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Our history

30-plus years of progress

IMBA was founded in 1988 by a group of California mountain bike clubs concerned about the closure of trails to bicyclists. Those pioneers believed that the development and promotion of mountain biker education programs and innovative trail management solutions were the key to gaining and maintaining access. The threats have evolved but IMBA’s focus on opportunities for riders has remained steadfast.

1988
IMBA's first conference

Responsible riding

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Access 1988
Responsible riding

We created, copyrighted and published the "Six Rules of the Trail” to encourage responsible riding and ease land manager fears of adding bikes to singletrack. It would take only two years for the rules of the trail to be distributed to 1 million people. We also hosted an IMBA Conference and Festival, “dedicated to meeting the nationwide crisis in trail closures to mountain bikes.” Forty-eight people attended.

1989
mountain bikers in 1989

Research and education

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Trails 1989
Research and education

We sponsored our first trail research project in partnership with Montana State University, and produced an educational paper called “What to Do to Prevent Trail Closures.” We also joined with several other cycling advocacy groups and bicycle companies to form a national Mountain Bicycle Task Force to raise money for advocacy and to promote responsible riding.

1990
IMBA at 1991 Interbike

Getting serious

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Community 1990
Getting serious

We co-hosted the first national mountain bike conference and workshop in Washington, D.C., called “Mountain Bikes on Public Land: Access, Accommodations and Management,” and convened our first meetings with the Bureau of Land Management at the inaugural UCI World Championship for mountain biking in Durango, CO.

1992
1992 Land Access Alert

The more you know

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Community 1992
The more you know

By this time, we were publishing our newsletter bi-monthly and was distributing it to land managers, mountain bikers, local organizations and other trail user groups nationwide. It contained mountain bike access news, valuable environmental-impact research, pro-mountain bike editorials, educational information for volunteers and club leaders, and reminders to ride responsibly.

1994

Monumental agreements

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Monumental agreements

IMBA and The Sierra Club reached a monumental agreement, in which the influential organization recognized mountain biking as a “legitimate form of recreation and transportation on trails, including singletrack.” We also signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Forest Service that encouraged the agency to promote mountain biking.

1995
1995 IMBA Trail Development Book

The first trail bible

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Trails 1995
The first trail bible

We published Trail Development & Construction for Mountain Bicycling. It was the first-ever comprehensive, professional and widely-distributed manual designed to “aid cyclists in the development of trails, particularly the … type of trails we so enjoy.” 

1996
1996 More New Trails

More new trails

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Trails 1996
More new trails

We published the first edition of Managing Mountain Bikes, A Guide for Activists and Land Managers. That same year, the first round of RockShox/IMBA Club Assistance Grants were awarded, and our affiliated clubs built more than 400 miles of new trails and donated 150,000 volunteer hours to trailwork.

1997
19997 First IMBA Trail Care Crew

Trail Care Crew launches

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Community 1997
Trail Care Crew launches

The Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew program began its nearly 20-year run training local volunteers to organize productively and build sustainable singletrack. We also hired our first advocacy director, Jennifer Lamb, whose job it was to begin building clout for mountain biking in the halls of government.

1998

The BLM joins in

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The BLM joins in

We signed a partnership agreement with the Bureau of Land Management on the agency’s 50th anniversary and our 10th. The partnership would result in hundreds of miles of routes established, signed, and designated open to bicycling at a rapid pace over the next several years.

1999
1999 Beginning of IMBA EPICS

This is EPIC

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Trails 1999
This is EPIC

The IMBA EPICS were born. We picked four great mountain bike trails in Colorado, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and California, and highlighted them through a series of celebration rides. We still celebrate these challenging, long-distance, backcountry rides and honor them as model trail experiences.

2000
2000 National access progresses

National Access progresses

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National Access progresses

IMBA president Ashley Korenblat met with President Bill Clinton to discuss mountain biking rules in National Monuments, which would become a mountain bike-friendly land designation. We also signed a new, cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Land Management and a five-year memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Forest Service, building on past agreements.

2001
2001 MTB classification win

MTB Classification Win

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MTB Classification Win

An IMBA campaign helped reverse a threatening Bureau of Land Management decision. After receiving more than 10,000 comment letters from mountain bikers in 30 days, the agency decided not to group mountain bikes with motorized vehicles in a new management plan, protecting access to untold miles of trails.

2002
2002 IMBA Trail Solutions Launches

Educate, Plan, Design, Build

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Trails 2002
Educate, Plan, Design, Build

IMBA Trail Solutions launched, headed by former Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew members Joey Klein and Rich Edwards. The program has since led the planning, design and/or construction of more than 400 trail and bike park projects worldwide. Also that year, we signed agreements with the Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance program of the National Park Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which assured that mountain biking would have a strong presence on multiple trail projects nationwide.

2003
2003 IMBA goes to Washington DC

IMBA goes to Washington

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IMBA goes to Washington

We hired a D.C. law firm to represent the interests of mountain bikers in Congress, supported by our Legal Defense Fund. We would retain our own D.C. representation for more than a decade (after which we transferred support to the Outdoor Alliance—an organization we helped found that is headquartered in the nation’s capital—to create an even stronger, allied presence in D.C.).

2004
2004 more kids on mtb

More kids and more trails

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Community 2004
More kids and more trails

We launched Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day inspired, in part, by the belief that mountain biking could help reverse the national trend of childhood obesity. We also published the first edition of IMBA Trail Solutions, a 272-page book that combined cutting-edge trail building techniques with proven fundamentals in a colorful, easy-to-read format. ​​​​​​​

2005
2005 progress in NPS

Progress in National Parks

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Progress in National Parks

We signed a five-year agreement with the National Park Service (NPS) and for the first time, the NPS formally recognized mountain biking as a positive activity, “compatible with the values of our national parks.”

