Have you encountered a mountain biker who refuses to support or join the International Mountain Bicycling Assocation, or their local IMBA chapter, because of mistaken assumptions about how we operate? Here are five common misunderstandings and some related information to help clear up the confusion.
1.) Sanitizes Trails
Let's tackle one of the most common misperceptions first—that IMBA promotes "trail standards" that don't allow for technically challenging riding. Nonsense! IMBA has never published or promoted any kind of "standard" for trail design, and we do not ask local groups to conform to a preordained style of trail building.
IMBA does promote the idea that trails should be built to be durable and resistant to erosive forces, which generally means avoiding building on a fall line or otherwise excessively steep grades. But we are all for big drops, committing jumps and burly rock gardens, so long as that is the intended riding experience, and that construction is performed with the land manager's approval.
2.) No Love for Locals
It's not unusual to read comments like, "Why would I support a national organization when the trails I care about are at home?" First off, most riders like to visit new places from time to time, so we think they would want trail systems in other locations to be great, too. More importantly, even if the trails that matter most to you are the ones in your backyard, IMBA is putting a big effort into programs that support local-level trails. IMBA's nearly 200 U.S. chapters receive the highest level of support—including grants, advanced training sessions and professional assistance from region-based directors and pro trailbuilders—so they can be more effective than ever before.
3.) Doesn't Fight Hard Enough
IMBA was born from the need for advocacy and that continues to be a primary focus of our work. IMBA's professional advocacy/policy team works every day at the local, state and national levels to protect and expand access to trails. So, why doesn't IMBA file heaps of lawsuits to open trails? We rarely go that route because it's often the least effective way to create more opportunities for mountain biking—court rulings can get overturned, are expensive to file and it's ultimately hard to predict the outcome. Our focus is on forging effective, long-term partnerships and influencing agencies, lawmakers and other decision makers.
4.) Won't Work With Other Groups
Some critics say IMBA is too closely aligned with "wreck-reation" groups and should promote conservation values more frequently. Others are just as loud in taking the opposite view and arguing that we are too sympathetic to conservationists. The balance we actually strive to achieve is to encourage responsible outdoor recreation that respects the natural world and protects its integrity while encouraging people to experience it on bicycles. To that end, we partner with dozens of pro-recreation and pro-conservation groups—the ones that agree that these values are thoroughly compatible.
5.) Too Big
Reading some critics of IMBA, you might think we are the size of Microsoft or as powerful as a presidential candidate's favorite super PAC. Think again. There are probably something like 6 or 7 million mountain bike enthusiasts in the U.S. alone. IMBA counts about 80,000 active supporters, or about 1 percent of active riders. If that percentage were to increase by a single decimal point, you can be assured that there would be substantially more places to ride, with less risk of losing access, than the reality we face today. (For comparison's sake, The Wilderness Society counts more than 500,000 active supporters and has an operating budget ten times the size of IMBA's.)
Supporting IMBA is easy—sign up to receive monthly, regional email newsletters to stay up to date on new trails, access threats, volunteer opportunities and bike events near you.
Or, become a member! A basic membership is merely $30 and, with that, you can support both your local IMBA chapter and IMBA's nationwide advocacy work. Sign up by the end of May and you'll be entered to win a mountain bike trip for two with Western Spirit, or a Specialized Enduro bike.
Thanks for your support!
And we (Century Cycles), might add that when you join IMBA, you automatically become a member of the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA), which is an IMBA-affiliated local chapter, so 40% of your dues are returned to the local area.
Moreover, Charity Navigator, which is the internationally-recognized authority on rating charity/non-profit organizations, gives IMBA a 4-STAR rating (the highest possible) overall. One positive factor that goes into this rating is that 88.4% of IMBA's expenses are spent on the programs and services that it delivers.