OpenMTB Closes Doors – what now for MTB advocacy?

by 27

OpenMTB, a group set up to advocate for UK mountain bikers, has decided to cease functioning, publishing the following statement on its Facebook page:

We’re sad to make the following statement.

After six years OpenMTB has closed its doors.

The lack of a representative body for recreational mountain bikers has been and remains a serious issue – but as a small group with no resources apart from the willingness of its members, OpenMTB has not been in a position to step into the breach.

From the beginning, we have maintained a strong focus on a single issue: more equitable access rights for bike riders.

We have not been without success. In partnership with Cycling UK, we played a significant role in the Trails4Wales campaign and ensuring that the voices of mountain bikers were heard loud and clear.
OpenMTB committee member Tom Hutton will maintain his role in the process as things move slowly towards implementation.

We had hoped that this might set a precedent for progress on access in England too, but there has been little if any positive news here.

Occasional encouraging statements from government ministers have not borne fruit. The excellent Glover Report (officially the Landscapes Review: National Parks and AONBs) has been officially welcomed, but nothing of substance has resulted.

Our hope was that we could continue to work in harness with Cycling UK, but as time has passed our influence there has dwindled – and we have never had a productive relationship with British Cycling.
All our committee members have other calls on their time – and there seems little point in diverting energy into a project which offers little prospect of progress.

With great reluctance and heavy hearts, we’ve made the decision to close OpenMTB – but we can at least look back on one very significant achievement.

Huge thanks to all who’ve supported our efforts. Perhaps we’ll see some of you on some newly accessible trails in Wales soon.

What now for access campaigns in the UK? Hopefully the Trails For Wales campaign and proposed changes are now progressed far enough that they will become a reality. But in England there continues to be a lack of access, with a potential loss of access on the horizon. Cycling UK is championing the ‘Lost Ways’ and ‘Missing Links’ campaigns, seeking to get incorrectly recorded rights of way corrected – helping to re-open bridleway connections that are currently recorded as footpaths. We have until 2026 to get rights of way correctly recorded before they may be eliminated forever – however councils have a huge backlog of cases to look at, and many more paths have yet to have applications submitted.

Add to that pressures on land use – developers re-routing or closing routes, land owners trying to block access, and increasing numbers of riders wanting to take to the trails – and there’s a definite need for advocacy for mountain biking, that goes beyond transport focussed campaigns around cycle lanes.

Developing Mountain Biking In Scotland recently identified the importance of trail associations, yet we don’t even have a directory of local groups here in the UK. OpenMTB did work on compiling one, but it has’t been maintained and will now fall by the wayside along with OpenMTB itself.

Perhaps our best bet for representation now lies with Cycling UK, whose agenda seems to be moving beyond its traditional commuter and touring focus, and into a broader access and advocacy role? What do you think – do we need to be more organised? Or can we remain a group of disparate riders, separated by differing definitions of mountain biking, alternative views of what’s fun, and stretches of footpath?

Singletrack Full MembershipJoin us

If you like what we do - if you like our independence then the best way to support us is by joining us. Every penny of your membership goes back into Singletrack to pay the bills and the wages of the people who work here. No shareholders to pay, just the people who create the content you love to read and watch.


Viewing 27 posts - 1 through 27 (of 27 total)
  • OpenMTB Closes Doors
  • Premier Icon keithb
    Full Member

    Hmmm… I’ve just re-joined CTC/Cycling UK after a number of years. After the charity-isation of the club, they made redundant their technical and off-road officer posts. These have now been reinstated in some form and are making progress on off-road access, for instance the new long distance Cornish route they’ve published.

    However, they need pushing to get things actually done. They’re support for the 2026 PROW claiming seem sot go as far as letting people put their routes on a central map…. No actual assistance/support/plan to move things forward.

    Personally, I think they are now the best of a limited bunch of off-road access campaigners and at least they have an existing profile and the ear of government. just need to get them to use it!

