The gift that keeps giving

The gift that keeps giving

Thanks to its Soil Searching initiative – created to recognize, celebrate and support trail builders – Specialized has helped enable future trail building efforts through one local legend and a generous Trail Fund donation

Talk about making the most of winter. While some hung up their bikes to avoid battering sloppy trails and others jetted off for an overdue overseas trip, Specialized set its sights on finding and rewarding the nation’s top trail builder with a limited edition Soil Searching Specialized Levo – then auctioning off a second and donating all the proceeds – an incredible $17, 850! – to Trail Fund NZ.

Built for trail builders

Designed for trail building, and to reward trail builders, the Mountain Guardian is one of 50 Soil Searching Specialized Levos produced worldwide. Featuring the Specialized Soil Searching logo to reiterate the importance of trail building while following sustainable building practices, the custom made ebike boasts Soil Searching Paint, RockShox Zeb Select + Fork, RockShox Super Deluxe Select + Shock, Sram XO1 Groupset, Code RS Brakes, Soil Searching Tyres, Roval Traverse Alloy Wheels and TCU2 Display.

In mid-July, Specialized put the call out to ensure one of the two Mountain Guardians in New Zealand landed in the hands of NZ’s best trail builder. In a country known for its incredibly high number of volunteers, the nominations came in hard and fast, with more than 100 committed and talented trail builders in the running.

The real deal

With only one Mountain Guardian to give, Specialized NZ reviewed every application and, according to Specialized’s Marketing and Events Coordinator Ben Crowley, choosing the winner was no easy task.

“Trail builders are the unsung heroes of mountain biking and we are committed to changing that by recognizing, celebrating, and supporting the trail builders who help shape our sport and our stoke,” explained Ben.

“That said, there are a lot of them, and so many are volunteering in a way that is truly outstanding that it made the choice incredible difficult. In the end, we decided on a guy that sums up what Soil Searching is all about – Marty Richards.”

A key part of the Cable Bay Adventure Park trail crew based in Nelson, Marty is a trail builder that leads by example.

“Marty is a serial volunteer whose contributions to various projects have improved the trail offerings for all in Nelson and, over the past three years, he has had direct involvement with all of the 18 trails built at Cable Bay,” says Richard Ussher.

“Marty is super approachable and always willing to help or give advice to new trail builders. He never asks for anything, or expects anything in return, and truly does it for the love of mountain biking. He has inspired and imparted a lot of knowledge to a wide group of people, which has helped grow the competence of trail builders in the region.

“Probably the biggest influence he has had is with the ‘Sunday School’ team. This is a group of teenagers from a variety of backgrounds who come out to the Adventure Park to regularly dig and maintain trails with Marty. Nicknamed ‘Dad’ in the group chat due to his mentoring, Marty organizes transportation, oversees the trail building and drives shuttles for them afterwards.

“The Sunday School crew often do some of the toughest yards on the sections that others shy away from and it is easy to see the positive influence impact he has had on them.”

Richard says Marty is so committed to ensuring the best experience for Cable Bay riders that he has – largely by himself – built a 1km walking for the sole purpose of getting walkers and other non-mountain bike users off the main exit trail at Park.

“It is hard to overstate what a positive member of the mountain bike community he is. He is never looking for recognition and just gets on and does what he loves – digging and riding. The region would undoubtably be significantly poorer without his massive efforts.”

Marty was absolutely thrilled to receive the Mountain Guardian and is already putting it to good use!

“I feel so privileged to know such an awesome group of people and so humbled from the support I've received from the Nelson MTB community & Cable Bay Trail Crew,” said Marty.

“It's been quite overwhelming. I think I'll go hide in the bush for a bit… and go dig a track.”

Paying it forward

With one Mountain Guardian out the door, Specialized looked to further support trail building through a different channel – Trail Fund NZ.

“We created Specialized Soil Searching to fuel and support the energy and passion of the trail building community,” says Ben. “So, we thought, what better way to do that than fundraise for an organisation that is already doing that on a regular basis?”

Founded in 2012, Trail Fund NZ not-for-profit organisation, run solely by volunteers, supporting the development and maintenance of publicly available, environmentally sensitive and sustainable mountain bike-accessible trails in New Zealand. It is also committed to providing funding for – and education on – trail building, as well as advocating on behalf of mountain bikers to Government.

Since its inception, Trail Fund has distributed more than 150 grants – totaling more than $400,000 – to a wide variety of mountain bike trails. From Thames to Taupo to Wanaka to Bluff, from Grade 5 singletrack to skills parks, Trail Fund has tried to cater for riders of all abilities around the country.

And now, thanks to Specialized donating the proceeds of the second Mountain Guardian to Trail Fund NZ, the organisation can provide even more grants than normal in the coming months.

“We are so thrilled to be able to pass on the money raised by Specialized to trail building groups around the country using our well-established funding process,” says Trail Fund president Hasely Lobb.

“This is the most substantial donation we have received to date and it’s great to see bike brands investing in the trails their customers love to ride.”

Thanks to the donation, Trail Fund’s next funding round is our biggest in many years, with four grants of up to $4,000 available. The deadline is 1 December. For more details, see the ‘Get Funded’ section on .