MTBProject.com launched in April with around 3,000 miles of documented trails. The site is a partnership between Boulder-based Adventure Projects and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), which is headquartered in Boulder.
Co-founders Nick Wilder and Andy Laakmann launched climbing site MountainProject.com in 2005. Back then, it contained information for about 1,000 climbing routes. Now, it's up to 100,000 routes and last year saw 2 million unique visitors, Wilder said.
Since launching the site for climbers, Wilder said he'd always pondered creating similar sites for other sports. Last year, he bought a new mountain bike and learned firsthand how difficult it was to find useful information online about mountain bike trails.
"Especially if you're not a local, it's impossible to go somewhere else without finding a bike shop or a guidebook," he said. "It was frustrating to me that I had this great resource for climbing. This could exist for cycling, but it didn't."
He met up with IMBA leaders, who were also interested in mapping trails across the county. IMBA recruited its members and volunteers to take photos and write about trails to begin building the new site's content.
The content on both sites is user-generated, so they act as both online guidebook and social network for climbers and mountain bikers. If someone loses a pair of sunglasses while riding, they can post on the site. Chances are, someone will find and return them.
There's a mobile version of MountainProject.com, and soon to be mobile app for sister site MTBProject.com. Users can download maps and information before heading into remote areas with poor cell service. Rather than carrying an entire guidebook up a route, Wilder said, he puts his phone in his pocket.
But the site works best as a supplement to a printed guidebook, he added. The site doesn't provide local history like a guidebook, he said, but has 58,000 authors instead of one.
Access Fund executive director Brady Robinson said the site provides the most up-to-date information about routes, whereas a guidebook's information might be years old.
"It might be that a hold broke off," Robinson said. "It could be a loose rock that's dangerous that you can find out about."
Robinson, himself a climber, said he usually carries both a guidebook and the mobile app during a climbing outing.
MountainProject.com partnered with Access Fund to spread the word about route closures. Wilder said he hopes to build a similar partnership with IMBA, local mountain bike organizations and land managers.
"We're trying to do the right thing by the sport," he said.
Wilder added that he's only heard from a few disgruntled climbers and mountain bikers, who don't appreciate the two sites "spreading the word" about their "secrete" routes or trails.
The sites have no tolerance for users who post illegal or permanently closed trails, Wilder said. Those users' accounts are disabled, and the trail is removed from the site. That's been tricky, Wilder added, because mountain bike culture has always been a little bit "rebellious."
IMBA spokesman Mark Eller said the organization is hoping to build a bridge between local trail guides and MTBProject.com, which will become a national trail guide.
"A lot of groups say, 'We already have a trail database,'" he said. "There's no reason not to continue to have your local trail guides. What we're hoping to do is convince people to add the same trails to a national database so that no matter where you go, all over the U.S., you can find trails."
Craig Hoffman, a Louisville climber who mountain bikes "here and there," said he's looking forward to another well built, user-friendly app and website in MTBProject.com.
"Having an app that is nicely built and you can easily get information from, it's needed," he said.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.