From Dangerous Sport to Fun Activity – Reframing Mountain Biking

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I was recently asked to give a presentation on ‘Image and Mountain Biking’, as part of an event held by Ride Sheffield under the topic ‘Reframing Mountain Biking’. The event brought together a range of people from brands, media, trail associations and the MTB industry to consider what the mountain bike community might do to help attract a wider range of people, and to help improve trail access. Manon Carpenter played a big part in pulling the event together, and it certainly continued discussion of the issues raised in her film Trails on Trial, where she examined what it takes...

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  • This topic has 263 replies, 70 voices, and was last updated 1 month ago by rob p.
Viewing 40 posts - 81 through 120 (of 263 total)
  • From Dangerous Sport to Fun Activity – Reframing Mountain Biking
  • Bunnyhop
    Full Member

    The analogy between skiing and mtbiking is interesting. Most of the people I ski with are mtbikers and quite a few of the mtbikers I ride with either ski or snowboard too.
    Getting women into mtbiking has always been a tough one. Women in general don’t like getting muddy, wet and cold. They see it as hard work and let’s face it one does have to have a pretty high level of fitness to ride up some rocky trails (some continuously for some way). Also it’s an expensive sport, I’ve only managed to enjoy this sport because my bikes have been second hand, as are all the components. Also, yes it does come across as slightly dangerous. Even paying for a skills course can be an expensive day (worth the money).

    As mentioned above it depends on where your local trails are as to how you are perceived as an mtber. The locals around here (Marple) are used to seeing mtbers on the many bridleways and trails and in the main everyone gets on, we’re a friendly bunch and always say hello. There are a higher proportion of women and families that enjoy the ‘off road cycling’ routes too, maybe because we are fairly close to the large urban population of Stockport.

    thegeneralist
    Full Member

    I’m not sure if anyone follows Paul the Punter on YouTube, but he just posted a video explaining why he quit mountain biking completely, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwSHV7xuQd4&ab_channel=PaulThePunter

    Oh my days. That is the most boring video I have [ not really] seen in a long time. Does he actually get to the point and tell us why he quit,?
    I kept jumping forwards but just kept getting ” so this video is about why I quit” over and over again without actually telling us

    MTB is a broad church, maybe it’s less about ‘branding’ and more about promoting the multitude of opportunities? I think that wild cycling/bimbling may have some legs. I suspect there are many more people who ride on dirt but don’t consider themselves a mountain biker.

    We talk a lot about diversity and accessibility and judge all the types of filthy wheels by what we see overall, maybe if we were to be a little more curious about the data it might show us that some ‘disciplines’ are better than others and where to focus efforts rather than it be a comment often accompanied with a wave of the hand and little else.

    thegeneralist
    Full Member

    Wild Biking’ (brilliant, btw)

    Well, Fin and Rob will chuffed as **** if this pans out their website will get stacks of hits.

    @thegeneralist, I think I watched one of his videos way back and was instantly put off. Fella is generally dull.

    jivehoneyjive
    Free Member

    There’s a bit of a disconnect here which is hard to reconcile…

    On the one hand, danger is sexy and sex sells; the reason the majority of media coverage is of the more extreme (and talented) end of the sport is because it’s exceptional; it stands out as a spectacle of human achievement, driving not only the sport forward, but a wider understanding of the abilities of our species, as opposed to the somewhat less sexy image of bimblers doddering through the wilderness.

    At the other end of the scale, we have a maturing sport, which has earned it’s place in society and now wants to give back… much like a Jehovah’s Witness who seeks to enlighten others, and whilst we can offer spiritual growth and salvation, there are also more tangible physical benefits.

    Now the physical realm is where the disconnect begins; on the one hand, regular indulgence in MTB offers improved fitness, along with a wealth of feel good gubbins bundled in for free… however, it does also present the problem of injury, which is a very real risk (as I write this, though I personally relish the more dangerous side of the sport, I am currently more of a bimbler due to an injury sustained the best part of 4 months ago… however, I’ll keep plugging away at my daily exercises so that I can once again enjoy the sweet taste of danger), no doubt borne out by data held by the health services surrounding popular MTB destinations.

