Monday, March 27, 2023

NEMBA’s Philip Keyes Leadership Summit

Got to head down to Cape Cod to check out NEMBA’s Philip Keyes Leadership Summit, March 24th-26th.

Just under 100 participants from nearly all of NEMBA’s 33 chapters got together to discuss strategy and how to ensure the success of the organization and mountain biking in general, and of course, ride.

After some energetic opening remarks from Nicole Freedman, NEMBA’s new executive director, the brainstorming began

First, we were broken down loosely into three groups and each group was tasked with answering a question:
  • What is your favorite place to ride and why?
  • What was your favorite athletic event (didn’t have to be mountain biking) and why?
  • What are the attributes that make a great leader.
As you can imagine, there were many commonalities in the answers as most of the favorite trails were fun, or scenic, or accessible, and likely all of the above. Most of the favored events were festive, had inclusive vibes, and brought people together. And a great leader, would be a person that can also bring people together and make the magic happen. Looking for these common themes would help provide direction for trails, events, and of course training, all with the goal of keeping NEMBA strong and the sport mountain biking thriving

We also had several topics that we could up-vote or down-vote based on a sticker system, and if we liked something, it got a green sticker, and if we didn’t like something, it got a red sticker. The yellow sticker was essentially a “meh.” 

Some of the ideas that were well received (more green dots) were “more skills parks,” a “cross state/cross New England connected trail,” “youth intro to MTB programs,” “trailhead signage to promote NEMBA,” and more “adaptive trails and riding.” Surprisingly, eBikes had more green dots than yellow and red, and fared better than “bikepacking,” “gravel riding,” and “competitive MTB.”

The morning's sessions and workshops included a Mountain Bike Adventure Series and Fun Ride PanelYouth Programming Panel and Skills Park Panel.

As I’ve been trying to get a bike park in Beverly for a couple of years, I attended the latter. Presentations from the;Berkshire County ChapterHousatonic Valley Chapter, and Brattleboro-Keene Chapters highlighted some of the challenges each of those projects faced and how they were overcome. If you’ve tried something like this in your neck of the woods, you probably know what those challenges are, but the bottom line was that there was no magic bullet. It takes patience, perseverance, and you need to battle misinformation or misconceptions along the way and find ways to show how projects like this add value to the community. There are many success stories out there, and the more parks that get put in, it makes the case for their acceptance easier. At least, that’s what I hope. Either way, I’ll be making the rounds with my municipal contacts to let them know that I’m still hoping to make this happen. 

Après lunch we could choose from Ride with GratitudeFinancials for ChaptersNew Rider Development and Social Media Best Practices Panels. 

Of that list, I again chose the latter, and Mick Ferraro had a great talk about the how to maximize Facebook and Instagram. For those who don’t know, social media marketing actually requires strategy, and you need to have a goal in mind when you post, whether in NEMBA’s case it’s to attract new members, promote an event, or just to strengthen a brand image. Posting irregularly or erratically, (my personal social media strategy) isn’t going to get the reach and it’s a missed opportunity to connect with potential or current members. The old adage of “fail to plan is to plan to fail,” rings true here. 

After a few hours of conference rooms and talking about riding it was time to actually ride. Well, for some of us. The weather was *suboptimal* and I instead did some work. I had an awesome ride Friday evening, so that would have to get me by. 
Sunday morning, we were back at it for another round of informative panel discussions, and I participated in a talk about TrailForks. I have to admit, I’ve *usedTrailForks, but not to its fullest potential, and it seems to have new features coming out fairly regularly. For example, it can *learn* what kind of rider you are, based on the types of trails you ride (lots of climbing, lots of black trails, etc), and if you use its “Ride Finder” option when you go to a new area, an algorithm will try to create a ride based on your preferences. There’s also a version that EMS providers can use so if a rider (or hiker or anyone using the app) gets hurt and uses it to call 911, the injured person’s location and a map get sent to EMS that can be used for rescue. There was more, a lot more, and I’m going to do a deep dive into all its features. Stay tuned for more.

Anyway, I blasted off after that and headed home. I definitely got a taste of some of the great riding down there, and someone from the Cape Cod NEMBA Chapter mentioned that there were 1000 miles of trails on the Cape. That’s worth a road trip for sure.

The weekend was great and NEMBA seems to be positioning itself for another 35 years of successful trail advocacy.

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