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from the journal

IMBA: For mountain bikers, by mountain bikers

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Eleanor Blick (pictured above) is IMBA’s Communications Manager. She’s ridden, raced and led women and kids around many a trail in the Midwest and beyond. She’s at her most, and least, graceful when on two wheels. Her words are below. (Photo: Joshua Lawton)

IMBA: For mountain bikers, by mountain bikers

Have you ever been riding along—among the pines of the Northwest, the maples of Minnesota, the Southwest sand canyons or somewhere in between—and wondered, “how did this trail get here?”

Maybe not. It’s not a common question. It’s probably not the first thing on your mind as you’re looking through a turn or rolling down rock steps.     

The trails we love are the end result of years, and sometimes decades, of mountain bike advocacy. Since 1988, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) has been the leader in mountain bike advocacy, and the only organization in the United States focused entirely on trails, access, education and experiences for all types of mountain bikers in all parts of the country.

What is mountain bike advocacy? It is crucial work than can take many forms. Every trail has its own story and a unique set of steps between the initial dream and digging in the dirt.

  • Sometimes a trail project requires access. Mountain bikers must work with the land manager to gain access for a place to ride or a place to put a new trail. At IMBA we advocate for mountain bike access and acceptance nationwide, and helps local advocates navigate their access needs.
  • You can’t ride without a trail. IMBA builds sustainable trails and bike facilities to make mountain biking more accessible, and we teach environmentally responsible trail building and trail etiquette practices to volunteers and trail professionals all over the country.
  • Trails build community. Our national programming encourages more, better riding for more people in more places, and we educate local advocates and volunteers on how to organize and make mountain biking better in their backyards.

And with the Dig In campaign, we are stepping in to advocate for a crucial step of any trail project—fundraising. From professionally built features to tools for volunteers, each of the 68 projects participating in the Dig In campaign have a unique need to getting more trail on the ground. Find a project near your favorite place to ride and show the local IMBA chapter some support.

While IMBA doesn’t oversee every trail project start-to-finish, we have influenced thousands upon thousands of miles of trail by being mountain biking’s advocacy leader. For nearly 30 years IMBA has set standards and best practices for mountain biking that are used around the country and the world, and on your backyard trails. We firmly believe that great places for mountain biking make people, communities and landscapes better. 

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