Start a mountain bike club|
Thursday, April 01, 1999
It is sometimes difficult for bicyclists to convey their
experience to non-bicyclists, especially to those traditional users
and established land managers with whom we interact most frequently.
How does one explain that an experienced bicyclist becomes one with
the bike and the land and at speeds that seem alarming to others,
still appreciates the scenery, notices the wildlife, and is in fact,
in control? How do we demonstrate that we are legitimate users; that
we won't cause environmental damage, and that we can ride safely in
multiple-use environments? How do we demonstrate that large numbers
of bicyclists are an asset to the parks? The answer: we must
This is a problem for mountain bicyclists, who have traditionally
been less organized and more individualistic than other backcountry
users. Most mountain cyclists ride alone or in small groups. It is
also a fact that the logistical demands of forming an organization
and meeting with members, land managers, and other user groups can
take an extraordinary amount of time. Unfortunately, the alternative
is often closure of the backcountry to bicycles. In most of the
access situations to date, trails were closed and then mountain
bicyclists got organized. We must reverse this sequence. It is
extremely important that mountain bicyclists unite at the local and
national levels to stem the tide of closure. If there is no organized
group of mountain bikers in your area, form one. If you have a riding
club, increase your trail maintenance and trail committee work. Have
your club join IMBA and participate in the national movement that
promotes responsible riding, trail volunteerism and open trails.
First, you must generate membership. Put petitions or sign-up
sheets in all of the local bike shops. If you do this, make sure you
ask respondents to PRINT their names, full addresses and telephone
numbers or you'll get hundreds of illegible and incomplete responses.
Send a mailing to all of the respondents that provides an outline of
your reasons for starting a club, and includes the time, date and
place of your first meeting. The Post Office will sell a bulk mail
permit for approximately $75.00 a year. You must have more than 200
pieces of mail and you must sort them by zip codes according to bulk
mail guidelines (available at the Post Office). Talk to your
postmaster about pre-printed permit stamps. They'll save you a lot of
If your club has access to a computer, take the time to set up a
database (membership date, name, address, phone, volunteer
activities). This is extremely useful later when contacting members
who have volunteered for a specific activity, who live in a specific
area, or who need to renew their membership.
Contact bike shops directly. They're often able to provide mailing
lists, photocopying, postage meters, meeting space, and other
resources. Remember that they're in business and thus, they may want
to know what you'll do for them. Remind them that there's a direct
connection between their sales and the availability of local trails.
Let them know that your club riders appreciate the support of dealer
members and sponsors. Tell members to support (shop at) the dealers
who support your club. Encourage them to participate in the education
of new mountain bicyclists. Ask shops to distribute IMBA's Rules of
the Trail and a membership form with every new bike sold. But be
careful not to become so closely identified with a particular shop
that other local retailers won't get involved.
LAND MANAGEMENT OFFICIALS:
Government land management agencies have a responsibility to serve
the general public, but often serve their perceived constituencies.
Bicyclists have every right to contact appointed officials to discuss
trail cycling concerns. You will find that most government employees
are helpful and willing to work with you. You may find that they are
worried about other users' reactions to mountain bikes. Be rational
and well organized. As a rule, agencies move slowly. Be prepared and
Inform your local officials that you wish to be informed of all
deliberations relating to mountain biking. Be specific in requesting
policy changes, and in discussing particular trails or riding areas.
Ask them how your mountain bike club can help them. Also, let them
know that you appreciate their work.
You may also need to get involved with elected officials. This can
range from taking a politician on a ride, speaking to a politician on
the street or over a meal, getting a large group of cyclists out to
testify at a hearing, or even trying to influence elections.
OTHER USER GROUPS:
Shared use of the backcountry demands cooperation between
different user groups. Sooner or later, you'll have to meet with
representatives of other outdoor groups. Some members of these groups
may be completely hostile to mountain bicyclists. Most members will
be curious or worried about the impact of mountain biking. on their
outdoor experience. Establish your legitimacy, your commonality, and
your willingness to work together.
Individuals resist change and are suspicious of strangers. Try to
find mountain bicyclists within the other groups and encourage them
to get involved. Join the groups if it is appropriate. Work from
within. Work with other groups in trail building and maintenance,
political lobbying, and other environmental efforts. Show them that
mountain bicyclists appreciate the backcountry for the same reasons
they do, follow the IMBA Rules of the Trail and practice the Leave No
PUBLICITY AND FOLLOW-THROUGH:
No matter how important your work or how successful your efforts,
few people will know about it unless you publicize. Write letters to
the editor of appropriate publications. Send press releases on
activities and events, and have flyers and newsletters available at
local bike shops. Don't let negative impressions of mountain bikes be
publicized without a response. Talk about your mountain biking and
trail access issues with other bicyclists, co-workers, friends,
family, etc. After a while, others will seek you out for information.
Similarly, follow through on your contacts. Officials, groups and
agencies may have expressed great interest and cooperation when you
met with them. Give them a date when you'll get back to them. Ask
them when you can expect action. Make inertia and momentum work with
you, not against you.
There is no need for us to reinvent the wheel. Share your
expertise and your materials. Many of the bike magazines list clubs
and organizations. List yourselves, and make contact with others.
Affiliate with IMBA and plug into the international network of trail
Good luck, and if you have any questions, concerns or comments
call or write IMBA's international headquarters at: IMBA Post Office
Box 7578 Boulder, Colorado 80306-7578 USA Telephone: 303/545-9011