Update March 7, 2018:
IMBA’s Instructor Certification Program (ICP) has transitioned to the Bike Instructor Certification Program (BICP) and is no longer part of IMBA. It’s still led by Shaums March, but under a new non-profit organization. They’ve also reconfigured their courses/certifications with new pricing to: Ride Leader, Level 1, Level 2, Level 1-2 Combo, Level 3. And they’ve added recertification, prep, and refresher courses, too. Their new logo:
I’ve not updated the links or information in the blog post below.
This spring (2016) I’ve gotten certified as both an IMBA ICP Level 2 and PMBI Level 1 mountain bike instructor (blog posts with photos here and here). The competing certifications are similar in that they’re designed to equip one with the ability to instruct beginner and intermediate-level riders in basic skills. (IMBA’s ICP Level 1 is a Ride Guide course; PMBI’s Ride Guide course doesn’t use a Level number.)
I wasn’t planning to take either one this spring as IMBA wasn’t offering a Level 2 course locally and PMBI’s Level 1 course at Spirit Mountain in Duluth sold out quickly. But I got lucky.
Jeff Milbauer, owner of nearby Valley Bike & Ski, had contracted privately with IMBA to offer the course to some of his staff/instructors. When one had to drop out, he contacted me and I took the spot. And then PMBI added a second course/instructor to their Spirit Mountain Level 1 weekend and I snapped up one of those openings.
My rationale for taking PMBI Level 1 having just completed IMBA ICP Level 2 two weeks prior?
- Proximity: Duluth is only 3 hours away and I wasn’t confident that PMBI would offer the course nearby again anytime soon
- Terrain: the IMBA Level 2 course was held at nearby Buck Hill in Burnsville, MN and neither its new mountain biking runs nor its new skills park was open yet. Spirit Mountain is a mountain bike mecca with lift access
- Weather: it poured nearly the entire weekend for the IMBA course. I was hoping I’d get lucky for the PMBI course in Duluth
- Collegiality: I wanted to be able to team up with fellow instructors. With everyone passing, there were 8 IMBA Level 2 instructors in the state of Minnesota. The two courses at Spirit Mountain would mean there could be up to 14 additional PMBI instructors in the region
- Curiosity: I’m a blogger and I was naturally curious to know first-hand what the differences were between the two competing certifications
- Future professional development: I figured that having a foundation with both certifications would give me better options for pursuing their more advanced certification levels
- Marketing advantage: I’d likely be the only mtb instructor in the Upper Midwest region with both certifications.