Traveler's View: International Mountain Bicycling Association Shouldn't Twist Facts To Raise Funds

With hopes of raising money to further its efforts to gain access for biking trails, the International Mountain Bicycling Association is smearing the Traveler as the evil villian.

Unfortunately, IMBA's PR machine is twisting the facts and casting aspersions.

In a fund-raising e-letter it sent out to its membership, IMBA claims that "the National Parks Traveler website erroneously asserted that an IMBA-led trail project at Big Bend National Park will be built in an inappropriate piece of backcountry Wilderness. In fact, the trail is adjacent to the visitors center. Nor did IMBA pay to play by funding the environmental analysis, as the Traveler stated."

The e-letter went on to say "mountain biking has powerful opponents that want you banned from all trails, right now. It takes significant funding to pay the professional teams IMBA employs to prevent them from winning."

("Pay for play" is a phrase coined in response to organizations and businesses that try to gain access by offering some form of renumeration. In the case of the multiple-use trail at Big Bend National Park, some say the Park Service was persuaded to consider building the trail after IMBA and other biking groups offered to help pay for the environmental analysis.)

Now, fundraisers take all forms, and don't always hew hard to the facts. We feel the record has to be set straight on two items:

* The Traveler in its stories about the Big Bend multiple-use trail did not describe it as being located in an "inappropriate piece of backcountry Wilderness" (nor did we spell 'Wilderness' with a capital W.) The story did, however, note that some consider the land as having wilderness potential, and at least one group in Texas has included the tract in its preferred package of wilderness for the park.

* While IMBA claims that it did not "pay to play by funding the environmental analysis," a paper trail maintained by the National Park Service claims that the organization did indeed help pay for the EA:

On June 6, 2011, the National Park Service responded to a Freedom of Information Act request from PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) of May 11, 2011. The PEER FOIA requested all documents related to the NPS’ EA for the bicycle trail, including all communications with the International Mountain Bicycle Association (IMBA), and its local “affiliate” the Big Bend Trails Alliance (BBTA) and the NPS regarding the trail.

1. In an e-mail of October 31, 2005, Park Superintendent John King wrote to former and retired Park Superintendent Jim Carrico, owner of Desert Sports Texas, in Terlingua, Texas and Jeff Renfrow of Big Bend Trail Alliance. He declared “Good news. I just received word that Bikes Belong has approved and funded our recent grant application in the amount of $10,000. (Government Affairs Director) Jenn Dice from IMBA tells me that they will kick in at least $1,000. Jenn Dice tells me that a member of their Board has also made a $1,000 pledge.”

He concluded his e-mail with “So, we’re off to a great start.”

2. In an e-mail of November 22, 2005, King wrote to Jenn Dice of IMBA “We have received the check from Bikes Belong in the amount of $10,000. When we amass a total of $20,000 we’ll begin the EA. Any confirmation yet on what IMBA will be willing to contribute to the cause (Editorial comment - King’s choice of words here may be telling ... ) and when that would be forthcoming.”

3. In an e-mail of November 23, 2005, Jenn Dice responded to King “IMBA put a check for $2,000 in the mail to you today.”

4. On November 29, 2005, King wrote an official memorandum to the Comptroller of the Intermountain Regional Office requesting $8,000 of NPS monies for the EA and said “We submitted a grant application to an organization named Bikes Belong and have received funding from them in the amount of $10,000. IMBA has provided $2,000 to support this project…”

5. In an e-mail of January 13, 2006 Park Superintendent John King wrote to his boss, NPS Regional Director Mike Snyder, explaining the origin of the mountain bicycle trail idea. It was not the NPS’ idea. He wrote “Following the signing of this agreement (the General Agreement between the NPS and IMBA of March 17, 2005), the park was approached by representatives of the Big Bend Trails Alliance (a local group of mountain biking/hiking enthusiasts) and they asked if us if we would consider the possibility of expanding mountain biking opportunities in Big Bend NP.” King then detailed how the fundraising goal for the environmental review was now met. “$10,000 has been provided by an organization called Bikes Belong, $2,000 from IMBA, and $8,000 from the IMRO contingency account.”

