The International Mountain Bicycling Association has just announced that Dave Wiens will be taking the position of Executive Director. Leslie Kehmeier caught up with Dave during his previous role as Chairman of the organization’s Board of Directors, a role to which he was elected this past November. This interview was also published in our latest issue, Dirt Rag #196.
Words by Leslie Kehmeier
When you hear the name Dave Wiens, it’s almost certain that you’ll think of him as the guy who beat Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis during his run of six consecutive victories in the Leadville 100. As a Hall of Fame mountain biker and also a two-time cross-country national champion, Wiens has certainly cemented his place in racing history with a career that dates back to the 1980s. Although you might hear him say that he was in the right place at the right time, he believes 100 percent that you have to be in the game rather than sitting on the sidelines to achieve success. Fortunately for mountain biking, Wiens is still in the thick of things and forever stoked on the sport. He’s quietly one of its most hard-working advocates, juggling many roles in his “retirement.” He’s an ambassador for Ergon, Lifetime Fitness and the Leadville 100 race series as well as the director of the mountain sports program at Western State Colorado University and the executive director of Gunnison Trails. In late 2015, Wiens joined the board of IMBA and was elected chairman in the fall of 2016, just prior to the IMBA World Summit in Bentonville, Arkansas.
For Wiens, a longtime resident of Gunnison, Colorado, it all comes back to the trail. Even after 30 years of riding, racing and advocating, he’s excited about the progression of the sport, especially when it comes to the younger riders and the professionalism of mountain bike trail construction.
What was your biggest takeaway from the IMBA World Summit?
For me, I always come back to the trail when we’re talking about mountain biking — the quality of the trail and the opportunities to get to trails. I think the Strava Heat Map — MTB Project, Strava and [the] USGS did a combined presentation at the summit on mapping — can really inform us. It shows, and I’m not saying it’s perfect, that a lot of people do most of their riding from their house. That’s the kind of sport mountain biking is. It’s not necessary something where you take the bike off the shelf, go do it and then put it back and not do it for awhile. A lot of people are riding for their mind, their health and the fun and recreation. They also realize that it is something they can do almost every day, even if it’s only for 45 minutes, if they live someplace where they have access to trails. Those close-to-home riding experiences, I think, are really important. Of course that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be promoting the backcountry and the wildly popular destinations like Crested Butte, Fruita, Moab and Whistler. There’s plenty of people that like that as well, but I think that even for those folks, their bread and butter is where they live and we should continue to develop those great riding experiences close to home.
My other takeaway is I don’t think we’re even scratching the surface with IMBA membership. The average age of a member is in the upper 40s, so we’re representing a certain demographic but missing [representation] in other areas. I came away with the question “What can we do to bring a younger demographic into the fold and how would that influence the organization and change mountain biking?”
Mike Van Abel left his position as IMBA’s executive director in 2016 after 12 years running the organization. How is IMBA looking toward the future?
It’s telling that IMBA’s only had two executive directors. The organization evolved so much with those two steady hands and now it’s pretty cool that an organization that’s as old as IMBA is just going into the era of the third executive director.
Like any organization, we really need to analyze ourselves from top to bottom and look at everything we do; we’d be negligent if we didn’t. We’ll dive into the ED search in 2017 and we’ll be analyzing the organization and really looking at everything IMBA is doing and has done so we can start to chart that course for the future. The board of directors has a lot of experience that will help guide the process. There are a lot of great minds in that room, and combined with the staff at IMBA, we’re confident that we’ll make a really strong hire, one that we hope will be at the helm for another decade.
If you could make a billboard for IMBA and it could say anything and be anywhere, what would it say and where would you put it?
So I could only put one billboard up? If that’s the case, I’d put it on the internet and it would say “Great Trails = Happy People.”
I was recently talking to a woman in our Western State masters program who came out to do trail work with us. I asked her if she rode mountain bikes and she said, “Yes, but I don’t identify myself as a mountain biker. I have a mountain bike, I ride it, but I don’t identify myself as a mountain biker.” That conversation really stuck with me. That’s where our sport is. You don’t have to identify yourself as one of us to see the value in our sport.
I think that our sport really speaks for itself because of how important it is in the lives of the people that have taken the time to learn how to do it and be proficient at it. And I don’t mean being a great rider; I mean just whoever you are as a mountain biker, the person that puts on your kit and gets on your bike, whether put it on your car or ride from your house, and goes to trails and does a ride and comes back home and thinks, “That was really cool.” And just doing that made that person a better wife, husband, father, employer or whatever. [Mountain biking] has that kind of profound effect on our lives.