    The real problem here is that in order to truly give back to the community, MTB needs to work with authorities so as to secure grants and funding, which in turn, means that sexy danger goes out the window and it’s time to delve deep into policy documents and find the keywords reflecting tangible benefits to society.

    Seems that the drive towards trail associations and legitimacy is a good thing in terms of creating a more significant presence in terms of leveraging access laws and the like, but at this stage, it is still fraught with many obstacles; I have personally put a substantial amount of time and effort into bringing a trail association into being, but am now having 2nd thoughts due to my neighboring trail association’s experiences with NRW… whilst training and qualifications for guiding and coaching are already well established, there is a perceived skills gap in terms of trail building and monitoring… in terms of off piste trails, we’re still very much at the stage where forgiveness is easier that permission.

    Overall though, I’d say there’s been huge advances in the sport over the last 10 years; there is far more facilities, be that trail centres, bike parks, pump tracks or unofficial trails than ever before and that trend looks set to continue; one of the main obstacles which we face is a geographic one; all too often the best terrain is some way from population centres, which reduces the number of people likely to take an interest.

    Scienceofficer
    Free Member

    Just come off a 3 day ‘dig’ with Ride Bristol updating a very popular trail in a park next to the city.

    I was there with my son yesterday.

    So, if it wasn’t you I was speaking to – thanks!

    bristolpest
    Full Member

    spot on

    edit this was a reply to ” Another simile would be to think of bridleway bimblers like me see their bikes like a landrover – a tool for getting into the countryside and the gnarly nutters its more like a rally car – a tool to enjoy going as fast as you can on rough track”.

    Scienceofficer
    Free Member

    Yes, the spectrum of MTB use.

    AngusWells
    Full Member

    My view is that a better co-ordinated national promotion of all non-competitive cycling is where the most impact will be felt. British Cycling has proved itself inadequate at doing this and Cycling UK suffers an image problem (and lack of funding) to really make the difference that it wants. Asking the manufacturers is laudable but they will only join if there is a serious strategy that they can see the benefit of. Once we (co-ordinated cyclists) have made a case and have achieved a good understanding of the benefits and enjoyment that cycling brings amongst the majority of non-cyclists (including central-Government departments who filter it down to local government), the appreciation of the various ‘sub-sections’ of cycling will improve.

    Boring, I know, but I think this is the only way to meet Hannah’s wish.

    Inter-nicene fighting between those who consider themselves the real mountain bikers doesn’t help and neither does the demonisation of other countryside access groups.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Another +1 for “wild cycling”, obviously it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek but that’s fine. It reckon it could be on every other middle-aged women’s dating profile by this time next year.

    To the main point, Cycling UK have been busy trying to put their own mellower spin on MTB for a few years now. Mainly focusing on long-distance off-road routes, but they are certainly on board with the “rambling with a bike” ethos mentioned above. And very inclusive in their comms.

    There were two common complaints when I was involved in advocacy that the industry. Actually there were a lot more than two, but these are the relevant ones).

    1. That the industry was always marketing MTB as an extreme sport, with skids and stunts in promo videos.

    2. More importantly, that the industry did sweet FA to understand or assist advocacy efforts. It wasn’t even on their radar.

    It seems these things might be gradually changing now, which is nice. I do hope Manon and her pals stay involved anyway.

    But why is it necessary? One of the best articulations I’ve seen was in a Ride Sheffield blog post ages ago, where John H bemoaned MTBers being treated as “second class citizens of the outdoors”. Changing that perception/treatment could bring positive developments on both a local and national level.

    ads678
    Free Member

    I’m not really sure I get the ‘wild cycling’ thing. Wild camping is camping with no facilities. Off road cycling is just that, cycling not on a road, but a bridleway or trail cenetre is the facilities, so it’s not wild….

