How the birthplace of mountain biking inspires the work of IMBA Europe to this day

15 April 2024

How the birthplace of mountain biking inspires the work of IMBA Europe to this day

MBA Europe Board Member Kevin Mayne reconnected with the roots of mountain biking on his recent trip to the US with IMBA EU Supporter WTB (Wilderness Trail Bikes). The trip to Marin County, California was more than just a regular business visit for Kevin; it was also a personal pilgrimage, as he paid a visit to the Marin Museum of Bicycling with WTB President Patrick Seidler to talk about the past, present and future of mountain biking advocacy.

A final wrap-up from my recent trip to the US, catching up with the bike industry and some of CIE’s members on their home patch.

However the last part of the trip was more than professional, it was a pilgrimage too. Marin County California, birthplace of mountain biking, home of the Marin Museum of Bicycling and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.

My perfect host on this leg of the trip was Patrick Seidler, President of Wilderness Trail Bikes. (WTB) He’s a local guy, so he talks with deep affection for riding around the hills with his pals from childhood. His company is the original, the first company producing dedicated components for the emerging handmade mountain bikes, still focusing on MTB and gravel forty years later. And his personal passion is changing the way people move, especially in Marin County where I was able to see infrastructure and plans that would challenge the ambition of many European regions.

Deep roots

I have known Patrick for about 13 years and in that time in quickly learned that he is one of the most enthusiastic industrial champions of cycling around. And he walks the talk, he has made sure WTB is one of the founders of Cycling Industries Europe and an industrial supporter of IMBA Europe where I am a board member. Now, after my trip to Marin I have also seen the results of his vision to make his home an exemplar for cycle use in the US, or even internationally.

First the pilgrimage. I have been riding mountain bikes continuously since the early 90s when many of the bikes were still recognisable as the descendants of rigid “clunkers” created by the first riders and had frame geometries based on the original 10 Breezers created by Joe Breeze in 1977. The magazines I was reading then referred with reverence to the founding fathers of Marin. And when I graduated to better bikes I picked up two Marin branded bikes, loaded with WTB components, bikes I hammered and abused for over 20 years. They still sit in a corner of my bike shed, laden with memories of rides that were only possible because those founding fathers invented a whole category of bikes to go places no other bikes could go.

And here I am – wandering the Marin Museum of Bicycling looking at the originals, backed by the photos and testimonies of the original crews, most of whom Patrick knew personally. Sadly Joe Breeze was away for the day, so I didn’t get to do the handshake and say “thanks”, but the spirit was there. Later we went to a local enduro race which was packed with riders of all ages, showing that the energy lives on, and then to cap it all we took an excursion up to the legendary East Peak of Mount Tamalpais (Mount Tam) and looked down on the trail networks below. It was nice to meet more of the WTB team who were deeply immersed in supporting their local scene.

You may notice that we didn’t actually get out on mountain bikes. Ok, I have to save that for a return visit. Because when we did ride Patrick took me on an extensive tour of the cycle infrastructure along the Marin Valley and the sites of many current and future campaigns. The core spine of the North-South Greenway was a real eye-opener for me, I was really surprised to see cycling integrated with the SMART light rail system, a US$20 million bridge that would not be out of place in the Netherlands and a schoolyard full of bikes as a result of Safe Routes to Schools programmes in the district.

Ambitious plans

At every stage, I heard about the many years of activism to get things done, and the many ambitions to connect up the greenway along its full length, even connecting to a 370mile tourism route running north from the Golden Gate bridge to the redwood forests of northern California. The proof of success is that the routes are being used, there was never a moment when I didn’t see a few people riding on the trails, in some cases lots of people, and that is before it is all seamlessly connected.

All credit to Patrick, his colleagues, friends and allies in Marin, this really is high-quality work with huge ambition. Many of our friends in the US instinctively look up to the Netherlands or Denmark as the benchmark of cycling infrastructure deployment, but I had to say to them that what they are doing is on a scale that would benchmark extremely well globally, and perhaps we can all learn from their achievements in one of the most car-oriented cultures in the world.

Thank you Patrick, thanks to your team at WTB, you all deserve enormous credit for the way you combine passion for business, mountain biking and advocacy. Thanks very much for being such a generous host.

Click here to learn more about the projects IMBA Europe plays a part.