6. Two NPS documents entitled “Big Bend Mountain Bike Trails Scoping Meeting” summarize meetings at Alpine, Texas on January 30, 2006 and Study Butte, Texas on January 31, 2006. Both explain that the NPS will obtain funding for the EA from “Bikes Belong” (($10,000), IMBA ($2,000) and BBTA ($1500). The NPS Intermountain Regional Office would fund $8,000. Thus, early in the NPS’ review process, the advocates for establishing a new mountain bicycle trail in the park committed to fund a large portion of the EA.

When asked about that paper trail Monday, IMBA officials maintained that, to the best of their knowledge, they had decided "against making any financial contribution for the EA."

Was that before, or after, the check was in the mail?

Now, as we noted in a comment the other day, businesses and organizations in the past have paid to have public land agencies conduct environmental studies on proposals they want to see on public lands, so whether IMBA contributed to the EA by itself isn't that big of a deal.

Beyond that, Traveler fully understands and appreciates the recreational value of mountain biking, and in the past has noted the many, many opportunities for mountain biking in the National Park System.

While it's somewhat flattering that IMBA is trying to leverage donations by making the Traveler out to be an opponent to mountain biking, it's also disingenuous.

As any careful reader knows, Traveler covers the entire range of recreational use and management issues, and our articles often produce extensive and at times heated public comments from passionate perspectives on both, and even all, sides of an issue. Traveler's editors and writers strive to provide that forum based on well-researched, editorially independent articles.

Bottom line—National Parks Traveler is not at all "against" mountain biking or an appropriate role for the sport in national parks. We are however determined to be sure that the facts are honored in the often controversial debates partisan recreationists find themselves in as we balance what's best for our parks.


NPT editors, you've got some nerve to take IMBA to task about accuracy when discussing the Big Bend trail project! To review the flawed allegations you've published:

Error 1) “This would be the first backcountry trail to allow mountain biking in a National Park, and it was the result of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Park Service (NPS) and the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) designed to explore new opportunities for mountain biking in National Parks.”

The trail at Big Bend is not the first of its kind in a National Park. Trails at Saguaro National Park and Mammoth Cave National Park are working through the regulatory process. Other National Park Service properties such as Golden Gate National Recreation Area and New River Gorge National River already feature trails that are open for mountain biking.

Error 2) “Current regulations do not allow this type of trail, and a new rule would have to be passed and implemented before the trail could be open to bikers.”

IMBA is aware that mountain bicycles will not be allowed on the new trail until the necessary Special Regulation has been promulgated. Nonetheless, we are happy to help the park build a sustainable trail that will offer visitors an exceptional experience and access to a beautiful place. As leaders in building and designing sustainable trails, IMBA has worked with many national park units to build new trails and refurbish unsustainable trails.

Error 3) “The area in question is part of Citizen’s Proposed Wilderness, and it has been the subject of national conversations for inclusion in wilderness legislation.”

While it is true that a citizen’s group has suggested this area be considered for Wilderness status, that proposal has failed to elicit support from the National Park Service. Park management at Big Bend has not included this area as potential Wilderness in any of its plans. Big Bend staff excluded this area from the potential Wilderness recommendations in 1975 because of the numerous utility lines and potential development of water resources. The 1984 recommendations also did not include the area as potential Wilderness. Most recently, the 2004 General Management Plan did not propose the area for Wilderness.

Error 4) “Big Bend Breaks Ground On Single-Track Bike Racing Trail — Precedent-Setting Embrace of Converting Park Backcountry to Thrill Sport Venues”

This inflammatory and misleading headline comes from PEER, and the language has been repeated on the Traveler website. In fact, the trail has been designed with excellent sightlines and moderate grades to encourage a friendly hiking and — if the special regulation is promulgated — bicycling experience.

