Off-Road Mountain Biking: A profile of participants, setting and preferences, by Gordan Cessford, 1995
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Abstract | Summary Table | Executive Summary


This provides a brief view of the main findings of this study. Additional summary sections precede each of the Results sections (3-5). Discussion (Section 6) and Recommendations (Section 7) sections review the main findings. Reference to these summaries and the concluding sections is recommended for those requiring only summary information. Closer reference to the main Results text and the appendices may be required for those requiring more detailed information.

(i) Mountain Bike Rider Characteristics

Riders are a distinct recreationist group characterised by younger male participants with professional-type backgrounds, an interest in `active' types of recreation, and a high degree of club involvement. Activity levels and experience levels amongst these riders are high, although experience (in years) is limited since mountain biking is only a recent development.

(ii) Rider Setting and Experience Preferences

Rider responses indicated preference for a variety of riding features, which are summarised in the Summary Table (opposite). Riders demonstrated their diverse needs through indicating a variety of activity preferences based upon challenging riding, natural forested settings, single-track, speed and excitement experiences, scenery, and general variety in riding conditions. The emphasis placed on these, and other preferred features varied with rider experience.

(iii) Rider Management Opinions

Riders accepted that some limits to access were necessary, but considered that social and physical impacts of mountain bikes were exaggerated. They considered self-regulation to be the most appropriate form of access and behaviour management. These attitudes generally grew stronger with greater rider experience.

(v) Management and Research Recommendations

This study generated a number of recommendations for management and research. These are briefly summarised below, and are discussed in more detail in Sections 6 and 7 of the report.

- Management Recommendations

- `core' track features which include opportunities for exploring new areas, appreciating scenery and nature, experiencing speed and excitement, native forest, undulating route variety, some socialising with others, and around 2-3 hours duration should be common elements to most tracks considered for mountain bike access.

- Riding preferences change towards more challenge and single-track riding with experience. Managers need to apply Recreation Opportunity Spectrum concepts to mountain biking to accomodate these changes.

- Management attention should focus on high-use short tracks near population centres or roads, as use by riderts and others is likely to peak in such areas..

- Prohibition of riding from more remote and difficult tracks may be unecessary due to likely low use levels. Occasional use could be considered acceptable.

- Interest in multi-day off-road routes is likely to increase. A few key backcountry tracks will be most suitable and highly preferred by riders. Managers of these tracks should consider their place in the national spectrum of recreation opportunities when deciding on access policy.

- Track maintenance features may be located in a manner similar to road `judder-bars' to manage rider behaviour where hazard potential exists, or where `managed difficulty' is being used to keep rider numbers low.

- Occasions of excessive rider speed are likely to be an ongoing problem, and managers should encourage rider self-regulation, along with taking steps to minimise hazard situations (e.g. using `managed difficulty').

- Consultation with riders and other track users should be undertaken throughout the processes of deciding riding access and use issues.

- Research Recommendations

- Complementary studies of other rider samples would assist in the definition of different rider categories, and in the range of their setting and experience preferences.

- Research on the nature and variation of walker perceptions of mountain biking should be undertaken to assist in better determining `bike-sensitive' users, and key elements in the conflicts perceived.

- Longitudunal research on any changes in conflict perceptions over time as walker and manager familiarity with mountain biking increases will be an important topic to assist in longer term planning.

- The assumption that more experienced riders will be more responsible in their riding behaviour needs to be tested. This assumption is the basis for calls for first reliance on rider self-regulation. This would represent an evaluation of self-regulation as a possible strategy.

- Research to identify trends in the patterns of rider characteristics, preferences and behaviour will be required to assist prediction of rider demand for settings and experiences as the activity `matures'.

- Identification of those key tracks most valued by riders for mutli-day riding trips will be important if opportunities are to be provided for these experiences.

- Research should be considered on the way rider behaviour may change when obstacles and track difficulties are used to moderate rider behaviour or limit use. This would represent an evaluation of the effectiveness of `managed difficulty' as a possible strategy.

- Comparative research on the relative physical impacts of mountain bikes and walkers will be required to address the physical impact component of recreation conflicts.

- The nature of hazard perceptions and the actual risks associated with mountain biking require more investigation. This would help managers identify where real hazards occur, and cases where they are actually dealing with perceived rather than real risks.

Abstract | Summary Table | Executive Summary
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