Advocacy work isn’t often fun or compelling reading. But it is important. Vitally important. Which is why we went to the IMBA World Summit. There is much to talk about from the summit, but since we all know most of us riders won’t want to read about the nitty-gritty, I’m going to hit you with a Monday afternoon listicle. Expect more in-depth coverage in the future. In no particular order:
Top Ten Takeaways from the IMBA World Summit
1- Getting people together is important.
Emails and video chats are helpful communication tools, but nothing comes close to the energy, creativity and communication that happens when people with similar goals gather in one place. I’m still buzzing with good ideas and motivation.
2- E-mountain bikes are a developing issue
IMBA didn’t really say anything that new about the e-bike situation at the Summit. The results of a trail study were released, revealing that e-mtbs had slightly more impact on the trail surface than mountain bikes, and a lot less than a traditional motorcycle. The main takeaway is that IMBA thinks e-mtbs should be treated as motorized vehicles, but they should also be treated differently than dirt bikes.
3- Dave Wiens as new board chairman is a great move
I sat next Dave Wiens at the Saturday VIP gala. It was only a few minutes of chatting between speakers and auctions, but it reinforced the overall consensus that Dave will do a great job as Chairman. I also dropped some hints that Pittsburgh might be an awesome future location for a future summit…
4- IMBA isn’t against bikes in Wilderness
After all the “us versus them” kerfuffle that resulted when Sustainable Trails Coalition popped up as a new lobbying group, it is good to remember IMBA isn’t against bikes in Wilderness, it just doesn’t have the bandwidth (or legal standing) to deal with this issue that only a affects a small amount of trails in the U.S.. I know I missed this joint statement that was released in May that really puts to bed any lingering doubt about the the different structures of IMBA and STC and why they make a good team.
5- Bentonville is the example we need to get our local governments on board for more trails
With multiple trail systems, a huge public skills park just down the road in Rogers, Arkansas, growing transportation infrastructure for bikes, and a bike-friendly local government, Bentonville is impressive. Yes, there are other forces at work in Bentonville, namely funds for these developments due to a mountain-biker grandson of Sam Walton, but none of this would happen without the passion and vision of the local trails groups and the local government.
6- Group ride rules need to be developed
IMBA has rules of the trail, it is time to develop rules for group rides as well. The long standing rule that you wait at trail intersections for the rider behind you seems to be lost, as evidenced by my group ride turning into a solo ride on the last day of the summit. No anger here, as I don’t get lost easily and had a hell of a good ride by myself, but still, let’s work on this together. Group rides are an amazing way to attract new riders, but those new riders need to feel like they won’t be left behind if they lose contact with the group.
7- Trails are just one piece of the puzzle to grow ridership
Access to trails without long drives, less intimidating group rides, getting kids on bikes and in the woods, figuring out the e-mtb thing, expanding ridership among women and minorities. IMBA is more that just building trails, and more than just getting a place at the government table to present our needs as cyclists. We have a lot of work to do to keep the sport healthy and growing. IMBA is well aware of that, but we all need to be thinking of these things as we work to improve riding in our hometowns.
8- Women are well-represented in the advocacy ranks
IMBA is evenly staffed among men and women, and my unscientific observations of attendees put women at higher than normal for a riding event. This is good news for everyone.
9- No one else is doing this work on this scale
From lobbying the federal government to helping local clubs build the trails you are riding, IMBA is has a huge mission. I can be hard to wrap your mind around all of the things IMBA has on its plate. It is easy to cherry-pick an issue and use that criticism to dismiss IMBA as a whole. Don’t do that.
10- Don’t blame IMBA for your boring local trails
I’ve fallen prey to this one, too. After riding the new Coiler trail system in Bentonville, Arkansas, it is really, really obvious that IMBA’s guidelines don’t result in boring trails. If you want world-class trails, it might take hiring world-class trail builders. There are certainly some exceptions to the rule that if you want professional results, hire a professional, but expecting stellar results from a patchwork of volunteer labor and amature trail design is bound to disappoint.
If you read this far, thanks. Support IMBA. And watch this video.