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Taking the (Red Bull) Hardline.

If you are a mountain biker and enjoy following the cut and thrust of elite-level racing, you have probably heard of Red Bull Hardline. Tucked amidst the hills of the Dyfi Valley, the course is considered to be one of, if not the most challenging downhill courses in the world. It blends steep, technical rock sections with huge jumps and drops (including a 55ft Road Gap and 60ft Step Down feature) to make a compelling, inspiring visual spectacle.

Stages of the infamous Red Bull Hardline road gap
Stages of the infamous Red Bull Hardline road gap - (C) Aaron Crowe

And it’s that word; “inspiration”, that is the reason we are talking about Red Bull Hardline. It is one of the reasons that we are proud to say that the 2021 event represents the first (of many over the coming years we hope) collaborative activation of a relationship that we have been building with Red Bull since the summer of 2020.


Watching the best-of-the-best in the world race down terrain that 99.99% of us wouldn’t be able to ride top-to-bottom – never mind contemplating putting in an effort against the clock – is definitely inspiring; but that inspiration doesn’t immediately convert to an achievable result. We might be tempted to go a little bigger the next time we hit a jump, but that’s about it for most of us. What is genuinely inspiring to us is when those that we look up to – whether that be elite racers or brands – step up and make a difference. England footballers taking the knee in support of BLM, or campaigning to ensure kids have food in their bellies, is a clear statement of their values, and a message that transcends sport. Something that we can put into practice straight away; change that is at a societal level as well as an individual.

Red Bull Hardline riders assemble
Red Bull Hardline riders assemble - (C) Alex Evans

Trash Free Trails Approved

And that’s why we are proud to say that Red Bull Hardline will be the first ever Trash Free Trails “Approved Event”, as we pilot a scheme that we aim to launch across the world in 2022. So, what exactly does that mean and why is it important? We’ve all been to (or seen the aftermath) of a poorly managed/unsustainable event; whether that’s dropped gel ends on the trails or signage/tape that lingers for months after the last rider crossed the line. Well, as we say, this collaboration with Red Bull Hardline is the first of three pilot events we’ll be delivering in 2021, pilots that will enable us to put theory into practice and complete the development of our pioneering ‘TFT Approved Scheme’.


So, how will it work?

TFT Approved is a, free to use, self accreditation toolkit that enables event organisers of all shapes and sizes to MASSIVELY reduce the #SingleUseProduct footprint of their events and #LeaveAPositiveTrace on the trails and wild places that host them. For an event to be considered TFT Approved, it must meet a number of criteria, with gold, silver and bronze accreditation levels providing opportunities for gradual improvement whilst still having something to celebrate :)


We’ve put loads of effort into making it as easy and enjoyable for people to use (we know how insanely busy event organisers are!), here’s how it’ll work;

  • DOWNLOAD the guide and checklist from trashfreetrails.org

  • STEP BY STEP - From pre-event comms to pack down, you’ll work through a simple, achievable step by step process.

  • TFT APPROVED? - Submit your ‘self accreditation score to us and we’ll send out your gold, silver or bronze medal logo.

  • SHOUT! digitally and physically (on the mic!!!) about why you have chosen to become part of the #TFTApproved programme.

Step by step process - (C) Sam Dugon @saskiadugon
Step by step process - (C) Sam Dugon @saskiadugon

I’m ‘just’ a rider! How can I help?

Ultimately, the success of our ‘TFT Approved’ scheme will depend upon the individual riders who bring these events to life, which means our DIO (Do It Ourselves) ethos will play a prominent role. Much like in your day to day riding, running or roaming YOU can join support the scheme by committing to the following actions;

Taking a lead  - (C) Sam Dugon @saskiadugon
Taking a lead - (C) Sam Dugon @saskiadugon

First run!

Red Bull Hardline will be the first time the process has been put through its paces, but it’s not the last. Other events are already signed up, including The Naughty Northumbrian, EWS Tweed Valley and the Department 26 mates race in Bude!


The checklist and requirements will be available on our website soon, in the meantime we’re encouraging event organisers of all types, shapes and sizes to get in touch to pre-register interest in participating in the scheme. Drop us an email at hello@trashfreetrails.org


So, what does all this mean for Red Bull Hardline 2021?

Whether it’s a State of Our Trails survey from a rider in Nepal or a TrashMob Academy poster created by a 14 year old kid in Wakefield, it’s the biggest buzz in the world when someone takes the time to work on something that we’ve created. So, when Red Bull’s events team shared their self-accreditation score for one of the biggest MTB events in the world it was such a cool feeling! What’s more, it was awesome to hear that they found it to be a simple and satisfying process :)


The Red Bull team landed on a self score of 273 (out of a possible 360), which is an encouraging start and testament to the work the team there have been doing behind the scenes over the course of the event’s lifespan. But, of course, there can always be improvements, and that forms the crux of our new partnership.

