We’ve partnered with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), a nonprofit organization that helps to advance, build, and sustain trail systems. They do amazing work around the world; everything from organizing trail care crews, designing model trails, mapping, advocating for wilderness access, and helping with regional development.

We wanted to give you an inside look at the how it all started 25 years ago, what they do today and how Strava and IMBA will start to work together to build a sustainable future. IMBA Communications Director, Mark Eller sheds light on all the great programs they help organize.

How did IMBA get started?

In 1988, a few mountain bike clubs in the San Francisco Bay area decided that they would be more effective if they banded together. They were thinking big when they settled on the name “International Mountain Bicycling Association,” though now, in IMBA’s 25th year, the organization is truly a global force for mountain bikers.

Can you tell us some things that differentiate your organization?

IMBA unites local mountain bike groups and represents them at the national and international levels. This is crucial because many of the government agencies that oversee public lands prefer to establish partnerships with national, rather than local, groups.

Why is volunteer trail work so important?

The  grassroots network of chapters and clubs donates more than 700,000 hours of volunteer service to public lands every year. That gives us enormous credibility with land managers and it shows that we’re not just interested in our own riding — we want to give something back as well.

IMBA Volunteer Trail Work Day

If you were to ask mountain bikers to help the community in one way, what would that be?

We want to help mountain bikers appreciate the importance of things like sharing trails with other user groups, avoiding riding on closed trails and respecting the natural world. Our “Rules of the Trail” web page states some of the basic guidance we offer.

What ways do you best recommend dealing with illegal trails? Why is this important?

The main problem with building and riding unauthorized trails is that they limit the options for mountain bikers. Sure, you might get a few months or even years of riding on a trail that doesn’t have the land manager’s approval, but eventually it will be discovered and likely closed. Plus, when you approach that land manager about developing a bigger, more developed trail system you’ve blown your credibility.

How has mountain biking trail access changed over the last decade?

An important development is the proliferation of purpose-built trails, and lately purpose-built bike parks. These cycling-specific facilities provide a very different riding experience from trails that were originally built for hikers or equestrians.

Where would you like to see mountain biking in ten years from now?

One thing we would love to see is more options for more types of riders. In many places, there are few options for beginners, and equally few for very advanced riders — we need lots of options so mountain bikers can learn in a safe, friendly environment and then continue to develop their skills.

Outside of the US, where do you see mountain biking gaining momentum?

We’re seeing lots of growth in Asia right now — IMBA has been working with Trek to develop mountain bike facilities in China and the rest of the region.

Do you have any trail etiquette tips that you’d like to share?

The main one is to be friendly.

All of our guidance about whether the uphill or downhill rider yields is secondary to that — each pass is a unique situation and the most important thing is to be kind to each other on the trails.

What is your favorite aspect of using Strava?

Strava provides a great platform for friendly, healthy interaction and competition with your friends. There’s nothing wrong with comparing your times to your buddies’ or girlfriends’ best marks. The key thing to keep in mind is to have fun with it without taking it too seriously, or letting your competitive energy get in the way of being a good citizen on the trail.

Team Strava will be at the upcoming 10th Annual Ales and Trails fundraiser for IMBA in Northern California on June 29th. We will also be on the trails this season doing volunteer work and continuing to find ways to make an impact in the mountain biking community.

Are you dedicated to dirt? Tell us how you’ve contributed to the trails in your community.