How did the club start?
BigM started in April 2002, when our founder Minna was looking for local mountain bike clubs around Brussels, but found few catered for the international community and many were very serious competitive clubs with strict rules about riding-time or minimum kilometres per month.
Posting an advert on http://www.expatica.com, she received a couple of replies – that developed into the first BigM club! A forum was established online to facilitate getting in touch, setting up rides and generally chatting about bikes.
Our group has kept growing. These days we have links from lots of mountain biking web sites, although we recruit many of our members through recommendations from existing ones, a big compliment in itself. Now were on the web, we’re on Facebook, and we have an online group to keep all of our communication and calendar organized.
What do I get for my membership fee? And how much is it?
Joining up you receive friends to go out biking with, superb atmosphere, plenty of adventure, travelling opportunities, and third party liability insurance when out on official bigM rides. Our membership period is annually from start February to end January. Signing up for one full year’s membership is 15 euro, which will give you membership until the end of the following January.
Can I try it out without paying?
You can unfortunately not have full access to our maps, files, ride planning forum and other resources without being a full member. However, you are welcome to come along for one or two ‘try-out’ rides as long as you follow the club rules.
How do I join?
What do I need to bring along/wear for the ride?
Helmet! It’s a club requirement, no exceptions! And also a mountain bike , water and a big smile. One should try to be as self-sufficient as possible. For local rides, we are close to help should anything happen, bring only water and the necessities for fixing a flat. For night rides, add good off-road lights (at least 10w halogen or equivalent).
What not to bring
A bad attitude ! Hey we’re friendly and welcome everyone. Luckily this is a rare problem. Also don’t overload yourself with unnecessary items like heavy bike locks, poorly fitting fenders that fall off, or anything else that is going to fall off the bike (like pumps, bags etc). A good check before a ride is to drop your bike (on its wheels) and if your water bottle flies off or saddle bag rattles too much then it’s going to fall off on the trail.
Can I ride my hybrid?
Unfortunately not with us. You can ride a hybrid on most of the tracks in Forêt de Soignes, but we prefer not having to worry about your bike breaking apart just as we are having the most fun. Any mountain bike in good working order will be fine for at least our local rides.
Are there both women and men in the group? And how big is the club?
There are about 75 of us in the club, of which around a fifth are women. The core group of regular riders is probably 15-20 people. Our weekly planned rides have anything from 2-20 participants. It all depends on time of year and of course weather plays a role too.
Where, when and how do you ride?
We have two main meeting points for rides in the local forest Forêt de Soignes (weeknights as well as weekends); the Trois Fontaines trailhead in the Hermann Debroux/Rouge Cloître area, and the entrance of Bois de la Cambre, by the two sugar-lump buildings by the roundabout at the outer end of Avenue Louise. These buildings seem to change name pretty frequently and we often refer to them by their old names of Cool Island, but currently they are offices for the real estate agent Engel & Völkers.
There are not many true off-road sections in this forest, much of it being double track ‘fire-road’. Many of the most ideal paths are unfortunately only open to pedestrians (please do not ride verboden trails), but we have managed to locate a few dirt paths, including the dedicated mountain bike ‘BLOSO’ marked trails. During weekends we often stray outside Brussels, either to an organized ride somewhere (great to meet up with locals), to a permanent mountain bike trail like Overijse, Namur, Houffalize or La Roche or to capitalise on the trail knowledge of some of our members for a real singletrack experience.
Are all rides in Belgium?
From time to time we travel to further flung locations. Trips so far include England, Luxembourg (twice), Wales (twice), Spain (several trips to near Malaga), Morocco, and the Vosges and the Alps. The list of destinations seems to be ever increasing and with the “budget” airlines reaching more and more places so our plans start to get bigger and bigger.
What ages are the people in the group?
Anywhere between 16 and 60 plus! The topic has never really been discussed, we are too polite.
What fitness level are we talking about?
We have people of all fitness levels. We have those who are just starting and doing 10-20 km for each ride, those who do up to 50 km for each ride and even the occasional person who does 80-100 km regularly. Don’t let the longer distances scare you. With the exception of rides organized by other parties than BigM we always ride together at a pace manageable for everyone. If there are too many of us, we sometimes split up into groups based on the pace that riders are comfortable with. No one is dropped, no one is left behind!