Three Decades Ahead of the Curve with CyclePaths

Three Decades Ahead of the Curve with CyclePaths

November 23, 2021

When Greg Forsyth and a friend started their mountain bike touring company, CyclePaths, they were riding into the unknown. The year was 1985. After a few years of exploring trails around Tahoe’s Westshore near Tahoe City, they had the idea to bring others along for the ride as a side hustle.

They were ahead of the curve. Maybe even a little too ahead of it.

“We had a van and some bikes,” Greg recalls. “This was pretty early in the whole mountain bike thing. People didn’t necessarily know all that much about what a mountain bike tour might involve. Most people were just taking the bikes and cruising along the paths in Tahoe Park.”

Despite that “new territory” vibe, they quickly built a customer base. By 1987, Greg committed to CyclePaths full time. The next step was to apply for an official touring permit from the Forest Service. And when it came to that element, being ahead of the curve worked out in their favour.

“At the time, they didn’t know what the hell we were talking about. They thought we were riding motorcycles,” Greg recalls with a laugh. “I think we may be the only ones to have ever gotten a mountain biking touring permit in the Lake Tahoe Basin, even today. Because once they figured out what was going on, things got complicated.”

To protect and retain that access to Tahoe trails, Greg, a fellow local shop owner, and local mountain bike enthusiasts formed an advocacy group that they called Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association (TAMBA). “We had to get that ball rolling to build trails, protect them and keep trails open.”

Over the years, CyclePaths evolved and a full shop was added to the touring business. “People were having fun on the bikes and wanted to buy them, so we started selling them. It grew organically from the needs of the community,” Forsyth recalls. Soon enough, the shop was forging forward at full steam.

Along with that evolution into a bike shop came other projects. After a visit to Moab, Greg and Peter Chapko of Mountain Bikes Unlimited banded together to start the Tahoe Fat Tire Festival with the help of volunteers and TAMBA members. Tahoe’s proximity to Interbike, and some media connections, meant the festival flew outta the gates in its first year—1989.

“It hit it off big, you know, the first one was kinda nuts,” Greg remembers. The festival debuted spanning nine days with five days of racing, including qualifiers for that year’s world championships in Switzerland.

The Tahoe Fat Tire Festival ran for nine years. Shortly after the Festival’s conclusion, CyclePaths opened a second location in Truckee. As the business continued to evolve, Greg settled into his new community and, eventually, closed the Westshore location. Lately, he’s been getting back into trail advocacy, helping form the Truckee Dirt Union.

In mountain bikes and on a global scale, a lot’s changed since CyclePaths' beginnings in 1989. And as a rider who’s been around since the sport’s early days, Greg’s experience is helping navigate the constant changes that the sport continues to face.

Take for example 2019. That year, CyclePaths had its busiest winter ever. But that following summer, major forest fires in the Caldor region loomed ominously over the Tahoe Basin. Forests—and the trails—closed. The result was a much, much slower summer than usual. When Greg and I talked, he was on a camping trip around the Central Coast. In part as a vacation, but also to escape the smoke and fires raging so close to his community.

“It’s tough, but maybe summer isn’t the season to travel [Truckee] anymore. Maybe the riding is better in the spring, fall, and early winter,” the long-time Tahoe trail rider muses. “In these mountain communities, the whole economy is affected by changes like that. You just try to adapt to it as best as you can.”

With Greg’s home and shop in such close proximity to frequent forest fires, the realities of that situation have incredibly real impacts on his business and life. But, talking with Greg, you immediately get the sense that he’ll find a way forward that works for CyclePaths and the trails and forests that surround it. “I got into the business because I love the sport, and I still do, it’s fun to be part of,” he says. “But maybe when and where we ride changes.”

Hot summers and the forest fires that follow aren’t going anywhere. And while the CyclePaths’ story is regionally specific, the impacts that climate change and fires have on when and where we ride are beginning to be felt across the globe. In many ways, Greg is ahead of the curve yet again—thinking ahead to how riders (and shops) need to adapt to seasonal changes in temperature and trail access conditions as a result of a changing global situation.

In mountain biking, thirty years is a lot. CyclePaths and Greg’s experience as a rider, more or less, spans the entirety of mountain biking’s existence. There’s a thoughtfulness and depth of understanding to where the sport’s been and where it’s going that comes through when talking to Greg. It’s wild to think how much has changed in a short time, and how much will change in the decades that come. But talking with Greg, you never get a sense of doom and gloom or a negative outlook. You simply get the sense that Greg fully, completely understands why bikes matter—the community, the connections they forge, the experiences they offer, the life it can give folks who decide to work in the industry. And because of that, Greg’s thinking and playing ahead of the curve yet again, and working to adapt and make changes to keep CyclePaths—and riders everywhere—rolling forward.