In short, 2018 seems to have been an absolute blur, but a good one at that. Our membership has grown to over 900 and had we not had some delays in determining premiums for 2019, we might well have reached a thousand members.
As per our commitment to cater for all cycling needs, our trail network has grown and now it offers even more for newcomer cyclists, long loop riders and those wanting something more challenging.
The container area remains our trail nucleus with both a new flowline and pump track hopefully completed in the early part of 2019. Our members ride the Baakens Valley more than they do all of the other trails combined and we see continued value in the maintenance and reasonable development of these trails.
2018 has seen the Club launch its new range of casual, race and trail riding gear and bring online its new website. The site’s front and back end were in much need of a revamp! This now offers members the opportunity to set up a profile, sell cycling–related items between members and use the online purchasing system for our new range of casual race and trail riding gear.
Our new T-shirts have proved very popular and whilst being Fattracks branded, the design is discrete enough to wear to casual functions.
Our committee for 2019 stays pretty much the same although Phil Bromley-Gans and Steven Cradock have stepped down due to personal commitments. I thank them and the rest of the committee for their support and effort over the past year. Like everyone else, our lives are incredibly busy and the volunteering of hundreds of hours from each of them is hugely appreciated.
A special thanks to Claire Warneke for her superb efforts in managing all our social media platforms, you do a great job! A note of thanks to Llewelyn Tait as well, whose design input is evident on everything from clothing, to bike boards, trail signage and more. Salute! Thanks also to another of our members, Gary Martin, for his efforts on the website development.
Our two trail builders, Joseph and Nedson have continued to work tirelessly in the heat, dust and sometimes very wet conditions that our valley has to offer. Through continued coaching, their understanding of good trail husbandry has grown and they now have a firm understanding of flow and proportion whilst not losing sight of respecting endemic species and ensuring trails don’t cause excessive erosion.
They lead a Companion Ride on a Tuesday morning for those lucky enough to ride in the Valley during the weekdays.
Whilst policing is not a function that our Club should be responsible for, our trail builders do ride the trails once a week specifically to monitor people who have set up shelters in the Valley and keep an eye out for unsavoury characters.
A bicycle was stolen near Killer Downhill the weekend before last. As you might have seen from the WhatsApp post, we do have a photograph of the individual allegedly responsible, and his face has allegedly been linked to several such incidents in the last 18 months.
Both Atlas and Metro Police have his photograph. Further to this, we have been advised that SAPS know who he is and where he lives. I will be meeting with the investigator and might well call on those whose bicycles were pinched in the Baakens Valley over the past 18 months to get involved and make sure this chap gets what he deserves in terms of a prison sentence. We will keep you informed of any progress.
In the meantime, we have decided to release the photograph of him, under the premise of him being no more than a person of interest, this in the hope that we avert further incidents. It’s not a great pic but familiarise yourself with his face and call either Atlas or one of our committee members should you see him.
It’s disappointing how one individual who is seemingly committing these acts can bring about a perception that the Valley is not safe.
On the weekends when cyclists want to get out of town and ride somewhere different, FatTracks has in the past partnered with Three River Trails and Norm Hudlin and we’re happy to announce that these relationships will continue.
To add to this, we are very excited about partnering with Colleen Glen Bike Park in 2019. The development of technical skills is always a combination of self-confidence, knowing your limits and riding on trails that are built and groomed by professionals to facilitate growth.
Colleen Glen Bike Park brings a whole new dimension to Mountain Biking in the Eastern Cape with large berms, tabletops, doubles, step ups, shark fins and hips that you can play on until your legs simply can’t carry you anymore. The park should open in January, but we will hopefully sneak a few teasers in before then to whet your appetites.
Whilst on the point of trail access and partnerships with landowners, the cost of such relationships is something that we are very conscious of and aim to ensure that going forward these are sustainable for both the Club and the landowner.
Our finances are handled as carefully as possible to ensure that our spend is frugal and value-add to members is always the point of focus.
Whilst we can budget accurately for the development and maintenance of trails in Baakens, making sure that landowners are paid against the number of Fattracks members accessing these trails is a little bit trickier. Most will appreciate that the income from memberships is finite and yet we have no way of predicting how many Fattracks members will ride private trails.
To this end we have decided to split membership in 2019 and allow for what we have termed both Platinum and Gold memberships. Both membership types will continue to support the Baakens Valley as there is little hope of any support from the Municipality on this.
Without our involvement, the trails will degrade and revert back to those that we had five years ago, something that no mountain biker wants to see happen.
What will the new memberships offer?
Deciding which membership suits your pocket is a function of working out how many times you access private trails and quantifying the costs of this over a year. It’s surprising how quickly one realises the value of our membership, whichever you choose.
In 2019 we are also going to review the bike boards and member cards as the use of these needs attention. The number of uncollected boards and member cards and the associated costs incurred warrant a rethink.
We’re unsure why so many are not collected as we make every effort to advise when these are ready. Suffice to say that we’ll revert ASAP with some alternates and communicate these accordingly.
In closing, the fact is that without the kind support Continental Tyre South Africa, the Club’s financials would not be able to support both the trails in the Baakens Valley and pay for private trail access.
Our committee is determined to future proof our Club and ensure that growth in memberships can continue and that we can continue holding the title of the oldest mountain bike Club in South Africa, something we should all be very proud of.
Encourage your friends who might not be members to join us, the more mountain bikers that engage, the easier the management of all trails in Port Elizabeth and its surrounds.
Thank you for your membership, support and importantly for riding a bike!
The Committee and I wish you and your families all the best for the holiday season and year to come.