Off-Road Impacts of Mountain Bikes


The general conclusion from the material reviewed here is that the focus of attention on mountain biking impacts should be on the social perception aspects. Although mountain bikes clearly do have physical impacts on tracks, these did not appear to be of any greater significance than those from other track users, despite the general perception to the contrary. And, although safety concerns were also commonly highlighted, the problem related more to apprehension about what might happen rather than concern based on any inherent danger, or an established record of incidents. The real difficulty faced by managers making provision for mountain biking opportunities, lies in addressing the recreation conflict issues that arise.

Based upon this general conclusion, assuming that managers are considering what opportunities for mountain biking may be available, and recognising that some tracks will not be suitable for mountain biking, a number of more specific suggestions for management and research consideration can be proposed. These are noted briefly below.

(i) Managers should note that when considering making opportunities available for mountain biking, rider preferences for riding conditions are diverse. As riders gain in experience, their setting and experience preferences appear to move more towards opportunities characterised by natural settings, challenge, variety, and single-track riding. Rides characterised by these features are likely to be more difficult, and use numbers correspondingly lower.

(ii) The significance of assessing use-impacts on tracks needs to be reconsidered, as it is not established that mountain bikes have any greater impact on tracks than do any other non-motorised activities (e.g., walking, running, tramping, horses etc,). Also, actual impacts upon tracks represent more of a management maintenance concern than a significant impact on the environment. It is questionable whether these impacts should be the key factors in decisions to allocate or limit oppotunities for mountain biking. If major damage is anticipated due to susceptible track conditions, the presence of any use would seem to be problematic.

(iii) If managers consider that physical impacts on certain tracks should remain a key factor in such decisions, then more objective research on the actual impacts occurring will be required. This research should compare relative longitudinal effects of mountain biking and walking use on specified track impact criteria. Such work should be incorporated into any general monitoring programmes for visitor impacts which may be implemented.

(iv) Where mountain biking is to be allowed, but concerns remain over walker safety, active management of tracks to minimise hazard potential should be considered. The main actions this would require would include the strategic location of natural and constructed obstacles to reduce downhill and cornering speed (e.g., steps, culverts, logs, roots, rocks, waterbars etc,).

(v) Where managers wish to discourage or minimise riding on certain tracks, the strategic use of such obstacles (above) to increase the riding difficulty of tracks could be considered. As track difficulty and inconvenience for riding increases, it is likely that fewer riders would be present. These types of managed difficulties would not be such a disincentive for walkers. Some trial work or social research may be necessary to test the effectiveness of the strategies suggested here and in (iv) above.

(vi) Where a track is being considered for possible mountain bike access, short-term visitor monitoring should be considered to identify the characteristics and use patterns of existing users. Tracks which are used by high numbers of walkers likely to be more susceptible to concerns such as perceived hazard from mountain biking (e.g., elderly walkers, young families etc,), may not be socially suitable or appropriate for mountain biking. On low volume tracks with more active users these concerns may be less significant. This may represent a further important area for social perception research. The assumptions about which visitors may be more concerned with mountain biking impacts should also be tested further.

(vii) There is some indication that the degree of conflict perceived with mountain biking may diminish over time as other users become more familiar with bike-encounters and riders themselves. Longitudinal research on tracks where mountain bikes are becoming more common should be undertaken to further identify the nature of the conflict perceptions arising, and how these may change over time.

Based upon these conclusions, a model for addressing provision of opportunities for mountain biking has been developed NZ MTB WEB | POLITICS | EMAIL | COPYRIGHT | SEARCH