Dirt Rag Magazine

Featured Ride: Paradise Royale Loop

Photos courtesy of MTB Project.



This mountain-bike-specific trail system in the Paradise Ridge area of the King Range National Conservation Area is the result of a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), along with the Redwood Coast Mountain Bike Association.

The 11.6-mile Paradise Royale Loop is a great introduction to the Paradise Royale Trail System, gaining a little over 2,200 feet of elevation along the way.

If you’d like some additional mileage, add in an out-and-back run on the Pacific Rim Trail as you see fit. If you want to go big, park at the shelter cove lot and and ride Courtyard and Pacific Rim out to the Paradise Royale Loop, then return on Pacific Rim and Courtyard. That’ll be a big day on the bike; nearly 30 miles and nearly 6,000 feet of climbing.

Paradise Royale Loop4

Be sure to research your visit on MTB Project prior to visiting.

Photos courtesy of MTB Project.



Video: Adventures of Slowmo Bro, part 2

Adventures of Slowmo Bro” is a video series produced for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) that features professional mountain bikers teaching lessons on trail etiquette and trail maintenance. NICA oversees middle and high school mountain bike racing and launched this series with the support of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

Episode 2 features Greg Minnaar and Kate Courtney (the current U23 Cross Country National Champ) plus a cameo appearance from Dirt Rag’s own founder and publisher, Maurice Tierney.


Apply for a Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew Visit

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is now accepting applications for 2016 visits from the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew, IMBA’s grassroots educational program. Featuring a traveling team of two as well as nine regional staff members, the program offers everything from sustainable trail building schools to high-level land manager trainings, as well as organizational support for IMBA chapters and clubs.

IMBA experts work year-round throughout the United States, meeting with local mountain bike organizations, their land manager partners and the communities they serve to improve trail riding opportunities.

Jordan Carr and Lani Bruntz, the current Trail Care Crew. Photo: IMBA/Joshua Lawton

The Trail Care Crew program has inspired great volunteer trail work across the U.S. and abroad — a big help to government agencies and land managers who have limited funding for trail construction and upkeep. As a direct result, there are now thousands of new and improved trails in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico and several European countries.

Most local riding communities can benefit from the Trail Care Crew’s expertise. The crew offers many valuable services, including:

  • Expert training on sustainable trail design, construction and maintenance
  • Club/chapter development assistance
  • Land manager training sessions
  • Economic development presentations
  • Community goal-setting and engagement

The deadline to submit requests for 2016 visits is November 15, 2015. Anyone may apply, but preference is given to organizations that submit thorough applications with clear goals in mind.

IMBA events are generally free and open to the public.


IMBA picks Arkansas to host next World Summit

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) announced that its 2016 World Summit will be held November 10-12, 2016, in Bentonville, Arkansas.

“Bentonville, specifically, and Northwest Arkansas, regionally, have shown a commitment to developing world-class mountain biking trails,” said IMBA President and USA Executive Director Mike Van Abel. “I look forward to introducing mountain bikers from around the world to the wonderful opportunities these trails provide. The moderate year-round climate of this region provides access to bikers any time they see fit.”

Photo: MTB Project/Leslie Kehmeier

Photo: MTB Project/Leslie Kehmeier

IMBA expects as many as 800 people–registrants and industry representatives–to attend the 2016 conference in part because of its middle-America location.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson called his state’s mountain biking trail system “one of the world’s best-kept secrets.” The governor said he’s looking forward to welcoming conference participants to next year’s summit, and is eagerly anticipating its lasting impact on economic development.

“The conference itself is important to Northwest Arkansas, and the state as a whole,” said Gov. Hutchinson. “But this is also an opportunity to solidify Arkansas as a first-choice destination for bikers for years to come.”

The summit’s headquarters will be at 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, and will consist of educational programs on a variety of subjects ranging from safety to trail maintenance. There will also be group rides and scheduled rides for participants on the region’s most scenic trails including, but not limited to, Mount Kessler, Slaughter Pen, Lake Atalanta, Lake Fayetteville and Railyard Bike Park.

Kalene Griffith, president and CEO of Visit Bentonville, said that though Bentonville is acting as host for the conference, the entire region should reap the economic rewards, which Griffith conservatively estimated at $500,000.

Mike Malone, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said IMBA’s selection of Bentonville for the 2016 World Summit serves as a validation of the decades of work throughout the region to enhance quality of life.

“Our region has built a growing and impressive trail system that is now being recognized by mountain biking enthusiasts all over the world,” said Malone. “This will not only help us to attract visitors but it is also already helping attract talent to live and work in Northwest Arkansas.”

IMBA also announced that it received a $275,000 grant from the Arkansas-based Walton Family Foundation to help provide professional maintenance of the state’s five designated IMBA Epic Trails, accounting for almost 200 miles of mountain biking trails. Arkansas will become the only state to utilize full-time professional crews.

