All the hub bub about the Spokane cycling scene seems to focus on commuting and road biking. The city may be counting cyclists at specified intersections and logging the miles on Bike to Work Week (and month) but who’s counting the downhill riders on Beacon Hill? Who’s tracking the mountain bikers sprawled across Riverside State Park?
“Spokane has a huge population of mountain bikers compared to other cities,” says Peter Jantz, president of the Fat Tires Trail Riders Club (FTTRC). “We’re really in the process of creating a space for ourselves. It’s picking up momentum but a lot of people are still unaware of what we’re doing, and for whatever reason, they haven’t gotten involved.”
The FTTRC is a nationwide mountain biking organization, that’s slowly finding its niche in Washington State (although Coeur d’Alene just formed a club). The Spokane club was founded in 2004 largely from the help of Spokanite Penny Stauffer Schwyn, who remained club president up until 2009. Since its inception, the group has swelled to more than 80 official members of all different ages and abilities.
Jantz said he started biking as a kid but didn’t pick up his first mountain bike until he was 16. The love affair turned into a lifelong relationship when he began racing throughout Washington and Idaho. He became involved with the FTTRC club five years ago and decided to become president so that he could bring new energy and new members into group. “No one gets graded on the bike they ride, the number of crashes they suffer or how fast or slow they can ride,” he says on their website. “What we have in common is a love for riding trails, a desire to make cool new trails and a commitment to keeping trails open for biking.”
The group’s biggest endeavor is The Beacon Hill Project. The FTTRC started the projected, which aims at formalizing the existing trail system and minimizing and preventing loss due to development. The project received a grant from the National Park Service, and since then has been sponsored by the City of Spokane, Spokane County and Avista.
“Our main focus is trail building,” Jantz says. “Anything from cross country trails that can be hiked or biked on, to downhill trails that are more technical and challenging.” On any given FTTRC trail work party, the group will clear brush, lay out trail flags, build a dirt jump or dig the entire slope of a trail.
Work is steadily unfolding on Beacon Hill, but the groups latest project—and perhaps a special interest of Jantz—is building wooden features. These wooden features will eventually become a skills park with beginning to intermediate features to ride. Because of their efforts, the International Mountain Bike Association is even planning to host a trail building school in September on Beacon Hill.
It’s not all work and no play. The group holds regular cross country and downhill trail rides. As president, Jantz says he plans to usher the group into Spokane’s biking scene with more events, rides and festivals. To find out about the next ride, event or trailing building party visit www.fttrc.org. When the trails are cleared and there’s not a shovel in his hand, here’s the gear you’ll catch Jantz riding on.
BIKE: Specialized Enduro SX. “I’ve been riding it for four years,” he says. “It’s a good all around bike I can ride on cross country trips and a little bit of downhill as well.” Jantz also uses a Manitou Nixon front suspension fork.
REPAIR KIT: Pump, extra tubes, a multi-tool and a chain tool.
TIRES: Intense downhill tires. These tires have bigger knobs than your average mountain bike tire, and really good traction he says.
SADDLE: Jantz said he isn’t too picky with saddles. He usually rides the stock saddle that came with his bike frame.
SHOES: SixSixOne biking shoes. They have a flat sole sot they are comfortable to walk around in but also grip really well on the foot pedals, he says.
SOCKS: No frills, not specialty socks, he says.
SHORTS: Jantz wears Bontrager, baggy shorts with lining underneath for padding. On the FTTRC website, he stresses that it’s not all about what you wear. “We are a bunch of folks who like to have fun with mountain bikes. Not all of us wear lycra—some of us like air, big bikes and baggy shorts.”
SHIRT: Despite the lycra comments, Jantz is frequently seen in lycra bicycling jerseys.
GLOVES: FOX mountain biking gloves.
HELMET: Jantz switches between a Trek Helmet for everyday and cross country rides and a SixSixOne full face helmet for downhill rides.