Reframing Mountain Biking: One Year On

In November 2022 the first Reframing Mountain Biking get together was held to collectively address how to progress mountain biking in the UK past some of the challenges that exist, to make the sport a better, safer, more sustainable and fun space for all. A range of people attended, from mountain bike trail associations, brands and media, to NGO’s, land owning government agencies and researchers, to guides and ambassadors.

Mountain Biking is in a great place right now, we have bikes that ride well and are reliable, couple that with a greater range of places that we can ride them, from classic singletrack to progressive flow trails and technical downhills. Racing is a thrilling spectacle to watch and more accessible if we want to give it a try, and coaching if we want to get better at it.

But while the sport has seen progress in many ways, for many it is an unequitable space. If you are a woman, a person of colour, LGBTQ+, older persons and disabled people, you are far less likely to see someone like you out on the trails or in mountain bike media, and your equipment may not work as well for you as it should. We know that when we embrace diversity, everyone benefits, and while progress has been made, we are still a way off a more equal or equitable space.

Beyond the riders, it is worth considering how the places we ride are supported. Our fun comes from the bikes we ride, but as importantly the trails we ride them on. While one is a multi-million-pound industry, the other is often largely delivered and maintained by volunteer groups. With more riders on the trail this is starting to look unsustainable; but with a more balanced approach we can find ourselves in a much better place for the sport.

To start to look at how we can begin to solve these problems, Aneela McKenna, Manon Carpenter, and Henry Norman (Ride Sheffield) brought together a group of people from the MTB industry and media, trail associations and the diverse communities that love the sport.

Kicking off with a ride around some of Sheffield’s finest to wake up minds and bodies and to get to know one another, then returning to base for woodfired pizzas and coffee to set ourselves up for an afternoon of workshops and discussion.

Each thematic workshop kicked off with a couple of presentations to highlight the challenges and the opportunities, then followed up with smaller group discussions, with those thoughts and ideas being shared with the whole group.

Trail Associations – Henry Norman (Ride Sheffield), Kath Goodey (Trail Collective North Wales)
Diversity and Inclusion – Aneela McKenna (Mòr Diversity), Pat Horscroft (Ride Sheffield)
Image and Culture – Hannah Dobson – (Singletrack Magazine), Bob Campbell (Natural Resources Wales)

Sometimes it’s good to know where we are, in order to be able to move forward; and the discussions after each presentation really showed that in many areas, we have some work to do. What was great to see was that, bigger than the challenges themselves, was the enthusiasm to support making change happen.

We plan to hold the next Reframing Mountain Biking event in spring 2024, provisionally in early March around Sheffield Adventure Film Festival. If you would like to take part or would like more information, or are a brand or organisation who would like to sponsor this event, please email [email protected].

This is just the start, and we can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.