We Chat to Daniel O’Shea About the Dirtfund Project.

Daniel O’Shea set up The Dirtfund Project to help five privateers through the 2021 race season with a thousand pounds.

Inspired by Ben Cathro’s privateer assistance at the 2020 World Cups, Daniel O’Shea and his team set up The Dirtfund Project to help five privateers with their 2021 seasons.

Pete sat down for a chat with Daniel to find out more.

Who is Daniel O’Shea?

I’m a 43 year old Irishman, who’s back living in Galway after spending 13 years in Scotland. Scotland is where I got involved in mountain biking, and grew a love for enduro and downhill. It’s also where I met most of the others in The Dirtfund Project team. Louise, Murray, Mike, Angus and Kenny are all based in Scotland. With Ned and David down south in England.

Biking one way or another is how we all met, whether that was on a road ride, or doing the Trans Wales back in the day, or a tour of Mont Blanc. I’m basically just the guy with the idea to set this up and the rest of the gang jumped right on board and said screw it let’s do it. Such a cool bunch.

What’s your background in cycling?

Quite normal I would say, as a youngster I had a BMX and hardtail mountain bike for messing around on, and then hit univerisyt and cycling took a back seat. I really regained my love for cycling once I moved to Scotland. I have to admit it started with road cycling as a means of commuting, then as a typical MAMIL, I started doing sportives, club spins, yearly trips to Mallorca.

I got back into mountain biking as a cross training effort and then started doing some enduro races for fun. Once you do one enduro event that’s it you’re hooked, so much fun, such a relaxed atmosphere its just great. As a biker I’d consider myself average or midpack at best.

What made you want to give more privateers the opportunity to access funding?

Basically we were chatting on a WhatsApp group and totally inspired about Ben Cathro’s privateer walk the talk video, Ben couldn’t race due to injury so he decided to help some privateers. We thought what a legend, really cool thing to do. So after a short discussion we decided it would be better for us to buy one less piece of carbon or one less oil slick component and instead use that cash to kick off The Dirtfund Project where we aim to support privateer EWS & World Cup Downhill racers from the UK & Ireland. It boiled down to a bit of attitude of OK, why not, let’s get doing this. We can talk about it all day or else why not just get started.

Was a Crowdfund the only option you considered?

We started by putting our paws into our own pockets and got us 3/4 of the way to our first payout. We said that you know what even if nobody else helps us, we will do this every year that we can so that we can at least help support the season for 1 privateer a year. Then we contacted everyone we knew and asked for support, we didn’t even have a domain name, webpage or Instagram account.

Then we were like, OK we need to try get a bit more organised. Louise suggested that we utilise Crowdfunding, it’s something she had done before to raise cash for an mountaintrike. So we started the Justgiving page. This is something we’re all doing in our spare time, and we kinda decided let’s just get doing something and figure the rest out as we go.

So then we bought the domain name, I learnt how to build a website and we started posting on Instagram. Alongside this we are speaking with various corporate businesses to see if we can look at other ways of working together to increase the amount of funds that we get into the payout pot.

Is there any plans to either increase the number of riders or application countries?

We would love to, but we have to be somewhat realistic, we have already grown from where we began. We started this idea and said we would be happy with supporting 1 at max 2 riders in year one, with a sort of homegrown attitude. We got so excited when we were able to help Calum McBain that we just wanted to help more.

So we decided even though funds were slow coming in, that there’s always a choice and speeding up usually helps. So we decided to help all 5 countries in the UK and Ireland for the 2021 season. That’s a pretty big ask to get 5000 in the payout pot. If we achieve that then it will be amazing and if we smash it, then we will payout more.

The difference it makes to a privateer is real. Looking at Calum’s post he said “Thanks you guys so very much again. This has to be one of the most amazing things to have happened to me, legends” and Harry posted “Thanks so much to @thedirtfundproject for helping me out for the upcoming season ”.

