With radical changes taking place within IMBA, many people are wondering: where does IMBA go from here? What’s IMBA’s current stance on controversial topics like ebikes and Wilderness? What will IMBA do to remain relevant?
We decided to get some answers so we went to the source: Dave Wiens, IMBA’s new Executive Director. Scroll to the bottom of this page to listen to the full podcast, or if you prefer to read, check out the transcription right here:
Greg Heil: Hey everybody, welcome to a very special edition of the Singletracks podcast! My name is Greg, and today we’re taking the Singletracks podcast on the road to Gunnison, Colorado. Here in Gunnison, I met up with Dave Wiens, who was just hired as the executive director of IMBA in February, 2017.
We met up a few hours ago for a quick ride at Hartman Rocks, and I had the dubious pleasure of chasing the wheel of one of the fastest racers in the world, and I was going to say failing miserably, but Dave definitely throttled back to let me keep up so thanks for that, Dave. Appreciate that.
In case you aren’t familiar, let me catch you up on who Dave Wiens is. For one, he’s in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, having been inducted in the year 2000. Dave was the US National Cross Country champion in 1993, and the US National Marathon champion in ’04. In the advocacy realm, Dave founded Gunnison Trails in ’06, which has had a major impact on mountain bike access and trail building in the Gunnison Valley. However, Dave might be best known for winning the Leadville 100 every year from 2003 to 2008, six times in a row, including beating Floyd Landis in ’07 and Lance Armstrong in ’08, and in 2009, he finished in second place to Lance Armstrong.
So Dave, this is the question I’ve actually been wanting to ask you for awhile now. Does that mean that you actually won Leadville seven years in a row and not six?
Dave Wiens: No, just six. You can check the Leadville record book.
Greg Heil: What else are you known for that I haven’t touched on already? You’ve had a very storied career.
Dave Wiens: I guess that’s what I’m known for around here. I’m known, I guess as dad and husband. I’ve lived in Gunnison for a long time, but certainly the mountain biking thing follows me around, and I was just very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and have ridden bikes all my life.
I grew up riding bikes around the suburban Denver area. It was my freedom. It was my way to get out and explore, and when the mountain biking thing came along, I happened to be going to school up here in Gunnison, where certainly a lot of mountain biking was happening early on. I jumped aboard and never really looked back. I feel really fortunate to have been involved in the sport from a pretty early time.
Greg Heil: I mean, Dave has been riding mountain bikes longer than I’ve been alive, so a lot to learn right here. Maybe that’s pegging my age, I don’t know.
But the main reason we’re chatting today is to catch up about Dave’s most recent role as the new executive director of IMBA. Dave joins IMBA at what’s possibly a tumultuous time, with IMBA having lost their Subaru Sponsorship in 2016. Mike Van Abel resigned as the executive director [in August, 2016], and several staff positions having been eliminated at the regional and nation levels. However, that’s accompanied a big change in the organization and a big transition.
Dave, this might be a loaded question, but how have the first few months in your new job gone?
Dave Wiens: There’s no doubt they’ve challenging, and it isn’t as if I pondered being the executive director of IMBA for a long time, and it suddenly it happened for me, and I was able to have thought about it. It was very quick. I [first] joined the board of the directors which is my initial foray into the IMBA world.
The IMBA board invited four people to participate in strategic planning in June of 2015, and they invited me to be one of those four, so that was really my first time I was exposed to the staff and the IMBA Board of Directors, and it was a good experience. I’m very interested in advocacy, and I was honored to be invited and make the trek up to Park City and participated in that, and offered my experience and my viewpoint from riding mountain bikes for a long time and also being involved in advocacy in this part of the world.
Then conversations continued and I was invited to join the board of directors beginning in 2016. I accepted that position, and I certainly never had any intention of leading. I just thought that I could help in the conversation. Anytime there’s a board, it’s a large group and there’s decisions that are made, there’s discussions that happen, the staff is involved, and I just wanted to be a part of that.
Anytime, at least for me, when I get on a board, I don’t just enter that board … The term limit for an IMBA board member is nine years, and that’s a pretty long run if you were to take your term to its extent. So that gives you a year or two to get your feet under you to learn the different issues and be exposed to the players. That’s certainly the position I was in.
Board meeting in February. Another board meeting in June. Then that’s when the changes started to happen. We were told about the loss of the Subaru Sponsorship in June. Mike Van Abel resigned. Shortly after that, board meeting in November, and that’s when I became board chair, and I even resisted that due to lack of experience in a position like that, but I embraced that role. Started working closely with staff right away, November, December, January, and then the switch to executive director came at our February board meeting but no, the last couple of months [have ben] exciting and scary and all those things because it’s much different than leading a small organization like Gunnison Trails.
There’s certainly parallels that we can draw and that I can learn from, but advocacy in Gunnison, Colorado certainly doesn’t define advocacy across the nation so I’m … Drinking out of the fire hose has been a term used to describe what it’s like, and I’m still doing that, and I’m going to be … Because I believe that that’s the way we should always be. We should always be learning as we go.
With 200-plus chapters and mountain bikers all across this country, which doesn’t even speak to the “I” in the International Mountain Biking Association, there’s a lot to learn. No two places are the same. There’s a lot of different impacts and regional nuances and just the sport isn’t the same everywhere you go, so it’s a big challenge. I’m still in the middle of that, getting up to speed and learning and just trying to help guide the organization in the most positive direction I can.
Greg Heil: It sounds like a massive role and thanks for taking that on. Here’s maybe a very basic question which we were discussing at a staff meeting recently. Many nonprofit organizations have a board but the board basically functions as a fundraising entity, and some others have a board of advisors that sort of direct the flow of the organization. Which is the IMBA board, or is it a combination of the two?
Dave Wiens: The IMBA board would be a combination of the two. There’s certainly a fundraising component of being on the board, but in addition, it’s all mountain bikers that are on the board. They come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are just enthusiasts who have business backgrounds, others come from the bicycle industry, but overall it’s a fairly balanced board. It would be a combination of what you described.