Interview: Cy at Cotic on crowd funding the Sheffield MTB scene

Did you know that Ride Sheffield are 75% of the way to Crowdfunding a brand new trail?

Pete had a chat with Cy Turner from Cotic, one of the core group at Ride Sheffield pushing trail advocacy, maintenance and construction in the Sheffield and Peak District area.

Photo by Richard Baybutt Photography.

How many people make up the RADmires project and what do they do?

RADmires is a fund raising project run by Ride Sheffield, which is a volunteer trail advocacy group in Sheffield. It’s not a separate project to the other activities. As such there’s a core group who keep things going – 14 of us in total. We all pitch in where we can.

Photo by Duncan Philpott.

We also couldn’t do it without the help and support of Jon Dallow from Sheffield City Council who gives us the permission to build on City land and helps with the planning consents, and Jordan and Steve from Biketrack who are a Sheffield based trail building firm. They do a lot of work on these projects beyond just building them, like planning and surveying, and they go above and beyond to make sure they get done and they’re awesome when they’re finished.

How did RADmires project come about?

After the success of the first ever crowd funded mountain bike trail (the Blue Steel trail at Lady Cannings Plantation on Houndkirk Moor), we were looking to keep the momentum going and as Lady Cannings had got huge backing from Go Outdoor to complete Phase 2 and 3 (in build this year) we wanted to take on a more ambitious project.

Photo by Richard Baybutt Photography.

Jon Dallow gave us a couple of options for woodlands near the City which would be appropriate from his point of view at Woodlands and Countryside Officer at the City Council, and the plantation at Redmires near Stannage on the edge of the City ticked a lot of boxes.

Why Redmires?

There’s easy access – it’s both on the route of an existing loop out to Stannage and also easy to add on to the end of an out-and-back ride from the City.

Due to the steep, loose, ‘sanitised’ nature of the byway through the area, there is the potential for user conflict as it’s pretty not to ride quickly down the byway, so having a lovely bit of singletrack instead to pull a few of the bikers off that trail works from a trail management point of view.

What’s special about Redmires compared to other trails in Sheffield/The Peak?

Photo by Richard Baybutt Photography.

Now Lady Cannings is committed at Blue grade level, and Parkwood Springs (the Sport England and EU grant funded City Centre trail) is largely Blue grade, and because Redmires is close to some pretty rugged Peak terrain at Stannage, it gave us the option to build a Red graded trail with the possibility of some Black opt ins so it’s another step up along the learning curve for new bikers. They can get into it at Lady Cannings, improve at RADmires, then try their hand at Grenoside with the three tracks there, including Steel City DH.

Why a Crowfund?

It’s Council land and you need land to build trails, but as everyone knows, Councils are getting seriously strapped for cash after 6 years of cuts to budgets. If they’re looking at closing libraries, they aren’t going to be spending money on MTB trails! We crowdfund because it’s great way to raise the money, it makes people feel involved and invested in the trails so they’re likely to use them, care for them and help keep them in good condition.

Also, by crowdfunding you can galvanise local businesses to donate as well. You’re not just going around with the begging bowl, you’re going to them with a serious amount of money raised by lots of people, and you’re asking them to give a helping hand. You seem to get a much more positive response when you have that.

Photo by Richard Baybutt Photography.

Plus, as you can see from our budget, we’re not looking to raise millions. £45k is an ambitious target for sure, but lots of £10 or £20 from lots of people adds up to thousands pretty soon, so crowdfunding fits well with the kind of budgets we’re looking to raise.

How does this fit into the bigger Sheffield/The Peak riding scene?

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As I mentioned above, you ride past Redmires plantation if you’re riding out of Sheffield on the classic Stannage loop, so it will fit in with the local and wider trail network really well. It’s also the furthest point of a lot of out-and-back rides you can do from the north side of the City in particular. Quite a few of my night rides end up out there, so adding a half hour on to ride Redmires would be a great addition.

How did you learn what you needed to know to get the idea off the ground and then moving towards making it a reality?

By just doing it! We talked a lot about how to fund Lady Cannings, and we were going round and round in circles not sure what to do, not liking or seeing a way forward with ways other trails had been funded nationally.

We knew we had buy in from the Council, and we knew the Biketrack lads could build an awesome trails, so we ‘just’ needed the money. In the end one Friday afternoon I just said ‘sod it’ and wrote a press release and sent it to all my Cotic media contacts. We created a big story and the money started rolling in. Then we had to figure out what to do with it!

Photo by Duncan Philpott.

We learnt a lot with Lady C, as it went from needing a few grand to build a trail with volunteers, to needing to raise over £20k for a professionally built trail and maintenance budget. They get so heavily used that maintenance is a big thing. You can’t just build it, you have to maintain it. Lady Cannings had over 14,000 runs on it in the first three months based on Strava data alone!

What’s your favourite moment of getting to this stage in the project and why?

The best bit about this stage is that it’s within our grasp now. With 75% of the money raised and with our track record the Council are now relaxed enough about us and the project that they’re willing to commit to starting the planning processes.

We have already spent a small amount of the budget with Biketrack to get them to properly survey and plan the trail. So it’s tangible now – really close to happening. We just need this final £9k raising by the end of the summer to push us over the line.

What’s your least favourite moment of getting to this stage in the project and why?

Photo by Duncan Philpott.

It’s taken a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time to get here, and at one point we didn’t think it was going to happen because the money rolling in had slowed down, and it takes a huge amount of effort to keep on asking people for money on the part of everyone in Ride Sheffield. The Vulcan Engineering stepped and offered to match anything we raised, so effectively they will give us half the money (£22.5k!!) if we raise the rest.

Any disasters?

Not really. It’s gone very well by and large.

Where next for RADmires project? How do you plan to go about getting extra helpers etc. etc.?

Raising the final £9k and building it! Please, please, please, if you ride in the Peak, or even if you don’t and you like the idea of awesome trails being built, just give us a few quid, or lots of quids! Whatever you can afford. If you put in over £25 (and for every multiple of £25 after that) you’re put in a draw to win a bike donated by JE James. Someone has already won one, and there’s another one up. There’s the Peaty Ride, the Hope Factory Tour; amazing experiences you can have and also help the trails.

Photo by Duncan Philpott.

If anyone does live in Sheffield or the surrounding area and wants to get involved, we do trail days every month at various places around the City. We’re at Fox Hagg this weekend in fact. Just get onto the Ride Sheffield Facebook group to see dates, or check out the website.

Anybody to thank at this point in the journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?

Henry, Steve, Si, Sue, John, Dave, Chris, Phil, Adam, Jon D, Jon E, Jordan, and all the Ride Sheffield people. Vulcan Engineering, Go Outdoors, Hope, Peaty and anyone who has volunteered or donated to any of our projects. It wouldn’t happen without you.

To donate to the Ride Sheffield RADmires Crowdfund, head to the site, here and help grow the already amazing trail network in and around The Steel City.