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…

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Hannah Dobson

Managing Editor

I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

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Home Forums From Dangerous Sport to Fun Activity – Reframing Mountain Biking

  • This topic has 263 replies, 70 voices, and was last updated 1 year ago by rob p.
Viewing 40 posts - 121 through 160 (of 263 total)
  • From Dangerous Sport to Fun Activity – Reframing Mountain Biking
  • endoverend
    Full Member

    There’s a huge elephant in the room here that’s not being mentioned, as I’m the devils avocado I’m going to mention it. Whether you like it or not, MTB in England in it’s best form is often done on illegal trails. It’s actively promoted in route discussions and local Instagram feeds in places like the Lakes are full of groups riding where they shouldn’t be. It’s so normalised it probably barely gets noticed, and yet it’s hard to reconcile that with a more mainstream acceptance of the sport, it’ll always tend a bit more towards FightClub than a family day out – in that way it’s fundamentally different from skiing where the majority of the activity is done on cultivated and permitted terrain. What we need of course, is more realistic access rights, and ensuring riders leave as little trace as possible.

    nickc
    Full Member

    And what is called “gravel riding” these days was mountainbiking years ago.

    For some, there’s others of us who’ve always been throwing ourselves of the edges of things to see what will happen since the 90’s. Bikes now just mean that it’s more likely it’ll be in one piece when you hit the ground.

    stevextc
    Free Member

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

    But … that’s a different sport/activity GRAVEL???… or whatever.
    It’s like pretending “touch rugby” is real rugby when its a completely different thing…

    To some extent it depends what you/I mean by “dangerous” .. very very few people die so it’s not really dangerous but some people think minor injuries count as dangerous??? Someone can fall off and break an arm anywhere even riding to the shops … its part of MTB… either accept that or do something “safe”.

    We just had some new small features added to a local boring trail… totally ruined by complaints of people that want it to be “safe”

    It’s like someone complaining the swimming pool has a 5m board…. erm because some people like it and its the regulation height for diving … no-one is forcing anyone to use the 5m board so why should it’s existence upset them?

    The gaps were barely longer than a bike and totally bypassable or rollable if you go slow enough – if people don’t want to do the gaps don’t – no-one is forcing them .. However complaining it’s there and its mere existence somehow being offensive to them just ruins it for everyone else.

    stevextc
    Free Member

    TJ

    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

    Agree … the actual risk element hasn’t changed as such.

    I remember decades ago on a fully rigid Claude Butler Hire bike (before helmets) going down what would today be a bridleway (Wenslydale) and no fun at all on even my 100mm XC HT… being totally on the edge. Thing is even on my FS Enduro blowing the front wheel would lead to the same crash as 40 yrs ago…. only at least now I’d be wearing a helmet!

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Mountainbiking used to include what is now considered gravel riding.  Now its considered a different pastime

    The emphasis on pretending its some sort of “extreme sport” puts off many folk who would benefit from and enjoy a bit of wandering around the scenery on MTBs.  In reality the extreme side of it is very much a minority pastime even amongst MTBers

    Steve – is that not a bit elitist?  The trail was there and used by folk.  Someone else comes along and modified it so that those folk no longer feel safe riding it.  What gives the modifiers that right?

    Its not a sport unless you are in a competition

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    But … that’s a different sport/activity GRAVEL???… or whatever.

    No. It’s not. It’s been mountain biking since before the term was even invented. You don’t get to redefine it.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Yup – I started riding in the mountains on a modified road bike way back when.  I first came to riding a proper mountainbike to access the mountains.

    stevextc
    Free Member

    Mountainbiking used to include what is now considered gravel riding. Now its considered a different pastime

    Yes because it’s evolved but the risk element hasn’t actually changed. If you go down a rutted fireroad at 40mph and have a front wheel blow out the result is still the same.

    The emphasis on pretending its some sort of “extreme sport” puts off many folk who would benefit from and enjoy a bit of wandering around the scenery on MTBs.

    Erm… yep that’s now called gravel or whatever … all depends what you call “extreme”… is a 4′ gap or 2′ drop extreme? How about a 100km marathon ride or London to Brighton???

    The thing is I’m not seeing that emphasis…. even my YT algorithm results aren’t seeing that.
    What I am seeing is people using it as a term to ruin other people’s fun for no reason than wanting to ruin other peoples fun.

    In reality the extreme side of it is very much a minority pastime even amongst MTBers

    Again depends what you call “extreme”… Hardline is extreme…. 50:1/oakley line …Cape Epic is extreme… BC endurance is extreme … so yes all minority pastimes. Totally optional lines with tiny drops and jumps isn’t extreme its trail diversity.

