Q&A: Combo Vice President: Bryan “Packman” Pack

Bryan Pack at Alum Creek P1

Bryan Pack is a two-time president of Combo and currently the vice president. Here Bryan  is about to do some trail work at Alum Creek P1.  He is not afraid to get his hands dirty on the trail. He leads by example. He’s also not afraid to look hard-core when he’s doing it either.

If you mountain bike in Central Ohio, then you owe a lot to Bryan Pack.  He has been involved in Combo, the Central Ohio Mountain Bike Organization, for 9 years and has served in leadership roles for most of that time.

Bryan is passionate about mountain biking.  But, he doesn’t just spend all of his time riding, he has also logged plenty of hours giving back to the trails that he loves.  He is just as comfortable with a chainsaw as he is in a board meeting and his influence has helped shape the trails that we love to ride.

Quick dirt: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into mountain biking?

Bryan Pack: I started mountain biking when I went to a local bike shop to get a bike.  My Target bike from college was rusting so I was looking for another bike to just ride around neighborhoods.  The bike had a suspension fork and the guy at the shop said I could take it to Alum and I had no idea what Alum was.  I did take it up there one day (I had to stop at the visitor center just to figure out where the trail was) and I was “that guy” on P1 with no helmet and no clue what I was getting into.  I did have a blast on the trail and realized quickly that I could get hurt and needed to buy a helmet (and did before my next ride).  It was a few years before I started riding with others and really got into riding.

You’ve served as president of Combo, the Central Ohio Mountain Bike Organization, twice and are currently the vice president.  How long have you worked with Combo and how did you get involved?

I started getting involved with COMBO around 2006 by coming to some trail days and getting to know a few of the COMBO leaders at that time.  In 2007 they needed to fill some Board seats so I volunteered to be on the Board that year and have been in some leadership role every year but one since.

Why should mountain bikers volunteer with their local trail groups?

Because local trail groups are volunteers they only survive and thrive through the efforts of their volunteers.  Trail groups need volunteers to do pretty much everything. That ranges from building and maintaining trails (This is the most labor intensive and most difficult area to get people involved. But, without maintenance the trails would never survive and we wouldn’t have any place to ride) to running the organization (getting members, communicating with members and the mountain biking community, putting on events, etc.).  Our local trails pretty much rely solely on volunteers since the Parks really do not provide any labor or help with building and maintaining trails (although Metro Parks has put up some money and labor for Chestnut Ridge).

If you’d like to learn more about Combo,  check them out on Facebook or at www.combomtb.com.

Combo Bike Patrol

Bryan, second from right, is part of Combo’s Bike Patrol, which is one of the most active squads in the nation.

How much potential does Central Ohio have as a mountain bike destination?  What’s the future of mountain biking look like for this area?

Destination trails first and foremost require a lot of miles of trail and elevation.  Unfortunately those are two things we are lacking in the Columbus area.  Our local parks are small and for the most part our elevation comes from ravines so there isn’t a lot of elevation here.  However, I think the Chillicothe area has real potential for destination trails.  With Great Seal State Park, Tar Hollow, and Scioto Trail State Forests we could have miles of trail and the elevation that would draw people from outside of Ohio.  These areas could boast a lot of varying types of trail (technical, flow, beginner, downhill) and are close enough to each other that someone could stay in a central location and ride 50-60 miles of trail in a long weekend.

Video Caption: Bryan is the 3rd fat biker to swoop through the video.  The second guy is Brian “BA” Adams, who has also served as president of Combo.  The 4th rider is Dan Fausey, the current president of Combo.  I felt like I was riding with mountain bike royalty that day. (This video includes bonus footage of Dan Fausey at the end.  Shred or Die, DAN!)

Combo recently became a chapter for Imba, the International Mountain Bike Association.  How is that transition going?  What are the advantages?  Have there been any growing pains?

The transition went smoothly with no hiccups last spring.  IMBA’s big advantage is being a resource for COMBO.  That comes in several areas such as gaining members and improving membership retention, helping us talk to land managers for new trail access, legal/insurance issues and fundraising.  So far we haven’t experienced any growing pains so we are hopeful our relationship with IMBA will continue to grow and be strong.

Check out this “Trail Solutions: IMBA’s Guide to Building Sweet Singletrack” to learn more about building and maintaining your local trails.

Bryan Pack's fat bike at Alum Creek State Park

I think Bryan’s bike gets photographed more than he does. In this photo, his bike is enjoying a delightful snowy day last November at Alum Creek State Park.

What motivates you to ride your mountain bike?  What are your goals for 2015?

My big motivation for mountain biking is the challenge of trails.  I like technical trails so working to clear sections of trail that I’ve struggled with in the past or learning new skills is a lot of fun.  Going riding by myself can be a great stress reliever and riding with friends is always a good time.  For 2015 my goal is to take a trip to New Zealand and experience some of the great trails (and views) they have to offer.  Going on such a big trip I’ll want to be in the best shape I can be in so that I can enjoy the whole trip and not be disappointed that I was too tired to ride something and miss an opportunity.  So, I plan to ride as much as possible this year.

Bryan Pack leads trail work

Bryan leads a team of volunteers who helped build a new bridge at Alum Creek State Park (2014).

Do you have any trails or events that you would recommend to other mountain bikers?  What’s your favorite place to ride?

I’ve been pretty lucky to be able to ride a lot of trails on the eastern half of the US.  There are a lot of great trails within an eight or nine hour drive and I could probably list over a dozen trails people should check out.  I would definitely recommend DuPont State Recreational Forest in North Carolina as a good trail that isn’t too technical but offers plenty of miles and great scenery.  Rothrock State Forest in Pennsylvania is another great system with lots of miles and is very technical.  Both of them are IMBA epic rides.  Brown County and Versailles State Parks in Indiana are nice trails too and are within four hours of Columbus so they make nice weekend trips.

My favorite place to ride is Rothrock.  I’ve been there at least once a year for the past seven or so years with COMBO on the annual Fall Trip.  The trails aren’t easy and I think that is why I like them so much.  It goes back to one of the reasons I love to ride and that’s being challenged and Rothrock will definitely challenge your skills.  It’s a great feeling being able to finally clear that tough rock garden.

Bryan Pack mountain bikes at Mohican State Park

Bryan looks wistfully towards the future of mountain biking in Central Ohio.