Mountain bike is still a relatively young sport and a professional standard for instruction, like what snow-sports has been enjoying for years, has yet to be established, until now. Nearly ten years in the making, ZEP Mountain Bike Camps and Instructor Training
has joined forces with Endless Biking
to form the Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association (PMBIA)
. We sat down with PMBIA Technical Directors, Paul Howard and Darren Butler, to find out how this history making partnership occurred and what it means for our industry. Paul, When did the idea for the PMBIA first come around?Paul:
In some ways, it really started in the early 2000s. I had been teaching mountain biking, running a mountain bike school, in the US for a number of years and wanted to get certified to have something for my resume. I took courses in the UK and Canada, and each one left me pretty unimpressed. Having been through instructor training in snowboarding through CASI (Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors), I knew just how much better things could be done. At the time, I knew how many people were taking ski and snowboard lessons and how many instructors there were. I figured it would be only a matter of time where more and more people would be taking mountain bike lessons and this meant we needed a better system for training mtb instructors, so I started my company ZEP and ran the first PMBI instructor course, in 2006.
Using the winter industry as a benchmark has been incredibly useful. Unless you have something to compare to, it's difficult to know if what you're doing is any good. Many of the PMBIA course conductors are CASI level 4 instructors and CASI Examiners in the winter, so it's allowed us to develop the PMBI Courses with confidence, knowing that we are working to develop not only the best instructor courses in the mountain bike industry, but the best courses in sports teaching, overall.
What was the initial reception like of the original PMBI Courses?Paul:
|At the Coast Gravity Park, most of our staff have been trained by Endless Biking and we use the methodology every day in the park. We are able to clearly communicate with riders safe and efficient techniques that are easy to understand and very helpful for our guests. We are very happy to see Endless Biking a part of the new PMBIA and we are excited to see the training taking a big step to becoming standardized in the industry. -Coast Gravity Park, Sunshine Coast|
Like many new projects, things started a little slow but then when the word got out, the whole thing just exploded! That first season we ran two courses and pretty soon we started doubling our numbers each year and in 2014 alone we ran close to 50 courses (training over 250 instructors) in five countries. The growth rate has been amazing and its a direct reflection of what the industry is demanding... quality, professional training for instructors. The fact that instructors could learn how to teach and guide both cross country and downhill, was a big selling point. Our skill-based system and strong teaching theory also meant instructors has a clear structure and organization of information, to work from. In those early days (and still today), we had many instructors who had taken other courses come to PMBI because they heard of what we were doing. You know when things grow that fast with no advertising or promotion, that you are on to something good.
What do you think were the main reasons for the success?Paul:
|We have over 25 years of combined experience as professional mountain bike athletes, top international level racers and being strong figures in the sport. But PMBI gave us the tools to become great teachers as well, so we can pass our experience and knowledge down and help grow the sport we are so passionate about. Now as Certified PMBI level 2 instructors, we have become top industry coaches sought out by riders and racers of all ages and abilities from all over the globe. -Kovarik Racing, Australia & Canada|
Mostly I think it was because the people who helped develop the PMBI Curriculum had experience not only teaching biking, but experience in training instructors how to teach. These are two very different things and many courses at the time, lacked this insight and so the content suffered accordingly. Secondly, PMBI was the first to bring true skill-based teaching to mountain biking; a system that had been proven in snowsports for over fifty years. From this, we were also able to certify instructors to teach and guide in both cross country and downhill environments, from one course, and people (and employers) loved this. Thirdly, we simply raised the bar. Instructors left the courses having a clear idea of how to properly analyze people's riding and come up with effective lessons to actually improve their students' skills... plus, they could do this on actual, single track trails. Lastly, and very simply, we ran small group sizes. No more than six instructors per course and at times, running courses with three or four instructors. This allowed for a much better quality training experience; more time to ride, talk, practice teach, get feedback, and so on. We'd seen instructor courses with eight, nine or ten people in them. This was an easy fix and people loved it. Was the plan to always turn PMBI into an Association?Paul:
Yes, definitely. We wanted to develop and run the PMBI courses until we were sure that we had a great product that was tried and tested. The goal was to get the PMBI Certifications internationally recognized and have a majority of the market share in North America and Australia. We reached that stage a few years ago and have been working on turning it into an Association, ever since.
We also wanted to keep the PMBI name to maintain a much needed consistency for instructors and employers. The last thing we wanted was to start an Association, have a different name and a completely different course, and for everyone to go, "So, who are these guys? Are they any good? Is this yet another instructor course?!".
