Welcome to Pedaling Change! There’s a lot of good work being done in the world of bikes, to alternative transportation advocacy to international development. To highlight some of the great action that’s going on out there, once a month we’ll be profiling a non-profit in the bike world to look at just how they’re working to make positive change.
When you think of the words “non-profit” and “mountain biking,” the International Mountain Bicycling Association is probably the first thing that comes to mind, and with good reason. Founded as a non-profit educational association, IMBA’s mission is to create, enhance and preserve great trail experiences for mountain bikers worldwide. It has over 35,000 individual members worldwide, more than 160 corporate sponsors and members living in all 50 U.S. states and in over 30 countries. Talk about a global biking powerhouse.
We caught up with Mark Eller over at IMBA to talk bikes and learn a little more about the organization.
What have some of IMBA’s biggest accomplishments over the last year been?
This year, IMBA renewed a partnership with the National Park Service to continue adding mountain biking opportunities to America’s most scenic parks. We launched the Public Lands Initiative to protect access to key riding areas, and we built innovative Gateway Trail bike parks across the country to help bring new riders into the sport and give kids great places to play. This fall, we’ll help thousands of kids get outside on knobby tires with the sixth edition of IMBA’s International Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day.
Why is it important to do bike advocacy?
IMBA’s work is based on the idea that riding mountain bikes provides a great outdoor experience and provides a fun, athletic challenge that is accessible to millions of people. We advocate for broad access to trails and for good places to ride bikes because we want to share the enriching experience of exploring the natural world on two wheels.
There’s more to building a trail than moving rocks and dirt. Trails are usually part of larger systems that are the result of careful and diligent planning and collaboration. Most trail systems must serve the needs of multiple user groups and take environmental and geographical factors into account. IMBA works closely with land managers, conservation groups and recreation ecologists to build environmentally sustainable trails that protect natural resources.
If someone is new to mountain biking, what’s the best tip you can give them?
Riding with experienced mountain bikers is the best thing you can do to learn new skills, find the best trails and have fun. Many IMBA clubs host weekly social rides, often with a “nobody gets left behind” policy and an emphasis on fun. You can find an IMBA-affiliated chapter, club or patrol on IMBA’s website.
Do you think bikes can change the world?
Absolutley! The bicycle is a simple, human-powered marvel. It’s been called one of the most efficient machines ever invented, and it’s just plain fun to ride through the woods on a pair of knobby tires. From the obesity problem in developed countries to the need for cheap, reliable transportation in poor regions, bicycles can definitely improve people’s lives.