Why Can't We Be Friends?
Hooves and knobbies tread the same path at Romp & Stomp

Jason L. Ables

It's no secret that equestrians can hate mountain bikers and vice versa. But a state of animosity isn't always the status quo. On the San Francisco peninsula, a group of equestrians and cyclists decided to dump the "us vs. them" mentality and make peace. They even--gasp!--went on a ride together this past June.
Called Romp & Stomp VI, the ride was hosted by Responsible Organized Mountain Pedalers and the San Mateo County Horseman's Association. More than 40 people took part with almost half on horseback. Together they covered a 10-mile mixture of fireroads and single-track. Equestrians and cyclists stayed in tight groups to prove they could ride near each other without incident. (Tip: When approaching, especially from behind, always talk to a horse. If they know you're a human and not a mountain lion, they relax. Same for their owners.)

Romp & Stomp founder Barry Freeman grew up on a horse, and he was a mountain hiker as soon as the species existed (he rode Ritchey Mt. Everest No. 4, while his wife owned Stumpjumper No. 10) In the beginning, he says, bikes on the trail were seen as novelties, not threats. But that was then. "We watched the evolution of mountain biking until it became big enough that the mountain bikers and equestrians started to throw rocks at each other." Freeman says. The Romp & Stomp came about in 1989 as way to prove that cyclists--by then seen as the enemy by equestrians--and horses could are. Says Freeman, "Bicycles and horses can co-exist on the same trail at the same time if each of the riders understands the other's needs and requirements, and [have] a common Historically, cyclists benefit when equestrians are on their side in open space debates. But now it turns out that equestrians have an equal need for riders, for some hard-liners in the Bay Area outdoor community want not just mountain bikes but all non-hikers banned from trails. "it is such a simple concept," says Freeman. "You have to realize there are only so many trails, and they are going to have to be used by bikers and by hikers and by equestrians, and they are all going to have to get along."

According to IMBA board member and first-time Romp & Stomp participant Michael Kelley, the event was a smart way to build such I alliances. Equestrians and mountain bikers "have more shared interest than they have differences." he says. On the Romp & Stomp "people discover they are looking at the same clouds. They are laughing at the same jokes. So it just brings people together, eliminates differences. So we at IMBA are really blown away by this."
A good thing, too, because as Freeman points out, "it sounds kind of trite, but we are either going to have to hang together or hang separately."

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