    I think, if we want to get more open access, we need more general acceptance, so having every picture associated with MTBing as some stormtrooper pulling a 10ft high tailwhip or schralping the brown pow doesn’t really do us any favours although it might sell bikes. Showing people of different ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and gender having fun on bikes beautiful countryside might help.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    having every picture associated with MTBing as some stormtrooper pulling a 10ft high tailwhip or schralping the brown pow doesn’t really do us any favours although it might sell bikes.

    I’m not sure it even fulfills the latter requirements. Is it not the point that presenting that image actually deters the majority of potential customers? Those adverts are chasing upspend from a small niche of enthusiasts. As I said, compare the number of <£600 hardtails bought with the number of enduro or all-mountain bikes already, and then ponder where any new buyer is going to get involved

    Oh – does anyone remember that “History of UK Mountain Biking” film? How much of it was about racing and how much about just riding in the hills?

    tjagain
    Full Member

    I just did an image search for mountainbiking. I don’t use google so your results might vary but its interesting that its mainly open face helmets wheels on the ground and beautiful scenery not stormtroupers doing difficult things

    imnotverygood
    Full Member

    Things might have changed but the #1 cause of long-term absence in the Lothians and Border Fire Service certainly used to be biking injuries sustained at Glentress

    I believe in the Borders General, Glentress is known as ‘that awful place’

    ads678
    Free Member

    Bit of a mix on google, Lots of radness but some other bits in there as well, including a young girl, which is great.

    docrobster
    Full Member

    I just did the Google image search on my phone and one of the pics was of some trails I  recognised (well ladybower in the background). So clicked on it to find a German Komoot page trying to sell “the outdoor city” to German mtb’ers as a destination. Fly to Manchester, take the train to Sheffield (remember to pre book your bike) and then you can ride straight to lady cannings plantation… or any of the other routes they’d taken from the venerable vg guide book we all love.

    Which is interesting as it shows how one little bit of the industry is indeed trying to sell an area as a destination to tourists from abroad like we have with skiing here… it was talking up trail centres as a great British invention, which is kind of odd as the peak is precisely not a trail centre, but I’ll leave that to the marketing people.

    Made me wonder though if the comparison to snow sports is a little unfair as the advertising of skiing and boarding in the uk is aimed at people who are by definition looking at expensive foreign holidays, whereas advertising of off road cycling in the uk to uk consumers is looking for a very different spend level. Would Austrian papers carry ads and editorial supplements advertising all the different resorts when domestic skiers would generally just drive to their local ski centre at the weekend…?

    Bruce
    Full Member

    The things that I don’t think have been discussed in this thread the ecosystem and mountain biking. We used to drive somewhere to ride most weekends, but now we have drastically reduced the amount of driving we do to ride a bike. Most of out riding now is straight from the door and either road or making the best of what the local area has to offer. I don’t think for us this will change as we don’t want to contribute more than we have to polution and climate change.
    Maybe for city dwellers someone could run coach trips with bike trailers (like they do to Europe) or trains could be provided with decent bike facilities. The Ramblers seem to manage to organise coach trips and I know people who don’t drive but would like to mountain bike.
    The other elephant in the room is EBikes I don’t ride one but when we were shopping in Bike Treks they said that The majority of bikes they sold were e bikes. Hire e bikes seem very popular in the Lakes and it would appear to be a good way of getting more people out. I don’t think your average non cyclist even thinks about Gnar but they do think about hills.

    crazy-legs
    Full Member

    Its worse here for sure, but if you read any puff piece on niche sports in any of the mainstream media outlets, its full of words like ‘protein bars, energy drink, white knuckle, thrill seeking, exhausting, drained, adrenalin, etc…’

    It’s certainly not exclusively that and its easy to find more mild descriptions targeted at say, the centre Parcs crowd, but the preponderance of imagery and writing is on the gnar side.

