Based upon the results of this study,
a number of recommendations can be made for management and research
consideration. These highlight some of the main findings of this
study, and some of the new questions raised. They are not presented
in any order of priority.
7.1 Management Recommendations
These management recommendations relate
to the type of recreation experiences being sought by mountain
bike riders, and the implications for managers for making some
provision for mountain biking opportunities. The types of features
preferred by riders are well summarised in the executive summary.
Specific reference is also made to the Recreation Opportunity
- When considering options for mountain
biking opportunities, managers should ensure that the tracks include
some or all of the following `core' features: opportunities for
exploring new areas; opportunities for appreciating views, scenery
and nature; experiencing some speed, excitment and risk; native
forest settings; undulating routes with variety; socialising with
others; and rides of between 2-3 hours duration. These were identified
as features of high importance to almost all riders.
- Managers also need to apply Recreation
Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) concepts as rider preferences vary
with experience, and the preferences of the more experienced riders
broaden the range of areas in which mountain biking interest occurs.
As riders gain experience, they prefer more challenge and difficulty
in their riding, and more access to single-track types of routes.
The more common road and 4WD options (e.g., `back-country drive-in'
zones) are not the preferred options of experienced riders, whose
preferences may need to be considered in areas where only foot
access occurs (e.g., `remote experience' zones).
- Management focus on mountain biking
opportunities and issues should focus upon front-country rather
than back-country areas. Most riding will be on day-trips under
five hours, and managers can consider the proximity of tracks
to residential areas, holiday locations, and easy road access
to better determine the likely levels of riding use and conflict
which may occur. While most riders would only be riding on these,
others may be using them to access more remote riding areas. Such
distinctions in use patterns may influence how managers plan the
use of these tracks by mountain bikes. Provision of access `corridors'
may be an option.
- Regulation and prohibition of rider
access to more remote and difficult tracks may be unecessary,
due to the low numbers of riders likely to use them. Small numbers
may be tolerable in these circumstances. Managers could expect
that any riders on more remote, long and difficult tracks (e.g.,
rough and/or steep) would be of higher experience and commitment
to riding, but that their numbers would be low (particularly if
overnight stays on the tracks were required).
- Managers should consider the national
and regional role of backcountry multi-day routes when addressing
the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum features of the areas under
their management. Considerable interest in multi-day riding opportunities
is apparent from rider responses. Interest in these routes is
likely to increase as rider knowledge and skill levels increase,
and more variety in experiences is sought. This does not mean
all tracks should be considered, as many are too difficult, or
may be subject to general overuse already.
- Track maintenance features such as
waterbars, steps, culverts, and ditches could be deliberately
located in a way to minimise rider speeds at potentially hazardous
points along the track. If required, this type of `managed difficulty'
could also be taken further to create sufficient track obstructions
to deter less committed riders. In the same way, many natural
obstructions such as roots, rocks, logs, stream-crossings and
vegetation could be left in-situ to maintain high riding difficulty.
Actions which smooth track surfaces may encourage more inexperienced
riders, and allow greater riding speeds. While this approach may
represent additional maintenance costs, the process could be incorporated
over time into the overall schedule of track maintenance, and
concentrated first upon the most relevant tracks (e.g., high use
tracks with greater hazard and conflict potential). This approach
may be unacceptable where it compromises easy foot access on tracks
provided for less able walkers.
- It can be accepted from rider preferences
that there will always be a proportion of riders in any setting
who will be riding at excessive speeds. This proportion may be
only small, but does represent a potential hazard. Application
of a `managed difficulty' approach and/or rider education to self-regulate
behaviour would be appropriate courses to consider before major
riding limits or prohibitions are imposed. If regulations are
imposed, they should be specific to problem sites, and backed
up by rigourous enforcement if ignored. Rider responses suggest
they would accept such controls where justified.
