IMBA Summit in Mammoth – Jenny Johnson

jennyEarlier this year, MWBA sent a few Board Directors to the California IMBA Summit at Mammoth Mountain. Of course we meant to post a report about it right away, but we got distracted with trail work and riding.

So I asked Jenny Johnson a few questions about her experience at the summit to share with members…


2015 IMBA California Chapter conference group in Mammoth
2015 IMBA California Chapter conference group in Mammoth

Why did you want to attend the IMBA Summit?

I wanted to connect with other California IMBA chapters and find out what has been going on with IMBA over the last year since the last summit in Idylwild. IMBA is our “Mothership” and it’s always good to connect a face with a name or an email. We know Patrick Kell, our regional IMBA rep as he’s come out and visited a few times, but everyone else was a blank face for me. Also, as my first year of being MWBA’s President, I wanted to stay on top of what’s going on and also make sure our member’s voices were heard.  I wanted to talk with other CA chapters and see what they were doing in their areas, especially as it relates to trail etiquette, bell awareness and advocacy. Plus, MAMMOTH!

What rides did you do?

We rode the first day we got there and did the usual Mammoth rides. It was a ton of fun. We did do a few other group rides, more cross country riding. I appreciated it because I rode on trails I would normally not ride, but I also hated/loved it because there was a bit of climbing. Climbing, in general is not fun for me, climbing at altitude is an exercise in slow torture. Unless of course you like feeling sharp pains piercing your chest every time you gasp for air. If you like that, then you should climb at altitude. You’ll have fun. In all seriousness, who goes to a bike park to climb? Oh yeah, crazy fit people. Next question.

MWBA Leah Dilbeck obviously enjoying the Mammoth trails
MWBA Leah Dilbeck obviously enjoying the Mammoth trails

Did you have favorites and why?

Richter (I conquered it this year. Last year it chewed me up and spit me out with a broken collarbone and a few ribs.) This year, Richter was mine. Kinda. At least I didn’t cry when I rode it. I also love going Off the Top to Shock Treatment. I LOVE Velocity to Twilight Zone too. I mean pretty much, every trail is a blast to ride. You can’t go wrong at Mammoth.

Who did you meet?

I think this was the year of the IMBA staff. I met and hung out with Bruce Alt, VP of Government Relations (he’s a total blast and rule breaker. I like that). He was hired for his expertise and experience in Washington, as he was a Lobbyist in a former life as well a business professional and a President of an IMBA chapter. I also met and spoke with Kevin Adams, VP of Chapter and Member Services. This newly formed role and Kevin’s hiring is an indication of IMBA’s commitment to shake things up a bit as the status quo was a bit…stale.

I was able to impart my feelings and observations from over the past 5 years; where they are doing a solid job and where there are areas of improvement, especially with their relationship with the Chapters.

Who else? I met Susie Murphy, the Executive Director of SDMBA. She is the first paid hire for any IMBA Chapter. The rest of us Chapters are keeping our eyes on the San Diego chapter and see how their membership numbers, advocacy work and fundraising efforts grow. I met Cathy and Jim Haagen-Smit from FATRAC and are the fastest couple on a tandem bike on a single track that I have ever seen. Amazing. Steve Hansen, the President of Tehachapi Mountain Trails Association was there. They are doing some really exciting things in that area. They are building up new trails, they have a high school team that is a part of the SoCal League and I believe we are going to be holding one of our races there, and they are getting closer to building a bike park. Lots of cool things for them! I also reconnected with some old friends, Steve Messer from CORBA, Matt Gunnell the Director of the SoCal High School Cycling League was there, as was Jim Hausenauer aka IMBA Jim and of course Robin and Mikie McGuire. I saw Wendi Hoagland from San Diego and heard stories about her while she was on the mountain. She was becoming legendary, in real time. Haha.

MWBA Leah Dilbeck, IMBA Patrick Kell, MWBA Jenny Johnson and Matt Lay
MWBA Leah Dilbeck, IMBA Patrick Kell, MWBA Jenny Johnson and Matt Lay

Have you kept in touch with anyone?

Susie Murphy and I keep running into each other! I’ve seen her at the GGR Rocktober fest as well as the SoCal high school fundraiser down in Temecula. Plus I love keeping up with her on Facebook. I believe she has a new home office and it is the envy of any mountain biker. I would say most of the folks I’ve connected with I keep up with on Facebook. It’s really easy to click on their home page and see what’s up and drop comment bombs every once in a while. The Chapter Presidents did get together and form an online group where we’ve been addressing some of the issues that have come out of the discussions we’ve had. That’s been super cool and a good way to stay in contact with all these really amazing and passionate folks.

What workshops did you attend?

There were no breakout groups or sessions that you could sign up for. We learned about the restructuring of IMBA from an operational perspective, hence Kevin Adams being hired (new VP of Chapter and Member Services). We got updates from various chapters, we learned about the advocacy and work that has been done with the governance part of IMBA; we learned Jeremy Fancher was no longer with IMBA and that Aaron Clark is doing an excellent job, as well as the new hire, Bruce Alt ( I mentioned him earlier). They debuted their relationship with MTB Project, a digital trail directory that hopes to map out all of the trails across the United States. IMBA’s staff and the Chapter members and volunteers help create, review, and edit trails and photos on MTB Project, a real community and grassroots effort! All trail data is shared with IMBA, who then uses that data in their advocacy efforts to continue to keep those trails available to mountain bikers. We currently use them; you can check out our local trails on our website homepage.

What was your favorite part of the summit?

Would I be a horrible person if I said riding was my favorite and then the fellowship and developing relationships with other super smart people who are passionate about mountain biking? Afterall, I got involved with MWBA because I loved riding and then I discovered  mountain bikers are pretty cool people.

Did you learn anything that applied locally?

Most of the topics can apply locally or nationally, especially topics such as e-bikes, the constant Wilderness battle, trail work standards, etc.
MWBA's Trail Boss Matt Lay and the McGuires
MWBA’s Trail Boss Matt Lay and the McGuires

Why is attending the summit a good use of member funds?

That’s a good question. Though we do have a great time at the Summits, we get to ride, we socialize with our peers and we get to hang out. All of those things are important components of what makes the Summit so valuable because ultimately, it’s building relationships between the California chapters, which means open communication to develop a unified message and stance. I also see the Summit as an accountability yardstick for IMBA. We give them 60% of our members dues and we want to know that money is being used wisely. There are not a lot of shy Chapter leaders, and these folks are smart and vocal.

In my opinion, one of the biggest things to come directly out of the Summit was getting the Chapter leaders together after the summit electronically so we can continue discussing and working on the topics that were brought up including our stance on ebikes and Wilderness. I think IMBA felt the rumblings of dissatisfaction at how certain things were being handled and they responded at the Summit. I don’t really want to get into details, but it felt like our collective voices were being heard. That’s a good thing.

Another thing is, it’s so nice to meet in person with the people I’ve been working with and will continue to work with in the future to keep our place in the mountains secure. We met face to face to discuss some of the issues and tactics needed for our area and it was great to share a meal with these guys while talking instead of hoping I heard everything correctly over the speaker phone.