    Premier Icon snotrag
    Full Member

    I’ve been a mountain biker and cyclist for about 25 years. Ive been a member of British Cycling and I’ve been a member of CTC at various periods.

    I’ve done trail building. I’ve raced. I’ve been all over the UK.

    I’ve never heard of ‘OpenMTB’.

    Perhaps thats related.

    Premier Icon robertpb
    Full Member

    I’ve been MTBing for 36 years, back at the begining it was a bit of a novelty, but now we have some very big companies making large sums of money from this activity. Race teams of all sorts of descriptions, yet the people who pay for all this, the purchaser of the bikes mostly ride on local bridleways where no money is hardly evident, we are not spending our time at trail centres everyday.

    Unless the press side of MTBing gets more involved so that more of us know about groups like OpenMTB then we are going to end up where we are now.

    Premier Icon mackem
    Full Member

    Apart from the racing, same as SnotRag.

    Premier Icon thegeneralist
    Full Member

    we have some very big companies making large sums of money from this activity. Race teams of all sorts of descriptions, yet the people who pay for all this, the purchaser of the bikes mostly ride on local bridleways where no money is hardly evident, 

    Bloody hell . Never really thought of it like this. It’s absolutely shocking if true.

    Premier Icon Andy
    Free Member

    I’d heard of them, can’t remember how originally…STW? Facebook? Had gone quiet in recent years but they seemed to be the only real group seeking to be an MTB voice a few years ago so a shame they’ve lost traction.

    Premier Icon b33k34
    Full Member

    It seems a shame they’ve decided to ‘close’ rather than trying to recruit some volunteers with more time.

    Premier Icon DickBarton
    Full Member

    Which takes a lot of time and effort…which is what they don’t have. Agree, a shame but if people aren’t stepping in to be involved there is only so much that can be done.
    Seems to be standard, everyone wants to ride but very few want to help keep it happening…

    Premier Icon RedThunder
    Free Member

    Never heard of them 🙁

    Shame.

    Perhaps a resurrection is in order.

    Premier Icon thepodge
    Free Member

    A generally well intentioned group but largely without much power. Shame they are gone. I wonder if the fact one of their team has been banned by STW from the forum for their views had anything to do with it, can’t have been a great working environment.

    Premier Icon towzer
    Free Member

    Just FYI, prior to OpenMTB (*possibly at same time), but we also used to have the IMBA UK doing what I thought was roughly the same thing.

    IMBA-UK,is it still with us?


    (*other threads are available),

    On balance I’m probably of the opinion that one group representing cycling would be best but can see that unlike rambling (which imho has a definitive body, lots of active members, power and money and ‘clout’) that there are huge differences between the different cycling discipline types and their wants.

    Premier Icon keithb
    Full Member

    I wonder how/why peak District MTV have been successful in gaining profile/traction/results, but OpenMTB not?

    Maybe the more local approach, which engages people who actually use and care about their area is a model to follow?  MTBers have never been well represented nationally, so maybe it’s time to focus on local action groups, with 2 way support from the CTCs existing framework?

    I’m sure the off road officer is on here (Sophie, possibly?) Who has responded to and engaged with my criticism of the CTC before (edit: not personal criticism, but as the”face” of CTC) for the lack of engagement and action by the CTC.

    Maybe it’s time for a new model?  Locally focussed but centrally networked?  Maybe the CTC would then be Willing to deploy some of its resources to research and claim these lost rights of way by 2026?

    Premier Icon christian newsome
    Full Member

    Mtb’er are a bit like atheists I reckon, independent and hard to organise towards a common goal.

    I seems futile to spend your time convincing folk to let you ride somewhere when they have no incentive to allow you to.

    Better to target smaller areas with willing landowners to build momentum and then go for the bigger prizes.

    I like the idea of a local model like in the peaks and Ilkley MTB. They work well.

    Premier Icon rob p
    Full Member

    I agree that the best model currently looks like local advocacy under some kind of national ‘umbrella’ brand.

    First step for me would be to actually ‘audit’ what is going on locally, and identify best practice (which currently looks to me like what’s happening in The Peak?). What can we all learn from there to apply to our own contexts?

    The IMBA model ought to work, but not sure why it’s never really gained tracktion here? Maybe the ‘tradition’ of UK MTB being a bit anti-establishment? If so, it’s probably about time we stopped pretending it’s still the 90s and started to work together and with others to push for access, etc.

    Premier Icon steveh
    Full Member

    The local model is great, we at Ride Sheffield have done some amazing things, but we do need a national group of some sort to fight for things on a broader scale (trails for wales, development of desire lines in to permitted trails on FC land as DMBinS etc, more general rights of way access etc) as well, a local approach doesn’t work for things like that.

    I did a little with OpenMTB in the early days as part of Ride Sheffield stuff, it diverted from it’s original plan and focused on getting more ROW acccess over anything else for various reasons. A single group to do it all would be good but no one (ctc/bc or A N other) are doing that right now.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    it diverted from it’s original plan and focused on getting more ROW acccess over anything else for various reasons.

    Makes sense though, because unless they’ve got access to lawyers or something that can add value in a top-down approach then really local people are surely more effective at writing letters etc to local landowners than a national body that has limited clout anyway.

    Whereas a national body can do some work on national issues like RoW access in general.

    Footpath access would be great, but why can no one campaign on simpler more achievable things like could bridleways be rideable first? Currently, they have to be accessible by horse, but that generally seems to mean the installation of gates and motorbike barriers that are hostile to bikes in general. Even just getting that updated would be progress rather than lofty long term aims that might never happen.

    Premier Icon DickBarton
    Full Member

    Trail associations in Scotland are our next big thing…they seem to do some.great work, so apart from some daftly weird access laws down south, they should work well there as well.

    Premier Icon shan andy
    Full Member

    While there is undoubted value in local advocacy and the face to face interaction they can have with landowners, there is very much a role for a national group.

    For example, some work I did with MoD a while back. They insisted on only speaking to the “national body” for mounting biking. In their minds, that meant BC. Nothing I could say about how there isn’t one would dissuade them from that, or persuade them to engage with local groups.

    On the subject of other user groups, I sit on our Local Access Forum as off road cycling rep, alongside ramblers and equestrians. Our interests align more often than they diverge. And all of us bemoan how the network, access and planning leave us feeling excluded and ignored. I think any notion that horse riders and, to a lesser extent, ramblers enjoy a significantly better situation than us is misguided.

    Where we do differ, is that they are members of national organisations that support and promote their work. If mountain bikers were willing to pay for such a thing, I think we might make significant advances.

    Premier Icon Mugboo
    Full Member

    ShanAndy, nail/head, progress costs money. Every single person on Open MTB, Peak District, Ride Sheffield/Kirklees/Calderdale, etc has a proper job and a family. Until we are willing to join up and pay, we ever won’t see real change.

    Premier Icon James
    Full Member

    I’ve been a mountain biker and cyclist for about 25 years. Ive been a member of British Cycling and I’ve been a member of CTC at various periods.

    I’ve done trail building. I’ve raced. I’ve been all over the UK.

    I’ve never heard of ‘OpenMTB’.

    Perhaps thats related.

    Should it find us or should we look for it?

    I wouldn’t expect a group like this to have or need much marketing budget. But I suppose we should expect most riders to google new kit or dig trails but not look to get involved in advocacy movements (whether being involved is easy or not). I guess that reads like a dig, not intended – I’ve done almost zero on access ever. I ride natural xc stuff, find my own way and don’t really think much about access – and that’s the problem with many of us I expect, thinking as individuals.

    +1 to a national group learning from the best local groups. £25 a year from MTBers would go a long way.

