Whether its Israel or Wales, mountain bike clubs and communities around the world have a lot of issues in common, from keeping trails open and accessible to the public, to managing the growing number of cyclists using those trails.
Although exact numbers are hard to come by, a 2002 study by the National Sporting Goods Association found that the number of participants was up 23.8 per cent in the U.S.
Its also become a major source of tourism revenue. According to an article in Bicycling Magazine, 175 North American ski resorts are now promoting mountain biking in the summer months.
From June 20-23 Whistler will host the 2006 IMBA Summit and World Mountain Bike Conference, playing host to delegates from all sides of the sport. On the rider side there will be representatives from bike clubs, trail builders, and advocates, while on the administrative side there will be land managers, local government planners, ski resort managers, tourism professionals and representatives from the mountain bike industry.
There are 47 featured speakers that will focus on four major themes: Communication, Collaboration and Clubs will look at how to improve communication between riders, governments and land managers to benefit trails; Planning Successful Trail Communities will look out how to plan trail-based communities that promote healthy, active, outdoor lifestyles as well as boost tourism; Managing Risk and Trails will look at risk management in the sport, renegade trail building, sensitive ecosystems, and trail management solutions; and Where do we Ride From Here will look at the evolution of mountain biking into freeriding, cross-country and downhill, and how to unite those diverging sports into a single mountain bike community.
Presenters are from 17 different countries, including Patrick Jansen of the Netherlands who is giving a presentation on "Building Trails in Urban Ecosystems", and Dafydd C. Davis of Wales, who is discussing "Managing Trails in Sensitive Ecosystems." A complete list of events and presenters is available online at www.world mountainbikeconference.com.
"Its going well, Im amazed by the international interest in this event," said event coordinator Richard Juryn. "Were closing in on 400 delegates with some pretty neat people on our presenters list. This is probably the most extensive gathering of recreational trail builders and land managers that has ever happened anywhere in the world. Its a real watershed event for mountain biking."
One of the reasons for that is the fact that Juryn and other organizers ensured that there was something for everyone. For example, there is one session for bike park managers with representatives from between 25 and 28 parks expected to attend.
Whistler Blackcomb is encouraging the development of lift assisted biking, and helping to run the session.
"Whistler-Blackcomb has realized that for lift assisted mountain biking to grow and prosper there has to be more parks and more people out there riding," said Juryn.
The bike park has even created a consultancy group called Gravity Logic to help other resorts create and maintain bike parks. The more people in the sport, the more people will be heading to Whistler which is widely acknowledged as having the top park in the world.
The Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association is the host club for the event, and will be providing guided rides, as well as a special Loonie Race open to Summit and Conference participants.
Three different tours will be offered every day beginner, advanced and intermediate. WORCA president Grant Lamont estimates that up to 10 volunteers will be needed.
The first guided ride is from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
On Wednesday at 5 p.m. WORCA will host a Loonie Race (or ride) starting in the village and finishing at Spruce Grove Field House. The course will include parts of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, the Magic Park on Blackcokmb, and the Lost Lake trail network.
The Loonie event will be followed by a WORCA barbecue and after party in the Spruce Grove Field House.
There will be another guided ride on Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
If you can volunteer for all or any of these events please let WORCA know at email@example.com.
Other social events include the opening reception at the Whistler Conference Centre, the Conference Banquet featuring trials rider Ryan Leech and unicycle phenom Kris Holm on Thursday evening. The last event is a film and slideshow on Friday night featuring promos for upcoming films, short films and a slideshow which will also be open to the public. More information is available on the website.