    Steve – is that not a bit elitist? The trail was there and used by folk. Someone else comes along and modified it so that those folk no longer feel safe riding it. What gives the modifiers that right?

    What gives them the right? Other than being designated the official trail crew by the trust that operates the land .. they own tools and that’s all they need.

    If people are saying they don’t feel safe because of the modifications then they are liars.
    The jumps were obvious you aren’t hitting it by mistake … they were rollable AND by-passable… all options you can do it slow and roll, you can do it fast and bypass or you can do the jump..

    We took my mates 6yr old beginner down on her 16″ wheel BSO and she rolled them… so people feeling threatened just by the existence of these tiny gaps makes no sense. The only way they could make them feel unsafe is if they have uncontrollable urges..

    I’m only saying that as a coverall… I don’t believe the mere existence of these totally optional jumps makes people feel physically unsafe… they are just pissed there is something they personally can’t/won’t do so they want to ruin it for everyone.

    Its not a sport unless you are in a competition

    Other than the assertion in the article I’m not seeing this “extreme sport” … I’m just seeing people (I don’t mean you) looking to spoil everyone else’s fun. If people don’t want to do these tiny jumps they don’t have to…. but trying to label a small and totally optional 6′ gap as “extreme sports” to get it removed (which is what they did) is pathetic.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    What gives them the right? Other than being designated the official trail crew by the trust that operates the land .. they own tools and that’s all they need.

    Fair enough

    stevextc
    Free Member

    scotroutes

    No. It’s not. It’s been mountain biking since before the term was even invented. You don’t get to redefine it.

    I’m not the one invented “gravel riding” or the term it’s just something that happened with the evolution of (mountain) biking.
    If you met me on the trails and asked me how did I get to the trails I’d probably say “gravel riding” because I use the sustrans routes… and bridleways to differentiate it from “road”.

    Other than the as close to totally flat bit at the start (River Towpath) it’s all perfectly possible/pleasant on a shopping bike … in winter the river towpath is sloppy… so something with knobblier tyres… whatever bike I’m riding though it’s not “MTB” …

    I’m all for whatever its called btw…. I don’t really care if people want to call it MTB so long as they don’t want to change what I call MTB. If however people want some perceived “safe” pastime I think there is value in setting expectations….

    RustySpanner
    Full Member

    How about ‘cycling’?

    It might just catch on…..

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    I’m all for whatever its called btw…. I don’t really care if people want to call it MTB so long as they don’t want to change what I call MTB. If however people want some perceived “safe” pastime I think there is value in setting expectations….

    Does your MTB include riding over straw men? Nobody has suggested excluding any type of MTB.

    Here we go again…

    IT.

    JUST.

    DOESN’T.

    HAVE.

    TO.

    BE

    DANGEROUS.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Edit 0- can’t get geograph pics to show

    stevextc
    Free Member

    Does your MTB include riding over straw men? Nobody has suggested excluding any type of MTB.

    Here we go again…

    IT.

    JUST.

    DOESN’T.

    HAVE.

    TO.

    BE

    DANGEROUS.

    Even boring gravel is still dangerous once you get above 10mph … every bit as dangerous as doing a few gap jumps…
    How do you intend to police your risk free world? Hand out tickets to anyone going faster than 5mph ?

    kelvin
    Full Member

    The gaps were barely longer than a bike and totally bypassable or rollable if you go slow enough

    Building gaps into existing trials is a dick move. You want gaps? Build a new trail for them.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Even boring gravel is still dangerous once you get above 10mph …

    no it is not  It really isn’t.  many many thousands of miles over many decades riding in the hills.  One minor injury

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Is this mountainbiking?
    Endless doubletrack by TandemJeremy[/url], on Flickr
    How about this?
    DSC00323 by TandemJeremy[/url], on Flickr
    This?
    Mark Black Hill by TandemJeremy[/url], on Flickr
    ??
    snowy pentlands 020 by TandemJeremy[/url], on Flickr

    nickc
    Full Member

    [tongue in cheek]

    Mountain biking was invented by some hippy Americans trying to get down a mountain as fast as they could on bikes that were less than suitable. Being dangerous is in mountain biking’s DNA. And as it was a race, I guess that makes it a sport as well.

    Riding around in the mountains on a bike is something different. I dunno; picnic-biking? Whatever, sounds dull to me.

    [/tongue in cheek]

    tjagain
    Full Member

    One of those pics is on a classic scottish mountainbike route.  One of them is in les Gets

    Is it mountainbiking if you can ride the trail on a road bike even if slowly and carefully?  I bet most of us could ride Glentrerss red on a road bike.  Does that mean glentress is not mountainbiking?