    A lot of cycling (in the media) is either this ^^ or the shatteringly dull technical stuff of rebound rates and gear inches and carbon grade and aero…
    When I do ride-leading, it’s noticeable how the men graduate to talking about the latter – Strava and power and aero and tech bollocks and fitness and “smashing it” – and the women talk about normal stuff!

    RustySpanner
    Full Member

    Fun has to be the key.

    All the people we’ve turned on to riding off road have purely been into it for fun.

    They didn’t feel the need to aspire to anything:

    Not to buy a posh bike.
    Not to be a part of a scene.
    Not as an alternative to golf, or sailing, or climbing.
    Just fun.

    I used to organise MTB meets a few times a year for members of our Mountaineering Club.
    By far, the most positive feedback and largest attendances were non tech rides rediscovering areas people already knew. Llanberis Quarry, Snowdonia cheek, London Road above Hebden etc.

    If you want a perfect example of how to turn people on to riding off road, look at Hit The North – especially the pre race introductory rides.
    Experienced, seasoned MTBers like Terrahawk, Harry The Spider and Mr Sparkle taking the time to be nice to newbies.
    Inclusivity.
    Mrs Spanner, previously a roadie was treated so well, never belittled, always looked after.
    The trails were all rideable by those with a bit of experience, but beginners were never, ever made to feel like they didn’t belong, needed a posh bike or weren’t welcome.
    I’ll never forget Terrahawk showing her some of the easier options, or pretending to need a pee and waiting just to make sure no one ever felt excluded.
    And my god, it was fun.

    I’ll never forget the buzz from those rides. The feeling of not being judged by wealth or ability.

    Perhaps that’s what we should be striving for?

    weeksy
    Full Member

    @RustySpanner

    That all goes back to the article from Hannah a few months ago where she took a bunch of lasses out in the hills who were very inexperienced… I wonder if Hannah could do a follow up article from them all and see if any have ridden again since and if not, why not.. They all seemed to have a blast and enjoy it.. So i’d hope they have gone on and tried it again.

    charliedontsurf
    Full Member

    Support the businesses that support mountain biking…  and once people can make money out of presenting sensible mountain biking, they will have marketing and PR budgets and present it in that way. If they can sell a family a 1 week holiday in a chalet next to the bike trails, they will present the sport in the same style as a skiing holiday.

     

    colournoise
    Full Member

    I wouldn’t worry about any of this any more. MTB is doomed…

    https://www.instagram.com/reel/CknvT80owpm/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading

    kennyp
    Free Member

    Just call it “Wild cycling” and everyone will jump on the bandwagon! It worked for swimming and camping 😉

    Absolutely. For example I used to find picnics boring, but now I’m totally into wild eating!!!

    Bunnyhop
    Full Member

    @RustySpanner – Those Hit the North rides were such fun and no one got left out or left behind, just loads of laughs and encouragement and a great way to learn the course. I agree with everything you’ve written.

    stevextc
    Free Member

    Weeksy

    Surrey hills has 1 shop, 1 pub and a post office, again not exactly embraced

    I think you must be confusing Surrey Hills with a single village in Surrey Hills…
    I usually try to manage at least 2-3 pubs on a ride… 😉 The Plough is good for Redlands/Leith Hill – Kings Head has been built at the bottom of Crackpipe /Wet and Wild so you can get a pint in between runs… and the Royal Oak is good if you want to get straight to Logans Run without the boring misery of Telegraph. (and that’s really just Peaslake/Holmbury/Leith Hill area .. lots and lots more riding in the wider SH)

    weeksy
    Full Member

    Well my point was, that it’s not exactly a ‘destination’ in the same way your Morzine, Les Gets etc is… Obviously a lot of that is due to size of small hills vs mountains.. but the UK simply hasn’t embraced MTB in terms of destinations. There’s no bars, cafes, bike shops all at the bottom, with hotels etc… That’s kinda where i was going with my post initially. Doesn’t matter now, the point has kinda moved on.

    singlespeedstu
    Full Member

    the UK simply hasn’t embraced MTB in terms of destinations. There’s no bars, cafes, bike shops all at the bottom

    Inners has four bike shops, four cafes and a few pubs all in between the golfie and the uplift side.

