The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is always out there doing the noble work to promote sensible trail access & advocacy and is now lobbying regarding Wilderness access. Today the US Federal Lands Subcommittee is discussing H.R. 1349 – a proposal that would amend Wilderness Act regulations to permit mountain bike access in designated Wilderness areas. IMBA has in fact submitted testimony NOT SUPPORTING this legislation.

IMBA’s take on H.R. 1349 & bike access to Wilderness areas

all photos courtesy of IMBA

So we all know that mountain bikers can be great public land stewards. And as engaged advocates of outdoor recreation, we need to have a say in future trail development. As their communication director puts it, “IMBA’s collaborative approach has proven that when mountain bikers are given a seat at the table in these discussions, important trails can be protected while finding common ground with those who are looking to create new conservation designations.”

But H.R. 1349, submitted by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) would amend the Wilderness Act so that nothing in the law would “prohibit the use of motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized bicycles, strollers, wheelbarrows, survey wheels, measuring wheels, or game carts within any wilderness area.” That of course would mean unprecedented mountain bike access into Wilderness areas. But IMBA doesn’t think that the blanket opening of access respects the Wilderness Act of 1964 and its intention to preserve the wild nature of these areas.

Instead IMBA advocates for a more nuanced “collaborative strategy to protect important trails”. And they will continue work to “promote alternative mountain bike-friendly land protections”. That’s a direct response to concerns IMBA sees with current inconsistent management of access for mountain bikes by the U.S. Forest Service in areas that are already designated as Wilderness Recommended. IMBA doesn’t want to see similar conflicting opinions immediately affect all current Wilderness areas as a result of this new amendment.

IMBA will continue to advocate for collaborative work with trail conservationists, and prefers this collaboration model to be the standard for trail development across the US. They cite successful examples “like the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act in Colorado and the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act in Montana [that] have been widely celebrated and serve as models for how collaborative efforts involving mountain bikers throughout the process can lead to advancing both conservation and recreation.”

“Mountain bikers and the recreation community depend on public lands and thoughtful conservation. Public lands are being threatened at an unprecedented level right now, and it’s imperative that public land users come together to protect these cherished places and offer our voices in this critical dialogue,” said IMBA Executive Director, Dave Wiens. “We know Wilderness hits some mountain bikers’ backyards, and we understand why those riders support this legislation. To continue elevating mountain biking nationally, IMBA must remain focused on its long-term strategy for the bigger picture of our sport.”

Learn more about this and other trail advocacy issues at (and get involved there). Read the full written statement IMBA submitted expressing their opinion not to support H.R. 1349 here. Read the actual text of H.R. 1349 here.


  1. Does IMBA have a bullseye tattooed on its foot? But hey, given that they’ve already alienated so many former supporters it’s not like we can double down on not giving them more money.

    And it sure would have been nice to get STC’s perspective on this position seeing as they are arguably the subject matter experts on bikes in wilderness.

  2. “But IMBA doesn’t think that the blanket opening of access respects the Wilderness Act.” IMBA wants to “respect” a law that was conceived by the enemies of mountain bikers to unfairly exclude mountain bikers from wilderness areas. The laws were put on the books by conservation groups that had powerful lobbying in place to get this rammed thru to prevent mountain bikers from having a fair shot at access. It was a closed shop, except for those that believed in this unfair “cause.” Our local MTB club is dumping IMBA for this reason. They don’t help us, they advocate for people that hate us.

  3. Let the mining, foresty, and oil interests plow under the wilderness. We have been locked out by the sierra club, horse interests, and hikers. I don’t care to save their lands, I’d actually care if we hadn’t been denied for over 30 years. I also don’t suppor IMBA, they have been doing nothing but enriching themselves off local MTB clubs, with benfitis to nobody but the magangement payrolls. Maintaining the status quo is why nobody gives a crap about what IMBA has to say.

  4. I can’t tell if the current political climate suits IMBA or hurts them. The ignorant pigs seem to be in charge so maybe now is the time to get the rules changed. Be careful of who you go to bed with though. You’re likely to regret the filthy feeling later.

  5. “…to permit mountain bike access in designated Wilderness areas. IMBA has in fact submitted testimony OPPOSING this legislation.”
    More in alliance with conservation groups than mountain bikers.

  6. Wow, they really suck. I am definitely not donating to them ever. MORE is a far more useful organization in my area that I actually see volunteers out and about doing work on trails.

  7. IMBA supports electric motorcycles(e-bikes) at the same time siding with our enemy Sierra club. Absolutely zero money must go into the direction of IMBA. They have been bought out through funds by manufacturers, oil companies and non-bicycle groups. They do not represent what is in our best nature. Not now or in the future.

  8. IMBA is a punchline to a joke no one wanted to hear. They should stick to paving dirt sidewalks in the front country and fleecing well-meaning rubes for donations. With all due respect to Mr. Wiens, butt out and allow groups representing the best interests of riders to handle this. IMBA is a net-negative for the sport and has no place on town trails let alone the backcountry.

  9. Everyone unplugging from IMBA, please make sure to donate, or become a member of your local mountain bike advocacy group with a direct payment or donation (bypassing IMBA if they are a chapter)

    Your local group serves you and your needs, and should not be punished due to IMBA’s actions.

    • As an IMBA chapter, our local trail group won’t receive a cent from me unfortunately. If and when they disassociate I’ll reconsider. But as long as being a member automatically means becoming an IMBA member it’s not going to happen.

  10. I feel no need to ride my mountain bike in Wilderness areas. There are TONS of trails that are on lands open to bikes that I haven’t ridden yet. Probably more than I can ride in my lifetime. It’s ok for some places to remain closed to bikes.

    • I totally understand this perspective. My problem is not with necessarily more wilderness access in the future, but in not backsliding on what has been ridden for decades (see recent developments in Idaho and Montana, just to start).

      Some years ago in my home state of OR, there was a move for a new wilderness area that was nothing more than a “lock it up land grab” by the hikers. Nothing remotely “wilderness” in nature about the area, but it IS arguably the premier mtb area east of Mt. Hood, and has been for over 30 years (yes, I’ve been riding that long).

      I had high hopes for an IMBA course correction under Dave Wiens, but I am getting doubtful.

  11. IMBA is horrible these days, they will likely never get money from me again. Any mountain biker who doesn’t support the STC’s Wilderness agenda doesn’t understand the issue or isn’t really much of a mountain biker. I am not for wholesale permission to ride on every trail in the wilderness, but that is not what will happen if the bill becomes law- we just wont have the current wholesale exclusion from Wilderness lands. Forest managers will still be able to exclude bikes from trails as they see fit.

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