Kissin’ Babies, Shakin’ Hands: Lessons Learned about Mountain Bike Advocacy

The Niner demo truck offered attendees at the IMBA World Summit all sorts of options for getting on the trail.

20 years ago, the IMBA World Summit was more about how to build a sustainable trail. Today, it’s all about kissin’ babies and shakin’ hands. Mountain biking has grown up since the boys in California raced the Repack. It’s now the college graduate who’s out there trying to make its way in the world. Mountain biking means networking, listening, interviewing, thinking outside the box and workin’ hard. Kissin’ babies and shakin’ hands.

The IMBA World Summit sold out this year. As IMBA staff and chapter leaders gathered in Northwest Arkansas, there was much talk about land access, e-bikes and purpose-built trails. Here’s the real question. What can you do to help the growth of mountain biking opportunities in your area? If you’re already involved, how can you become more effective as an advocate?

As many of you know, summits, conferences, and the like, are generally events where you hear a ton of information, but only come away with a couple learning points. I walked away from Bentonville with three main thoughts. Thoughts that I already knew, but after the Summit, I saw them in a different light.

Communicate – If you ride past another trail user, say, “Hi”. Be courteous. If you know your local politician, let them know mountain biking is important to you. If you meet someone interested in mountain biking, talk about it. We all started off as beginners. It’s important we make anyone and everyone feel good about their experience.

Pretty nifty bike tool carrier for getting out and getting some strong work done.

Collaborate – Reach out to other user groups, land agency staff, businesses and elected officials who you don’t already know. You never know who your next ally might be. Conversation and relationship building are the reasons we have the phenomenal diversity of trails we do today. Think of it this way. Every new conversation has the potential to become a new trail.

The Coler Trail – one of northwest Arkansas’ new trail gems – opened at the IMBA World Summit.

Volunteer – You might think I mean trail maintenance. Get out there, trim some trees and move some rocks. Sure, mountain biking means getting dirty, but the hard work happens behind the scenes. Every IMBA chapter could use an attorney, a social media guru, an event planner, a grant writer and a parent with a little extra time to keep it all together. Volunteer your time to your local trail group. Maybe they just need someone to drive a water jug to trail workers? Maybe they need someone to take on a Comprehensive Mountain Biking Master Plan in your area? Your skillset is unique. Reach out and see how you can help. Trust me, no effort is too small.  – by Scott Sherman