    The number of visitors here would suggest it is very much a “destination” for MTBers.

    weeksy
    Full Member

    Inners has four bike shops, four cafes and a few pubs all in between the golfie and the uplift side.

    The number of visitors here would suggest it is very much a “destination” for MTBers

    So 1 place then in the whole of the country… and in Scotland which is the furthest part away and for many proably longer to get to than Morzine 🙂

    Embraced… nah…. 1 .. Sure.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    What stu said, but I’d add Aviemore to that short list. The major difference here is that the MTBers are generally of the more bimbly type (Burnside aside) and the number can be hidden by the folk also doing walking, running, paddling, swimming, skiing etc. Local businesses are installing secure bike storage, bike washes and so on too.

    I’ve a feeling Fort William should be a third but I’m not sure it’s quite there (local knowledge please?). The new carriages on the train should certainly make it more accessible to those without a car/van option but I don’t think it has quite the variety of accessible trails (yet?)

    stevextc
    Free Member

    Doesn’t matter now, the point has kinda moved on.

    It kinda is relevant because it depends what MTB is to you/me/them

    Well my point was, that it’s not exactly a ‘destination’ in the same way your Morzine, Les Gets etc is… Obviously a lot of that is due to size of small hills vs mountains.. but the UK simply hasn’t embraced MTB in terms of destinations. There’s no bars, cafes, bike shops all at the bottom, with hotels etc… That’s kinda where i was going with my post initially.

    Morzine is a similar distance/time from Paris as Inners is from London. It’s not like your average Parisien is popping out after work to Morzine with some lights… so for most French MTBers its a holiday destination same as us.
    inners is pretty central to the UK by geography if non population… way more so than Morzine is to France

    Obviously a lot of that is due to size of small hills vs mountains..

    Honestly don’t think so… a top to bottom at BPW/Revs/Dyfi/Inners/Golfie without stopping is plenty for me. It’s just nicer when its not pissing it down maybe?

    The main difference (after weather) I feel is because Morzine/Whistler etc. all had pre-existing ski/board infrastructure. We have loads of mountains “big enough” but lots of organisations who’s job it is to stop people ruining/enjoying them.

    the point has kinda moved on

    Personally I’m missing the point of why we (as opposed to people who sell stuff) would want to change “mountain biking” to attract more people? Personally I hate football and would much rather play Rugby… but I’d rather ride than either. I see no point saying “lets change football to something I enjoy”. “They” whoever that is are trying to ruin Rugby… Ollie suddenly discovered its actually fun this year after being forced to play “touch rugby” before this year. If you don’t like getting muddy and breaking the odd bone/nose/black eye play football, baskeyball if you do play rugby… why change rugby into a non contact sport??? It’s the same with MTB… if you don’t want to get hurt do gravel or road… both perfectly valid alternatives just as football is.

    The point of the above…having a foot in NEITHER camp why would Rugby want to compete with football or visa versa?
    Whereas those invested in Rugby disagree as some want to make it more accessible and others want to keep it as Rugby.
    If you aren’t invested then to me it’s like Rugby want to “steal” people from football, hockey, basketball (etc.)…by changing Rugby… There is sod all wrong with any of them.. even people in Wales can play football if they like… it’s not illegal or anything.

    With an invested foot in MTB I can’t see why we want to “steal” people from gravel/road anyway but especially by trying to change MTB to something many would rather just stay home than endure!

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    Maybe encouraging folk to be outdoors and active would create a fitter, healthier population with fewer mental health issues? If you want a bottom line, think of the cost of the NHS and of lost working days due to illness and then how much those could be reduced.

    The whole point is trying to get away from the “dangerous activity” vibe which puts off the majority.

    singlespeedstu
    Full Member

    So 1 place then in the whole of the country…

    You must be blind to a lot of riding destinations is all I can say.