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Nickc – and they were on doubletrack / fireroads :-)

    stevextc
    Free Member

    Kelvin

    Building gaps into existing trials is a dick move. You want gaps? Build a new trail for them.

    How about the fun police who complain go buy their own land, start their own trail association and STFU instead of criticising the existing trail builders who built the trail in the first place?

    tjagain
    Full Member

    *scratches head*

    so riding in the mountains is not mountainbiking but riding in the local flat woods is?

    stevextc
    Free Member

    TJagain

    no it is not It really isn’t. many many thousands of miles over many decades riding in the hills. One minor injury

    Then you better tell that to the fun police at British Watewrways who define anything above walking speed as dangerous?

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Nobody else?  I actually think this is a really interesting question ” How do you define mountainbiking?”

    Any definition has to really encompass the early days of the repack lot – who were racing downhill on fireroads to the armour clad DH racers and redbull rampage guys of today

    In the middle of that is the twisty trails in the woods and the wandering around the scenery stuff

    this is my attempt:

    ” Mountainbiking is riding offroad on bicycles built for the task characterised by wide tyres, low gearing and wide flat bars, on tracks and trails where it would be difficult,  uncomfortable or dangerous to ride a road bike”

    Del
    Full Member

    ^ seems reasonable.

    MTB in England in it’s best form is often done on illegal trails.

    for about 5% of people who would describe themselves as ‘mountain bikers’

    ocrider
    Full Member

    TJ, Tomac would take umbrage with your description, but I don’t. It’s pretty much all there is to it.

    Bruce
    Full Member

    I don’t know what canals are like to ride on in Scotland, as I have only encountered them in the Great Glen.
    In Manchester I dream of walking pace with all the pedestrians and unfettered dogs.
    It also amuses me that the Bridgewater canal has no horses signs. I think it might be interesting to borrow a horse drawn barge.

    Bunnyhop
    Full Member

    Ajaydoubleyou – mentioned people driving from home to honeypot spots and mum/wive/neighbour all thinking they are nuts. Out of those mentioned 2 were female and this is one of the problems of getting women into any form of ‘off road’ cycling, they do find this pastime ‘nuts’. I’ve never got any female I know into mtbiking, the only female mtbers I know were already riders when I met them.
    Even when you spot females riding easy gravel trails such as canal tow paths or double farmers tracks, many look scared when you try and pass them. It just doesn’t look fun. I suspect it’s only females who enjoy a bit of an adrenaline rush who will find mtbing/wild cycling/off road riding fun.
    I really don’t know how to get women into this wonderful hobby and out onto the trails. But, at a guess most of the daughters of stwers will hopefully be encouraged to have a go and carry on this sport from childhood into adulthood.

    crazy-legs
    Full Member

    It also amuses me that the Bridgewater canal has no horses signs. I think it might be interesting to borrow a horse drawn barge.

    Most canals say No Horseriding.
    Somewhere in between canals being used by horse drawn barges and now, someone realised that actually *riding* a horse along a canal wouldn’t work cos the bridges are too low to accommodate a rider. They were designed for small towing ponies, not a proper horse.

    I suppose you could get into a similar “what is horse riding?” debate as there is about “what is MTBing?” cos you’ll find some common ground but no actual definition.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    I don’t know what canals are like to ride on in Scotland,

    We only have a couple.

    the union canal and the forth and clyde which make up one that goes  between Edinburgh to Glasgow  and the Crinan canal across Kintyre which is a short ship canal.  Its busy in places and at times but does have a good towpath.  I use it quite a lot

    ayjaydoubleyou
    Free Member

    Ajaydoubleyou – mentioned people driving from home to honeypot spots and mum/wive/neighbour all thinking they are nuts. Out of those mentioned 2 were female and this is one of the problems of getting women into any form of ‘off road’ cycling, they do find this pastime ‘nuts’. I’ve never got any female I know into mtbiking, the only female mtbers I know were already riders when I met them.

    You make a valid point, I have subconsciously described women. Mum rather than parent, I would say is based on my own parents. Both are a bit bemused by my time consuming hobby but I think only my mum is concerned for my safety.
    Wife rather than spouse – that is purely a gender stereotype for which I apologise. Can’t claim personal bias as I’m not married and my girlfriend has mtb’d for longer than me, longer than I have known her, and she was an equestrian before that.