Error 5) “The pay-for-play aspect where a user group, IMBA and its local affiliate, paid for the cursory Environmental Assessment.”

IMBA did not pay for the Environmental Assessment. It was conducted by the NPS in accordance with their usual NEPA processes. IMBA and our local affiliate have contributed time and expertise to the design and construction of the trail to ensure that it is built to the highest standards of sustainable trail design. IMBA only undertakes trail projects in the NPS system when it is invited to do so by parks staff.

Hi Mark,

A few questions for you:

Regarding Error 1, if Mammoth Cave and Saguaro are still working through the regulatory process, and therefore the trails don't yet exist, would the Traveler's statement still be accurate that the trail in Big Bend would be first? Also, the examples you mentioned are a National Recreation Area and a National River, which don't bear National Park designations, so in that sense would the Traveler's description be accurate?

Your explanations of Errors 2-4 make it sound as if there wasn't anything actually erroneous in what the Traveler said. Or am I missing something? And if so, which facts did the Traveler get wrong here?

Finally, with respect to Error 5, what do you make of the documents that show the IMBA contributed $2000 to fund the EA?

Thanks for showing the other side of the conversation.

I agree with justinh that what is pointed out as errors do not seem to be. Even if they were, Mark E could easily have approached the subject with much more consideration to National Parks Traveler editors.

National parks are special places, and the landscapes and creatures within deserve to be treated with respect.

If this is how IMBA members (and perhaps IMBA as an entity, as there is a Mark E listed on its website as communications director) treat other people, will they show any respect to park plants, wildlife and fellow visitors? If the attitude shown above is representative, it would change my opinion about allowing mountain biking - I'd want to keep these people out.

Let's hope this is an unfortunate communication - an error, even - from one person and not indicative of IMBA members.

In reply to Justinh:

Shared-use trails that allow bicycling at Mammoth Cave, Saguaro and many other national parks do, in fact exist in the national park system. For example, IMBA has designed a shared-use trail that is open for riding at Fort Dupont national park. So, no, the NPT statement is not accurate.

The Traveler has repeatedly published statemets from PEER and Our Texas Wild that are erronuous, or dramtically overstated, as IMBA's release shows in points 2-4.

Finally, I'm working on a detailed reply to clear up any remaining questions about IMBA's financial contributions at Big Bend. On the one hand, the NPT editors say it's not unusual or problematic for outside sources to contribute to NPS projects: " whether IMBA contributed to the EA by itself isn't that big of a deal."

On the other hand, they have repeatedly alleged that IMBA's contributions at Big Bend represent a "pay to play" arrangement.

No matter -- I'll provide a clear accounting soon.

Thaks, Mark.

With respect to Mammoth and Saguaro, these trails aren't in designated wilderness, right? And neither is the one proposed for Big Bend, which the Traveler doesn't seem to have ever claimed (despite the IMB fundraising letter). And, of course, Fort Dupont isn't a National Park; you seem to be blurring the "park" designation with other kinds of units managed by the National Park Service.

As for the Traveler publishing statements by PEER, etc., quoting comments from others, as part of the process of reporting, isn't the same as making those comments, right?

Justin, everyone agrees that none of the trails you mention are located in designated wilderness. The Traveller did not say that the Big Bend trail is in a wilderness area, but it did cite the Our Texas Wild release which claims the trail is in proposed wilderness -- perhaps vaguely true because a citizens group has made the proposal, but effectively empty because the park has documented why it won't recommend that option. And, the NPT's decision to publish and extensively quote from the Our Texas Wild and PEER releases, both of which which stridently attack the Big Bend trail, is clearly an editorial stance. Fair enough -- we all have our ideas about how mountain biking should be handled. As IMBA's spokesman, I'll try to represent our side of the story.