    Premier Icon ScotRoutes
    Full Member

    Should it find us or should we look for it?

    I wouldn’t expect a group like this to have or need much marketing budget.

    How much budget would be needed if the likes of STW gave it some regular coverage? Wasn’t there once an IMBA section?

    Premier Icon James
    Full Member

    ^ I think they did, sure I remember something on here? If the industry media supported a group as they have with IMBA and others before it wouldn’t need much. Perhaps local groups do local issues best and if it’s all quite disjointed or slow-moving, without a central body with a press officer it’s hard for the media to focus on.

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Full Member

    Hi, I was a committee member (and chair for a bit), so it might just be helpful to clarify that this is the paragraph to focus on…

    Our hope was that we could continue to work in harness with Cycling UK, but as time has passed our influence there has dwindled – and we have never had a productive relationship with British Cycling.
    All our committee members have other calls on their time – and there seems little point in diverting energy into a project which offers little prospect of progress.

    Yes, the committee did have other calls on their free time, but it was primarily a lack of opportunity to engage and work with our national organisations in pursuing blanket RoW reforms which was the blocker.

    If we are going to move forward on access rights it will really have to involve C-UK or BC (or preferably both), due to their resources, profile and lobbying capabilities.

    Hopefully it’ll come back on the radar for them in future.

    I wonder if the fact one of their team has been banned by STW from the forum for their views had anything to do with it

    The person you refer to had not been a committee member for some years now and was previously in an advisory / liaison role. So not really.

    Premier Icon thepodge
    Free Member

    Thanks for setting the record straight.

    Premier Icon keithb
    Full Member

    So, if we all join CTC, and email them asking to prioritize wider off road cyclists, will that work?

    Thats basically what I plan to do, but if I’m a lone voice in the touring masses, will it make any difference?

    The rough stuff fellowship could also be a major resource in evidencing historical usage of routes.

    Premier Icon DickBarton
    Full Member

    At a guess, few people are trying to improve access and trail advocacy as overall we have it rather good in this country…looking back to when this all kicked off in the mid to late 80s, access was terrible – I’d regularly get stopped by people with shotguns or rifles for using farm land to access hills or forestry, much has changed over the years and things have improved.

    Given the volume of riders now riding, I suspect those who remember how it was are far fewer and now reasonably happy with their riding (whatever that may be for them) so in a lot fo cases, it works for them without needing to go fight an uphill battle. For the new riders, this is how it is now and they are more than happy with it.

    Getting anyone to give up free time to do some work that may or may not help a wider group of people is always difficult, it won’t matter how much people bang on about it on biking sites – most people who use them already are aware ofwhat they want to be aware of…it is getting the message that appeals to them and gets them wanting to be involved that is the problem.

    Most of this chat works exactly the same for the amount of chats there has been about banner ads on this website and how to get rid of them – the simple answer answer is everyone should stump up the £20 a year and low-and-behold the problem is fixed – however, despite many people knowing this, they decide not to pay the cash (for whatever reason or reasons) – the fact is, for a lot of people, helping fix the issue isn’t that big a deal as they are quite happy with what they have now…so unless something monumental shifts in their perception then that won’t change.

    Which is a shame as there could be so much more but it needs a lot of work and effort but the desire isn’t strong enough in enough people.

    Premier Icon bikesandboots
    Full Member

    the simple answer answer is everyone should stump up the £20 a year and low-and-behold the problem is fixed – however, despite many people knowing this, they decide not to pay the cash (for whatever reason or reasons)

    Plenty of stores (physical and online) are offering payment round-up (nearest £1/5 or +50p etc) for a couple of causes the purchaser can choose. Might any of the big online cycling retailers be up for something like that? It would capture people who are interested/willing but who aren’t enough so to go looking for someone to give their money to. No idea how much it would generate.

Viewing 27 posts - 1 through 27 (of 27 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.