Off-Road Impacts of Mountain Bikes


The current research "state-of-knowledge" of the physical and social impacts of mountain bikes upon backcountry tracks and upon the recreational experiences of other track users is reviewed. Physical impacts of walking and mountain biking, including the effects of foot trampling, and the unique impact potential from wheels are discussed; and the impacts from different types of track use (e.g., mountain biking, walking, horses, motorbikes) are compared. Social impacts of mountain biking are discussed, beginning with description of recreation conflict, and the role played in developing these conflicts by perceptions of other track users of the environmental impacts, safety hazards, and "inappropriateness" of mountain biking. The setting and recreation experience preferences of mountain bike riders are also discussed. The main conclusion drawn from these discussions is that the physical impacts of mountain biking are not a good basis for decisions about allowing access, and that the focus needs to be on the recreation conflict issues, and that the actual environmental impact and safety hazards associated with mountain biking may well be considerably less than perceived by other track users.