Summit County’s long standing mountain biking organization, the Summit Fat Tire Society, became an official chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) earlier this month. IMBA membership could mean big things for the Summit County mountain biking scene.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of the larger family of mountain bike groups,” said Mike Zobbe, Fat Tire Society vice president.
Among other benefits, the organization’s affiliation with IMBA will increase support for local trail building and maintenance programs, help to work with public land managers and other organizations for long term trail plans and assist with administration and organization of events, such as fundraisers and trail work sessions. IMBA also has trail care crews that provide expert consulting in trail building and maintenance. The crews examine a variety of issues, including drainage designs to prevent trail erosion and trail flow to improve the riding experience while preserving trails. IMBA also plays a roll in supporting and maintaining multiuse trails so there is a greater benefit to the community as a whole beyond mountain bikers.
“Summit Fat Tire and IMBA together communicates a stronger brand and will help attract additional support,” said Mike Van Abel, IMBA executive director.
The IMBA chapter program, started three years ago, is a relatively new concept that links mountain biking organizations across the country to serve as a stronger lobbying force to promote mountain biking and trail stewardship nationwide.
“It started as a way to better mobilize our members to shape government policies,” said Van Abel.
It has since developed into an consulting service for mountain biking organizations. IMBA’s full-time staff helps to manage largely volunteer based biking organizations, providing infrastructure that most volunteer groups can’t maintain.
What will this mean for Summit County and the Fat Tire Society?
Creating an IMBA chapter in Summit County will mean more assistance with trail maintenance and planning. It will likely also mean the growth of the Fat Tire Society, which Zobbe says currently has about 150 members.
“They’ll see a bump in membership, and a bump in income,” said Van Abel. “The ones (clubs) that were early adopters (of the chapter program) are seeing flush bank accounts.”
Funds generated through IMBA will help support a variety of local programs.
Becoming an IMBA chapter also means any member of the Fat Tire Society will also be an IMBA member. Annual membership consists of a $30 donation that is dispersed between IMBA and the Fat Tire Society, both of which are non-profits. Proceeds benefit trail building, maintenance and trail stewardship programs.
For the Fat Tire Society, chapter membership also means access to information from other clubs in IMBA’s worldwide network.
“The communications side of it will be great,” said Zobbe. “We have a great opportunity to get together and join in on this information pool.”
That means they will be able to better communicate with clubs in other areas of the country in terms of what is working well with regard to trail work and interacting with public land management.
“Those trails need care, need stewardship,” said Van Abel. “We can do more with public management.”
IMBA membership could also lead to more coordination and assistance from existing Front Range chapters of IMBA.
“It will help us a lot as we go forward,” said Zobbe.