The Traveler stands by its editorial.

Some additional points:

* Through the many years of our coverage of the Big Bend "multiple-use" trail, the Traveler has stated specifically that it does not go into any proposed or designated wildereness. But that does not make it erroneous to mention groups that see the land in question as meriting such designation. Not an acre of Yellowstone or Glacier is official wilderness, but many groups desire to see it so.

Also, for what it's worth, in their EA on the trail, Big Bend officials state that the trail would offer "an experience of the primitive backcountry currently not available to bicyclists."

* Current NPS regulations require a special rule-making process to be followed before mountain bikes can ride the Big Bend trail once it's completed. There's no error in noting that.

* Attributing a PEER headline, or wording, to the Traveler's position on mountain biking is misleading and disingenuous.

* Through the years Traveler has covered mountain biking possibilities in other units of the National Park System. If reporting on the views of PEER and Our Texas Wild demonstrates an editorial bias, what bias does reporting on biking trails in New River Gorge National River or the 100-mile White Rim Trail in Canyonlands or the riding opportunities at Whiskeytown NRA demonstrate?

For IMBA to describe the Traveler as a "powerful opponent" to mountain biking is woefully off-base and nothing more than a sensationalized effort to solicit donations.

Briefly ...

"Current NPS regulations require a special rule-making process to be followed before mountain bikes can ride the Big Bend trail once it's completed. There's no error in noting that."

No -- that's why IMBA has repeatedly pointed out the same fact.

"Attributing a PEER headline, or wording, to the Traveler's position on mountain biking is misleading and disingenuous"

Then why does the Traveler routinely quote PEER on the topic of mountain biking in national parks?

"Through the years Traveler has covered mountain biking possibilities in other units of the National Park System. If reporting on the views of PEER and Our Texas Wild demonstrates an editorial bias, what bias does reporting on biking trails in New River Gorge National River or the 100-mile White Rim Trail in Canyonlands or the riding opportunities at Whiskeytown NRA demonstrate?"

The bias is that these examples, all quite successfully managed, routinely call into question whether cycling is appopriate in the NPS. As I've written today, it's fair for the Traveler to have an opinion -- but the line between journalistic reporting and opinion pieces gets blurry on the NPT. IMBA, on the other hand, does not claim to be a news source.

Thanks for the reminder. I do need to send some money to IMBA. As for the numerous mountain biking opportunities quoted by the NPT, it usually boils down to the white rim, a 100 mile boring fire road...

Thanks Mark for the continuous efforts.

On a side note, it's worth noting that despite all the cycling advocates efforts in the last 30 years, we're still locked out of wilderness. Meanwhile, a court finds out that overuse of alpine meadows by commercial horses is illegal and Congress comes to the equestrian rescue in less than 3 months. At least, we now know for sure who has money and power when it comes to trail access...

The bias is that these examples, all quite successfully managed, routinely call into question whether cycling is appopriate in the NPS.

Mark, if you do a search of the Traveler, you'll see that what you're saying simply isn't true. The pieces Kurt mentions very clearly celebrate mountain biking. You seem to be blurring those stories in the Traveler that inform readers of mountain biking opportunities with those that report or opine on mountain biking issues. I've never had much trouble distinguishing among informational, reporting, and opinion pieces in the Traveler.


I've been following the NPT for years, and I would love to know where it is that the NPT celebrates mountain biking on single track in the NPS. Could you please link to those nuggets of cycling celebration? On the other hand, I can easily find more than a few articles that have a clear anti mountain biking bias.

It doesn't seem like a bias to me for a news website to have an article that "People AB&C like to rub blue mud in their navels. People XY&Z don't like to rub blue mud in their navels. Here are some links about the controversy. What do you folks think? Let the comments begin."

And, Mark, just for clarity - you ARE the official of that group aren't you?

Really, JustinH? Is this reporting or opinion?

