Answering Your Questions on Bikes in Wilderness
This year, IMBA is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Mountain biking in 2018 does not look the same as it did in 1988, and we're pretty excited about that. Over three decades, trail access and mountain biking experiences have exploded in number and variety. There are 112,800 known trail miles and 33,100 trails open to mountain bikes in all 50 states. This is a far cry from the days of our founding, when cities, counties and states were indiscriminately banning bicycles from massive tracts of public land. There are still countless opportunities for more and better riding to engage with, and IMBA is sharpening its focus on being able to go after them and to equip local mountain bike groups to do the same.
IMBA is evolving to reflect the changing landscape of mountain biking and to become even more effective. We want to be a catalyst for more trails, more riders, more mountain biking communities, and more understanding of the benefits of mountain biking. In 2018, IMBA is focused on these five, primary areas: strengthening local mountain bike organizations, accelerating the pace of new trail builds in the U.S., fostering mountain biking communities, getting more people out riding and priming the landscape for expanded riding opportunities.
The mountain biking community is large and incredibly diverse, and we wish to embrace that. We’ll be here if you want to learn how to create trail communities, engage youth and women, get stoked on what it means to be a #mountainbiker, or connect with your local mountain bike club. We believe mountain biking changes lives, and we want to change as many lives as possible. We hope you’ll join us on this ride.
Here's what we're proud of from 2017 and excited about in 2018:
TRAILS: On the trail education, planning, designing and building front, IMBA Trail Solutions was busy growing mountain biking nationwide. Our Trail Solutions team accomplished the following: built (or managed the building of) more than 40 miles of trails; conducted maintenance and upkeep on 135 miles of trails in Arkansas via our Arkansas Trail Crew; hosted 13 advanced trail building schools in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil; completed 13 trail plans with the collective potential for 458 miles of new trails; and created six bike park plans. This work was done in 18 states, from Idaho to Ohio to Wisconsin to Maine.
ACCESS: 2017 was an impressive year for our small-but-mighty advocacy team. Aaron and Eric, supported by other staff, lent their expertise and time to both national and local efforts across the country. As a result, $80,000 in grants were awarded to local trails; bike access was maintained in National Monuments in the west; bike access was restored to a recreation area in Pennsylvania; pro-MTB planning was supported on public lands in Colorado and California; a significant trail closure threat was fended off in southwest Colorado; and additional opportunities to protect land in ways that allow for mountain biking took hold locally in North Carolina and nationally in Congress. Read on for complete details.
MEMBERS: 2017 was also our strongest year, ever, for membership. Last year, we put more money back into chapters than ever before--$167,500 more in 2017 than in 2016. In the fourth quarter of 2017 alone, we sent nearly $300,000 to our chapters between membership revenue and the Dig In Campaign. THANK YOU to everyone who joined for the first time or renewed a longstanding commitment to maintaining a powerful voice for mountain bikers. Most of you are joint IMBA-IMBA Chapter members, meaning you are strengthening both local and national work to make mountain biking bigger and better. Thanks to Niner Bikes, Salsa, Yeti and Jenson USA for supporting our member drives.
Dig In Campaign
2017 was the first year for the IMBA Dig In Campaign, a nationwide fundraising effort we ran on behalf of our chapters to support their local trail projects. 68 groups in 31 states participated. Together, we raised more than $122,000 dollars for 500 new trail miles, maintenance of another 140 miles, 10 new bike parks and 3 projects supporting high school mountain bike racing. More than 1,055 individuals donated $82,000, with the bike industry offering an extra $40,000 in cash support, with more on the way from our give-back purchase partners. We are grateful for each and look forward to making Dig In bigger and better!
Special thanks to CLIF, FOX, Niner, PeopleForBikes, REI and SRAM for supporting Dig In with cash; and thanks to Headsweats, MTB Project, Orange Mud, Showers Pass, Shredly, Sock Guy and Zoic for supporting Dig In with purchase programs.
Note: the second-annual Dig In Campaign will launch spring 2019. We surveyed our chapters and they overwhelming requested that timeframe.
2018 is our 30th Birthday!
Since IMBA's founding in 1988, we’ve helped transform the landscape and set the stage to shift from only fighting threats to seeking out opportunities. We did this by forming educational, productive partnerships with land management agencies at all levels; literally writing the book on sustainable trail building and teaching riders, diggers and land managers coast to coast how to build great trails that last; advocating for and helping to save the federal funding source that is supporting several of these projects; coaching mountain bike groups on how to become healthy nonprofit organizations; and preaching from the rooftops about the benefits of mountain biking, trails and bike parks.
We will be celebrating our Dirty 30 at events across the country all year. Look for us at Sea Otter, Interbike and Dirt Rag Dirt Fest. We will honor the achievements of the past, celebrate the present landscape and plan for a bright future of mountain biking in America. We’ll make announcements about other events as the year rolls along. Bring your bike; we’re going to have some fun!