Photo: MTB Project/Leslie Kehmeier

Photo: MTB Project/Leslie Kehmeier

Those trails comprise Ouachita National Recreation Trail, which stretches between Highway 88 west of Mena to Scenic Highway 7 north of Hot Springs; Womble Trail winding through the Ouachita National Forest; Lovit Trail, which runs south of Lake Ouachita; Syllamo Trail, located outside of Mountain View; and, Upper Buffalo Trail, which is a challenging course through Ozark National Forest.

Van Abel said this is an example of Arkansas’ desire to be an elite locale for mountain biking enthusiasts.

“In most cases, trail maintenance is performed by volunteers who do an outstanding job,” said Van Abel. “But having a professional team whose sole focus is the maintenance and beautification of the trails is important as we work to make Arkansas a premier destination.”

Arkansas’ five IMBA Epic trails ties it with Colorado for the second most designations behind California, which has seven.



IMBA announces new Epic Rides and Ride Centers

Courtesy of IMBA


Park City, Utah, is now one of six Gold Level IMBA Ride Centers.

For more than a decade, IMBA has recognized trails and trail systems around the world that stand out as models for the best that mountain biking has to offer. From rugged, long-distance treks to front-country networks that challenge and excite riders of all ability levels, the Model Trails program is designed to inspire the kinds of experiences that keep mountain bikers coming back for more.

“More” is definitely the right word to describe the 2015 class of inductees. In the Epics category, the six selected rides average over 60 miles in length, and offer stout challenges—along with jaw-dropping scenery—for even the most experienced trail enthusiasts. In the Ride Centers category, the interest and growth in this designation has absolutely exploded, with an unprecedented number of applications and fully 13 of these outstanding trail systems recognized this year.

This year’s class includes our first round of renewing Ride Centers: Each location is now required to resubmit an application every four years. To maintain a high level of consistency a reviewer from IMBA’s Trail Solutions team conducts an on-site visit to evaluate the center’s trail system, bike amenities and other criteria. “Earning a top-tier score keeps getting more difficult,” says IMBA Field Programs Director Chris Bernhardt. “We want to continually set the bar higher—just as riders’ abilities are always expanding and improving, so should the facilities that we recognize as the best places for mountain biking.”

2015 Epics

Armstrong to Strawberry in California, 39 miles: This 90-percent singletrack route ranges from fast and flowing to technical and chunky. Soak in the views of Lake Tahoe and views of the southern Sierra. There are dramatic views of Strawberry Valley from the top of Lover’s Leap, 1,100 feet above the deck, just before the final rip-roaring descent.

Black Canyon Trail in Arizona, 68 miles: Riding the BCT from north to south offers a long, gradually descending route with plenty of pedaling and backcountry flavor. The northern segments vary from open desert to tight canyons. The middle sections, from Bumble Bee to the Table Mesa trailhead, offer the most dramatic scenery and adventurous riding.

High Country Pathway in Michigan, 82 miles: From beautiful hill top vistas to dark, cool cedar swamps and pine plantations, the HCP provides an extended journey deep in the woods of Michigan. Home to the largest free range elk herd this side of the Mississippi, the route crosses through three counties with very little sign of civilization.

Laugavegur Route in Iceland, 54 miles: A mind-blowing, multi-day, overland route in the highlands of Iceland. On this point-to-point hut adventure you’ll ride singletrack through a multitude of landscapes including geysers, multi-colored Rhyolite mountains, bubbling mud, endless lava fields and glaciated mountain vistas. The 54-mile trip is best tackled as three long days or five shorter rides. The last day from Þórsmörk to Skogafoss is truly epic and travels between two major glaciers, across the slopes of a cooling volcano.

Ouachita NRT in Arkansas, 108 miles: Newly opened to mountain bikes, this long-distance National Recreation Trail explores remote sections of the Ouachita Mountains. Expect rugged trail surfaces and some hike-a-bike, but also rideable climbs and rowdy downhill sections. The trail also connects with the Womble Trail, another IMBA Epic in Montgomery County—string them together for a mega-Epic!

Surveyor’s Ridge Loop in Oregon, 21 miles: One of the top trails in the state of Oregon, Surveyor’s Ridge is a Pacific Northwest must-ride. This is a true ridgeline ride, with aggressive short climbs and descents to distract you from the gorgeous views of Mount Hood. Expect technical rocky sections, open alpine meadows and a mountainous vibe from start to finish.

2015 Ride Centers

Enteries marked with an asterisk (*) had already obtained Ride Center status and were reevaluated in 2015.

Gold-level Ride Centers

Boise/Eagle, Idaho

The trick to being both a phenomenal place to be a mountain biker and a major metro area is community dedication to accessible, recreation-friendly open space. In the Boise area, this all started more than 20 years ago when creative mountain bikers and land managers planned an extensive trail system to offer great riding and community connectivity via a large singletrack network. Today, thanks in large part to a variety of volunteer-led groups, including the Boise Area Mountain Bike Association, you’ll find everything from rocky, mountainous terrain to buff trails and a bike park, all accessible from Boise and Eagle.

