IMBA Summit, June 18-21, 2008

The IMBA Summit is the biannual international gathering of mountain bike advocates, this year held in lovely Park City, Utah. With around 350 advocates in attendance, it’s a virtual who’s who of advocacy.

Wednesday Night’s opening ceremonies took place at Olympic park, where a team of top-level freestyle skiers put on a show for us while we ate, drank and schmoozed, bombing down giant training jumps and getting huge air into a pool of water while we watch.

But the first jumper was none other than Mike Van Abel, Executive director of IMBA. This may have seemed like a silly stunt, but for me it typified the bold audacity that has gotten us mountain bikers so much success in the advocacy arena.

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Thursday morning, and I grab breakfast and sit down next to Philip Keyes, head on NEMBA and Dirt Rag’s access editor. Little did I know that I’d also be sitting with Kozo Shimano, president of Shimano and Mary Bomar, the director of our National Park Service. Big company.

Thursday morning’s keynote was by John Burke, the head of Trek Bicycles. John pointed out several big picture problems and adverse conditions: Obesity, traffic congestion, the move of humans into the urban areas, and the environment.

Problems? No, Opportunities! Burke’s positive thinking really got the crowd going, and really energized us to go out and do our good deeds.

Trek has stepped up in a big way. They are taxing themselves $10 for each full suspension bike sold. That amounted to $350,000 last year, which was given directly to IMBA to build more trails. Burke then challenged all the other bike companies to step up as well. This would generate ten times as much dough, 3.5 million to build trails! John was not shy regarding his ulterior motives for such funding. More trails equals more sales! Any bike industry types out there listening? Up for the challenge? (Yes! Cannondale would be the next summit attendee to step up, with commitments announced the following day. Others companies are sure to follow, many other companies have been setting the pace with IMBA since the beginning).

After the morning Kumbaya, we all headed off to the various sessions, all designed to make us better advocates. Sessions on everything from urban bike park building to national wilderness issues are covered, but since I was here representing my local group, PTAG, I attended a seminar on successful grassroots organizing.

There would be lunch, then two more rounds of afternoon sessions. Sustainable trails, club leadership, effective communication, risk management are some of the other topics to be covered. So many opportunities, it was difficult to decide which to attend.

After filling one’s brain to the top with all the great ideas flowing through the halls, there’s only one way to top off the day, a ride on Park City trails. Out to Bob’s Basin, stay tuned…

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