Bespoken Word – How you can genuinely change the future of mountain biking in the UK

Cotic Jeht 2 riding shot
(Image credit: Cotic)

2024 is potentially a massively important year for the future of UK mountain biking. We’ve already seen the launch of the SRAM-funded, DMBinS co-ordinated UK Trails Project, the gathering momentum of the Reframing Mountain Biking movement and another significant trail advocacy initiative that is about to break cover too.

Forming the rebel alliance

The creation of more official mountain bike representation and engagement with national and local landowners, other user groups and official government departments is a big move forward in securing our seats at the tables that matter. It also gives us all the chance to feel like we’re working together against the evil empire in a Jedi-style alliance. Not just fighting to survive on our own individual forest planets like a bunch of mattock-wielding Ewoks. 

DMBinS UK Trail team

The survey results from SRAM DMBinS UK Trails Project team will feed into their 'Right Trail, Right Place, Right People, Right Time' report (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Digging our own grave

That’s important too as there’s more pressure on the trails and our place on them than ever. Lockdown got more people into biking. e-MTBs have opened up whole new areas to people who weren’t fit/determined enough to reach them before. We also need to be honest and realize that they’ve also massively accelerated trail wear / environmental issues in many places. Not just because people can do more runs. But also because they can power up muddy climbs that would have previously required subtlety, skill or walking in a shower of sh*t and ignorance. And if that sounds scathing, it’s nothing personal but the truth is a lot of e-bikers either don’t know or don’t care that riding soft/wet trails in winter is a really bad idea from a sustainability point of view. 

See also the current culture of carving snaking ruts down hillsides that might make you Instagram famous for a few hours but will potentially cause scouring, scarring water runoff for years. Especially if you hatch another snake and then another a few meters away when the first fall line trench becomes a blown-out, unrideable eyesore.

DMBinS survey form

A few minutes of ticking boxes now could mean better mountain bike trails for generations to come (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Over to you folks

But for this column this week at least what I think doesn’t matter. It’s how, what and where you ride, and what you want to ride in future that matters. And thanks to the SRAM-funded UK Trails Project, DMBinS and Napier University there’s a way to communicate that to the people that matter.

So follow the link here to a series of surveys designed to create a detailed and authentic picture of the UK trails scene. Both in terms of what’s actually happening on the ground and what you’d like to happen. And don’t worry because Dave Evans and the team behind the UK Trails Project have all spent way more time digging furtively away in their own forests, they’ve made sure any information you provide is untraceable in terms of exact locations beyond the first part of your postcode. That should hopefully mean you’re not going to find someone from Forestry steaming into your special place in a Harvester hell-bent on destruction the second you click send.

Establishing an accurate picture of what the current situation is really like is crucial for forming a solid base to move forward when it comes to shaping a future that works for real riders. Not just having to make do with what we’re given by people who don’t really know/care what we want. Or continue the current conflict situation of carving out illegal trails and then having them destroyed. Again and again.

In other words, filling in the relevant form now could literally create a better landscape for not just you, but generations of riders to follow. Surely that’s worth five minutes of your time?

Guy Kesteven

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg