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Getting the wheels turning for possible IMBA designation

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

With the possibility of receiving an International Mountain Bike Association [IMBA] Ride Center designation in the near future, Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Cara Rose is focused on ensuring county businesses are ready for mountain bikers.

“It’s really important to Pocahontas County because mountain biking is such a big component to our tourism product,” Rose said of the IMBA designation.

“There’s about two hundred mountain bike trails identified – and likely more than that – in this county, and the great thing about becoming a Ride Center is we already have the product. We didn’t have to create a lot.”

While mountain biking is no strange thing in Pocahontas County, Rose said it is important that all businesses recognize that, with the designation, there will be an increase in bikers visiting the county who expect certain amenities to be available.

“We’re trying to prepare our business partners to become more mountain bike friendly,” she said, “Obviously, doing the things that make us a tourism destination is part of that, but there are a few more things that lodging establishments can do, for instance, to make them more appealing to the mountain biker.

“That would be to provide something as simple as a bike wash,” she continued. “It can be something that’s specifically built to be a bike wash, but it can also be as simple as a hose and a place to hose off your bike when you’re through riding for the day.”

Rose added that a secure storage facility for mountain bikes will be key to customer happiness. Mountain bikes can range from $1,000 to $5,000, therefore bikers want to ensure security for their investment.

Providing a secure storage facility for the bike – that’s really important to mountain bikers,” Rose said. “It can be stored in the room, but if you don’t permit mountain bikes in rooms, then you can actually provide a storage shed that’s secure and locked, as well. There’s a variety of ways to become mountain bike friendly when it comes to storage.”

Other simple changes that can be made for mountain biking visitors includes having maps of the trails in Pocahontas County, toolkits to repair bikes and having replacement tires or tubes readily available. Something as simple as laundry service is also a big draw for bikers who tend to get muddy when they ride.

“Having access to a washer and dryer is also a real benefit,” Rose said. “A mountain biker looks at that as something that would appeal to them if they’re looking for a place to stay.”

Rose explained that if Pocahontas County becomes a designated IMBA Ride Center, it is possible for lodging facilities to get a designation as well, which will increase their visibility on mountain bike websites.

“The way it works, once we get designated as a ride center – we already have a mountain bike page on our website, so we are listing mountain bike friendly lodging establishments on that webpage – to get on that page, you will have to follow that criteria,” she said. “So you’ve got to have a bike wash; got to make it available to the mountain biker, and you’ve also got to have a secure place to put bikes. You also have to have that on your website. The individual lodging establishments have to promote themselves as a mountain bike friendly lodging establishment.”

It may seem that Rose has mountain bike fever, but in reality, mountain biking is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities in the country, and Rose said with the Ride Center designation and connections with other ride centers in the country, the sky’s the limit when it comes to mountain biking in Pocahontas County.

“We’re really just trying to encourage all of our businesses around the county to understand the value of mountain biking, and that we are committed to a long-term marketing strategy to grow our mountain biking destination here in Pocahontas County. Mountain biking is one of the largest, quickest growing outdoor recreation activities in the country. One in six people, age sixteen and over, ride a mountain bike. That’s a significant number of people in this country that ride mountain bikes, so it’s an opportunity for our county.”

Once the designation is decided, which Rose said will be sometime this coming spring, the Ride Center will make Pocahontas County one of the number one destinations for mountain bikers.

“I do feel confident that we will become that,” she said. “The other thing that you have to have to be a Ride Center is a gravity park and Snowshoe Mountain Resort makes that possible for us. We already have the trials. We already have a lot of the amenities and the assets they are looking for. Snowshoe is the key to making this a successful marketing strategy. We’re fortunate to have that partnership with the resort so that we can achieve this Ride Center.”

As far as the future for the Ride Center, Rose hopes the New River Gorge and Canaan Valley will successfully become Ride Centers and could partner with Pocahontas County to create a Regional Ride Center.

“If there are three Ride Centers within two-to-four hours from one another, you can become a Regional Ride Center and there are only a few Regional Ride Centers in this country, and we actually have the potential in this area to become one,” she said. “There are not that many Ride Centers around the world. I think there’s forty in this country.

“There’s just a lot of value in this whole process whenever we’re talking about developing the mountain biking industry and the destination,” she continued. “I’m excited about it. I think it’s an opportunity for us to grow that spring/summer/fall market in a big way.”

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