How did the partnership between PMBI (ZEP) and MBIT (Endless Biking) come about, to form the PMBIA?Paul:
|At Capilano University, we are excited to see Endless Biking part of the new PMBIA and the high quality our Mountian Bike Operations students will receive as a result. Our students will be able to learn the latest industry theory and practices and have the best chance to attain work in the industry with a PMBIA certification. We've seen first hand, the quality of Endless Biking training and we are excited to see what the future holds for the new PMBIA. -Capilano University|
To turn PMBI into an Association, it was important for us to start an open table to invite other course providers into the conversation, to collaborate and hopefully all come in to running one certification course, together. After all, that's what we're trying to achieve; one instructor certification system for one sport. Having multiple different certifications, each with their different curriculums is a nightmare when trying to improve the training standards and consistency of mountain bike instructors. I approached Darren Butler and Kelli Sherbinin about three years ago. They had a stellar reputation and their MBIT (Mountain Bike Instructor Training) course had been doing really well, recognized by many people in the industry, and was even part of the Mountain Bike Operations Program at Capilano University. When we started talking, it was great to see our courses, although developed independently at the time, shared many core concepts. It was the first time I'd seen another program and thought it could add to what we were doing at PMBI. Getting our two companies to run the same instructor course would basically mean about 80 to 90-percent of all courses in North America and Australia will be through the PMBIA. What else has working with MBIT allowed you guys to achieve?Paul:
Easy, a better course. The PMBI courses were great, but there is always room to improve (CASI has been around for 20 years, and they're still editing and developing their courses). I was stoked to work with Darren and Kelli because every time we met we had some great conversations and I knew these were the right people to develop things further. While their MBIT course shared many core concepts, there were also some cool differences in the way they ran things. By incorporating many of the concepts and elements from the MBIT courses, together with the PMBI program, we've been able to unite both courses, making one, stronger, PMBIA Certification.
Was anyone else involved?Paul:
|KMBC has been a strong supporter of the PMBI Instructor Certification for the past six years. It is the preferred certification for all our staff and we are excited to see the program grow and gain international status. This is a huge step forward for the Mountain Biking industry, providing operators with a standard certification that we can trust is up to our standards and is delivered by a professional organization that is focused on producing quality and consistent coaching. There has been a need for this sort of organization in the industry and I congratulate PMBIA for making it a reality. -Kootenay Mountain Bike Coaching, Rossland, Canada|
We've had a number of key groups, companies, Associations, resorts and people involved in the talks because its important to listen to the industry and see where different people are at, what they think, what they need, and so on. The PMBIA will continue to remain open to feedback, it's part of the structure of the Association as we've also set up a PMBIA Advisory Committee for this very reason. There's people on this committee from all over the world who are heavily involved with mountain biking, mountain bike instruction and instructor training. It's a cool group and it's exciting to think of the work we'll be doing together as we move forward. Can you tell us about MBIT more and how you guys came to be involved with the PMBIA?Darren:
When we started Endless Biking in 2004, we quickly recognized a lack of training options and the ones that were available. The courses weren't providing a 'hireable' Instructor or struggled to remain in business and run courses. This left our company in a bit of a bind, in terms of hiring and training instructors and guides. We tried a few different scenarios to acquire training for our staff but we just weren't getting the finished product we were looking for. During this period of time, about ten years ago, we had reached out to as many professional instructors and guides companies that we knew of, to get together to try to unite teaching of MTB throughout Canada and the USA. At Interbike in Las Vegas, we had a great roundtable discussion with many of the major industry players at the time and we hoped was the start of something pretty special. We all agreed there was a standardization required to be able to communicate more consistent material in different regions, so coaches wouldn't be contradicting each other and getting into more those "coaches discussions" and just providing a safer, easier to understand sport. The round table discussion unfortunately didn't lead to much progress but we forged ahead with the vision.
We then started training our own staff and new hires at Endless Biking and quickly started getting hired to train instructors and guides for other companies. Our instructors were coming out with a clear understanding of how to break down the sport into simple concepts and deliver the goods with punch and pizazz. The guides were confident and comfortable in managing different abilities and risk when on trail. Endless Biking was now attaining contracts to train staff at resorts, commercial service providers, schools, riding clubs and aspiring independent instructors and guides. Insurance companies started to follow suit and recognize our training and we were now industry recognized but yet far from satisfied with the final product that we were putting out. We knew it could be more, we know it could be better. Then we had an 'a-ha' moment one day on a beach on the Sunshine Coast, after a tough day of teaching in the classroom at Capilano University in 2010. A light bulb went on and we almost immediately re-writing almost all of our material, we were that confident in our little discovery that totally changed everything. We tested and tested some more and we soon realized we were on to something efficient and effective but totally different.
Fast forward to 2011 and we had another gathering, a focus group if you will to gauge interest in standardization of MTB Instruction. We all signed off on non-disclosure agreements and we agreed to share our material with each other in hopes of finding some common ground to try to unite, again. We were really interested in standardization for consistency and overall safety and growth of the sport of mountain biking. Paul Howard from ZEP and I came away from this meeting with a real appreciation for each other's program, we were essentially teaching the same thing, just with some different words, a different organizational layout and presentation style. This ball started to roll and we continued to meet, for the next three years.
