San Diego Mountain Bike Association Rejoins IMBA 3 Years After Split

Photo: Jose Galaz, courtesy of SDMBA

Three years ago, Greg Heil reported on the San Diego Mountain Bike Association departing IMBA after a unanimous vote from the SDMBA board of directors. The decision had been a discussion for some time and was based on a few things: tens of thousands of dollars were going directly from SDMBA members to IMBA, without the actual affiliate chapter directly benefitting. The two organizations were also having “philosophical differences” over bikes in Wilderness and the support of e-bikes on non-motorized trails, and SDMBA members were mostly in support of the club’s independence.

Kevin Loomis, the SDMBA president at the time, indicated that a statewide club would be forming soon and that would help with legislative issues specific to California since IMBA had recently eliminated Area Regional Reps. The California Mountain Bike Coalition launched a year later in 2019 as a 501c4 nonprofit organization.

Loomis predicted that the hardest part would be managing their memberships efficiently. SDMBA decided to use a service called Memberleap, and said they’d be making the move easily replicable for other IMBA chapters. Three years later, things have changed, says SDMBA’s executive director Susie Murphy.

“So a couple things happened in that interim time. I worked not only on the stuff we have going on in San Diego, but I was also recruited to be a founding board member for the California Mountain Bike Coalition – and we formed that organization to kind of fill the void that IMBA was not fulfilling for us as trail advocates in California.”

With CAMTB’s 501c4 status, Murphy says that they could lobby and endorse more legislation and candidates and connect better with state agencies and legislators.

IMBA also revamped their chapter program making it more attractive and financially viable for affiliates, and rather than being a chapter, SDMBA became an affiliate for only $250. IMBA and CAMTB announced their partnership in April.

“It’s a very low buy in, we’re able to take advantage of IMBA’s expertise and resources that they’ve gathered over all the years and access webinars and things that they have,” she says. They can now apply for grants or work with Trail Solutions. The SDMBA board felt comfortable re-partnering with IMBA.

But all in all, “you can call it an olive branch,” says Murphy. She appreciates the federal work that IMBA is doing, the grants that are available, and that IMBA has reshaped some of their board, a sticking point for them years ago as they thought the board was a little too “industry heavy” and lacked diversity. She adds that IMBA was very helpful in getting CAMTB rolling as well.

Where are things with e-bikes and Wilderness between IMBA and SDMBA? The Wilderness issue was a sticky one for a lot of people at the time of IMBA’s non-support, but Murphy says that things are even muddier now, primarily because of the wariness around the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah. IMBA’s position on Wilderness now is a little warmer too.

As far as e-bikes, “the attitudes of our general membership toward e-bikes has shifted some. It’s shifted in the board, it’s shifted in me.” CAMTB also has Bosch as a sponsor now, money she thought they’d never accept just a couple years back. They do support class 1 e-bikes now and class 1 and 2 e-bikes are legal in most areas around San Diego.

For SDMBA and CAMTB, the partnership is different and too good to pass up anymore. Murphy doesn’t want to say that the low price tag made the deal, but having IMBA’s resources, and supporting their efforts at the federal level made rejoining well worth it for them. “I want to know about those things, right? But I can’t keep track of it all. It’s too much.”

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