Duluth, Minnesota

From the buffed-out, flowing trails at Lester to the freerider’s playgrounds at Piedmont and Brewer, the riding in Duluth is both high-quality and highly varied. The entire community has embraced trail-based recreation, including a major initiative to create the Duluth Traverse. This in-progress effort—led in part by the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores—will result in a 100-mile singletrack ride in an urban environment.

Nelson, New Zealand

Riding Nelson’s trails is a year-round adventure, with sunny days with bluebird skies the norm throughout the year. The riding options include several bike parks, as well as more natural trail in both plantation forest and native bush. The range of trail types is amazing, from gentle, family-oriented trail riding to full-on downhill runs, backcountry adventures and everything in between.

Oakridge, Oregon*

This small town styles itself as the mountain bike capital of the Northwest. The local IMBA chapter, the Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards—alongside other stakeholders such as the U.S. Forest Service and local bike-centered businesses—constantly works to improve the mountain bike trail options. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to sample the 30-mile Middle Fork trail, the 20-mile circuit of Waldo Lake and dozens of other high-quality options. But be sure to also leave time to sample the in-town eateries and bars that cater to the knobby-tire set.

Park City, Utah*

Since hosting the IMBA World Summit in 2008, Park City and its trail system have been on the rise. There are now over 450 miles of trail, all accessible from town. In addition to new development, Park City continues to show a strong commitment to maintaining and improving existing trails. Between the volunteer-led Mountain Trails Foundation, various city and county agencies, and the resorts, the collective annual trail budget tops $1 million, resulting in a huge amount of varied, high-quality riding.

Rotorua, New Zealand

According to Redbull’s mountain biking web series On Track, “When we die and go to mountain bike heaven, there’s a good chance it will probably look a lot like Rotorua, New Zealand.” The riding varies from extensive trails in the Whakarewarewa Forest to the gravity park at Skyline Rotorua, New Zealand’s first year-round gondola assisted bike lift. Rotorua also provides a plethora of other activities and attractions, including natural thermal spas and hot pools to rejuvenate your aching muscles after a hard day on the trails.

Silver-level Ride Centers

Cuyuna, Minnesota*

The Cuyuna signature is a cycling experience for families and experts alike that provides, without a doubt, overwhelming fun. More than 25 miles of purpose-built trails wind through a landscape created by 70 years of iron ore mining. Nature has reclaimed the area: water has filled the pits and turned them into 15 deep lakes, and trees and shrubs have taken root on the rocky, rugged landscape. It’s the perfect canvas for crafting year-round trails to conquer by bike, with all the riding skillfully cared for by the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew.

Helena, Montana*

More than 20 different trailheads and 75 miles of singletrack can be accessed from the downtown area of Montana’s Queen City. To top that, Helena offers free shuttles that run five days a week, taking you to the best trailheads in the South Hills Trail System, as well as to the top of the Continental Divide to access the iconic Continental Divide Trail. Farther east, the Trout Creek Canyon-Beartrap Gulch loop navigates steep limestone canyons. Plus, Helena offers a vibrant, in-town cycling scene.

McCall, Idaho

This lakeside community has been quietly assembling a diverse collection of trails with options for every ability level and riding style. Once known for its rugged backcountry trails, the Central Idaho Mountain Bike Association began adding purpose-built  trails. On a summer day, you can ride a fern-lined trail through stands of towering old-growth Ponderosa, then test your skills on a lift-served gravity trail. Or ride an IMBA Epic trail to beautiful Loon Lake and discover the wreckage of a rare WW2 bomber before ending your day with a microbrew and dinner.

Bronze-level Ride Centers

Brown County, Indiana

Just a short distance from the major metro areas of Indianapolis, Louisville and Cincinnati, it’s no secret that Brown County has some of the best mountain biking in the Midwest. You’ll find a 28-mile mile IMBA Epic ride within Brown County State Park, with route options for every skill level. There are many more miles of flowing single track within the state park, plus more being built in the state park and neighboring state forest by the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs isn’t just home to outstanding mountain biking, it’s also a first-class tourist destination. The geothermal baths alone have been bringing visitors to the area for hundreds of years. Trails, horse racing and historic hotels define the downtown area, while three IMBA Epic trails are just a short drive away—including the state’s newest Epic and longest mountain bike trail in the state at 110 miles long, the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. The Central Arkansas Trail Alliance and other volunteer-led groups help keep the trails in top shape.

Reading, Pennsylvania

The Greater Reading Trails System, overseen by the Berks Area Mountain Biking Association, consists of more than 125 miles of trails in 5 major preserves, all of which be accessed via the Schuylkill River Greenway Rail Trail. The trails range in difficulty from beginner-friendly to some of the most technical, rock-strewn trails you’ll experience anywhere. There’s also an abundance of in-town amenities, including bike shops, craft beer bars, hotels, music venues, restaurants and sporting events.

Richmond, Virginia

Big things are happening in Richmond, including the upcoming (Sept. 19-27) World Road Cycling Championships. For dirt lovers, rvaMORE and a host of partners have raised over $325,000 in just two years, opening miles of new trails, including a purpose-built hand-cycle line, plus a flow trail and beginner-level singletrack. Best of all, this is a truly urban-based center, with great connectivity allowing riders to access standout trails without getting into a car.

Twin Cities, Minnesota

Since 1994, the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) IMBA chapter has worked diligently on its mission of “Gaining and Maintaining Trails” in the Twin Cities metro area. Today, MORC oversees 85 miles of singletrack within 11 parks, and is the organization behind the acclaimed Cottage Grove Bike Park. And, during the winter months, there are over 50 miles of groomed singletrack trails to explore and enjoy.


Finally, IMBA’s 2015 Model Trails recognition includes the Northwest Arkansas Regional Ride Center. With theBentonville (silver-level) and Fayetteville (bronze-level) Ride Centers located less than 30 miles apart, the two towns have formed the the first and only region-wide Ride Center designation. Mountain bikers visiting the Ozarks can double-down, with a wide range of riding to choose from and two cycling-crazed communities hosting some of the nation’s finest trails.


Life on the road with the IMBA Trail Care Crew


By Lani Bruntz

Everyday it happens like clockwork: I meet another rider on the trail, or am just pumping gas, and I get asked, “So, where do you live?” I still stumble over the answer, which usually ends up being, “On the road,” or, “In that there Subaru.”

Before I can explain, I am interrupted with, “But where do you really live?” Depending on the day, I usually just give an answer that people are expecting to hear, which is to pick one place, a definitive home-base that I go back to. I either tell them Idaho, where I lived one year ago, or Colorado, where I grew up.


But the truth is, my boyfriend Jordan Carr and I live out of a brightly colored, hard-to-miss Subaru Outback, flashing the IMBA logo, complete with two Trek bikes on the back and a Yakima roof box bursting with dirty riding gear and trail building tools. We travel the country working to share our passion for mountain biking and trail-based recreation as members of the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew. We visit a different community each and every weekend to educate the local mountain bikers and trail users on sustainable trail development. We collaborate with land managers to find the balance between their agency goals and providing quality recreational opportunities to benefit both locals and visitors. We discuss the health and economic benefits with community officials in hopes of getting them excited about trails.


Every weekend, whether it’s in Brookings, South Dakota; or Ithaca, New York; or Moab, Utah; we are welcomed into the community by enthusiastic mountain bikers eager to improve access to trails and the experience of those trails. I accepted this job dreaming of all the different trails I would ride, and never adequately anticipated the impact these communities would have on me. In each place we visit, passionate individuals have mobilized into tight-knit communities—individuals who may have never crossed paths otherwise.  It is a passion for the sport of mountain biking and a passion to build and have high-quality trail experiences that bond these individuals.

Regardless of anyone’s profession, background, or even their riding ability level, bikes break barriers that would otherwise inhibit relationships. Riding bikes provides a platform for friendships to develop and, most of all, for a community of likeminded individuals to flourish. As the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew, my boyfriend and I take bits and pieces from each visit and share them with the next, weaving together a stronger, bigger and more inclusive community of mountain bikers. And while nothing puts a smile on my face quicker than a rowdy, rocky trail, or a fast, flowy section that rips through aspen groves, it is the close but diverse communities of trail lovers that make me want to settle down and find my place—to have my own community that I can be a part of.


I am indeed one of the millennial generation who is deliberately choosing to lead a different life than the stereotypically mapped-out path of my parents’ generation: the baby boomers. The majority of folks I get to work with are ‘Boomers, and the idea of not having a home is foreign to most of them. While I sometimes agree with the person who wants to hear “Ketchum, Idaho,” in response to their question about where I live, the “IMBAru” is my place for now and allows me to get a taste of communities all over the country.

2015 Schedule

See if the IMBA Trail Care Crew is going to be in your neck of the woods this year and sign up to participate.



Friend or Flow: Are trails being too “dumbed down?”


Words by Sarah Galbraith. Photos by Tristan Von Duntz.

The notion of flow exists in all kinds of sports,” says Mark Eller, Mountain bikers have, of late, seen the development of communications director with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). Eller has worked in skiing, snowboarding, surfing, and climbing, and now mountain biking. He points out that even tennis players are seeking to flow: “It’s not unique to mountain biking.”

Sports-theory academics have put some thought to the concept of flow, producing a long-winded and wonky definition and some papers on the subject. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has the title “architect of flow,” is also a distinguished professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University, and he has coined a flow theory. He says flow is a rare and dynamic state characterized by dimensions like the merging of action and awareness, concentration on a task, the loss of self- consciousness, an altered sense of time, and a self-rewarding experience. In other words, when you’re flowing, you’re in the zone.

While flow is not specific to mountain biking, what is unique is that we’re constructing the flow experience, which Eller describes as a universal mental state. “Flow exists in somebody’s mind,”he says. “Building a trail that will make this happen is different for different riders.” A newbie mountain biker may find flow on smooth, wide trails, for example; intermediate riders may find it on doubles and berms; and someone with a lot of experience might find the flow in a rock garden or some other gnarly section. Regardless of where it’s found, today’s mountain bike trails are built to encourage flow.

Mountain bikers have, of late, seen the development ofthe flow trail, which is built by hand or machine specifically to create a flowing ride experience. Defined on the IMBA website, flow trails “typically contain features like banked turns, rolling terrain, various types of jumps, and consistent and predictable surfaces. Conspicuously absent are abrupt corners or unforeseen obstacles.”

The construction of flow was not always part of mountain biking, and therein rides the rub. Mountain bikers used to be a marginalized—often illegal—user of trails that were never built with mountain biking in mind. We rode fire roads, fall-line trails, and stolen hiking trails, or raked a path through the woods and called it good.

The new development of flow trails has left mountain bikers all over the world arguing about the merits of different trail-construction styles, and my home state of Vermont is no different. On the one hand, we’re lapping up Kitchel at Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Norwich University Trails in Northfield, Hardy Haul at Adams Camp in Stowe, Blueberry Lake and Revolution in the Mad River Valley, and Flo, the latest development in an entire network of flow in Stowe’s Cady Hill Forest.

On the other hand, though, Vermont’s riders have been highly critical of trail builders and mountain bike clubs for putting too much emphasis on flow trail construction. A vocal subset of experienced and longtime riders think builders are sanitizing trails, dumbing them down, and changing the character of our challenging New England riding. To these riders, we’re selling out on mountain biking by opening up trails for the masses.

“It’s like this ‘everybody wins’ mentality we have with kids these days,” said one rider in the Mad River Valley. “I learned to ride technical singletrack by riding technical singletrack.” He thinks others should have to learn the same way.

“It’s trail gentrification,” says another rider of the major redevelopment of Cady Hill Forest from old-school techy into new-school top-to-bottom flow. Further, he feels we’re monetizing mountain biking, making it too mainstream, and ultimately selling out on a precious gem that Vermont had long kept secret.

If you idiots could ride it, we wouldn’t have had to take it out.

Riders attacked local builders on social media this summer over the removal of a rock known as “the derailleur ripper” in a popular central Vermont locale. The spot had become badly eroded as the trail saw more traffic and less-capable riders were going around the rock, and state land managers said the rock had to go. The barrage of negativity after the rock problem was fixed led one builder to write in response, “If you idiots could ride it, we wouldn’t have had to take it out.”

While some are having trouble getting along, the increase in flow has its upsides for Vermont too. Plenty of expert and intermediate riders love the countless opportunities for catching air and arcing fast into turns that require little in the way of braking. And, importantly, there are now places to take beginners, kids, and families, and that was largely missing from our state until recently. A group ride can now include an array of rider types and abilities, and everyone can have fun in their own way on the same trail.

There are solutions, and finding them starts with a better understanding of the issue. Vermont’s Mad River Valley provides an excellent place to dive deeper.

“All we had was an expert network,” says John Atkinson of the trails in the Mad River Valley. It’s a prime riding spot full of black- and double-black-diamond-level riding and a population that has been riding it for decades. Atkinson is president of the Mad River Riders and the main energy source behind new flow trails like Revolution and Blueberry Lake in Waitsfield and Warren, respectively. He says if he had asked his membership a few years ago what they wanted for the trails, we would have heard, “Don’t change a thing.” But he knew their club was missing an entire contingent of riders, like women, beginners, and kids, so he spearheaded the effort to bring more-diverse riding terrain by adding these flow-style trails that are designed to be approachable to as many riders as possible.

As a result, the Mad River Valley was host this past summer to Mad River Rippers, a group of 60 kids learning to mountain bike, and regular women’s mountain bike clinics led by professional rider Ali Zimmer, neither of which would have been possible without these new approachable trails.

Atkinson continues, “Before we had these new trails, we had less than 50 members in our chapter and barely any women. Now we have 180 members and half of those are family memberships, meaning half of our members are women.” Obviously, more financial support through increased memberships and broader participation equals more trails and a sustainable future.


The exceptional management of the construction and maintenance of these trails has also made Mad River Riders into a reputable partner for landowners, both private and public. The State of Vermont, for example, is now more than happy to work with the club and is actively pursuing additional new trail projects for state forestlands in the Mad River Valley.

Trail construction and maintenance are really all about the landowners. “When the state tells us to fix a section of trail, hearing ‘don’t change anything’ from our riders isn’t helpful. It isn’t an option,” says Atkinson. It is highly important to be good partners with landowners, especially if we want to, say, build more trails.

“We’re planning a new intermediate trail to parallel Cyclone in Camel’s Hump State Forest,” says Atkinson. “It will take traffic away from Cyclone and completely change access on that hillside.”

The trails are also getting easier to build and less costly to maintain with modern construction techniques. Flow trails can have the advantage of requiring less maintenance, although this is site dependent. Atkinson says that Blueberry Lake required nothing more this year in maintenance than blowing leaves and clearing some blowdowns.

“When we propose a new trail,” says Atkinson, “we get asked, ‘Do you have the money and time to maintain it?’” This question is increasingly easier for clubs like Atkinson’s to say yes to as they build more modern trails that have lower demands for upkeep. That means his club has more time and money available to build and maintain more trails.

There is a theme developing here: more trails, better trails. But despite all these pluses, there are still doubters.

“We hear ‘everything gets dumbed down,’” says Atkinson, “but that’s not true. Take Cyclone, an expert trail. We’ve used rock; it’s challenging. The riding’s not getting easier, it’s getting more fun.” And, new modern trails designed to handle increased traffic can also divert users away from our beloved-yet-sensitive old-school technical singletrack by providing alternate routes that appeal to a greater range of abilities.

Tom Stuessy, executive director of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association, parent organization to mountain bike clubs like the Mad River Riders, points out that clubs don’t have to map all of their trails, either. Clubs can decide to publicize modern trails built to appeal to the masses and take the increased traffic while keeping old-school trails, like Cyclone, off the map and set aside for the locals.

It seems if ever there were a spot in Vermont for riders to have it all—plenty of trails, a broad range of technical levels, and a contingent of happy riders—the Mad River Valley is it. But can this really exist? It can and does in other locations, and I believe it can exist here in Vermont, too.

A shining example of one network doing it all is the Sandy Ridge Trail System in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in western Oregon, where IMBA helped the local riding community build a network of trails specifically designed for mountain biking. The network includes everything from beginner-friendly doubletrack ribbons of flow to high-end sustainable black-diamond-rated trails with rowdy roots, drops, and rock gardens. A quick image search of the place will show you what I mean.

“The response from the riding community has been hugely positive,” says Eller. He attributes the outcome to including the riders from the beginning. IMBA polled the riding community and learned that, while there was a solid network of beginner trails, Sandy Ridge was missing the intermediate and advanced riding that the locals craved. And so it was built.

Eller has a few pieces of advice for riding areas grappling with the flow issue. First, he warns not to get caught up on labels. “’Flow trail’ is a label that’s been hung on this effort to build fun purpose-built trails for a broader range of riders,” he says. But flowing trails can be beginner, intermediate, or expert. While this can be helpful terminology to describe the kind of trail being proposed, particularly when talking to landowners or the public who may not be familiar with mountain biking, a flow trail can truthfully have a wide range of appearances.

Second, Eller recommends that clubs take a system-wide approach to trail planning, rather than building one-off trails in a reactive manner. The Mad River Valley serves as a great example of a club doing just that as it expands its trail network.

Third, Eller recommends that clubs involve their local community. And therein is the solution for places like the Mad River Valley and Vermont as a whole: If you want a say in how your trails look, show up.

It’s easy to sit behind a computer and voice your complaints on social media, but that doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

As Atkinson points out, it’s easy to sit behind a computer and voice your complaints on social media, but that doesn’t actually accomplish anything. Vermonters are lucky to have a robust network of trail clubs under the umbrella organization of VMBA. This high level of organization means there are club meetings, trail-work days, group rides, skills clinics, walk-throughs with landowners, advisory council meetings, board meetings, public hearings, annual meetings, and a summer festival. There are countless ways for riders to get involved, see how decisions are made, and voice their opinions.

We shouldn’t put all of our resources into any one type of trail, and no one in Vermont is advocating that we do that. A diversity of riding experiences is the goal. When our trail networks include trails that are designed to be ridden by the greatest number of users, our trails will be better supported by increasing club memberships and appealing to younger generations. More support for our trails and modern construction techniques that sustain trails into the future with fewer resources will mean clubs can be excellent trail stewards and partners for landowners and can turn their attention to building new trails. The involvement of riders who want to plan for our future by participating in their local riding scene is the only way we’re going to get there.

Sarah Galbraith of Marshfield, Vermont, is an ambassador to the Vermont Mountain Bike Association and co-president of her local mountain


Soon USGS Topo maps will have mountain bike trails


As part of the continued US Topo maps revision and improvement cycle, the USGS will be including mountain bike trails to upcoming quadrangles on a state-aligned basis. The 2014 edition of US Topo maps covering Arizona will be the first maps to feature the trail data, followed by Nebraska, Missouri, Nevada, California, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Vermont, Wyoming, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Florida, Alaska (partial), and the Pacific Territories in 2015.

The mountain bike trail data is provided through a partnership with the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and the MTB Project. During the past two years, the IMBA has been building a detailed national database of mountain bike trails with the aid and support of the MTB Project participants. This activity allows local IMBA chapters, IMBA members, and the public to provide trail data and descriptions through their website.  MTB Project and IMBA then verify the quality of the trail data provided, ensure accuracy and confirm that the trail is legal.  This unique “crowdsourcing” project has allowed availability of mountain bike trail data though mobile and web apps, and soon, revised US Topo maps.

“IMBA is stoked to have MTB Project data included on US Topo maps as well as other USGS mapping products,” added Leslie Kehmeier, IMBA’s Mapping Specialist.  “It’s a really big deal for us and reflects the success of the partnership we’ve developed with the MTB Project team to develop a valuable and credible resource for mountain bike trails across the country.”

The partnership between the USGS and the MTB Project is considered a big move towards getting high quality trail data onThe National Map and US Topo quadrangles. The collaboration also highlights private and public sectors working together to provide trails data and maps to the public.

“This is a significant step for USGS,” said Brian Fox of the USGS NGTOC. “National datasets of trails do not yet exist, and in many areas even local datasets do not exist. Finding, verifying, and consolidating data is expensive.  Partnering with non-government organizations that collect trails data through crowdsourcing is a great solution.  The USGS-IMBA agreement is the first example of such a partnership for US Topo map feature content and we’re looking forward to expanding the number of trails available as the MTB Project contributions grow.



MTB Project trail finder app gets an update

mtb-project-appCourtesy of the International Mountain Bicycling Association:

The MTB Project website and mobile apps have been updated and improved with new functionality. The apps are available in both Android and iOS versions, and are completely free.

MTB Project continues to grow in popularity, with a catalog of user-generated content that now exceeds 34,000 miles of trail. All of the trail reviews, photos and video on the site are carefully reviewed and curated to ensure high quality.

The latest app versions offer several notable enhancements:

  • Vertical profiles show average and maximum grades, and are color-coded along the entire trail to highlight more/less challenging segments
  • Users can select metric or imperial units
  • Improved functionality for reporting trail conditions
  • The maps are much closer to matching the layout and appearance of the website, improving navigation in the field
  • Parking lots, viewpoints and other symbols are more prominent with zoomed-in displays
  • Users can share a trail with a friend using the built-in share tools (email, text messaging, Facebook and more)

Users of MTB Project now benefit from data contributed by Strava, the popular platform which allows athletes to track each others’ workouts.

“Strava allows other websites to access some of its stored information— we have found several ways to use this data to enhance MTB Project,” says Nick Wilder, the site’s co-founder. “Strava does a great job measuring where people ride, cataloging their ride times and other functions. For our users, who are generally more interested in finding trails and planning great rides, the Strava data reveals how long a ride might take and how much traffic it sees—very helpful things to know.”

MTB Project remains committed to providing the best trail info available online for mountain bikers. A recent interviewwith Paul Stahlschmidt, president of the Northwest North Carolina Mountain Bike Alliance, reveals how MTB Project’s emphasis on quality content enhances the work of local mountain bike groups. “It’s great to have the high notes for the local trails accurately represented in write-ups,” said Stahlschmidt. “It’s nice to share some of my routes and experiences in the woods with others.”

IMBA’s mapping efforts are generously supported by Shimano and PeopleForBikes. This work includes both MTB Project and other GIS services that benefit mountain bikers, local groups and land managers. IMBA Mapping Specialist Leslie Kehmeier recently posted a blog about IMBA’s expanding role in the world of online mapping.


Apply now for a visit from the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew

Subaru Trail Crew

IMBA Trail Care Crew Jordan and Lani. 

Courtesy of IMBA. Photo by Joshua Lawton.

IMBA is now accepting applications for Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew (TCC) visits in 2015. This is one of IMBA’s oldest and most successful programs, now entering its 18th year. Trail Care Crew visits present an opportunity for land managers, trail organizations and IMBA chapters to teach new volunteers sustainable trail design, construction and maintenance; reenergize existing volunteers; grow their organizations; expand their knowledge and strengthen their networks of supporters.

Groups are invited to apply for a TCC visit from now until November 1, 2014. This is the only time the application window will be open for 2015 events. The primary focus of each visit is the highly regarded IMBA Trail Building School, during which the crew teaches sustainable trail building—building lasting trails that require minimal maintenance. This helps reduce trail damage, protects the environment and enhances visitor enjoyment. Please note that it is a 101-level course. Those interested in advanced trail building techniques should consider hiring IMBA Trail Solutions for specific training.

Additional presentations have been added over the years to target land managers, improve club organization, educate city officials and train grassroots mountain biking advocates. Applicants may choose one of the additional presentations for the TCC to present.

