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Ride Center Evaluation Overview and Application Materials

The IMBA Ride Center program has evolved since it was announced in 2007. In 2011, we introduced Minnesota's Cuyuna Lakes as a bronze-level Ride Center, the first example of IMBA's new tiered (gold, silver, bronze) recognition system, and the first facility to be evaluated under the new criteria.

Click here to download a PDF offering detailed documentation of the Ride Center criteria.

Recognizing the need for a flexible and dynamic approach to identify world-class mountain bike facilities, IMBA now uses a systemized evaluation and application process. This benefits IMBA’s community partners by providing clear guidelines and a coherent process for them to follow as they seek Ride Center recognition.

The evaluation and application process begins with an invitation to apply from a senior member of IMBA's staff. The evaluation will be carried out by IMBA staff — particularly Regional Directors and the Director of Consulting Services — working closely with local representatives. The involvement of an IMBA Chapter is a strong advantage for applicants.

Application Process

Among the typical applicants for Ride Center recognition are communities, land management agencies, private landowners, Chambers of Commerce and cycling organizations. All candidates must be invited to apply for Ride Center status by a member of the IMBA senior staff, who will become the applicant’s sponsor.

Applicants will undertake the following steps to apply for the Ride Center designation:

Step 1) Invitation to Apply

The IMBA sponsor will invite the applicant to undertake the review process. Sponsors will only invite applicants who have a good chance of meeting at least the minimum requirements to be designated a Ride Center.

Step 2) Detailed Application Submittal

With the assistance of the sponsor, the applicant will submit a detailed application in a format provided by IMBA. This detailed application will contain comprehensive questions about how the proposed location meets the Ride Center evaluation criteria (see below). It is anticipated that the detailed application will require significant effort to complete (e.g., up to 40 hours of effort).

The sponsor will review the application for completeness and return it to the applicant if any information is missing. Once the sponsor determines that the application is complete it will advance to the next step.

Step 3) Detailed Application Review

The sponsor will forward the application to a review committee consisting of IMBA's Regional Directors and an ad hoc assembly of other relevant stakeholders, including other IMBA staff and associates/affiliates with knowledge of the project location.

The review committee will evaluate the application and grade it against the evaluation criteria. A weighted grading system will be utilized and the grading information will be transparent so that it results in a concise, personalized report for distribution to the applicant. The review process should also, whenever possible, include a site visit by persons qualified to review the applicant’s statements about the quality of facilities, particularly the riding experience.

The evaluation will cumulate in a grading of the application that will correlate to a yes/no decision to confer the Ride Center designation. The grading will also indicate what rating (see below) the Ride Center is to receive if it passes the minimum requirements.

Step 4) Ongoing Evaluation

Existing Ride Centers must apply for re-evaluation every four years, with communities submitting updated detailed applications to the sponsor for review. If a Ride Center is not submitted for review then IMBA reserves the right to remove the designation. Applicants may be invited reapply as often as every two years if they have undertaken significant improvements that would either garner them the Ride Center designation or a higher rating.

Application Timeline

Spring - Applicants are contacted by IMBA sponsor to initiate review process.

Summer - Applicants complete evaluation and submit to IMBA sponsor.

Fall - Applications are reviewed. New Ride Centers are announced in the fall edition of the IMBA Trail News (ITN).

Evaluation Criteria

The designation and rating (and potential delisting or demotion) of a Ride Center shall be based on clear criteria. These criteria will not always be objective, and some will necessarily be subjective, but in all cases they will relate to providing great riding opportunities.

Rating System) If a proposed Ride Center is approved it will be assigned a rating based on the Evaluation Criteria score and subjective input from the evaluative committee. The ratings given are Bronze, Silver, and Gold. The ratings will allow for gradation, encourage improvement, and foster feedback to applicants without implying criticism.

The status implied by a given rating will be an effective method for attracting riders to a Ride Center. When an existing Ride Center is being reviewed the evaluation committee can confirm, advance, or demote the current rating. This will encourage applicants to continually maintain or improve their Ride Center.

Ride Center Geographic Area) A Ride Center’s geographic area shall be all the facilities within a 30-minute travel time radius (as determined by Google Maps) from a determined center point; travel can be performed using a personal vehicle, bicycle, or public transportation. The legal trail and bicycling opportunities that start within this area are considered the trail system that is being evaluated in the application.

Regional Ride Centers can be created by agglomerating several Ride Centers that exist within a two-hour drive time radius, but the individual Ride Centers cannot have overlapping territories and must stand alone on their own merits.

Benefits of Ride Centers) Communities who are designated as a Ride Center are clearly identified as being the best place to go mountain bicycling, and will see an increase in both visitors and the quality of life for residents through improved opportunities for outdoor recreation. IMBA will promote the Ride Centers through our website and other communications (e.g., press releases, IMBA Trail News, eNews, IMBA Destinations, etc). Communities will also receive a plaque denoting their status.

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