- Consultation with any concerned groups
(mountain biking and other user groups) should be undertaken at
an early stage when managers are considering issues of riding
access on potentially controversial tracks. Many conflict situations
may be prevented or reduced in this way. Where problems are occurring
or anticipated, the option for allowing rider self-regulation
should be considered first. Most riders in the study accepted
the need for some controls, but felt that self-regulation was
the best means to deal with potential problems. If limitations
or prohibitions are being considered, reasons will need to be
clearly specified to ensure rider acceptance. Riders perceive
that impacts from riding are exaggerated, and are unlikely to
support those they may perceive as not clearly justified.
7.2 Research Recommendations
A number of general research topics
are suggested here. These will provide complementary results to
those presented in this study, and address some of the additional
questions it raises.
- Research on other samples of mountain
bike riders asking similar questions to those used here should
be undertaken. This would provide complementary data to that gathered
in this study, and would assist definition of a spectrum of different
riders and their preferences. Although the analysis of rider responses
according to their experience level has proved useful in this
study, more work is required to identify criteria that may better
define different types of riders. Further analysis of data from
this study may be undertaken to address this need.
- More research on how walkers perceive
mountain biking is important, particularly on how these perceptions
vary according to different rider types, different encounter settings,
and according to the different types of walkers. The walker types
most susceptible to impacts from mountain biking may be better
identified. This information would allow managers to minimise
conflict potentials, by designating greater limits to rider access
on those tracks with high proportions of `bike-sensitive' users.
- Research investigating how attitudes
towards mountain biking may change over time as walkers become
more familiar with bike encounters is important. If perceived
impacts from mountain biking are largely due to the `new and different'
status of the activity in off-road settings, these negative attitudes
may moderate over time as the activity becomes more familiar.
This would require a longitudinal project using a consistent methodology.
- Research is required to determine
whether the behaviour of more experienced and committed riders
is safer and more responsible than that of novice riders. This
is necessary as the assumption of such a process is the basis
of any successful self-regulation of riding behaviour. In addition,
identification of any particular `problem' types of riders may
aid management targeting of education initiatives, or focus rider
efforts to self-regulate. With this information, managers may
also consider the proportion of riders in the settings who may
be `problem' riders, and manage the riding use of the sites accordingly.
Where any such proportions are low, major management action may
not be required.
- Given the `new' status of the activity,
research on the evolution of riding behaviours, preferences and
participation patterns will aid prediction of future demands for
riding opportunities. Since women are very under-represented in
off-road mountain biking, research on their riding involvement,
aspirations and barriers will be important. Evolution of greater
off-road riding interest amongst women, and reduction of any barriers,
could result in major increases in mountain bike numbers.
- Further research to identify the off-road
tracks and routes most highly preferred for multi-day riding trips
would be useful to assist managers deciding on the implications
of riding access relative to the national value of the tracks.
Research here should also provide some indication of use-level
implications of riding access to such tracks.
- Research dealing with the behavoural
response of riders to `managed difficulty' strategies will clarify
if this is a feasible mainstream strategy, or simply another tool
for managers in localised situations. How rider behaviour on downhill
sections changes as a result of obstacle location is an example
of the sort of work which may be done. How much difficulty riders
may tolerate before they give up on certain tracks is another.
There is much scope for small scale trial and observation research
in this area.
- Specific physical impact research
addressing how the real impacts of mountain bikes compare with
those of other users (e.g., walkers) will help resolve some perceived
conflicts between user groups, and between managers and user groups.
- Perception of hazard from mountain
bikes appeared to be a major source of social impacts perceived
by other track users. Research to identify what the actual hazard
potential may be, and how this may vary in different setting circumstances
is an important topic. While mountain bike riders may accept considerable
risk to themselves from their activity, other track users may
not accept the risks they perceive this represents to them. Resolving
the differences theat exist between actual and perceived risks
may allow managers to take action to minimise the social impact
conflicts related to perceived hazard.