Thursday, 23 May 2013

Mountain Biking Thoughts

Fiona Gunn, Lyndsay & Ian MacConnel doing proper mountain biking.
 Meal Mhor before the road

Mountain biking is a key sport in North Argyll and Lochaber and one of the things that brings folk to the area and helps retain them. We are fortunate in having great natural trails from deer stalking and forest works, and also the downhill tracks at Glencoe and Nevis RangeNevis Range also has a superb network of prepared trails that are now being worked on to keep them in order. There is not much family friendly cycling other than forest tracks and footpaths and Nevis Range are planning a couple of family friendly tracks which will be a great idea for them. Funding trails is not easy in this economic climate and will cost £10's of thousands. Oban is also keen on developing trails and is fast becoming a major adventure destination, and Nick Cranes BBC 2 docu on "little towns" featuring Oban will do a lot for it’s profile. Oban is also keen to develop mountain biking, and one of Scotland’s best kept secrets is the plethora of natural mountain biking south of Oban. I spent a week mountain  biking in south Argyll and had a ball on some long natural and remote trails that could have been designed by someone from Whistler, but were all natural.
Fiona Gunn ponders An Grianan going over to Glen Etive from Glen Creran
Cycling as a sport is on the increase in general. Much like skiing there is a tendency for the better mountain biker to go “off piste” with a lot of folk really getting into the mountains and wild areas and the prepared trails at centres are bit like skiing “on piste” on predictable. Road biking is a growth sport and leisure cycling on Route 78 our local Sustrans route is booming. The future of cycling as a tourist activity is assured but with such a diverse range of cycling from leisure on the forest tracks, wild mountain biking and prepared trails where is any investment needed?

My own personal view is that trail centre's will be less popular as the same demographic group goes around them, so too much development may not be viable. Not because new trails are not good, more because they cost so much to make and maintain and essentially become boring and worn out after a while. Expensive to make and horrendous to maintain at an acceptable standard this type of “on piste” has maybe had it’s day? A lot more fun can be had with a hand saw and a shovel working with natural forest features and as areas are felled then others can be worked on. No cost, low environmental impact and at your own risk on public land. Just don’t start felling trees, and work with the landscape. Investment in promoting the natural wildness and natural trails, and education on treating road cyclists with respect has to be part of it. A holistic view of cycling is needed and investment if any needs to be aimed at promoting what Scotland has in abundance and more bike piste’s might not be the best use of money and don't help the youth in further out areas such as Ardnamurchan which is also part of Lochaber.  Maybe some bikes and paying a tutour to run profficiency and bike skills on and off road would be good use of any funding and bring on the kids. Other than that just enjoy getting out there and stay away from the honeypots or centres and enjoy the landscape.  We need to teach our kids that it's ok to explore. 
Looking back to Tayvallich. Some great trails down there!

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