Hitting the Trails: Improving Mountain Biking Accessibility For All

By Aidan 5/12/2023

Trails provide opportunities for improved physical and mental well-being, and should be available to all people.

There is an increase in the popularity of adventure and nature-based activities globally, and it is imperative that trails are designed inclusively to allow all abilities to escape the hustle and bustle of their busy lives and undertake recreation in a natural environment. Regarding cycling and mountain biking, there are generally limited opportunities for people with disabilities to experience trails in nature, as accessible trails are typically located in urban or built-up areas. At Tredwell, we have experienced the growing demand for the need to include all ability cycling opportunities in natural areas first-hand through our many community consultation workshops.

The ‘New Zealand Mountain Biking Trail Design and Construction Guidelines’ have recently been updated to include Adaptive Mountain Bikes (aMTB), leading the way for more inclusive trail networks in New Zealand.

Adaptive Cycling is designed for people who cannot ride a standard bicycle and require adapted equipment and trails to suit their physical, intellectual, neurological and sensory abilities. There are many different types of adaptive bicycles available, each designed to meet the specific needs of the rider. These designs can allow for either on-road or off-road usage. Some common types of adaptive bicycles include hand-cycles, recumbent leg-cycles tricycles, quadricycles and tandem bicycles.

The popularity of aMTBing is growing, evident with its inclusion in the Crankworx event circuit, which has a stop over in Rotorua each year. This year (2023) only two-wheeled adaptive cyclists entered. The inclusion of more adaptive trails that can cater to the broader aMTB community can aid in increase accessibility and development of riders to push themselves, have fun and potentially compete.

There are a variety of factors to be considered when developing aMTB trails that differ from typical mountain bike design, including:

  • aMTB’s accelerate slower, decelerate faster, are wider, longer, and heavier than two wheeled bikes.
  • Some aMTB’s are difficult to pedal whilst navigating corners and require good trail design to ensure momentum can be maintained.
  • Sightlines for some aMTB riders are much lower than for typical two wheeled mountain bikes, and consideration needs to be given to the height of undulations, reverse gradients etc.
  • The style of aMTB’s utilised off-road are usually tricycles which are prone to tipping when off-camber at low speeds.

The Titokorangi Trail, included as part of the Whakarewarewa Forest mountain biking trail network in Rotorua has been developed as an aMTB trail and provides an excellent example of what can be achieved with an aMTB trail. The trail illustrates that developing aMTB trails are not restrictive to adaptive cycles only, and can be utilised by all levels of riders, including young families, making them a positive investment that benefits the entire community.

If you are interested in developing aMTB trails at your local trails network or viewing the updated New Zealand Mountain Bike Guidelines, you can follow the below link.

Mountain Biking Trail Guidelines

Photo: adpatmtb.nz__Whakarewarewa Forest by Bryce Wilson

For more information or to discuss your ideas, please contact us.

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