.
“As people head explore the quieter parts of the valley we know that the chances of coming across an incident are down to luck, so we are now focussing a lot more attention on education. The TVPB facebook page is filled with tips and guidance about how to be safer on the trails, we are not trying to police the trails but provide some helpful guidance to make our sport safer. “
We spent the day with the TVBP and were blown away by their dedication and passion for improving enjoyment on the trails. We should all give thanks and support to the TVBP, their dedication and selfless approach to improving the safety of our sport should be commended. The sight of a red jacket cruising down between the trees has been salvation to many broken riders in the ‘Valley of the bike people’. The Tweed Valley Bike Patrol has not only shown us what can be achieved by a motivated group but also demonstrated a model that could work in any mountain biking hotspot. ENDURO magazine would like to wish all strength to the heroes in red.
The Tweed Valley Bike Patrol is a completely voluntary organisation that runs solely on donations made by the public; donations can be made at various collection boxes in the Tweed Valley or through PayPal via the ‘Donate Now’ button on the TVBP website.
To follow and support the Tweed Valley Bike Patrol you can like their Facebook page or email them on email@example.com
Words and photos: Trev Worsey