Like mountain biking itself, it's not an easy ride, there are twists, turns, bumps and jumps to keep us in check as we rail through the forest. This is exactly how the last three years have been but it has been incredibly insightful and rewarding to get to where we are now. Our ZEP/EB partnership is really cool - we're both right, yet both wrong, yet our different strengths and weakness perfectly complimenting each other's courses. We are now very confident in our PMBIA program that we have created as a result as it has come from almost a decade of sweat equity on both sides and countless hours testing material and theories. The course has been through rigours of course auditors, extensive industry testing, tough course content decisions, some very 'passionate' discussions over the last three to four years and we stand here united today, proud to be partnering with each other.
What does it mean to the industry to finally have something like the PMBIA?Darren:
|I have attended several mountain bike skills camps taught by a variety of great coaches and even got certified as a MTB skills instructor through another organization, and I can attest to the quality of the PMBI Course. Paul is truly a cut above in experience, knowledge, and coaching ability. The PMBI has a great infrastructure as well and it is a truly professional organization committed to improving mountain bike riders, coaches, and the sport as a whole. I look forward to a long relationship with this superior organization. Thank you. -Rich O'Connor, Conditioning and Skills Coach for the University of New Mexico Cycling Team|
This is huge for the sport. During the past ten years from the development of the PMBI and MBIT instructor programs, and now taking things even further with the PMBIA, we have created a really effective way of training instructors to teach the sport, which ultimately makes the sport easier for people to learn. This also makes the sport safer, as it is more consistent in terms of the content you will hear around the world. It means resorts, companies, riding clubs can now hire instructors and guides that have achieved a certain standard and our bar is high, it is not a free pass course.
Even insurance companies, can have confidence the Instructors have been through our training that prepares them for real world scenarios, different learning types, different delivery tactics and use very simple delivery method that has proven to be incredibly effective in producing results for the client while giving the instructor a very empowering toolbox, with lots of options to deliver course content. Different riders require different approaches based on their ability, experience, learning type etc. The PMBIA gives Instructors the tools to handle these scenarios with panache and employers are going to be thrilled as it empowers their staff to be able to handle any level of rider, in any riding environment and whether it is XC based, gravity oriented or just for fun and provides with a variety of ways to present the material.
What are some of the challenges the PMBIA has faced so far and where do you see things being in five years?Darren:
|What a great course, ZEP has taken the time to breakdown the art of mountain biking and deliver it in easy to understand, teach and learn pieces. During the PMBI course I re-evaluated my riding, and after many years of racing and winning I came away not only having learned how to teach but also how to ride better. You can teach an old dog new tricks, this course is for anyone who wants to improve there biking and is a must for anyone wanting to go into teaching. -Andy Bostock, UK National Champ, UCI World Masters DH Champ, Retired Pro Racer|
In short, the dynamics of it all. There are so many moving parts to it all. It's been like a rowdy rafting trip - it's been super fun but we've lost a few paddlers along the way but we're hoping to pick them back up along the way shortly! It's a complicated process with insurance involved, a certification level course with multiple levels, crossing international borders and to be able to form and run an Association has it's challenges, especially while we all try to run our own businesses and protect each of our own Intellectual Property at the same time. There might be some people out there who want credit for 'writing the book' or 'writing their own book' so to speak, so it has been challenging to get everyone united to a degree. We just want there to be a 'book' - a standard of sorts and we've been trying to keep the boat rowing in the same direction because we know it is good for the sport.
In five years, we certainly hope to have some of the other major players united with us and for us all to be working together. It would be good for our sport, it would be good for business for everyone too. I think we can get there, we're very interested in it and we are prepared to keep working to get there. Sometimes when one is developing a bigger picture project, some tough decisions need to be made along the way and sometimes it is easier to get things established with a smaller team. We really hope the team can grow to include some of the remaining stakeholders in the industry - Whistler Bike Park, IMBA USA and some of the key operators in the USA such as Fluid Ride, Better Ride, Western Spirit etc.
So how can people become a member of the PMBI Association?Paul:
|Whistler Off Road Cycling Association recognize the PMBIA as an excellent provider of mountain bike instructor certifications and training. We believe that the philosophy, course structure, delivery and depth is ideal for our coaches and guides. -Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA)|
There's a few options and they're all laid out on our website at www.pmbia.org/members/become-a-member/. The great thing is that current PMBI and MBIT instructors who have been certified in the last three years, only need pay a "Regular Membership" fee. This includes a free PMBIA Online Update Workshop to officially become "PMBIA Certified", as well as all the PMBIA Member Benefits, like pro-deals, permanent access to PMBIA Training Resources and Reference materials. And for those PMBI or MBIT instructors who were certified more than three years ago, they simply need to pay a "Refresher Membership", which includes a free, one day, on bike, training and update workshop.
