Cedric Tassan is a MET ambassador in the south of France. He’s quite a busy man. In addition of creating stories and video, he’s running VTOPO which edit mountain bike guides for each region in France. You can tell he knows quite a lot about the trails! Above all he’s working with local authorities to ensure the beautiful site of Les Calanques, close to Marseille, stays open to MTB. That’s why we wanted to catch up with him so he can tell us more how he approaches the topic of sustainable mountain bike in his area and in general.
Cedric, what is your main practice?
Cedric Tassan: To make it short, I’m doing “Enduro” even if do prefer say I’m just mountain biking. That means I like to ride everywhere, mostly singletracks. I’m living in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer (Var) but I move a lot. By my job I like discover new places.
When we discussed together about the future of MTB, we end up quickly speaking about what makes a durable practice. Why it’s something that touches you more?
CT: The most crucial thing about it is to make our sport durable. We are responsible of our activity and our behavior have a direct impact on if we will be allowed to ride here or there. I don’t look to be a model, and I’m not, and I don’t want to give lessons, but it’s important to understand we are part of a bigger whole.
So, more concretely, what actions make our practice sustainable?
CT: For me the more important aspect is to share, be tolerant, polite and courteous. We should know that a territory is not own by the walkers, running, bikers or hunters. It’s a gift from the nature and we need to share it. Of course someone always owns the land. In France 80% of the forest are own by a private landlord, that means we need to respect the property of everyone. Once said, we understand well the trail building can’t be done without the agreement of the owner! The respect of the soil, trees, and terrain is another key element.
You are speaking about sharing the trails. How are you handling that, as you are leaving in a really touristic and sensible place?
CT: It’s not a problem about trails; it’s more a life motto. We are not alone on earth. We share it with other humans being, animals, and plants. If we take humans, respect is simple: being courteous. Stopping and say hi, having few words. That’s lifting a lot of misunderstanding. For the animals, we need to be aware that creating trails everywhere in a hill has an impact on the wildlife. It’s disturbing its quite zone. Concerning the plants, as soon as we stay on the trials, no issue.
So what are your advices so everyone could promote a durable activity in its local territory?
CT: The simplest thing is being open to others. Really. Lately, in one of our spots, we had to solve a problem involving the landlord, the people managing the land and the hunters. We’ve started by reaching the hunters. I will say it, I wasn’t really confident when I came to see them… At the end, we met incredible people, with a big passion, and with a will to share the space! It was a big surprise. So at the end, going outside of our comfort zone pays back.
You spoke earlier about land managers. What is their role and what is the problematic in France?
CT: The restrictions come mainly from people who are managing the land. That’s because lot of them have difficulties to manage it concretely. Indeed, putting some rules in place means to be equipped to control. We are not irresponsible, that’s why I think it’s too easy to prohibit instead of managing. Once said, we need to understand that when we want to integrate the MTB in a specific territory, we need to have the approach of a manager. The complex and relevant ideas are often not adopted because they are too difficult to handle. In general, in France, we can ride without much issue. Of course, there is some local stop, sometimes strong, that leads to bike bans. That’s where the tool we have can help, the MBF. The Mountain Bike Foundation is an association that defends biker’s interest and promotes the practice of an MTB sustainable and responsible. To be efficient, the riders need to be act together by supporting and be involved with this association.
We told it quickly in introduction, but you are editing MTB guides, advising trails and tours people can do. How are you handling the question of trail access and sustainability?
CT: In 15 years of editing trail guides, we had very few cases to handle with landlords for example. The few we had, it was during the first 3 years. Now, everything runs smoothly. But to arrive to that situation, we put in place a strong brief and we work with writers who are trained to handle this. We consult a lot the land managers, we have some partnerships with public organizations… and we are censoring ourselves very often. In short, we try to do our best. But sometimes it’s hard to see on Internet some major players putting trails without any of those guidelines underneath, its not great for the MTB, as it leads at some point to restrictions.
We spoke about the local aspect, but you are doing a lot of bike trips and you like to discover exotic destinations. How do you plan it to choose trails and guides?
CT: Good question. I find the inspiration in many ways. I spend a lot of times on maps, satellite images, and books. I put a lot of pins on Google Maps when I find an interesting spot. That do a kind of general guideline. Then we find a lot of info on the web. For some destinations, I ask to local guides and it’s always fun to exchange and ride the best trails.
Thanks Cedric for your time.
Don’t miss Cedric adventure and rides!
Photo Credit: @Cédric Tassan