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Celebrating The Last Five Years With Trek Bikes

Images by Sam Dorrian. Words by Tom Hill.

As a small organisation, how do you get stuff done? At Trash Free Trails positive action is at the heart of what we do, but it isn’t something that we can achieve by ourselves. We hold our huge volunteer base dear, and have had nowhere near the same impact without them, but sometimes we need support from elsewhere; whether that’s financial or to simply amplify our voice.

That’s where our partners come in. We don’t do short term relationships; we know that our ultimate goals are long term and will require time to reach them. We also only work with partners that share the same vision as us, so when we find someone that we want to work with it means a lot to us.

Trek has been one of our longest running partners, and we are honoured that 2024 marks their fifth year supporting our work. Five years is a long time in any organisation, but for us, 2019 to now represents our formative years. Back then, “we” were just Dom, an idea, and many keen friends and volunteers who bought into the ethos. Since then, we’ve become a Community Interest Company, employed talented and enthusiastic team members, and grown our volunteer base enormously. It’s fair to say that we wouldn’t have achieved all this without the support of Trek and others.

While some things have moved on since 2019, some have stayed consistent. Jez Loftus was at Trek Bikes UK long before TFT was even a grain of an idea, and he’s still at the helm of all things media and marketing. We wanted to understand a little more about our partnership from Trek’s point of view.

[TFT] When did you first hear about Trash Free Trails?

[Jez] I think it was through Dan Brown [then the manager of the Atherton race team who were sponsored by Trek at the time]. He mentioned to me one day that he knew this guy – Dom – and would I mind speaking to him? I gave him a bell, and to be honest I was a bit dubious, but I just clicked with his vision. This was very early days, but Dom has a remarkable ability to bring you along with him. I was aware that Cotic already had a relationship there and I didn’t want to be the big brand swooping in. I chatted with Cy and he was cool with it and I made it clear that we wanted to work together, rather than try and take over the world. 

[TFT] What kind of decision making process did you have to go through? 

[Jez] My main ethos is about getting more people on bikes. There are obviously commercial reasons for this, but lots of personal ones too. I was increasingly looking at how we could use marketing budget for community activation and campaigning rather than traditional advertising. Not long after we became involved, Covid struck and I think that accelerated that approach. In many ways we (and other bike companies) concentrated on brand building and understood that sales would happen organically as a result. 

So, against that backdrop, Trash Free Trails was the perfect opportunity; a group of people engaging with and growing the community with a wider aim of making the world a better place? Sign me up. 

[TFT] What is your relationship like with TFT?

[Jez] First and foremost, we have a huge level of mutual trust. Fundamentally, I know that the team will deliver what they are setting out to do, and I know that they will go about it in a way that leaves a positive impact. With the team that is in place, you just know that everything is in safe pairs of hands. There are times where I’d love to get my sleeves rolled up more, but realistically I’m very happy being a silent partner. 

I never wanted exclusivity in our support of TFT. As I’ve mentioned, Cotic were already involved. I talked to Bosch and encouraged them to step in as a partner. I love the Red Bull partnership; I’m all for working with people rather than against them. Even when brands that might be seen as direct competitors like Santa Cruz or Orbea are involved, I just see that as strengthening what Trash Free Trails is trying to achieve rather than a threat to our brand. 

And going back to having trust in the relationship, Dom has always approached me to talk through other brands coming on board as partners. There are no surprises. We always look after each other.

[TFT] The bike industry is going through a tough time at the moment. How do you justify your ongoing support of TFT to the accountants?

[Jez] Yeah, it’s a really tough time for the industry at the moment, but looking at the bigger picture, and going back to what I was talking about initially, I’m all about getting people on bikes. I’m not talking about top of the range e-MTBs, but bikes to go and do the shopping, bikes to go to work on, and of course bikes for pure leisure too. And I see that as a fundamental part of where the world needs to go if we are to seriously tackle issues like climate change. 

So, for Trek, it remains important to fund something that we see is making a difference. Documents like the State of Our Trails Report evidence that and hold us all to account, but it’s also something that I see every time I attend a TFT event. 

To me TFT has the perfect USP; making positive change in the sphere of cycling and the outdoors. It also helps that TFT works with so many other organisations doing great things.

[TFT] Finally, how would you reflect on the last five years?

[Jez] I still love going to events and standing back and watching the different user groups. See who comes over and is curious. See the difference that a single day of action can make in terms of impact on not just the amount of trash removed, but the people who attend or just see what’s going on. 

I work in a strange world. Consumerism brings with it so many problems that the world has to deal with. It feels good to be doing something that is leaving a positive impact on the places I love. 


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