What happened to NORBA?

Women's start at NMBS event

Women's start at NMBS event (Image credit: Susan Candee)

Stand around at any mountain bike race in the US or talk to long-time racers and you'll hear the term "NORBA" used again and again. For years, it has been an acronym for National Off Road Bicycle Association, once an independent governing body of mountain bike racing in the US, and then later the mountain bike racing division of USA Cycling (USAC).

For many years, "NORBA National" was also a short linguistic reference to any of the collection of about a half dozen top-level elite races that comprised the national series. After several changes of ownership and licensing, that series is now called the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) and is run by Blue Wolf Event Productions. The NMBS is not to be confused with the USAC-owned Mountain Bike National Cross Country and Gravity Calendars, which include not only the NMBS races, but many other events nation-wide.

All series aside, USAC has dropped the use of the term "NORBA" in association with races in general, although the organization itself still exists. The terminology changes are all about marketing.

"NORBA exists as an organization from a legal and governing perspective. That's the mountain biking arm of USA Cycling. We're trying to retain everything under the brand USA Cycling now," said USAC spokesperson Andy Lee, to Cyclingnews.

"The NORBA Board of Trustees and USA Cycling decided to do away with the use of the term NORBA for the race series and any (mountain bike) branding."

Mountain bikers are not the only group subject to the change in marketing philosophy. "It's not specific to NORBA," said Lee. "What we've called the USPRO (road) championships for years, for example, we now call the USA Cycling Professional Championships. We're doing the same thing with the USCF (for road cycling) and the NCCA (for collegiate cycling)."

Lee recognized that old speaking habits die hard, and it will take time for racers and promoters to adopt the new lingo and stop using the word "NORBA." "It's tough to eliminate that term from their vocabulary. We understand it's not something that's going to happen overnight."

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