Local Dirt: Getting More Kids Riding in the Dirt More Often

Pennsylvania Interscholastic Mountain Bike Race

Local events, big-time smiles.

Why Dirt Needs to Be Local

Local events are keys to making mountain biking more accessible, more affordable, and more inclusive to all riders across the state. We know from our statewide events (and personal experience) that reducing the time we drive to events saves money and translates to more time on the trails. We also know that big events can be an intimidating way to jump into the fun.

By making events more accessible to more riders, we will grow participation, add riders to existing teams, and create new teams in more towns all across the state. We bring more people to this great sport we all love.

Simply put: Local events gets more kids on bikes more often. And isn’t that why do this?

So What Is Local Dirt, Anyway?

Local Dirt is a pilot program in Pennsylvania, supported by the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). Our aim is to create low-lift, simple events and scrimmages across the state. These events will be organized by local teams, with operational support from PICL staff in the training and transition to team run events with league oversight when appropriate.

We envision regional events that include multiple teams, smaller local scrimmages between two or three teams, as well as intra-team fun rides. Events will initially be designed to accommodate 30 to 100 riders and be run midweek during the season or on weekends when statewide events aren’t happening. 

Our plan (see below) is to create events that require minimal staffing from teams, yet deliver maximum risk management to keep our student athletes and volunteers safe. Our goal is to have each region in Pennsylvania host multiple events in 2020.

Muddy mountain biker in Pennsylvania Local Dirt race

Types of Local Dirt Events in 2020

Local Dirt events fall into two broad categories: race-style scrimmages or social adventure rides. We anticipate running adventure style rides in the pre-season as a way for teams and coaches to gain experience hosting events, followed by scrimmages in the fall. Here are the examples of Local Dirt events that may be offered in fall 2020:

Update: COVID is changing up how we approach just about everything. For Local Dirt this fall it means a focus on ITTs and small groups as is being done at the state level events. We’ll get all the fun options worked back in as soon as we can. Here’s a look at all the options:

Fun, Adventure and GRiT Rides: Getting groups together from neighboring teams and building a stronger community by hosting fun, social rides. One team may simply invite two or three others to its favorite trails. Or organize days where every rider brings a new, non-cycling friend for a beginner-friendly session on easy trails. Or an all girls ride, or break it up by grade so riders can meet more riders in their area of the same age.

Time-Trial: Short one-rider-at-a-time events that are a staple of cycling, from less than 1 mile or 2 or 3 miles of trail. These are easy to time and open doors to new locations, as no passing zones are required – these can be almost complete singletrack experiences.

Short-Course XC: Like a standard PICL race, but on shorter courses. Considerations need to be made for start waves, staging, and passing.

Team Relay XC: A fun format that scores the cumulative time of teams, who put one rider on the course at at time, which reduces pressure on passing and course density. These might be by team. They also might be mixed across teams. Teams might start one at time or all at once. There are certainly ways to change up relays! We’ll all do a basic, simple one this year.

All Local Dirt events will include three elements – they’ll begin with an opportunity for teams to interact with each other, get to the fun on the course, and they wrap up with some team and family interaction. What happens off the course is as much of the fun of mtb as is the riding.

How To Local The Dirt

Follow the links in the steps below for additional details. The first six steps will be part of the PICL Local Dirt Application that organizing teams need to fill out before July 1 in order to hold an event and secure PICL staff assistance.

⇒ Identify organizing team and roles    Define event type   Find appropriate venue   Determine course with approved setter Secure permission      Request approval from PICL Schedule and promote ⇒  Line up volunteer parents and coaches  ⇒  Prepare and Share Emergency Action Plan  ⇒ Run event  ⇒  Report on event and planning

Fans at a PA Local Dirt Race

Local Dirt Roles and Responsibilities

Many of our coaches have already started Local Dirt training. To simplify the process even further, we’ve streamlined the roles and responsibilities for coaches, making it even easier to get certified to host an event. We will provide on-the-ground training at pre-season events across the state, ensuring our coaches are experience and capable of hosting a safe, rewarding, exciting event to PICL risk-management standards.

Note: Local Dirt Events are designed to allow multiple teams to come together to organize and support. Hosting an event should not fall on one team or coach. This is a group effort that a few coaches, parents, and volunteers from neighboring teams can pull off. Local Dirts are a great way for you to plug others in your local riding community into PICL too.

This document contains a list of roles required for Local Dirt events and the primary responsibilities of each. PICL staff will work with you, as part of the application process, to determine roles and sort through the responsibilities.

Local Dirt Sample Schedule

Finding the Right Local Dirt Venue

Unlike statewide races, Local Dirt formats give us much more flexibility in selecting venues. With fewer riders, these events require less space for parking (always a challenge for big events) or infield area.

Also, adventure-style rides and time trials almost entirely eliminate the need for passing zones. Even short-format XC races and relays (with shorter distances and fewer riders on course at any time) allow us to be more creative in finding courses. Many places that would not work for a statewide race, in fact, may be perfect for Local Dirt events.

Here are some key considerations to put on successful events while still meeting the League’s risk management requirements:

XC-style scrimmages require a 1- to 2-mile course
Anticipate parking at 1.5 times the number of registered riders.
Consider whether other users will be on the trails, and if the park will allow you to close them.
How weatherproof is the area? Would even a little rain increase risk to the riders or to the trails and venue?
Just like statewide events, uphill starts and finishes are safer; uphill finishes make it easier to watch the line.

Here is PICL’s Complete Venue Inspection Checklist

Example Annual Local Dirt Calendar

Each region should aim to host at least one of the following event formats, according to the timeline below. We will train through these together. Subject to change based on coronavirus-related guidance.

June – Aug Adventure, GRIT, or fun rides among neighboring squads.

Mid August  Local Dirt Individual Time Trial (ITT)

Mid Sept Local Dirt (short course) XC

Mid Oct Local Dirt XC relay

Mid Nov Local Dirt Fun times with final ITT, social rides, and fun stuff!