Words by Simon Bradley, Pics couresy of Chris Davies
I’d love to say I sat down and invented the #MTBMeetup, but in truth it created itself. Starting with two of us at opposite ends of the country trying to arrange a mountain bike ride over Twitter, a few mutual friends joined the discussion and asked if they could tag along. Before we knew it we had our own hashtag.
With the arrangements made on social media, conversations were public and it wasn’t long before the #MTBMeetup was getting noticed. Various mountain bike companies expressed an interest in being involved. Hannah from Polaris Bikewear (@PolarisBikewear) was first to get in touch. Seeing how many people were coming along she asked if I would like to have something as a giveaway, suggesting she send 50 pairs of glasses and a holdall as a competition prize. It was a great idea but I didn’t really want to make the event competitive. In fact my plan was completely the opposite.
It was becoming apparent that the whole appeal of the meet up was it’s casual nature. How would a competition work? How would I judge it? Best crash? First one back? It took the event away from the original plan. My wife suggested a raffle; if we make £20 we could give it to charity. I tweeted about the charity raffle and the prizes up for grabs. Soon I was getting tweets and messages from more amazing companies offering all sorts of prizes from bottles of beer to hydration packs.
It was becoming clear that the day was growing larger than I could’ve expected. Originally this was going to be a few mates meeting for a ride, now we had goody bags! I put together a list of everyone who had expressed an interest and sent out details of the day. This was only a rough plan, I had no idea how many would come, what their ability would be and how much riding and socialising they would want to do.
I wanted to take a camera and grab a few snaps of the event but thought it would be nice to have some more professional photos. So, as before, back to Twitter… I asked if anyone was handy with a camera and before I knew it, Mike Summers (@MikeyBoy) introduced me to Chris Davies (@cmjdavies), a professional travel and adventure sports photographer. This was great but I had no budget to pay a professional, “not a problem” said Chris, “if we can raise the profile of an awesome charity and enjoy some riding I’ll come along and document the day for you” – amazing!
So things were slowly falling into place. I had some great gifts to give away in a goody bag and the pile of raffle prizes was growing. I had a photographer shooting the event and most importantly I had a lot of people saying they were coming; although I was still nervous that no one would show!
As the day drew closer I needed to pick a charity to donate any money raised. I was keen to have a cycling connection and if it helped children, that would be even better. As before, I went back to twitter for suggestions and it was Chris Rice (@Kristoffrides) who suggested Cyclists vs Cancer (@CyclistsvCancer). This is a charity who provide modified bikes to children suffering or recovering from cancer who may not be able to manage a standard bike. I thought it would be really fitting if they could share in the success of the #MTBMeetup.
After much build up, hype, anticipation and worry the day finally arrived and what a day it was. 40 people came from all over the country and even though it was cold and wet, it didn’t dampen the spirits. Arriving at Coed y Brenin bright and early there were already quite a few riders waiting. Introductions were made, goodie bags stuffed, tea drunk, raffle tickets sold, conversations flowed and I stood on a chair (to say a few words!).
We split into three groups and hit the trails, which were amazing. The adventurous bunch set off on The Beast of Brenin while the majority hit the MBR with a few tackling the MinorTaur. All I wanted from the day was to see people riding and chatting, the freebies and raffle were all extra. The conversations flowed, as did the trails. Everyone returned soggy but smiling to piles of home made cake and more tea. We drew the raffle and handed out prizes. On the day we raised an incredible £262, with a further £50 coming from the sale of Chris’ Digital Images and Prints.
Bidding farewells and cleaning ourselves up, talk turned to the next “bigger and better” meet up. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole drive home. Months of preparation and worry had resulted in an amazing day that not even the worst Welsh weather could spoil.
I arrived home to over 50 tweets, some thanking me for the organization, some saying what fun they had but most asking when we were doing it all again.
I’m starting to make plans for the next bigger and better #MTBMeetup. For more information follow either @_Si_Bradley or @MTBMeetupUK on twitter.