Sometimes I think Im the same person I was at age 12. My friends and I built dirt jumps and sailed our bikes off them. It was great fun and led to big grins and occasional bruises and broken bikes. We often wanted to go bigger, but even with 12-year old energy, theres only so much you can do with dads shovel and a vacant lot.
Flash forward decades later. Im still riding bikes in the dirt, but those jumps have morphed into trails. Ive found there are lots of like-minded guys and gals who also love to ride trails. Theyre also grown up, but they havent abandoned the dream of going bigger.
I recently met with Mike Edwards and Marc Grubert, president and vice president of the Southwest Idaho Mountain Bike Association. The club needs no introduction. Its been around for decades and it has dedicated vision, labor and money to many of the trails in the Foothills, Shafer Butte, Avimor, Wilson Creek and beyond.
The club has a core group of trail builders and can muster dozens more for trail projects. I joined them in November at Avimor, and it was inspiring to see about 60 people with shovels, Pulaskis and McCleods digging a new section of trail for bikers and hikers.
Now SWIMBA wants to go bigger. It is raising money for a cutting-edge trailbuilding machine, an ST240. The ST stands for singletrack, and thats what makes this machine special.
The ST240 is like the grown-up Tonka toy of your dreams. It weighs 4,500 pounds, and it looks like the skinniest tractor youve ever seen. It has a plow-like blade and arm with a bucket in front, like a backhoe.
But unlike similar machines that move dirt, this one is so skinny it can cut a trail between 24 and 36 inches wide.
It builds single-track, not mini-roads, Edwards said.
It also can move rocks half the size of a coffee table and toss aside tree trunks that block a trail.
You can even operate it with a wireless remote control in tight or steep spots.
Barrett Brown, a motorcycle rider and trail builder in Portland, Ore., decided he needed a machine to cut skinny trails like those preferred by mountain bikers and motorcycle trail riders, so he built one, and the ST240 was born.
Now Edwards and Grubert want to bring one to Southwest Idaho. Grubert said the intent is not to replace the volunteer trail builders, but to take the back-breaking work out of it.
The machine will build trails faster and with less environmental impact, he said. The narrower the trail, the less land is disturbed and the less dirt that must be excavated.
But the machine wont be cheap. The cost of it, a trailer to haul it and training for operators will run about $105,000.
But heres the cool part. SWIMBA has already saved $65,000 toward the purchase. New Belgium Brewing Company has twice donated the proceeds from the companys popular Tour De Fat Festival. Avimor recently donated $10,000, and Broken Spoke Cycling and Bogus Basin Mountain Resort have also pitched in money.
SWIMBA is trying to raise the remaining $40,000. It has applied for a grant toward the project, and it is asking mountain bikers and other trail users to donate.
Go to SWIMBA.org to donate. All donations are tax deductible.
Edwards pointed out there are lots of trails in Southwest Idaho on the drawing board that are approved and ready to be built, and the machine will make it possible to do those and more.
SWIMBA plans to partner with agencies and groups and use the machine for a variety of trail projects for all types of users.
Theres an easy way to make it happen. SWIMBA has set up a fund on its website, and club members hope to bring a brand-spanking-new ST240 to the Treasure Valley within a year.
If you love trails and want to see more, this is a cool opportunity to dig in and go bigger.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors