Recap: Dirt Rag visits the IMBA World Summit

Dirt Rag has been supporting IMBA since Day One.

Words and Photos by Gary J. Boulanger.

More than 350 devoted mountain bikers from 20 countries gathered for the 2012 International Mountain Bicycling Association World Summit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 10-13, rallying the troops to advocate increased trail access for all in a celebration of IMBA’s 25th anniversary.

Maurice and Spike, in Needles, California.

Mountain Bike Hall of Famer and Dirt Rag founder Maurice Tierney and I packed up our road food, music, mountain bikes, and gear and made the 18-hour drive from San Francisco to Santa Fe, home of 10,000 art galleries. After a night spent in Needles, Calif. (home of Snoopy’s cousin Spike—near Route 66), we arrived in Santa Fe and shared a Thai meal with National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s Rick Spittler and Austin McInerny. He was in town to speak during the panel discussion on Creating Youth Initiatives with the SoCal League’s director Matt Gunnell and Concerned Off-Road Bicycling’s Steve Messer, himself an expert and author on the best mountain biking around Los Angeles.

This guy has his priorities straight.

Hitting the trail

The solution to shaking the dust of nearly 1,200 miles off our bones was a two-hour mountain bike ride on Santa Fe’s Dale Ball system in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Moe and I spelunked our way through a mix of pinon and conifer trees while climbing high enough to see across the Rio Grande Valley and down upon Santa Fe, thanks to directions provided by the folks at Mellow Velo. It was a proper way to prime ourselves for a gathering of the faithful that evening in the Santa Fe Convention Center.

Beer and philanthropy

On Thursday, we heard from New Belgium Brewing’s Senator of Tour de Fat Non-Profit Relations Michael Craft (yes, that’s his title; employees are encouraged to get creative…), who regaled the lunchtime crowd with his anecdotes of beer drinking and philanthropy, and how New Belgium Brewing has raised thousands of dollars for regional trail building advocacy groups.

Throughout the day, several panel discussions were offered to attendees, including Opportunities in Mountain Bike Tourism, How to Develop and Implement Mountain Bike Clinics and Camps, Getting Kids Involved, Knobby Tires in the Urban Core, and Future Ride: How Bike Parks, Ski Resorts and Flow Trails are Changing the Mountain Biking Experience. All were filled to capacity, with extended conversations flowing out into the hallways.


Regrouping on the La Tierra Trails.

That afternoon, Moe and I joined several riders from various countries on a ride on the new La Tierra Trails, located on 1,500 acres of city-owned property just three miles from the downtown plaza. We rode through high-desert arroyo, pinion and juniper trees on the Caja Del Rio plateau above the Rio Grande River. The 7,500-foot elevation put us into a bit of oxygen debt, but the cool things about the La Tierra Trail are the variety of single- and double-track trails, a BMX jump area, and technical flow track with several lines for air-catching thrill seekers.

Advocacy and Red Bull

Friday continued with more panel discussions following a keynote TED Conference-esque presentation, which included several unique voices in the mountain biking community, including Mountain2Mountain founder Shannon Galpin, Breck Epic promoter Mike McCormack, and Swiss Alp native and mountain bike advocate Darco Cazin.

The gale force wind and rain couldn’t keep several dozen hearty souls (including Moe) from one last visit to the trails before everyone convened in the main Convention Center ballroom for a showing of “Where the Trail Ends.” The film was introduced by gravity-dropping star Darren Berrecloth, and includes amazing footage of his adventures with riders Cameron Zink, Kurtis Sorge, James Doerfling, and Andreu Lacondeguy. The producer, Red Bull Media, stirred up its own batch of controversy during the panel discussion “Engaging the Red Bull Generation." (Tell us what you think of the marriage between trail access, advocacy and the Red Bull generation in the comments below).

Epic saddle time

Saturday morning ushered in the Santa Fe Epic Ride, which saw 150 brave souls unpack their finest winter gear to a shuttle toward the top of the Santa Fe Ski Area at 10,000-plus feet in the southern Rocky Mountains. With freezing temperatures at the start area, we collected our demo bikes (Moe chose the Santa Cruz TallBoy; I picked a Trek Slash), clipped in, and in waves of 10 or so, began our two-hour journey back to town, literally over hill and dale.


My Trek Slash demo bike. See our long-term review of the Slash in Issue #164.

Starting in an aspen and pine forest, we gathered steam while stoking our way through ponderosa and mixed conifer, with a few lung-busting climbs thrown in from the Tesuque Creek Basin. The 3,000-foot drop into town included plenty of serpentine singletrack and flow trails (good thing Hans Rey was with us to enjoy it), technical bermy speed stretches, and general rocks-and-roots mayhem to keep us honest and entertained. Everyone shared war stories over lunch while IMBA executive director Mike Van Abel thanked everyone for participating in the week’s festivities before dismissing us with a smile.

Flagstaff fun

With 18 hours of driving west ahead, we decided to spend Sunday night in Flagstaff, Arizona, home of our friend Ben Proctor and MTB Hall of Famer and bike designer Joe Murray. With another delicious Thai meal in our bellies, we rested our weary bodies in preparation for our interview with Joe the following morning. 

Maurice and Joe, posing for the camera.

Murray, who began his career building wheels and complete bikes before racing for Gary Fisher, is part of Shimano’s skunkworks. He develops and tests most of the products you and I get to enjoy years after he does, and if his current riding skill is any indication, there’s gonna be some great product coming our way soon. He designed and developed bikes for Marin, Merlin, Kona, and VooDoo since 1986. The 48-year-old Marin County native won more than 70 races in his seven-year career, and hasn’t gained an ounce since high school. He graciously led us on a low-key ride through his local trail system after we snagged nearly three hours of his time during our interview and photoshoot. Look for a complete interview with Murray in an upcoming Dirt Rag next spring.

Homeward bound

With 12 hours of asphalt before us, and the high of epic riding in our lungs and legs, Moe and I decided to fuel up at Chipotle in Flagstaff (yeah, yeah; it was Murray’s idea) and drive straight through the night to be with our families in San Francisco. With my wife’s snickerdoodles and a large helping of the Replacements, Led Zeppelin, and Jane’s Addiction on the stereo, we rolled into Mountain View by 4 a.m., happier for the experience of rubbing shoulders and elbows with some of the world’s best and brightest mountain bike planners, advocates, leaders and visionaries.

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