The Story of PMBIA’s Founders: Part 1

March 2022

Dear PMBIA Members,

First of all, we hope you’re doing well! This month and next, we want to give you a bit of insight into two of our founders, Darren Butler & Paul Howard, as they have transitioned from the Board of Directors to the Founders Committee. First up, this month, is Darren Butler, sharing a bit of his origin story of mountain biking and his involvement in the formation of PMBIA as we know it today.

Q: First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and what’s your biking origin story?

I was born in Métis/Cree Traditional Territories (Saskatchewan), and a chance encounter led me to mountain biking, where another chance encounter led me to racing MTB, which led me to racing nationally. I then went to BC once and never left! I quickly realized I wanted to give back to the sport that had such a positive impact on my life. While living a professional riding career (freeriding & racing), I started working in advocacy, helped establish trails, clubs, volunteering, coaching and loved the coaching side. I could really help people out and have a positive impact on their life, which was having a positive impact in our community. A career-altering accident caused me to reflect on what I wanted to do, and I chose to teach mountain biking and attempt to help grow the sport into something acceptable, ‘normal’ and professionally run.

Photo Courtesy of Robin Munshaw

Q: What’s your story with PMBIA? Some of the newer members might not know your involvement with the formation/growth of PMBIA.

When Kelli Sherbinin and I started Endless Biking in 2004, we quickly ran into limitations and ultimately a lack of training available in the Instructor & Guides training area. So we started to train our own staff out of necessity. While doing this, we tried to revive and support an existing program that had gone out of business (CMIC) but after a year of effort, we just realized it wasn’t possible to do so. As we had to respectfully navigate the existing (past) programs, we started to build out training that was our own and this became known in the industry as the MBIT (Mountain Bike Instructor and Guides Training).

We then started getting approached by other operators, athletes in the industry, aspiring Instructors & Guides, asking us to offer training outside of Endless Biking. Eventually, we had an opportunity to apply to teach our curriculum at Capilano University. This was the catalyst that allowed for the real maturation of the MBIT. At the Interbike trade show in 2006, we learned that some of the major coaching operations were interested in coming together to form a unified body for Instructors & Guides. From meetings and collaborations that followed, we eventually brought the MBIT into the collaborative fold and merged with ZEP Techniques (PMBI) & Whistler Bike Park (DPI), as well as others, to help form the PMBIA – a new unified body that would bring together the best of these programs for aspiring Instructors & Guides. We just wanted there to be a standard, some consistency.

For myself, I was never interested in having credit for creating or writing ‘the book’, I’m more of a big picture & rising tide kind of a guy. I just wanted there to be ‘a book’, a standard to truly help the sport of mountain biking grow into something more sustainable, more acceptable, safer and more professional as a whole. I just wanted to contribute to the cause, to help bring it all together into one, what we now know as the PMBIA.

Q: What would you say you’re most proud of in regards to your contribution to PMBIA?

The growth and organization as a whole, the fact that it is now run by a really diverse group of talented people, rather than just a core few people. The fact that I’m no longer serving on the Board of Directors is amazing. It means that we have gotten to a place where the founders don’t have to be the operators, so to speak. To now have a BOD that focuses on decision making and guiding the direction of the association, without the distraction of also trying to run the organization on a day-to-day basis is awesome.

I’m proud of the MBIT’s contributions to the PMBIA too. I believe we’ve made things simpler, easier to understand, a bit less technical and keep things fun, memorable, safe and that’s a recipe for success as a coach.

Ultimately, for the PMBIA to now have a full time Executive Director, full-time administrators, a diverse Board of Directors of 7 smart and wonderful people, the establishment of a Founders Committee, a Nomination Committee and supporting all of this is a Technical Team of 7, a Course Conductor team of over 50 world-wide, plus a collaborative team of industry advisors and to know that the PMBIA training is now available in approximately 20 countries…the training keeps getting better every year too! That’s awesome and something I am very proud of helping establish.

Photo Courtesy of Gordie Rogers

Q: What excites you the most about where PMBIA is heading as an association?

The structure we’ve been building towards and overall sustainability of the association, on top of the training courses and materials that keep getting better and better. We have an incredibly talented and diverse group of people, who have great experiences and ideas that they are bringing forward. We are having some great discussions, as a whole, about where we’d like to get to as an association and why.

The team of people we now have in these roles are truly working towards making the PMBIA a better organization. More inclusive, more diverse, more accessible, more sustainable, more transparent & continually improving the PMBIA’s products and services to truly help the sport grow, in the right way. I’m proud that we now have these conversations about what this means as an organization and what steps we have to take to achieve these goals.

Q: What’s next for you as you step down off the Board of Directors?

I’ll be sliding on over to the Founders Committee and still contributing as part of the Technical Team. This will allow me to still be a part of the organization and contribute in different ways but not have the responsibility of trying to help run the association on a day-to-day or seasonal basis.

I will still be running PMBIA courses and staying sharp on the teaching and training side of things. This will enable me to stay in touch with industry trends and provide great feedback to the organization on the technical side of things. I’ll help ensure our content is modern, that it’s being updated as bikes and riders continue to evolve, as well as for Instructors and Guides and the pedagogy behind the training. I’ll be doing more mentoring as we foster the growth of future participants, existing Course Conductors, and new Course Conductors we add each year.

My goal is to continue to help establish the PMBIA as the global teaching standard for Instructors & Guides all over the world – to ensure it’s a well-run organization that continues to offer high-quality programming and is rewarding to be a part of, for our members, volunteers and employees. I really believe that the PMBIA is good for our sport, it’s good for the industry and it’s fun as heck!

PMBIA’s Newest Directors & Appointed Directors

The BOD has appointed 2 new officers, with Kevin Eaton as our new President, and Eric Tingey as Vice-President.

  1. Kevin Eaton: President (new)
  2. Erica Tingey: Vice President (new)
  3. Kelli Sherbinin: Secretary
  4. Shanon Howard: Treasurer
  5. Virginia Solomon: At-Large (new)
  6. Duncan Milne: At-large (new)
  7. Omer Dagan: At-Large (new)

Stay safe and happy trails,

The PMBIA Team

#PMBIA | #bikeskills #skillbasedteaching #pmbiaassociation #globalmtbstandard #mountainbikeinstructor #mountainbiking #theonlyglobalstandard


Photo courtesy of the Crux Initiative Society, Golden, BC


Photo courtesy of Hailey Elise, Squamish, BC


Online Recertification Training !

Time to do your Level 1 recertification? We are asking all our members to re-certify via the Level 1 Online Recertification Program. 

Regardless of any courses or training you take, your level 1 re-certification has to be completed online every three years. This ensures instructors stay current with the latest teaching methodologies & information that specifically relate to teaching beginner to intermediate riders; which is still the most common student type within the mountain bike coaching industry. You can learn more and register below!

Register Now!