We’ve spent many an hour around Dirt Rag headquarters talking about how valuable an online trail database would be to the mountain bike community. Throughout the years there’s been a multitude of attempts, but few of those efforts gained lasting traction. That is, until now. In May of this year, MTB Project celebrated its first anniversary with thousands of miles of crowd-sourced trail information. This online and app-based trail guide is a partnership between IMBA and MTB Project out of Boulder, Colorado.
Inspiration for MTB Project evolved out of IMBA’s desire to tell the story of the organization’s hard work and subsequent success throughout the years. IMBA knew they didn’t have the bandwidth or technical expertise to pull off such a big project, so they went searching for a technology partner. That search lead them to the MTB Project team due to their experience with crowd sourcing a catalogue of more than 100,000 climbing routes used by over 2,500,000 climbers via their Mountain Project website (mountainproject.com). Once the logistics of partnering a for-profit corporation and a non-profit organization were worked out, both parties sprung into action developing the website infrastructure and populating trail data.
MTB Project shares the trail data with IMBA, who uses the information to show land managers how trails are being used. MTB Project supports the website development and operation with advertising and partnerships to provide this resource free to the mountain biking community. IMBA supports the site with the help of regional volunteer chapters around the country, and with staff Mapping Specialist, Leslie Kehmeier and a team of mapping interns providing oversight and mapping expertise.
Kehmeier explains the importance of this program to IMBA: “MTB Project is not only a resource for where to ride, but is an important tool for carrying out the IMBA mission to protect, enhance and create great trail experiences worldwide.”
As Kehmeier points out, the local communities also benefit: “MTB Project is important to the mountain bike community because it showcases the work they do to provide value to their communities and the important relationships that have been created with land managers. In addition to the local expert knowledge they provide through maps, photos and descriptions, IMBA chapters and clubs are featured prominently on each page on the MTB Project site.”
Last summer I spent a bit of time perusing MTB Project for rides we could hit on vacation. Sadly, at that point there wasn’t a ton of trail data. Fast forward a year and I’m finding a ton more data for this year’s vacation. What a difference a little over a year makes. There’s now over 31,000 miles of trails recorded and user traffic is accelerating.
As with all crowd-sourced endeavors, the data is only as good what the community is willing and able to provide. You’ll be happy to hear that every entry on MTB Project is sanity checked behind the scenes. MTB Project’s Mike Ahnemann explains the process: “IMBA and MTB Project have worked together to setup a rigorous trail review process. We’ve reviewed every single trail on the site for legality and accuracy, and we’ve worked to make sure that rides are well described, with great imagery to help tell the full story. There isn’t another resource like this for mountain biking.”
For me, one of the most exciting aspects of mountain biking is riding someplace new. As MTB Project continues to grow, our ability to travel and easily experience new rides will increase exponentially. Given that, I’d like to encourage everyone to record and upload their favorite ride for the world to see. That way, the next time you’re traveling, you can explore and enjoy someone else’s favorite ride.