Edinburgh Napier University - Scottish Mountain Bike Community Project of the Year

This award is designed to showcase the amazing work which is being delivered outside of the formal club structure  It is aimed at groups/associations/people/hubs who come together for the benefit of their local MTB community (eg trail builders, participation programmes, volunteering).  The award recognises local communities who encourage and develop mountain biking in their area. We were looking for communities who worked together in an innovative way.   


Winner 2017


Bespoke's ambition was to:

Scottish Mountain Bike Awards 17 Rb 33 Community Small

Bespoke really needs to raise its profile and be on more radars so that other people, places and trails can benefit from our experiences and successes not to mention our failures. As a very small fish in a pretty big and flashy mountain bike industry pond and being located in Central Scotland, it can be so difficult to get the word out about not only what we do but how we do it. This award could help us to help others by showcasing what we do, demonstrating that there is a way for the mountain biking community to have a very positive impact on the wider community for mutual benefit. Mountain bike trails can be more than just a burden to build and a cost to maintain. They can be trails for change.

The full shortlist for 2017


Bespoke came about in 2011 as a result of the local community looking to engage with the new trail network being built on the local country estate, Callendar Estate. Several members of the community expressed an interest in getting involved in the maintenance and future development of the trail network and so the seeds of Bespoke were sown… Little did they know then what would come of these humble beginnings.   Bespoke initially, wholly a volunteer organisiation, was galvanized into being when a huge storm flattened hundreds of trees over the new trails giving Bespoke its first opportunity to have an impact on the ground by assisting in the mighty clear up operation. The following summer, several small races and time trials on the estate were organized and were a success. Subsequently Bespoke sought an opportunity to attract some funding for an events coordinator to build upon the success of these early events so European funding was acquired through LEADER. With its first and only member of staff at the time, Bespokes part time, one year funded employee was tasked with running mountain bike events to make the position sustainable. Alongside running events, trail maintenance was tasked to the events coordinator as was running learning and conservation sessions for the councils Community Learning and Development team which saw disruptive and non-academic school students from across the local area visit the trail network to learn practical skills and gain an insight into other types of employment opportunities which may be of interest to them other than university and office type work. It quickly became apparent that the kids benefitted greatly from these sessions as did the trails. 

The next chapter in Bespokes development was set…Engaging with Falkirk councils Employment Training Unit (ETU) and taking on local unemployed residents putting them through nationally recognized tickets and award schemes whilst giving them on the job training out on the trails. It was at this time decided that trying to compete with large scale, big budget events was proving difficult and that the change of direction, focusing on delivering trail maintenance and employability training was to become Bespokes main focus. We would still run family events such as our Bonfire Night Ride and the Falkirk 100 but our main goal was to derive social change using mountain bike trail maintenance and development as the vehicle to achieve this, which was then and is still a unique proposition.

This approach hasn’t been without its ups and downs and not to mention some of the colorful characters that have come through the doors over the years who have been very challenging but who ultimately have benefited from engaging with Bespoke. A particular low point was when the council ran out of money to fund the ETU program by which time Bespoke had offered a full time job to one of the candidates on the first intake of trainees and committed to employing them. Fortunately by this point, Bespoke had just about built up enough resources and skills to sustain itself for a period long enough to problem solve and find a solution to its funding shortage as funding two employees and their gear is a burden to any organisation which finds the rug pulled out from under its feet. Bespoke was able to keep itself ticking over by picking up the contract to maintain the Larbert Legacy trails and via several other small contracts which it was now able to fulfill. 

In 2016, Bespoke was awarded 3 years’ worth of funding again from European Rural funding (LEADER) on the basis it meets annual training targets, to start back up its ETU program in partnership again with Falkirk Council but with Bespoke now holding the purse strings. We are now almost one year into this program and are so far are on our third intake of trainees this year who are half way through their thirteen week training period and have already gained nationally recognised qualifications in Chainsaw, Brushcutter, Polesaw and Wood Chipper use. Each intake sees three trainees; often young school leavers with little or no experience and sometimes fewer qualifications, get hands on, real life experience as a result of Bespokes work with mountain bike trails. 