    For balance though, I’ve never got any man I know into it either. Although one of the fit young men at work has just bought a decent second hand hardtail for fitness so I might try to get him on some single track at some point.

    stevextc
    Free Member

    It also amuses me that the Bridgewater canal has no horses signs. I think it might be interesting to borrow a horse drawn barge.

    Same with ours, the fun police have been out and horses (the intended use when built) are banned and cycles “limited to a walking pave” due to elf and safety **** I’m surprised they haven’t yet put a fence up or drained the water for elf and safety

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Is this mountainbiking?
    20211225_122220 by TandemJeremy[/url], on Flickr

    How about this?
    20211225_111303 by TandemJeremy[/url], on Flickr

    this?
    guy black hill 2 by TandemJeremy[/url], on Flickr

    this?
    snowy pentlands 013 by TandemJeremy[/url], on Flickr

    Or this?
    DSC00324 by TandemJeremy[/url], on Flickr

    some of those pics are far more “mountains” than riding round the woods on built trails with jumps

    Most of them I could ride on my roadbike but it would be slow and difficult.  But then again I guess most of us could take a road bike round glentress red – slowly and carefully using the chicken lines – so does that make glentress not mountainbiking?

    Bruce
    Full Member

    I would suggest that evidence might show that accidents on mountain bikes are often not as serious as cycling on the road. I dont actually know the figures but there must be more deaths and serious injuries on the road. If you watch the Air ambulance programs there appear to be more and more serious injuries from road cycling. I would guess that more people have died in SUP accidents than when riding off road this year. I don’t think SUPs are considered dangerous by most people, but there are significant risks for the inexperienced.

    stevextc
    Free Member

    so riding in the mountains is not mountainbiking but riding in the local flat woods is?

    I’m happy to go with your definition…
    ” Mountainbiking is riding offroad on bicycles built for the task characterised by wide tyres, low gearing and wide flat bars, on tracks and trails where it would be difficult, uncomfortable or dangerous to ride a road bike”

    I’d just possibly expand to say MORE dangerous not OR…. (all depending really what you/I mean by “dangerous”)
    If dangerous means paralysed or dead or minor injuries?

    If I think more it doesn’t necessitate flat bars… IMHO

    Is this mountainbiking?

    So just from your first picture… doubletrack no.. single track off to left yes. If you can get a car over it its not MTB .. that doesn’t mean the overall route you did that day WASN’T unless it was all like that.

    3rd pic yes if the rest of the trail is like that … even though you could do it (more slowly) on a gravel bike…

    I guess what that means is its more the overall… If I was doing mostly the first and a bit of the third I’d take a gravel bike if I had one.. (very similar to a lot of the North Yorks bridleways where I borrow my brothers Gravel bike) If you were doing mostly (by time) the 3rd photo and riding the first to get there then I’d class that as light MTB

    Back to risk… regardless of what each one is called you are no less likely to get a minor injury doing that than a few 10′ gaps…

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Steve – want to have a go at defining mountainbiking?  Or critique my definition?

    After a bit more thought I’m gonna take a couple of words out of mine

    ” Mountainbiking is riding offroad on bicycles built for the task characterised by wide tyres, low gearing and wide  bars, on tracks and trails where it would be difficult or dangerous to ride a road bike”

    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    Nobody else? I actually think this is a really interesting question ” How do you define mountainbiking?”

    Why do you feel a need to define ‘mountain biking’? I mean really, what’s the big deal. It’s just a convenient label that’s arguably really subjective. Why can’t it just be a broad church encompassing pretty much anything that involves, you know, riding a mountain bike.

    Downhill mountain biking is mountain biking. Enduro mountain biking is mountain biking. Trail riding on a mountain bike is mountain biking. Bimbling on double track is still mountain biking. As is technical bridleway thrashing. And when small kids ride mountain bikes in the park, it’s still mountain biking.

    It’s just a blanket term that covers pretty much anything you can do on a mountain bike. Why are people trying to force it into a small box? It’s not ‘really interesting’, it’s just pointless navel gazing.

    Bruce
    Full Member

    The only reason to define types of bike is so you can be sold the “ideal” bike.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    Why are people trying to force it into a small box?

    I’m not. I’m happy that it encompasses loads of stuff. I think TJ is trying to explain that to @stevextc with his “definition”. I’ve given up trying.

    Bunnyhop
    Full Member

    Often looking at photos in the great outdoors, you can’t tell how steep a trail is. A gnarly rocky descent on a steep hillside can come across as a flat track with some teeny rocks on. A big rooty drop off can look like a bit of a wood land trail.

    BTW I’m too old now to call our sport/hobby/past time anything but mtbing.

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