If you've been involved in Mountain Biking for a while, chances are you've heard of IMBA but may not know who they are or what they do. Well, good news... before leaving the Boulder Area we had the chance to sit down with Pete Webber from IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, and discuss their role and mission.

We stumbled into IMBA's offices a bit late and having just finished a ride. Pete was on the phone so we took seats in the lounge area on old vinyl chairs and a futon. If there's one thing this organization is not, it's corporate. In fact, the laid back environment comes complete with with 3 friendly dogs eager for attention and a Foosball table at the ready. Somehow I knew 4 stinky bikers like ourselves would be welcome here.

When Pete emerged from his office to talk with us, he simply sat on the floor cross-legged ready to answer our questions and educate us about IMBA. After some introductions the five of us had an informal rap session for the next hour or so.

According to Pete, IMBA was formed in 1989 at at time when there were serious threats of trail closures to Mountain Biking. "It was still early in the sport-- Mountain Bikers were the new kid on the block and not entirely welcome," he explained. Hikers complained about bikes invading their trials, causing damage and riding recklessly. Land Managers began responding by banning bikes on trails.

"Furthermore," Pete went on,"a lot of Land Managers confused Mountain Bikes with motorcycles assuming it was a motorized vehicle."

With the threat of mass trail closures looming the forefathers of IMBA decided to attack the problem with education and cooperation. In the background they would work with the Land Managers to educate them on the sport and discuss trail usage concerns. In the foreground, they would organize volunteer groups to participate in trail maintenance projects. By taking up shovels in a grassroots effort to improve trails and mix with other concerned trail users, Mountain Bikers would improve their image in the community and earn their stake in trail usage.

These efforts paid off and through the 1990's the tide slowly changed. Threats of mass trail closures went away. Many trails previously closed to mountain bikes were re-opened. Today mountain bikes are accepted in most places and most trails, with only individual cases of trail closures.

"Our biggest failure is still the National Parks," Pete laments, "the trails are open to hikers and horseback riders, but not mountain bikers."

But the national parks notwithstanding, IMBA has been huge success. Most bikers these days take for granted their right to ride their favorite trails. Conflicts with Land Managers are few and far between. Mountain Biking has become a premiere sport, as accepted as hiking and skiing.

Moreover, IMBA has established itself as an expert in trail maintenance and trail development. Here in the new century IMBA members do around 1 million hours of volunteer work and build 1000 miles of trails every year. As a result, IMBA is now a recourse for Land Managers, working closely with them on developing new trails and redesigning old ones.

"Trails are how we experience open spaces," explained Pete."Properly designed trail systems can help manage open space usage." A well developed trail, built with the contour of the terrain, is self sustaining and isn't susceptible to erosion. Trails can be used to help maintain an entire area, channeling people away from sensitive areas or allowing them to see interesting sights in a low impact manner.

IMBA has become such an expert on how to build and maintain trails that it has even published a book on the subject,Trail Solutions. Inside, trail design techniques are discussed in great detail complete with geological cross-section schematics.

Like most non-profits IMBA struggles to stay funded. Although it has diversified into revenue generating ventures like seminars and trail development consulting, the majority of IMBA's income continues to be from membership fees. For $25 dollars annually, you can become a member and help support IMBA's efforts. For a riding club sponsorship, the fee is $30 dollars total. With 24 full time employees, and some bare bones operations, IMBA welcomes all the support it can get.

The money you spend on membership doesn't get you much directly, but indirectly it gets you a great deal. Your membership helps keep trails open and develop new trails for you to ride. It also keeps IMBA connected behind the scenes in local and federal government to ensure that your rights to enjoy the great outdoors remain intact.

The Expedition4am Crew would like to extend our thanks Pete for taking the time to meet with us, and to IMBA as a whole for making sure we have trails to ride during our adventure. Keep up the good work!

For more information on IMBA, or to become a member, go to