It's listed in the site's news section, and it references several sources that are expressedly against mountain biking at Big Bend and criticizes the Big Bend staff's handling of the new trail.

But IMBA wasn't contacted for a comment before the story was released -- and it's not like the editors at NPT don't have my contact info.

Jeez, even the over-the-top and thorougly anti-bike opinion piece by guest writer Thunderbear is listed in the news section.

Rick B. -- yes I've been totally upfront about my role as IMBA's spokesman (communications director).

Hey Zeb,

Which one of the stories above was Kurt wrong about with respect to the Traveler's coverage of mountain biking opportunities? Which articles in the Traveler have a reporting bias? Let's seem 'em.

Hey Mark,

Can you quote me a sample of that article that shows the bias you're talking about?

And as for over the top:

NPT editors, you've got some nerve to take IMBA to task about accuracy when discussing the Big Bend trail project! To review the flawed allegations you've published

Politics 101: Not a great idea to use that kind of rhetoric in the very forum of the group you're attacking! Especially when it's the very place that can publically refute the "errors" you mention.


You wrote "[= 14px; line-height: 18px]The pieces Kurt mentions very clearly celebrate mountain biking." I'd like to see them.[/]

NPT editors, you've got some nerve to take IMBA to task about accuracy when discussing the Big Bend trail project! To review the flawed allegations you've published

tu quoque

JustinH, not sure what else I can do to show the bias -- simply put, the reporting exclusively quotes the critics of the Big Bend trail with no attempt to contact or quote the project's proponents. That's a one-sided argument.

Although I don't agree substantively with Random Walker's jibe at Mark E., I like the use of the pithy comment, "tu quoque." I would guess that few people know what that means and that most who do majored in rhetoric in college.

Random Walker: Backatchya. Both sides have engaged in some heated rhetoric. I'm unilaterally starting a cooling-off period before more discussion.


You claimed that it's an opinion piece presented as reporting--"Is this reporting or opinion?"--which means it should be pretty easy to quote a sample of prose where an opinion is asserted as a fact. When I read the article, all views seem to be explicitly attributed to specific speakers.

But if the objection you want to make is that this is an editorial bias, then I think this would rise to the level of bias if the Travler reported on only criticisms of the trail. But a SEARCH of the half dozen articles or so on this specific issue shows that not to be the case.

Anyway, this is getting away from the original topic of this thread, which is about the allegations leveled against the Traveler in the fundraising letter issued by IMBA.

So Justinh, we're still waiting for those articles that glorify MTBing. :) My guess is that we'll be waiting for a while. That being said, I applaud Kurt to allowing all sides to discuss the issues.

NPS: "in their EA on the trail, Big Bend officials state that the trail would offer 'an experience of the primitive backcountry currently not available to bicyclists.'"

IMBA: "mountain biking has powerful opponents that want you banned from all trails, right now"

Why can't the NPS and IMBA tell the truth??? ALL mountain bikers are capable of walking, so the "experience of the primitive backcountry" IS available to them. Such sensationalistic statements are calculated to gain sympathy. But they are LIES. In fact, there is no way to promote mountain biking EXCEPT by lying. If IMBA ever told the truth, no one would support mountain biking.

[= 10pt][/url][/][/u][/] . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and (worst of all) teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?

For more information: .

Hey Zeb,

Take another look at what I wrote in my previous post. In the meantime, here's a Traveler excerpt for you. Enjoy!

Careen Down the Creeper

But adventure here isn’t just hiking—it’s mountain biking.

The Virginia Creeper Trail—a former logging railroad, now without the tracks and trains—starts near Mount Rogers on the lofty heights of White Top, the state’s second highest peak, and runs across scenic rolling foothills 33.4-miles to Abingdon, one of Virginia's oldest mountain towns, on Interstate 81. Between White Top and Abingdon—the Creeper runs right through trail town—Damascus.

