Building Community, Confidence & Trails: The Parklands Dash Experiment Project

Mountain bike rider coming around a sweeping corner on a singletrack

Remember that forgotten corner of your mountain bike trail network? The one rumoured to be full of hidden gems, but eerily quiet? Enter the Parklands Dash Experiment! My goal was simple: lure riders out of their comfort zones, boost their skills and confidence, and showcase the hidden potential of these forgotten trails. The solution? A playful event for teams or solo riders that combined exploration, friendly competition, and just a touch of chaos.

As the Club Secretary of the Bushrangers Mountain Bike Club, I saw an opportunity to turn this underutilised zone into an adventure zone for our members. But there was a problem: intimidation. Unfamiliar terrain, perceived difficulty, and a lack of guidance kept riders away.

Planning the Adventure

I designed a map with a “choose-your-own-adventure” route with key checkpoints, each checkpoint holding a unique challenge such as:

  • removing and then reinstalling your wheels
  • transport a raw egg to the finish line
  • eat a dry Weetbix (gluten-free, of course!).

To add a twist, I threw in “joker” cards granting lucky riders special advantages. Safety was paramount, with pre-ride checks, eagle-eyed volunteers, and detailed maps (printed and digitally on Trailforks app) ensuring everyone explored confidently.

Parklands Dash Experiment ride briefing. Explaining the rules, trail conditions and other safety points.
An initial ride briefing explained the rules, trail conditions and other safety points.

The Day of Discovery

Many brave riders from various clubs joined the fun, with enthusiastic volunteers keeping things rolling. The air buzzed with excitement as riders embarked on their journeys, maps clutched, strategising their routes. Laughter filled the air as they tackled challenges, made bad choices, discovered hidden singletrack gems, and swapped stories at the post-event BBQ and afterwards on social media. They conquered not just the trails, but their own inhibitions, proving that exploration doesn’t have to be scary.

The start of the Parklands Dash Experiment. Here are riders reviewing the checkpoint maps and working out their strategy.
Riders got their maps at the same time, but one lucky rider won the chance the look at the map 5min early.

The Great Egg Challenge (and One Unbreakable Rider!)

“Checkpoint Clubs” was where riders encountered the infamous “package”: an egg entrusted to them for safe delivery back to the finish. Let’s just say I envisioned a few more cracked shells!

Turns out, our riders were surprisingly adept at egg-cellent bike handling. But the real star of the show was the guy who toppled down a technical descent, with his egg tucked precariously in his jersey… and it still emerged unscathed! His impressive skill and (perhaps) strategically padded camelback saved the day, earning him bragging rights and proving that confidence and control are key ingredients for success.

Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead

The feedback was music to my ears. Riders craved more length, more singletrack, and more challenges (they must really love Weetbix!). Suggestions for bigger map fonts and pre-race breakfast were duly noted. Even the orienteering community chimed in with valuable insights on unmanned checkpoints, opening doors for future adventures.

Mountain bikers walking their bikes up a steep hill in the Parklands Dash Experiment
Some riders learned that the closest checkpoint wasn’t always the easiest to get to.

The Parklands Dash Experiment wasn’t just about utilising new trails; it was about conquering hesitation. By creating a fun, accessible, and engaging experience, I proved that exploration can be thrilling. The future is bright at the Parklands trail network.

My Secret Tools (Project Management and Collaboration Skills)

  • Planning: Research, stakeholder collaboration, diverse needs consideration.
  • Content Creation: Engaging maps, social media, promotional materials, clear communication.
  • Safety: Detailed planning, volunteer coordination, risk mitigation.
  • Adaptability: Weather delays, course adjustments, feedback integration.
  • Collaboration: Engaging riders, volunteers, and community experts.