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Mark Flint, who serves on IMBA’s National Parks task force, is
less outspoken in his criticism. Still, he’s started MTBAccess, a small
Arizona-based mountain-bike group that has pledged to work with off-road
vehicle groups. The Southern Sierra Fat Tire Association of Bakersfield,
Calif., and a mountain bike club in Idaho have also allied with the BlueRibbon
Perhaps due to the saber-rattling from local bike groups, IMBA has
become more aggressive in its access fights. The group has a growing legal fund
and recently hired its first paid state representative — not surprisingly, to
work on access issues in California.
The group walks a fine line. On one hand, if it wants to attract
the new generation of riders, it needs to push for more access for freeriders
and downhillers. On the other hand, its older constituency (the average IMBA
member is 37 years old) tends to be more reserved.
"We get letters from members who say they are pulling their
membership because IMBA is trying to get into wilderness," says
Jenn Dice, the group’s
government affairs director, "and
others who are complaining that we aren’t doing enough for access."
Even Gary Sprung seems to have some misgivings. "I’m not a
big fan of freeriding and downhilling, only because it’s more about the bike
than it is about nature," he says. "It’s not the same as regular
mountain biking. It’s almost like a different sport." Riders who build
renegade trails "have caused some environmental impacts and made my job
harder," he adds. "And it does not please me."
Rethinking bikes and trails
No one knows the tough position mountain bikers are in better than
Garrett Villanueva. A civil engineer by training, Villanueva oversees 450 miles
of very popular trail in one of California’s outdoor sports hotspots: Lake
Tahoe. Villanueva constantly sees the damage caused by irresponsible
downhilling and freeriding. He has photos of the jerry-rigged stunts he’s had
to remove from national forest land. He recently closed "Jackie Chan"
and "King Axle," two illegally built trails.