Many Damascus businesses rent mountain bikes and ferry riders up to Whitetop Station for an unforgettable 17.4-mile ride back down to town—down as in downhill—through evergreen forests, over 30 railroad trestle bridges, and along gushing Whitetop Laurel Creek.

You could take an 8-year-old on this 3-hour, gravity-furthered family adventure—and countless outdoorsy families do just that. Halfway down to Damascus, in the almost hidden village of Taylor Valley, have lunch and great chocolate cake at the Creeper Trail Cafe (276-475-3918).

Check out Adventure Damascus Bicycles for rentals, shuttles, and referrals. Not far from the start, stop at the only remaining train station, Green Cove, for history exhibits. Just next door to the old station, the Buchanan Inn at the Green Cove Station is the best-kept-secret place to stay for complete access to the Creeper Trail and blissful isolation at the same time.

For more of a challenge, ride up to Whitetop and back—a more energetic but still gradual 35-mile ride. Or remember that the White Top section is only half the trail. Start in Abingdon, on I-81, and the ride to Whitetop is more of a challenge at 34 miles, almost 70-miles roundtrip. Best of all, that’s split between the mountainous upper forests and stunning pastoral scenes from Damascus to Abingdon.

Single track mountain bikers aren’t left out. Various loops emanate from Damascus and shuttle services will also drop off at the Iron Mountain Trail for the 20-mile ride back to town.


Touche. Here are a few for you. My formatting sucks, but you get the gist. I know that Kurt does not see himself as anti mountain bike, but I disagree. We've had that discussion many times.

And for those who don't know, Mike Vandeman was found guilty by a jury of assaulting multiple cyclists in the Berkeley hills.

Submitted by Kurt Repanshek on March 23, 2011 - 7:12pm.

Mark, I'm afraid your very first sentence explained IMBA's entire motivation:

Big Bend national park has oodles of dirt roads open for biking, but very little in the way of singletrack and the type of riding that mountain bikers prize.

Is this really about enjoying/appreciating the national parks for what they were created for and which the National Park Service is mandated to manage for, or about finding more single-track terrain to "prize", for more thrills?

And that's what's potentially wrong with the Big Bend proposal. Does it really look to give folks another way to enjoy the national parks, or does it simply seek to give mountain bikers another trail for seeking thrills?

Those who oppose this sort of use of national parks aren't elistists. In my opinion, they simply seek to see these landscapes preserved for future generations and not opened for each and every recreational avenue that various groups support and lobby for...and which in the end degrade the parks.

Big Bend is the perfect example of where there are myriad opportunities for mountain biking, both within and surrounding the park, without having to cut additional trails simply to create "the type of riding that mountain bikers prize."

Indeed, are serious mountain bikers really going to seek out a mere 10-mile-long trail? I wouldn't. Too short. But if this trail goes in, how long before extensions are requested?

One more

And another one:

This wouldn't be a debate in any country other than the United States, because anywhere else, IMBA would be a trail design and social organization, with a minimal access advocacy role. However, the United States's puritan tradition has translated into hostility toward mountain biking since its inception. What the grumblers really dislike, once you get past the canards about erosion and effects on wildlife, is that mountain biking is fun. It is exhilarating. The antibike Puritans detest this, whence their regular references to "thrillcraft."

Unlike hiking, mountain biking isn't constantly slow and plodding. It doesn't result in blistered feet; you're not filthy from the thighs down after you've been out there; you're not bothered by sweat, flies and mosquitoes even when you're moving; you don't need heavy boots and two pairs of socks; and you don't have to camp overnight unless you want to. Mountain biking doesn't ruin the bodies of its practitioners and it doesn't harm the environment. No wonder kids don't want to hike; they want to ride mountain bikes. Alas, many would rather see them get fat than ride a bike on a trail.

