How do you help someone to take the leap from thinking that, maybe they’d like to start cycling, to actually sitting on a saddle and pedalling?
Surveys often tell us that people mulling over that leap would be happier taking it if they had easy access to user-friendly, traffic-free routes. They also want more information: Where are the best routes? How can I find a group to ride with? Is there a course I can take to build-up my confidence?
By providing this kind of information and helping deliver more routes, the Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS) project aims to encourage more people to take up off-road biking. Now in its sixth year, the project also aims to increase tourism and economic development by positioning Scotland as the place to go for mountain biking, and to achieve greater sporting success for Scotland by producing world class mountain-bikers.
The DMBinS project takes a very broad definition of ‘mountain biking’ which includes any off-road bike use for leisure, not just the extreme, hurtling down a muddy hillside at 90 MPH kind.
Scotland was made for mountain biking, so to speak. As well as being great to look at, our spectacular landscapes offer varied terrain to suit all levels of off-road biking. And our progressive access legislation means that tracks and trails from the urban fringe to the wild and rugged can be used, as long as it is done responsibly.
The DMBinS project has worked hard to establish its website as a one-stop-shop for mountain biking information, for seasoned bikers, for those thinking about making that initial leap onto a saddle, and for everyone in between. The website also features information for people involved in encouraging greater participation or improving local facilities, such as marketing and funding info and case studies to help the sharing of good practice.
A successful feature of DMBinS has been the cultivation of five regional ‘Development Clusters’ to help provide strategic direction, co-ordination and to maximise each area’s potential. Although the cluster areas are at various stages of development and each region determines its own priorities, the clusters ensure there is a consistent approach to developing mountain biking in Scotland and that good practice is shared.
The Development Clusters have helped to produce sets of Route Cards and an e-guide for the Highlands promoting sustainable, natural routes and trail centres; being part of a cluster has helped member organisations gain access to a range of funding sources, for developing facilities and running events designed to encourage more participation in mountain biking; and the clusters have helped to make training for event planners available through a college.
DMBinS is now preparing its third three-year delivery programme, which will see it continue to steer the sustainable development of mountain biking and provide an effective cross-cutting agency role in the rather cluttered landscape of cycling interests and organisations.
A key element in the new programme will be a national participation scheme aimed at areas of low current participation and under-represented groups near large population centres. The scheme will seek to create awareness of the many off-road cycling opportunities near most people’s homes and build the confidence for people to use them. Another focus for the new programme will be to develop ways for bikers to get more involved in managing their local routes.
Developing mountain biking in Scotland is a sound investment that makes great use of our natural assets, has economic rewards and enables people to enjoy the benefits of exercise and being out in Scotland’s magnificent outdoors. And as more people take up mountain biking there could be environmental benefits too, as once someone takes that initial leap onto a saddle for fitness or fun, it may well lead to them ignoring the car and jumping on their bikes for functional trips too.
For more information on the project and to get involved visit the Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland website.