Their score broke down as follows;

  • Event planning: 52 (of 60)

  • Race Day: 18 (of 30)

  • Water: 20 (of 30)

  • Registration: 20 (of 20)

  • Toilets: 20 (of 20)

  • Pre Race Briefing: 18 (of 30

  • Race Time: 20 (of 20)

  • Prizes: 25 (of 30)

  • Food and Vendor: 30 (of 30)

  • Sweeper: 20 (of 30)

  • Event Pack Down: 30 (of 30)

  • Event Post Promo: TBC (of 30)

  • TOTAL = 273 = GOLD!!!!

And, there’s more.

Of course, we’d be naive/arrogant to think that a brand as big as Red Bull, with such an incredibly talented and passionate team, wouldn’t already have been doing some innovative work on improving the sustainability of their events. Here are just a handful of examples that reinforce our belief in the potential of this collaboration (keep an eye on our social media @trashfreetrails over the race weekend from live insights and interviews too!);


FOOD & DRINK

  • All catering for the event week will be provided on-site by prior arrangement, and dueue to Covid regulations in Wales staff will not be using any local food and drink outlets.

  • Potable water will be available on-site by way of two water stations.

  • Bottled water will not be provided on-site and all personnel / contractors are requested to bring appropriate re-fillable water containers to the site.

WELFARE

  • Compostable toilets are located in the production field for Crew and media. These are the only toilets allowed to be used on site by crew and media (ok, they won't be as fancy as these but it's a start!

Compost heaven - (C) The Guardian
Compost heaven - (C) The Guardian

Why Red Bull?

We know that for many of our most passionate TRASHMOB members, there is an elephant in the room to be tackled. Why are we partnering with a


brand that was in the top three most-found items of single-use pollution in our State of Our Trails Report? On the face of it there isn’t a natural fit. In fact, the opposite could be said to be true, and it definitely wasn’t a decision that we rushed into.


We first started talking to Red Bull when we tagged their Instagram account in a post about the litter we had found on a trail clean. They responded to us and we have been talking ever since. We’ve been impressed by their desire to change and keenness to support the aims of TFT.

The Usual Suspects - (C) Sam Dugon @saskiadugon
The Usual Suspects - (C) Sam Dugon @saskiadugon

On our side, choosing to partner with Red Bull gets to the heart of why Trash Free Trails exists as an organisation. We want to drive change, and we believe that to do this successfully, our approach should not use blame, shame or guilt. Demonising any brand and its consumers will never open their minds to new behaviours. We have to be honest with ourselves: we spend 99% of our time communicating to those who would never consider dropping litter in the first place. If we truly want to change behaviours, we need to find a way of positively influencing the Red Bull (and Lucozade, Coke, Monster, etc) drinker who currently thinks it’s okay to leave their empty can or bottle on the trail and in our places.


The same applies to the company itself. We could continue to tag and needle Red Bull every time we find a can on the trail… and we will, but we’ve also got a seat at the table of a multinational business and they want to listen. It’s much easier to make your voice heard when you are face-to-face rather than shouting from the sidelines. With this position comes responsibility, though. We recognise our role is to truly challenge Red Bull, hold them to account and keep asking difficult questions of them. We are not the “easy option” or a quick piece of greenwashing. Rather, we want to be their Hardline… holding them up to the highest possible standards and pushing them to go further. It’s early days but we’re really encouraged by what we’ve seen so far, as this quote from our first interview with them in January illustrates;

“Our recent State of the Trails report found Red Bull to be the third most found branded item found on our trails, so it’s obvious we have to work with brands like Red Bull if we want to reach our mission” - Dom Ferris, Trash Free Trails

Back to inspiration

How will TFT x Red Bull Hardline change the world? It won’t straightaway. Cultural and behavioural change is rarely about quick wins. But… at a small scale, hopefully one or two would-be litterers will think twice about where they dispose of their cans as a result of the coverage. Thinking more widely, it’s rare (if not unheard of) for a brand to make the statement “it’s not okay to litter” on this scale, and even rarer for them to make active steps to back that up: showing positive, inspirational action. So for now, we are going to celebrate the small steps towards change, and sit back and marvel at the action over the weekend, knowing that come next week, there won’t be a trace of single-use pollution on the Red Bull Hardline site.

With a fine tooth comb - (C) Sam Dugon @saskiadugon
With a fine tooth comb - (C) Sam Dugon @saskiadugon

Coming soon

The checklist and requirements will be available on our website soon, in the meantime we’re encouraging event organisers of all types, shapes and sizes to get in touch to pre-register interest in participating in the scheme. Drop us an email at hello@trashfreetrails.org