It is in this context—the unique context of American puritanism—that these debates take place. PEER and the traditional environmental organizations are, when it comes to any modern trend on public lands, reactionary champions of the just-say-no school—the George Wallaces, Lester Maddoxes, and Jesse Helmses of outdoor experience. I bet few people under age 50 want to belong to any of these organizations.

Where does National Parks Traveler figure into this? I've been reading it for years. I note that Kurt is a former professional journalist, and I see that background in his attempt to rely on multiple sources in his news articles and amass a lot of information. This is all to the good. Nevertheless, many NPT pieces, including Kurt's, have what a social trend organization for which I used to work called "voice."

When "voice" appeared in one of our reports to a corporate client, it means that we were editorializing, even if subtly, rather than reporting public sentiment in an ideally detached and dispassionate form. I see a lot of "voice" on NPT. The better part of Kurt would, I'm sure, like to eliminate it, but the general tendency to tilt against bicycles on trails is evident.

Finally, a note to Justin H. Justin, in your last post you've hit upon part of the communications problem between mountain bikers and those who don't have much of a clue about mountain biking (which includes some people who happen to have a mountain bike in the garage). Few people feel strongly about access to the Virginia Creeper Trail, either to advocate for it or oppose it. Your quotation includes the statement that "You could take an 8-year-old on this 3-hour, gravity-furthered family adventure." That means that as trails go, it would be, for avid mountain bikers, the sporting equivalent of an inflatable backyard pool for 2-year-olds, and few high school- or college-level swimmers or divers would be interested in that. It's beautiful singletrack or rugged jeep roads that flow for miles in majestic settings that IMBA's average member is interested in (or so I would guess; at least that describes me).

After I posted my comment equating people to Puritans when they refer to bicycles as "thrillcraft," I see that Zebulon posted text by Kurt that twice sounds alarmed about the "thrills" that bicycles offer. I wouldn't want people to think that I would lump Kurt in the same camp as the most dour antibike types out there. The Puritans do regularly denounce thrills, but not every worried reference to thrills comes from a Puritan. In other words, I hope not to be perceived as calling Kurt unkind names, when the NPT website does so much to bring opposing forces together to debate these issues.

Zebulon, I really should be working on dinner, but you've lured me out....I don't see where that exchange I had with Mark a year ago paints me as anti-mountain bike. Just the opposite! You yourself have moaned about the "boring" White Rim Trail, a ride many see as a fantastic way of visiting Canyonlands National Park, but one that doesn't meet your criteria.

Fair enough. But are you going to drive four-five-six hours from the nearest airport to ride a 10-mile loop under a hot blazing sun? I think not. It certainly doesn't sound like something imtnbke would do, judging from his recent comment. Even the Park Service doesn't expect it to attract more than a few hundred people a year.

And imtnbke, "Puritans"??? "Not filthy from the thighs down"?? You don't sweat??

More than a few of the mountain bikers in my burg wear body armor and full-face helmets to protect themselves from the trees that occasionally get in their way and rocks they encounter on the way down. Hikers, of course, don't need such protection from encounters with the landscape.

That's not to denigrate bikers or raise up hikers. These are two different approaches to the enjoying the outdoors. But do you want to put a biker in full body armor, or one not happy with the "sporting equivalent of an inflatable backyard pool for 2-year-olds," on the same trail as someone with a 40-pound backpack on or a couple in their 60s or parents with an energetic 5-year-old?

As for "voice," that can be a good thing. And you see it in just about every means of communication, including legal briefs as I'm sure you're aware. Fox News anyone? The New York Times? The Wall Street Journal?

The problem starts to arise when folks disagree with your "voice," or when you don't hear another's "voice." That doesn't necessarily make your voice wrong, or their disagreement wrong. But when things escalate beyond being constructive and civil and start to devole into brick throwing, well, that's where the problems start.

