Mobilization and Events

Sport Advocacy: Q & A with IMBA’s Mark Eller

imbaThe International Mountain Bicycling Association is a non-profit organization that exists for one purpose: to create great mountain biking experiences for those that love to bike. Bell is a helmet manufacturer that  exists for one purpose: to create a product that protects the heads of those that love to bike. Think those two have much in common?

Two months ago, IMBA teamed up with Bell on a project designed with the mountain bicyclist in mind. They had a vision of giving mountain bicyclist communities across the US the gift that keeps on giving: bike trails. These two organizations  created a competition where people can apply for financial support, and get their trails built. But what makes this competition unique?

I got a hold of IMBA’s Mark Eller to get the inside scoop on what’s happening in mountain cycling advocacy:

Alec Ross: Firstly, tell me a little about International Mountain Biking Association. What’s your mission?

Mark Eller: IMBA exists to protect and create great mountain biking experiences for those that love to bike. We have a network of over 650 clubs and chapters from all around the world. Though based primarily in North America, our work is positively affecting bikers in places we’ve never seen. Our grassroot network’s main objective is to maintain trails and get people aware of what’s going on in the mountain biking scene.

AR: Tell me about the current competition to build more bike trails.

ME: The idea was to partner with Bell, who originally thought of the idea, and find a way that would further advance the biking experience for as many bikers as we could. Bell really wanted to give something back to the mountain biking community, which is really cool.  Unfortunately, we only have three winners; but those three will receive assistance from IMBA.

AR: Who all is joining the competition?

ME: Anybody that has an interest in biking, of course, would be attracted to events like this. But,  I’ve found that most people just want to see improvements in the biking infrastructure in their region. Regardless of their skill level, people just want better local biking trails.  Of course, our local chapters and clubs presented the different courses to IMBA. We were so excited to see that we had gotten such a great response. All the trails were projects that we really believe in. All of the trails in the running have been approved by IMBA.

AR: Of course, any bike organization would advocate for more bike trails. What makes this project different?

ME: Bell is just one of the many corporate supporters and partners that we have. This program with Bell is just the latest spin on an already existing project idea. Another great brand that takes bike advocacy seriously is Trek. Trek Bike trails does a lot. Many people may not know, but Trek gives ten dollars of every bike they sell to IMBA. They really believe in what we’re about at IMBA. But projects like this are fun. This Bell project has gotten a lot of attention this year, but we’ve done this stuff before.

AR: How long has IMBA been doing projects like this?

ME: We’ve been doing our things for 25 years now. We’ve been growing and growing. It’s funny, since the beginning, we’ve grown to touch communities all over America, Europe, Australia, and even Asia. It’s cool to have such an international impact. But, our core is in North America. We have the most support in the US and Canada.

AR: Tell me about what began the relationship with Bell and IMBA.

ME: They’ve been a corporate supporter of ours for a while. But this recent project that we’ve shared bumps them up to “Elite Member” status. That’s a status only given to organizations that go above and beyond for the sake of bike advocacy. Brands like Trek, Specialized,  and Subaru have all become elite members because of their dedication to biking, and their generous support.

AR: How’s the project coming along?

ME: It’s going very well. We launched it a couples months ago, seems like only yesterday. But, we’ve seen a lot of growth since then. So much participation. But it’s all over tomorrow at midnight. That’s when the voting stops and everyone realizes who’s gonna get some new bike trails.

AR: Do you expect other projects like this to happen more often in the future? Why?

ME: I definitely do. Turning back to Trek, Bell and others; they’ve been really walking the walk. Their commitment to bike advocacy makes projects like this possible. It’s great for mountain bikers and the community. Kudos to bell for coming up with a program that’s proven to be quite popular and effective.

See what’s IMBA is up to next here.

Visit their Facebook page for the latest in mountain biking advocacy.

Written by Alec Ross