2006
2006 acceptable use

An acceptable use

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An acceptable use

We worked with the U.S. Forest Service on its National Trail Classification System to support the agency in categorizing mountain biking as an “activity generally acceptable on all trail classes” that is also separate from motorized uses. ​​​​​​​

2007
2007 trail volunteers

Great rides, Strong voices

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Community 2007
Great rides, Strong voices

We launched the Ride Center program to recognize and encourage all-around great trail communities; published Managing Mountain Biking: IMBA's Guide to Providing Great Riding; and joined with several other national recreation advocacy groups to form the Outdoor Alliance—a U.S. organization that unites the voices of outdoor enthusiasts to conserve public lands and ensure those lands are managed in a way that embraces the human-powered experience.

2008
2008 professionalizing mtb trails

Professionalizing MTB trails

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Trails 2008
Professionalizing MTB trails

We supported federal legislation that promoted mountain biking as an “appropriate” summer-use activity at ski areas nationwide, and partnered with the Professional Trailbuilders Association to host a two-day workshop on how to become a professional trail builder with a first-ever focus on mountain bike-specific opportunities.

2009
2009 international progress

Progress across the pond

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Progress across the pond

The SRAM Cycling Fund partnered with us to launch IMBA Europe and bring together existing mountain bike advocacy groups with a particular focus on policies and funding coming from the European Commission. By this time, we had partners and/or offices in Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom.

2010
2010 Protecting national trails

Protecting trails nationwide

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Protecting trails nationwide

The IMBA Public Lands Initiative launched and, by 2012, had protected or expanded nearly 3,000 miles of trails across the country, trained hundreds of volunteer advocates and reduced by nearly 90 percent the number trails threatened by Wilderness designations.

2011
2011 Protecting land &access

Protecting lands & access

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Protecting lands & access

At the outset of 2011, mountain bikers faced a real threat of getting kicked off trails managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), particularly in areas classified as “Wild Lands.” Our staff held meetings with top-ranking BLM officials and clarified that biking is compatible with strong land protection measures. We turned the discussions to riders’ advantage by planning for enhanced partnerships between the BLM and IMBA-affiliated chapters and clubs in the U.S.

2012
2012 NPS allows mtb bikes

Our investment surges

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Community 2012
Our investment surges

We partnered with the National Parks Service (NPS) on a formal rule change that allows for mountain biking in NPS properties, if the superintendent desires. Also that year, our investment in services and programs that directly supported the advocacy, membership and other needs of local affiliates surpassed $1 million, annually.

2013
2013 IMBA 25 year anniversary

25 Years and Counting

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Trails 2013
25 Years and Counting

We partnered with Adventure Projects to create MTBProject.com with help from Shimano and PeopleForBikes. The site, and its associated app, (now owned by REI) is one of the premier mountain bike trail- and ride-finding resources in the U.S.

2014
2014 Trail Innovations

Pushing trail innovations

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Trails 2014
Pushing trail innovations

Bike Parks: IMBA’s Guide to New School Trails, was published. This book examines all phases of planning, designing, building and operating bike parks and large-scale bike-specific facilities and was the first of its kind.

2015
2015 Youth MTB Leaders

Youth MTB leaders

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Community 2015
Youth MTB leaders

We joined with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) to create the Teen Trail Corps, a national strategic initiative designed to inspire and empower today’s youth to become effective trail advocates and stewards.

2016
2016 IMBA operating at a high level

Operating at a High Level

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Trails 2016
Operating at a High Level

We played a significant role in passing the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act, which addresses the vast trail maintenance backlog on our national forests and streamlines opportunities for volunteer stewardship. Also that year, IMBA Trail Solutions began offering advanced trailbuilding schools across the U.S. and around the world.

2017
2017 Quality Trail Experiences

Seeking quality trail experiences

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Trails 2017
Seeking quality trail experiences

The Bureau of Land Management collaborated with us and others to develop and publish the Guidelines for a Quality Trail Experience (GQTE), a 100+ page book intended to improve the design, construction and management of mountain bike trails all across the country. Also that year, IMBA and its network of grassroots mountain bike advocates contributed more than $2.8 million of in-kind volunteer labor to our U.S. trails and public lands.

2017
2017 IMBA DigIn Campaign

More funds for trails

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Trails 2017
More funds for trails

The IMBA Dig In Campaign, a 60-day crowdfunding effort, 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. Sixty-eight local mountain bike clubs participated in 31 states. ​​​​​​​

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The future is bright, too

Here's a snapshot of what we're working on, now.

“The way to get access is to prove the value of mountain biking. IMBA has left a wake of economic development in its path and ... people are starting to realize how valuable trails are.”

Ashley Korenblat

Past IMBA board president

Resource MTB Research 06.21.18
Economic and Health Benefits of Bicycling in Northwest Arkansas
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Blog Community 08.20.18
Class is now in session
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IMBA Uprising Blog Image
Blog Community 03.26.18
IMBA UPRISING
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News release Trails 08.29.18
First Recipients of IMBA’s New Trail Accelerator Grants Announced
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GQTE cover
Resource Trail Planning and Design 01.27.18
Guidelines for a Quality Trail Experience, GQTE
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Interested in supporting this work?

Join your IMBA Local group, donate to national efforts, sign up for our email newsletter, go ride an IMBA EPICS route, get educated about trail development. Whichever you choose, your involvement in the mountain biking community makes a difference. 

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