    If you’re looking for UK MTB destinations in Berkshire you’re looking in the wrong place…

    The whole point is trying to get away from the “dangerous activity” vibe which puts off the majority.

    Exactly why it’s great to see school kids out on the trails as part of their schooling round here.
    Totally normalises it.
    If it can be done here it can be done at other places.

    We were riding with some folks from the Aderdeenshire Trail association last week and they were telling us about their big efforts to get blue trails constructed for exactly this reason.

    julians
    Free Member

    If you’re looking for UK MTB destinations in Berkshire you’re looking in the wrong place…

    you need to go to surrey for that.

    my sons school has a mountain biking club, they go all over to ride, they do day trips to the welsh trail centres that are probably 1-2 hours from here, weekends to inners/glentress etc, and week long trips abroad.

    I dont think most people are put off because “its dangerous” (although some certainly are), they’re probably put off because its hard work – not just in terms of pedalling up a hill, but loading the bike into the car , driving to somewhere worth riding etc. If you’re in it for the exercise, its usually far easier to go for a run, or go out on a road bike, why bother with the faff of a mountain bike and finding somewhere off road to ride it. its just more all round effort to go wild cycling that it is to run or ride on the road – for most people. or if you are in it for the views, the wildlife ,the fresh air etc, just go for a walk in the hills, why bother with a bike?

    If you live near a decent selection of trails then there probably are already a higher percentage of people riding mountain bikes than normal.

    stevextc
    Free Member

    Maybe encouraging folk to be outdoors and active would create a fitter, healthier population with fewer mental health issues? If you want a bottom line, think of the cost of the NHS and of lost working days due to illness and then how much those could be reduced.

    Yeah people can walk, run or do gravel… or maybe the want to play football or something?

    The whole point is trying to get away from the “dangerous activity” vibe which puts off the majority.

    People who don’t want to do a dangerous activity can walk, run or do gravel.
    Why is it a good thing to get them to do MTB instead?

    singlespeedstu
    Full Member

    Why is it a good thing to get them to do MTB instead?

    My take on this is it makes things better for us folks that already ride.

    As an example riding MTB’s round here is pretty mainstream and almost everyone knows someone who rides or sees people out riding.
    This leads to it being seen as more normal. Which in turn stops most but not all people complaining about you riding a bike.
    It’s pretty normal for me to stop and chat with walkers/ dog walkers/horse riders/forestry guys/farmer workers and they couldn’t care less as to my mode of transport.
    That hardly ever used to happen riding in an area where bikes were a lot less common.

    ayjaydoubleyou
    Full Member

    As an example riding MTB’s round here is pretty mainstream and almost everyone knows someone who rides or sees people out riding.
    This leads to it being seen as more normal. Which in turn stops most but not all people complaining about you riding a bike.
    It’s pretty normal for me to stop and chat with walkers/ dog walkers/horse riders/forestry guys/farmer workers and they couldn’t care less as to my mode of transport.
    That hardly ever used to happen riding in an area where bikes were a lot less common.

    how much is area and how much is the people?

    If someone drove an hour to ride what you ride from your back door, they would probably have the same experience out on the trails – if they were equally friendly and polite.
    Its when they drive home to their non-honeypot house that their mum/wife/neighbour thinks they are nuts

    singlespeedstu
    Full Member

    Its when they drive home to their non-honeypot house that their mum/wife/neighbour thinks they are nuts

    That’s the point of getting more people in to riding.
    Their mum/wife/neighbour will see it as a pretty normal thing to do because it’s more common.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    People who don’t want to do a dangerous activity can walk, run or do gravel.

    Why is it a good thing to get them to do MTB instead?

    MTB doesn’t have to be dangerous. That’s the whole point.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    And what is called “gravel riding” these days was mountainbiking years ago.  IMO its due to MTBs becoming so much more capable that bridleway bimbling becomes no challenge / fun on a modern MTB

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