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The New Face of San Diego Mountain Biking

A Q&A with former elementary school teacher and Chula Vista resident Susie Murphy, who became executive director of the San Diego Mountain Biking Association in August 2015.


How did you get into mountain biking?

I started riding seriously around 1993 or so, when my husband started riding while carrying our daughter in a backpack. I was nervous he would get too crazy with her. When he rode in races without her he flew! I was just trying to keep up with them; I guess I picked up some skills along the way.

What is so great about the sport?

I like being outdoors, and mountain biking gets you farther than hiking. I like seeing my skills improve. I enjoy new places and challenging myself. Sometimes it’s hard. But it’s always rewarding.

Can you dispel the myth that mountain biking is for twentysomething men?

That is our hardest-to-reach demographic! SDMBA members and mountain bikers in general are 80 percent men between 40 and 60, and 20 percent women. I would love to balance these numbers out a bit. This myth is perpetuated by the advertising and Red Bull Rampage–type videos that come across social media.

What are SDMBA’s big accomplishments from the past year?

SDMBA volunteers had more than 35 trail work days last year, contributing over 3,000 volunteer hours on new projects, including completing the Manzanita Loop at Black Mountain Open Space Park. We installed seven trail tool stands around the county, which were funded by an REI grant. Cyclists love them and we love seeing selfies with the stations! Land managers have been pleasantly surprised at the positive response, and we’re working on approving more locations for future stations.

What’s the next project for SDMBA?

Our biggest project for 2017 is the opening of the Stowe Trail, which connects Santee to Poway. The legal opening of this trail has been a high priority issue, since [the only other trails in the area cross through MCAS Miramar, and] 50 bikes were confiscated by the Marines last year. SDMBA advocacy volunteers are also working on new riding options at Black Mountain, Mission Trails Regional Park, and Cleveland National Forest. We are also hoping to finalize a site with the county for a bike park.

Are there any similarities between working with kids and the bike community?

It all comes down to education—how to teach people to be responsible stewards and still enjoy their sport, and how to improve the trails and environment for future generations. Most mountain bikers are young at heart. They have to be inspired; that means having fun but being inspired to give back at the same time. There’s a balance between asking people to serve and volunteer and providing fun, quality events where everyone can enjoy their sport and each other.

Have you seen any progress?

SDMBA is making some impressive advancements with several agencies and jurisdictions around town, including the National Forest Service and the County of San Diego. Progress—as always—is slow, but there is an increased sense of energy in several areas.


Lightning Round

Favorite local trail: Anything at Laguna Mountain.
Currently riding: An Ellsworth Absolute Truth.
Clipless or Flats? Flats
Tire size: 27.5”+
Side gig: A coach for the Eastlake High School Mountain Bike Team.
Random qualifying position: A Girl Scout mountain bike camp counselor.
What’s cool about your job? All I get to think about is mountain biking and how to make it better for everyone. New friends, new trails, and new adventures.
Job perk? I’ve learned so much about the geography and history of our county even though I am a San Diego native.
Worst part of the job? Trying to understand how there are over 50,000 people who ride mountain bikes in San Diego and we only have 1,140 members.

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