San Diego Mountain Bike Association Finally Leaves IMBA

The San Diego Mountain Bike Association has threatened to leave IMBA for years, and now they've finally done it.
Photo: Jose Galaz, courtesy of SDMBA

The San Diego Mountain Bike Association (SDMBA) has been open and vocal with their criticism of IMBA since at least March of 2016. They’ve been talking about leaving IMBA for years, and now they’ve finally pulled the plug. SDMBA’s chapter status and joint membership with IMBA will expire effective April 29, 2018, after a unanimous vote of the SDMBA Board of Directors.

“SDMBA has evolved to be one of the strongest mountain biking associations and advocacy organizations in the country, and ending our chapter status agreement with IMBA means more dollars and resources we develop will stay local,” says Kevin Loomis, president of SDMBA. “After several failed attempts to reconcile our differences, we feel a complete separation from IMBA is aligned with the wishes of a majority of our members and needed to help SDMBA flourish. We wish them success in their future endeavors.”

SDMBA provides three key reasons for their decision to leave IMBA:

  • Financially, SDMBA is not experiencing sufficient return on investment given the amount of revenue staying with IMBA via dual membership programs, where a substantial portion of revenue SDMBA raises goes to IMBA
  • Philosophical differences over bikes in Wilderness as evidenced by IMBA’s formal non-support of HR1349 and concerning support of motorized e-bicycles on non-motorized trails
  • Diminished member services, including an inability to maintain adequate and affordable insurance and dissolution of IMBA regional directors including our statewide California representative

While most of the dialogue over the past two years has been about the philosophical differences, most of SDMBA’s press release focuses on the lack of financial benefits from being an IMBA Chapter. Just how much money is SDMBA forking over to IMBA? Two years ago they contributed $36,000 in membership dues, and last year their contribution was capped at $25,000.

What’s Next for SDMBA?

SDMBA’s departure from IMBA signals big changes in California and beyond. SDMBA feels that IMBA’s recent elimination of Area Regional Reps has left SDMBA and other clubs –especially in California — “100% on their own for regional and statewide issues,” according to Kevin Loomis, President of SDMBA. According to Loomis, “California club presidents are in the process of forming a California MTB organization,” in part with the help of Jim Hasenhauer, who helped found IMBA. Of course, IMBA doesn’t view it that way, but SDMBA’s decision has been made.

The hardest part for current IMBA Chapters seeking to gain independence is figuring out how to affordably manage their membership, which SDMBA has accomplished using a service called Memberleap. Now that SDMBA has done the hard work of figuring out how to make the transition, they’re working to codify the transition process so that other Chapters can easily replicate it. “We’re close to creating a plan with Memberleap to help Chapters leave, which allows Chapters to assume full control at a lower cost,” said Loomis. “Since SDMBA already has done the work, the process should be simple. Once on Memberleap, clubs will be able to share resources and best practices. It would not matter where clubs are located.”

On the singletrack front, SDMBA plans to break ground on a new 20-mile trail system named Orosco Ridge next winter. “For the first time in San Diego, these trails will be directional MTB-focused trails!” says Loomis. “This will allow gravity riders to legally shred awesome lines while including all-mountain riders. Drew Perkins designed the trail system and we’ll be bringing in trail experts to help with the build out. […] Our goal is to make this a destination trail system. If all works out, there is another 60+ miles we could develop within this area.”

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