The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is drawing on decades of accumulated trailbuilding expertise to offer a new model for community-based mountain bike trails.
Dubbed “Gateway Trails,” these trail systems will bring mountain biking recreation closer to millions of potential riders. Gateway Trails can be built in small parks – next to greenways, playgrounds and ball-fields – to broaden the recreational offerings in suburban and urban communities.
Gateway Trails provide a friendly introduction to mountain biking for novice riders. Newcomers build skills with each turn of the handlebars; as they traverse the natural world, they strengthen their muscles and build self-esteem. By incorporating family-style natural surface trails, bike skills areas and engaging signage, Gateway Trails can stimulate a new generation of bicyclists and outdoor enthusiasts.
Engineered for New Riders
IMBA has designed and built thousands of trail miles across the world. Armed with this experience, we have launched an important initiative to put model trail systems on the ground at an unprecedented level.
IMBA Ride Centers are the flagship of this initiative, offering expansive networks of trails, with options for all skill levels. Gateway Trails also offer purpose-built mountain bike trails, but are engineered to fit into community settings, and emphasize trail features for beginner and intermediate riders.
Environmental and Social Benefits of Gateway Trails
Natural Resource Protection: Building a constituency for outdoor recreation is vital to ensuring the future of open space. If people visit and enjoy the outdoors, they’ll support preservation of natural and undeveloped land. The challenge is to encourage more Americans to explore the outdoors. The answer is easily accessible, sustainable trails and IMBA is the world expert.
Putting Kids on Bikes: The unstructured play experience that mountain biking provides inspires kids to explore the natural world and leads to positive associations with exercise. Providing more and safer opportunities for kids to ride can have a major impact on our nationwide physical inactivity crisis.
Cross-Generational Fun: Parents, grandparents, mentors, siblings-their modeling is at the heart of a national cultural change. A child’s inactivity and disconnect from nature is often a symptom of an inactive family life. Mountain biking is a cross-generational endeavor-accessible to all generations at the same time, on the same trail.
Skills for Trails and Roads: A skilled biker has control of her bike and can swiftly adapt to any changes in her environment. The skills learned on a mountain bike trail are invaluable for biking on the road. As our nation invests more and more dollars toward creating a safe environment for biking as a means of transportation, we need to focus on creating skilled bikers who are prepared to ride in all conditions.
Success Story: Rustler’s Loop Teaches While You Ride
Rustler’s Loop, near Fruita, Colorado, exemplifies the objectives of Gateway Trails. Local mountain bikers, an area medical center and the Bureau of Land Management partnered to provide a beginner-friendly singletrack experience. They constructed 5 miles of scenic, smooth trail in 2001.
Rustler’s Loop winds through desert red rocks on a natural bench above the Colorado River. Approximately 25 interpretative signs teach visitors about the natural environment, responsible trail use, and mountain biking skills. The signs are small and placed low to the ground to complement the scenery.