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How did you decide on the £1,000 per rider?

This took a bit of over and back between us, but we all agreed in the end that £1,000 seemed like a meaningful amount of money which could help with the items that cause a struggle to privateers, as in pay for fuel or accommodation, some race entries or component failure.

Why now?

Ah, hard one to answer, and it really doesn’t have an answer. Just the luck of timing I guess, we got inspired by a that video, I posted the idea to my mates, and everyone said yes. If they had said no, the idea probably would have died, but when everyone said yes, it was kinda like ok we better do this now. I suppose I’m a firm believer in getting started and doing something is better and usually more fun than talking about it

How do you go about vetting the applications?

This is a learning process for us for sure and will evolve over time. Looking back the first one was easy, Calum was first in, at the time we were also in discussions with Joe Connell and he said Calum was a sound, talented rider, that’s all we needed to hear. We had agreed beforehand as we had received a generous donation from Cloudcoverit who are based in Scotland that we wanted to support Scotland first so it all fitted quite well.

The basics right criteria right now are that we support UK and Irish riders of EWS or World Cup Downhill, and we threw in CrankworX riders as well a few weeks ago. Right now we have a list of 13 privateers who meet that requirement and they all need help, the need is out there, no question. We just need the funds to help them.

What are the challenges involved in supporting privateers?

Fundraising for sure. We’re pretty sure cash is the best thing we can do collectively as a community for privateer racers. We’re working on some new ideas to help get some more cash in. Every little counts, we just need 1000 people to donate £1 each and we can payout to privateers and really make a difference to their season.

What will you do with the funds that you get over target?

It’s so much fun paying out, we will payout for sure, this is a non profit effort. So all funds donated will go to a privateer. Well all funds after justgiving or whatever platform we choose in the future take their little cut. That was a bit of learning. For our first £1000 we just all put our cash into a bank account and withdrew it when needed. For the second one we used Justgiving, and lost a little cash upon withdrawing as they take a cut for each transaction and a percentage. Luckily for us our second payout was in EURO so we won it back on exchange rates.

Favourite moments so far?

For me it was getting our logo from my mate Dan at Pixelheadz, he just jumped straight in and said yeah I’ll help you guys out, leave it with me. Was a cool moment to get the logo as it kinda seemed like shit this is real and we’re actually going to do something here. Then hitting the first £1000 mark was amazing as was getting the mail from Calum looking for help.

The other top moment were Greg Callaghan commenting on one of our insta posts and then 1 minute later dipping into he’s own pocket and giving us a donation, cool guy. It’s been so much fun. More recently Total MTB added us to the list of projects they will support which is also cool and much appreciated.

Any disasters?

Wouldn’t call it a disaster but about two and a half weeks into this we had over £1000 in the bank and not a single name of a privateer to help. We were like, shit what do we do now, and then literally that moment an email comes through from Calum McBain, disaster avoided. Seriously I think we were more excited than Calum about giving him the £1000 it was such a cool moment.

Where next for The Dirtfund Project?

Step 1 is continue to raise the funds we need to finish out what we said we would do for this season and payout 3 more times to an English, Welsh, and Northern Irish privateer. Then plan for the 2022 season. We want to grown this thing, but we need support on board to do so. Maybe we can double it and support 10 privateers for the 2022 season.

We have a few ideas around some merchandise to sell will profits going to the payout pot. Also we are in very early discussions with some brands about how we can work together, hopefully we can get some goods to maybe raffle off so that your not just donating but actually buying a ticket with a chance to win something cool, so you get the chance of more than just a warm fuzzing feeling when you donate.

Also we are looking at other small gestures that we can do to help the privateers. We are learning every day from speaking with the likes of Calum McBain and Harry Byrne what would really help them and their futures so we will see where that takes us. The long term future who knows, why not in the end have a The Dirtfund Project supported neutral service pit at races for privateers.

You can support The Dirtfund Project on their Justgiving page here.