The application process is detailed, so applicants should not wait until the last minute to start the process. Proposed trail projects must have land manager approval to be considered. Due to the large volume of applications, we regret that we cannot accommodate all requests. IMBA Region Directors will be involved in the selection process, so get to know them if you haven’t already.

Click here to learn more about the application.

Trail building guide book now available

BikePark-BookCover_0If the Trail Care Crew can’t make it to your neck of the woods, but you want to work on a sustainable trail building plan in your community, you can check out the book from IMBA—”Bike Parks: IMBA’s Guide to New-School Trails.”

While mountain biking got its start using existing roads and trails, more and more communities are building specifically designed bike areas that are more sustainable, cause fewer trail conflicts, and accessible to all types of riders.

The new book includes information about building and maintaining purpose-built bike parks, flow trails and other purpose-built facilities. It goes from planning and designing to building and maintaining with real-world examples, schematics, photos, maps, charts and more.

The author is Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member Bob Allen, who has promoted the growth of the sport for more than three decades.

Order a copy from IMBA here.



Find your next great ride with the MTB Project website


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.


Saturday is IMBA’s Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day

TKMBD_SubaruIf mountain biking is going to continue to mature and grow, it’s essential that we prepare the next generation of riders to be good shepherds of the trails. IMBA does its part each year by hosting Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day—an opportunity to share your passion with some little rippers.

The event always takes place the first Saturday in October, and over the years kids from all over the world have participated, developing a connection with the natural world around them. According to IMBA, today’s kids are tomorrow’s land managers and politicians—the future decision-makers and stakeholders in matters like public access and recreation.

Want to find a ride to join? Just visit IMBA’s interactive map of local events and join one near you.


Niner unveils new 29+ hardtail, the ROS9 Plus, with IMBA-benefit singlespeed edition


For the fifth year, Niner has created a special IMBA themed bike in support of the non-profit’s mountain bike advocacy efforts. This year’s version is a custom painted ROS 9 Plus complete bike with special detailing and components throughout. The ROS 9 Plus is a brand new addition to the Niner line up – an all mountain 29+ hardtail. Valued at over $4,499 MSRP for each complete limited edition bike, Niner expects that this will be the most successful edition of the auction to date, with 100 percent the of auction proceeds going to IMBA.

Only nine of the special bikes will be available. If you want one, you’ll have to bid in the auction, which starts at 6:30 p.m. MST today, with auction management courtesy of The Pro’s Closet.

Read the full story


Video: ‘Crossing the Divide, Protecting the Places We Ride’

Trails are useless to mountain bikers when they’re off limits. But that access also needs to be balanced with the needs of other user groups and especially the environment.

“Crossing the Divide, Protecting the Places We Ride”, produced by Grit and Thistle Film Company, documents how IMBA and its chapters work with the conservation and recreation communities to create bike-friendly land protection designations. The goal is to both protect the natural landscapes and ensure the continuation of thriving recreation-based economies, including mountain biking. The film focuses on pending federal legislation that seeks to protect land in Colorado’s Summit, Eagle and Pitkin Counties.

Find out more here.


Bell and IMBA team up to award $100,000 in 2014 trail building grants

Last spring Bell Helmets and IMBA partnered to award a total of $100,000 to three trail projects in the first Bell Built Grants. With the hope of making it even bigger in 2014, Bell and IMBA hope to spread the word so riders all around the country realize the opportunity they have for a trail to be built in their community for the benefit of local shredding. Like last year, Bell will be providing IMBA with $100,000 in grant funding in support of trail building.

Starting in January and running through the end of February, Bell and IMBA will begin taking applications for 2014 trails, with finalists named during the first week of March. Voting will then come in three regional phases, starting in April with the West coast, and ending in May with the East coast, with central voting in between. From there, all winners will be officially announced in May 2014, with trail design and construction beginning in June.

Bell and IMBA received over a hundred grant submissions last year from IMBA chapters, clubs and land management agencies, and it is expected that the number of applications will increase in 2014. IMBA Trail Solutions, the international leader in developing singletrack trails, was responsible for the building and designing of all three trail projects and will continue this in 2014 with help from local volunteers.

Bell and IMBA have also produced a short video of each of the 2013 winners. See them below. Keep checking back here to see how to nominate your community.


IMBA announces 2013 class of Epics, Ride Centers, Flow Trails and Gateway Trails


Spirit Mountain in Duluth, Minnesota, has been named one of IMBA’s Model Flow Trails.

This year, IMBA is recognizing five Ride Centers, four Epics, three Flow Trails and two Gateway Trails in locations from the Czech Republic to Kentucky.

These trails should go on your short list of riding destinations. These are the trails worth traveling to, the best places to introduce someone to the sport we all love and are the facilities builders and advocates should look to for inspiration. They vary from gorgeous adventures in the backcountry to innovative trail systems located amidst population centers. Read the full story

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