We make no bones that we advocate for the national parks. That's a big part of what the Traveler is all about. And while we might not write a ton of stories "glorifying" mountain biking, we have noted when trails are going in (such as at New River Gorge, and Mammoth Cave, and I think we've even mentioned those at Whiskeytown NRA and, of course, the White Rim Trail). And we will continue to write about conflicts, actual or perceived when they are merited.

And if I ever get around to riding the White Rim Trail, I promise I'll write about that trek. Heck, I might even ask Zeb to join me!

Kurt, sorry about that dinner. The guy who writes (pretty well actually) on the blog talked about his RAWROD (ride around white rim in one day). Now, that's amazing. There is absolutely no way that I would ever ride 100 miles off road miles in one day.

If Kurt, I might try as well. Should make for a fun ride, as long as we take more than 1 day.

Hi, Kurt — Yes, hiking is messy. I know whereof I speak. Not only have I backpacked and hiked many miles in the U.S., but I recently spent two weeks in Cape Verde, doing strenuous hikes. After one of them I was left with filthy clothing and blisters, and I was reminded of how blissful it is to drift a few inches above a trailbed rather than wade through the dust on it, being chafed through one's socks and soles by every rock under one's poor abused feet. Thanks heavens for moleskin—a product unknown to someone who only mountain bikes. And then there are knees and backs, other topics of woe for many inveterate backpackers and hikers.

If we want our kids to enjoy the outdoors, we have to save them from their grandparents' efforts to enthuse them about hiking. They won't go for it given the modern alternatives available, any more than I'd like to revert from my iPod to a collection of 78 vinyl records. That's the truth, although of course a niche of kids will accept hiking.

In fact, here's a suggestion: do a story on the average age of the members of the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, and like organizations. Is it under 60? I doubt it. Groups that like only 19th century means of travel in wildlands are facing the fate of the Shakers over time, I would suggest.

"Voice" is bad when it introduces an element of advocacy into what is supposed to be reporting. To the extent The Times, Fox News, or anyone else lets advocacy "voice" drift into news articles, their credibility suffers. A good counterexample is The Economist. It has a voice, but the voice it strives for, and seems usually to strike, is that of a dispassionate observer chronicling economic and social events from some lofty perspective.

The biggest problem isn't mode of transport, it is numbers of users. The childish "I was here first" attitude found in crowded places like California, where I grew up, does not exist where I live now (I ain't tellin ya where). We don't have a single National Park within a couple hundred miles of my neck of the woods and I hope it stays that way. Instead of lots of people and few trails, we have lots of trails and few people. Sheer numbers are the ultimate basis of user conflicts, regardless of mode of transport. I am old enough to remember hikers versus horses, the latter leaving huge piles of dung, sometimes in the only available flat campsite, which is a serious problem in our local Wilderness area. The trails in the local (well known) designated Wilderness are wide, deep, dusty and manure covered, whereas other trails a short distance away, where motorcycles and bicycles are allowed, are narrower, more compact with less erosion and less people. When I want solitude, I avoid National Parks and Wilderness Areas. They are human zoos.

Can anyone provide a link to IMBA's fund-raising e-letter that is quoted in parts here? Thanks! (To all mountain bikers, I invite you to my neck of the woods Washington State, where more than 55% of all trails on our public lands are just waiting for you to enjoy!)

Thanks, Random Walker. I plan to do that this summer (Oregon and Washington). I hope you'll support, or at least acquiesce in, our efforts to gain legal access to designated Wilderness too. I'm sure Washington has many nice Wilderness areas, and I'd bet that many of the trails in them are underused. My feeling is that anyplace a commercial packtrain or even a lone horse and rider are allowed, a mountain biker should be, given the difference in impacts between the former and the latter.

Random Walker, you may be taking chances inviting Imntbike and his thrillcraft to your neck of the woods. :)

I've read and heard great things about the Pacific northwest. I really want to visit Oregon where the riding seems quite spectacular in some areas.

Looks like this thread has come to an end. With surprisingly little rancor overall. Happy Memorial Day weekend to all.