BY NICOLE FORMOSA
PARK CITY, UT—More than 400 delegates from a dozen countries, federal land managers and representatives from the bike industry convened in Park City, Utah, last month for the International Mountain Bicycling Association World Summit, to focus on advocacy, networking and the overall state of the sport.
The turnout was equal to that of the last summit in Whistler, British Columbia, in 2006, said Mark Eller, IMBA’s communications director.
“This one and the last one have been enormously successful and [represent] a transformation,” Eller said. “Our old approach to summits was more internally focused in developing the IMBA family, clubs and reps, and now the summits are much better outreach for media, industry and public lands officials.”
John Burke, president of Trek Bicycle Corporation, opened the conference with a speech on the value advocacy brings to cycling and the need for the industry to support groups like IMBA whose volunteers build new trails and infrastructure, thus getting more people on bikes.
As part of Trek’s One World, Two Wheels program, the company last year pledged $600,000 to IMBA over three years by contributing $10 for every full-suspension mountain bike sold. In the first year, 650 Trek dealers signed on to match that number.
Since last August, Trek has collected $193,413 for IMBA and is on track to raise $350,000 in 2008.
Burke said Trek holds 10 percent of U.S. market share for full-suspension mountain bikes, and if the remaining 90 percent of suppliers stepped up, the industry could contribute $3.5 million to IMBA.
“Trek spends $16 million a year marketing in the U.S. so we’re not exactly sacrificing the world here to push over $350,00 to IMBA. This is a very doable figure in the bicycle industry. This can happen, but we need people to get out there, get after it and get it done,” Burke said.
QBP, a longtime supporter of IMBA, SRAM and Fuji have already committed to the program. GT Bikes made its own pledge at the Summit, stepping up to sponsor two Team IMBA groups at this year’s 24 Hours of Moab, each of which would raise $5,000 for the organization. Cannondale will also sponsor a team.
Trek’s matching program is successful, but IMBA still struggles to attract retailers—only about five attended the summit in Park City, said Hill Abell, president of IMBA and owner of Bicycle Sport Shop in Austin, Texas.
“It’s tough. A lot of retailers don’t get the connection between more trails, more sales,” Abell said.
But, IMBA is making strides. It’s working on a new program with Specialized, which already sponsors IMBA’s California chapter, that the company will unveil at its dealer launch this month, Abell said.
Also, IMBA recently partnered with the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association and will now handle the administrative duties for SORBA, allowing its volunteers to spend more time in the field, potentially reaching out to dealers, Abell said.
One idea to involve retailers is to create a “Membership in a Bottle” POS display for shops to sign customers up as IMBA members.
“It’s got to be easy for the retailer. It can’t involve any additional work,” Abell said, acknowledging that most retailers are time-strapped.
The one place at the Summit where the industry was most present was the expo area set up in a parking lot behind the Park City Marriott where the conference was held.
There, workers from GT, Cannondale and Trek outfitted delegates with bikes for daily group rides while SRAM mechanics tinkered on riders’ bicycles.
“By us being here and the other brands being here, hopefully more producers of bicycles, bike parts and clothing will support IMBA,” said Michael De Leon, public relations manager for Cannondale Sports Group.
While IMBA has no intentions of growing the Summit into the next trade show, the demo/expo portion is one area that could be expanded in the future, Eller said.
“For all these people, it’s great to be able to ride new product and not to have to travel with your bike is a huge benefit, and that’s a really good natural connection,” Eller said.