We (mountain bikers) ride unauthorised constructed trails, and other paths and tracks, under the rights of responsible access that the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) affords us. The key elements of SOAC are that mountain bikers, and other access users, take responsibility for themselves and, must always, respect the interests of other people and care for the environment.
As Scotland went into lockdown in mid-March, most purpose built mountain bike trails were closed and landowners/land managers (and ourselves) have been very cautious around specifying if unauthorised trails are open due to the potential for increased pressure on our NHS and other emergency services including mountain rescue.
We have moved into Phase 1 of lockdown easing, as such, we can confirm that mountain bikers have the right to responsibly access unauthorised trails across Scotland.
In Phase 1, Scottish Government guidance is very clear that travel by car to begin your exercise, including mountain biking, can only be (broadly) within 5 miles of your home. Those travelling further distances to ride unauthorised trails face the risk of upsetting rural communities, are putting the reputation of the mountain bike community at risk, slowing down the easing of lockdown restrictions for riders and are endangering future mountain bike related projects. We would recommend riding from home, but if you must drive five miles to start your ride, then ensure your parking is considerate and respectful.
You are only permitted to ride with within your own household, or with one other household per day – to a maximum of 8 people. Riders must maintain physical distancing at all times.
Please remember unauthorised trails have low/minimal management and may contain unexpected and very challenging features, they are not for inexperienced riders – now is not the time for risk-taking. It is essential that mountain bikers ride within their limits, only ride trails they have ridden before, and are comfortable riding, and comply with our guidance, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and Scottish Government guidance.
Whilst riding unauthorised trails is permitted under SOAC, we would like to take this opportunity to remind our community that constructing trails is not permitted under SOAC. If you are interested in supporting trail development please contact your local Trails Association. You may also be interested in reading the ‘Unauthorised Mountain Bike Trails – A Guide for Mountain Bikers and Land Managers’
Please also read the current guidance from Scottish Government for Phase 1 to understand the full range of what you can do, and are advised not doing, during Phase 1 here.
Most purpose built mountain bike trails including 7stanes, car parks, visitor centre facilities and toilets remain closed at this time until staff can safely return to inspect and then perform the necessary maintenance to open the trails. Please investigate online whether the trails in your area are open before setting off on your ride.