Off-Road Impacts of Mountain Bikes


Mountain bikes began to appear in New Zealand from the mid 1980s, and now represent probably the most significant "new-use" issue facing managers of areas used for outdoor recreation. The main challenge for managers has been to determine how mountain biking fits into the range of recreation opportunities they currently provide. The Department of Conservation, and many other public land managers (e.g., local authorities), recognise mountain biking as a legitimate form of outdoor recreation. However, when they consider which tracks could be made accessible for mountain biking, they are faced with three main information requirements:

· What are the physical impacts of mountain biking upon tracks, facilities and the environment.

· What are the social impacts of mountain biking upon the other users of tracks and facilities.

· What recreation settings and experiences are preferred by mountain bikers.

To date, the discussions and debates associated with mountain biking issues have been mainly confined to subjective magazine articles, anecdotal accounts, and advocacy arguments both for and against mountain bike access. However, managers require a more comprehensive and objective research resource to aid their decision-making.

Since the advent of mountain biking has been very recent, little specific research on its impacts has been completed to date, or has been published in a form more generally available to managers. This review presents a summary of research information which has been available, and is structured to address each of the three information requirements (above) in turn. The main points raised in this review are summarised in Section 5, followed by conclusions and recommendations in Section 6. These provide some direction for future management and research options.