New for 2018 will be the IMBA women’s Uprising, hosted in beautiful Northwest Arkansas, March 22-25. Dedicated, engaged and influential leaders in the women’s mountain biking space from across the U.S. will gather to network, share ideas, create community and work collectively toward growing female participation in mountain biking. IMBA is working to become an aggregator of useful and inspirational information to support the women's mountain biking community. We will take the feedback, lessons and resources collected during Uprising and make the information available to help galvanize the movement. There are so many great things happening, and we want to make sure the best ideas are shared and given the opportunity to spread. Join us to learn, collaborate and contribute. This will not be another skills clinic or demo. We're going to dig in and figure out how to lift up and resource the whole community.
IMBA’s goal is to catalyze the acceleration of new trail building in the U.S. over the next five years. It means IMBA Trail Solutions getting busy educating, planning, designing and building, and it also means IMBA utilizing creative methods to set the stage for others to do the same. We’re looking at new ways to change the local conversation on a national stage, from forming beneficial partnerships with other advocacy organizations to working with organizations that accredit parks districts. Our goal is for them to understand the economic and health benefits of mountain bike infrastructure and coach them on how and why to incorporate it into U.S. communities large and small. Our success in this space would make it even easier for local groups to get project approval, partnerships and funding. Trail Solutions will also be working to develop trainings with the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service, facilitating advanced trail building schools and hosting professional workshops for trail contractors from across the country.
Under the banner of "Trails For All," IMBA will also work to enable the efforts of cities and towns that want to embrace mountain biking but don’t know how. IMBA will establish a ranking system for states based on their mountain bike offerings, develop in-depth educational tools and create a hands-on learning experience at IMBA Trail Labs in Arkansas.
IMBA spent the past decade focused on its chapters. They have become so sophisticated that it makes sense for IMBA to grow, advance and broaden its scope in the same way they have. When grassroots mountain bike groups achieve their goals, we all benefit. That is why we created IMBA Local: a suite of support services and education tools to enhance the efforts of individual organizations. IMBA Local is the evolution of the chapter program and allows mountain bike groups of all shapes and sizes to engage with IMBA’s expertise, staff, resources and technology. We will offer everything from membership processing services, an annual fundraising campaign and volunteer tracking software to nonprofit status, direct assistance from experts and access to IMBA University online trainings. Membership will no longer be shared with IMBA, and local organizations can engage with (and only pay for) the services they are interested in. IMBA Local is a direct outcome of us working with our chapters to better understand their needs, and will serve organizations nationwide.
IMBA is an educational organization, and was founded on the development and promotion of mountain biker education programs and innovative trail management solutions. For years, our educational efforts happened on a ground level, one person or one group at a time. In 2018, we’re working toward a broader distribution of our 30 years of collective knowledge and experience. We want our resources to be more accessible to an even larger audience. Don’t wait for us to come to you; very soon, you will be able to come to us via IMBA University, webinars and expanded resources covering multiple topics, from trail design to local advocacy. If you still need and want to learn about building trails, we can do that, too. Schedule an IMBA Trail Solutions Advanced Trail Building School if you (and your local land managers) are ready for more and more progressive riding opportunities where you live.
In 2018, IMBA’s advocacy team will focus on three areas: policy, planning and education. At a national level, we will maintain and strengthen our already healthy and productive relationships with federal land management agencies and parter advocacy groups like the Outdoor Alliance. On the policy front, we are focused on one legislative issue and one regulatory issue. IMBA is championing the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, which we helped write. It’s a national, bike-friendly bill that you can read more about, here. We are also working to reform Recommended Wilderness, which is a threat to existing mountain bike access.
On the planning side, we will focus on 5-7, high-priority land management planning processes to ensure they are bike-friendly. When federal land management agencies go through planning at regional levels, it sets the stage for how they manage their resources for the next 20-30 years. If local mountain bikers aren’t involved, we could lose opportunities for more riding. IMBA will work with local groups that engage in the process, know what they want, leverage relationships and find reasonable solutions. You can find an example of how we have done this in our 2017 recap.
Through the IMBA Local program, groups will be able to request formal and focused help from our advocacy team to support their grassroots efforts, as well as access high-level resources to enhance their knowledge base. Education of local groups is a key focus of our advocacy team, so that we’re all stronger when working together.
We’re taking, "by, for and about mountain bikers" much more seriously. In addition to educational campaigns and expanded resources, we’re going to focus more on telling the great stories—your stories. What does it mean to you to be a #mountainbiker? How is mountain biking changing lives and improving communities? We want to cultivate and grow our community, and be a hub for anyone and everyone who wants to engage.
IMBA will continue to preach and shout and praise to whomever will listen—mountain biking is amazing, and it's amazing no matter your age, race, gender or geographic location. It saves us; it shapes us; it gives us sanity and smiles. It builds healthier kids and more viable communities. It gives families a way to play together and brings friends together. For cities and towns, it puts money in their coffers and engaged volunteer citizens on their rosters. It protects landscapes from unnecessary development and degradation, and provides a much-needed connection to and appreciation of our natural world.
And that’s one hell of a story to tell.
Mountain biking is fun, and that’s what we embrace wholeheartedly and remember daily as we combat the threats and embrace the opportunities that affect our nationwide community. Whatever trail types you ride, wherever you call home, whatever bike(s) you own, you are a #mountainbiker. Please consider making a difference and becoming a contributing part of our crazy-diverse-rad tribe by supporting IMBA or joining your local IMBA Chapter, today.