WELCOME TO AUSTIN, TEXAS
Like many of us in this mountain bike community, I grew up with an addiction. Quarter pipes, campouts in the woods and lots of Misfits. I was about one stair gap short of needing a full-on intervention to save me from my BMX addiction.
In early years of BMX culture (early 2000s), Austin, Texas was a staple in the print and video media that defined that little rag-tag sport. Home to famous 20” brands such as Terrible One, Mutiny and Empire BMX, the city had what appeared to be an amazing riding scene. I always dreamed of riding the 9th St dirt jumps, or just cruising the back alleys looking for the culverts and wallrides that hosted so much radness over the years.
Fast forward to 2019 and I’ve still never been to Austin! With the Local Loam series in full swing, I finally had a mechanism to get myself to the city, and the story behind the mountain bike scene turned out to be super interesting.
The west coast of the USA is well celebrated for its mountain biking access. California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and much of the southwest, including Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, are all known for extensive trail networks. Nearly all of these trails are on some form of public land. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’ve certainly been guilty of taking this land access for granted. With the prevalence of riding opportunities, it can be easy to lose sight of that privilege.
Further east, the central land ownership and allowable usages change very quickly. Percentages of publicly held land drop from near 40% per state down to 1-4%. That’s a huge difference!
Texas, the second largest US state, has less than 4% publicly accessible land. This creates a substantial challenge for mountain bikers. But we’re nothing if not a determined and crafty group and we’ve found a few unique ways to shred Texas on two knobby tires.
After scouring the internet to learn about the Austin riding scene pre-Spider mountain, I came across the work of a group called Freeride 512, as well as Jeremiah Work and Trail Party.
Freeride 512 is a freeride oriented non-profit, and have worked with a few private land owners thus far. One of the current highlights for the club is Cat Mountain. But they didn’t quite build it from scratch- about ten years ago, a crew of riders built some bandit-style trails on the hill, then all left the state in order to live in the mountains of New Mexico. A few years later, Freeride 512 member Seth Buckner happened to meet a fellow Austin local. Sure enough, a while after that encounter, the same guy posted on a local riding forum that he had just purchased Cat Mountain. Luckily, he was open to reviving the remnants of the old trails, as he was a rider himself. Freeride 512 had prior experience of working with private landowners, and jumped at this opportunity.
Known as “Team Trail Party” to the locals, this group is led by Jeremiah Work, and has filled a very cool niche within the scene. Jeremiah was a top level 4x racer for many years, and prior to that, grew up racing BMX. Jeremiah and his friends also put together a few “bandit” style enduro races back in 2013 and those were total successes. Word got out about the group’s events, and quickly interest was 50+ riders deep. Needing to legitimize, Jeremiah partnered with a ranch in Burnet, TX: Reveille Peak Ranch, or RPR. RPR had allowed mountain bike access for quite some time, but was seeing a dwindling amount of usage. As Jeremiah and the crew began to maintain existing trail, and build new trail, word got out.
With over 90 entrants at that first event in 2014, it was a boon for Trail Party and for the ranch, Trail Party used the proceeds from the event to pay for trail building and maintenance, and the trails were there for anyone to ride. Through the years the group has perfected this strategy, and they’ve found it to be a good solution when working with private ranches such as RPR.
I had a blast mountain biking in Austin, TX, and hope to get back to the hill country again! If you want to ride Cat Mountain, then become a member of Freeride 512. If you want to support the crew that’s helped grow the scene a ton, then definitely consider entering a Trail Party event!
Special thanks to Jeremiah Work and Seth Buckner. Additional thanks to Cory McCallum and Andrew Taylor for the drone footage. And finally, big thanks to everyone who came out and rode with us: Cody Haverfield, Tyler Livesay, Joseph Karpus, Chris de Haro, Derek Heyn, Cory McCallum, Ryan Urbanski, and Andrew Taylor.
Produced and written by: Jeff Kendall-Weed @jeffweed.
Video: Logan Nelson @loganpatricknelson.
Photography: Justin Vaughn @dangerfoot.
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