The PMBIA has a three year certification policy. This re-certification system is missing in the snowsport instructor industries and it's something we really wanted to bring in to mountain bike teaching. Having all our instructors on the same page, teaching from the same "book", means the industry as a whole is providing a better experience to riders... safer, more consistent and effective lessons. Students aren't being told one thing by someone and then something totally different by someone else, because they haven't updated, or haven't even been certified.
Darren, can you explain some of the key benefits to becoming a member of the PMBIA?Darren:
|The Blue Mountain Bike School has been a supporter of the PMBI since 2011. Over these past few years we have made the investment in our staff to ensure they are certified under the PMBI banner. This ensures a consistent and quality approach to teaching riders the essential skills needed to come down the mountain safely. We are very proud and happy to support the PMBI and their very professional and complete approach to teaching MTB. -Blue Mountain Bike School, Ontario, Canada|
When you become a member of the PMBIA, you will be entered into a database of Instructors that will give you access to ongoing course developments, updated course materials, access to special resources such as videos and course exercises, pro deals from various companies in the industry as well as documented certification in one centralized location, meaning a copy of your certificate is only an email away and it is valid for three years. To refresh, a refresher course is required, rather than a full course so easy to get up to speed on new material as it evolves. Once becoming a member of the PMBIA, you would be a preferred hire in the industry over instructors and guides who do not have the training and you would be insurable by Insurance companies. A Third party insurance component is on the way, that certified instructors and guides can upgrade to, who choose to work independently instead of for an existing company.
What's some of the main goals of the PMBIA?Darren:
|PMBI has been critical to my success as a mountain bike instructor. Through the program I have learned the proper techniques to help increase the ability and safety of my clients. Being a member of the PMBI Association gives much needed credibility to my business and provides standards based instruction for my clients. -Cycle Right MTB Clinics, Idaho, USA|
To get more people riding bikes is the end goal of almost everything that we do. We are trying to create a standard so that we can get people riding bikes better and being able to introduce riders to the sport without the stigma of being crazy or extreme. Being able to take a lesson all over the world with professional and consistent methodology that is very simple deliver and simple to understand would be rad, our bikes are technical enough as it is, so lets make sure the coaching isn't uber technical too.
With the PMBIA, we want to keep in mind we run our own companies and we expect people to come out of these program ready to teach in the real world. Sure they will need some experience and get better each time but we need companies to have confidence in the people they are hiring and not have to train them again after hiring them. Imagine getting consistent coaching in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alberta, BC and Australia, this would raise the game for everyone involved Right now, you will find some inconsistencies in one coach saying to lean back, one to say get low, one to say just stay off the brakes, one says drop a foot and another level pedals etc. We see complicated maneuvers and contradicting theories in some of the other programs too. The PMBIA addresses all of this in a tidy manner that gives Instructors and guides all the flexibility in the world. We just want more people riding bikes and we know we can be a bigger voice as one and have much greater benefits for instructors, guides, commercial operators and riders all over the world.
MORE ABOUT PMBIA
|In 2013, Bikes and More hosted the first Chilan mountain bike instructor course, choosing to work with the PMBIA. Their reputation was the strongest in the industry, and they did not disappoint! Under the very professional instruction, the participants in this course not only improved their technical MTB skills but especially learned how to teach others. The role-game-play was just the right way to keep the instructors entertained to get the best out of them. We have had a lot of fun and look forward to future courses in Chile since receiving many more enquiries -Bikes & More, Santiago, Chile|
The PMBIA is the not-for-profit, independent, governing body for mountain bike Instructor certification courses, within the mountain bike industry. Using the internationally recognized PMBI Certifications (the most widely available instructor certifications in the industry) from ZEP and bringing in many core concepts and elements from the highly successful MBIT curriculum from Endless Biking, the PMBIA has developed a single, stronger, streamlined instructors and guides certification system.
The PMBIA trains and certifies mountain bike instructors and guides to effectively teach mountain bike riding skills in both cross country and downhill environments, while guiding students safely on varying degrees of technical terrain.PMBIA MISSION STATEMENT
“To deliver one united and globally accepted, professional instructors and guides certification standard to the mountain bike industry, while promoting the profession of mountain bike instruction and guiding, and the sport of mountain biking overall. Ultimately, our goal is to get more people on mountain bikes by improving the standards of instruction and guiding within mountain biking, making the sport safer and easier to teach and to learn for new and current riders alike”.
For complete details on the PMBIA including courses, dates, membership, testimonials, press and more, please visit our website at www.pmbia.orgPMBIA Facebook
PMBIA Twitter | @PMBIAinstructor
PMBIA Instragram | @PMBIA
PMBIA website by Spun Studios