Not only and perhaps over and above this, the experiences the trainees gain out on the trails has led many of them to into long term employment as a direct result of their time learning about trail building and maintenance which is full of transferrable skills useful for future, slightly less niche employment. Not only is Bespoke the only program which has self-funded within all of the councils training schemes; it’s the only one whereby trainees gain nationally recognised qualifications as well as having one of the best post training, meaningful employment rates. 

Bespoke also has a strong volunteer input from our directors, event marshals and helpers as well as our most awesome volunteer Trail Crew who have helped with some of our latest trail constructions, inputting ideas and energy into new trails within the community. Our volunteers are also able to benefit from the training we provide and several have joined onto chainsaw courses developing their own skills. Our volunteer work which is mainly at weekends also benefits from the kit we have accrued over the years like our tractor and mini-digger which basically allows our volunteers to join forces with our fully trained staff and trainees to create bigger and better trails, even faster!
With trail maintenance and development taken care of, our local mountain biking community are happy to see well maintained and continually evolving trails, the land owner is happy in the knowledge that their trails are being well cared for, our trainees get loads of real life experience and qualifications, our staff continue to develop professionally and personally as Bespoke develops, our volunteers get to get involved at every opportunity and see rapid progress as well as have opportunities to develop their own skills and generally have a laugh out in the woods so really it’s a win, win, win ,win situation. 

West Highland Wheelers

The Blue Crane has been a feature trail created in the early in the 2000’s it was part of the original Witches Trail which was an integral part of the cross country world championship course in 2007. In recent years there had been limited maintenance and the crucial link bridge had deteriorated to an extent that it had to be removed rendering the trail useless. The closing of the trail was a great shame, however without the crucial link bridge there was no prospect of the trail coming back into the network.

We realized early the cost implications of the bridge placement were significant, whilst the club had some funds it was going to take much more, a collaboration of No Fuss Events and Nevis Range was brought together with an agreement to underwrite the costs of the project to £7500. This figure would only cover the materials and specialists required to complete the project. The design and manual labor for the bridge was all done voluntarily. The completion of the bridge in February 2017 and the resulting trail repair days has seen the trail about to be formally adopted back in to the trail network.

With the trail being formally adopted back into the Nevis Range trail network means that the trail is an asset with historical value, it can be used by the No Fuss Events for example the Tour de Ben Nevis and is challenging run for the club to use for training and club events.

The bridge construction is a huge step forward in partnership working with Forestry Commission Scotland, working closely to ensure design specification, building and construction compliance and ensuring all environmental concerns were addressed throughout the process of the build by volunteers.

Clyde Muirshiel  

We have been doing the ride thing for a good number of years around the Regional Park, one of our key aims is to make cycling in all its forms as accessible as possible to everyone.  We work every week with adults and kids from mainstream schools, Special Schools, adult and young person care and support services and everyone likes biking. So we set about getting hold of a wide range of bikes to suit everyone and using the huge amount of tracks and trails around the park we have been getting people of any ability out riding. This now takes place pretty much 5 days a week throughout the year.

We have done loads of good sessions with local kids through active schools at Rankin Park the new mtb park in Greenock and have since developed ideas around getting a route from the park up towards Greenock cut so riders that have done skills sessions at Rankin could expand their riding by accessing the Greenock cut area with all the trails that are on offer in that area. It became clear early on that if we had a club structure to support riders and help grow participation then the cycling we do would grow and become self-sustaining. So we did and Ride 63 CCG was born a couple of years ago, the name comes from OS sheet 63 which is our cycling area ish , our club has approx. 25% of the membership with a disability and has weekly rides on to get folk out, we have loads of ride leaders within the club who take it in turns to lead on a Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. On the rides we have hand cyclists and regular riders out at the same time which is lot of fun.
We have also been doing a load of DofE expeditions by bike which is increasing in popularity as an exciting alternative to the traditional walking expeds

In 2 years the club grew from nothing to 146 members doing all sorts of riding and continues to grow.  Getting hand biking/trikes/side by side bikes off road and into the mtb areas. But by far the coolest thing was when we had Erskine veterans out cycling over most of 2016 they all loved it so much that Erskine did fundraising to get some bikes themselves at their center and developed a few wee woodland trails so they could do more of it “at home”

Longer term I’m looking to develop more trails around the park to link areas where we know there is good riding to be had and develop our wild trail center idea to have a base in the wilds for all types of off road cycling activity, watch this space.

All Ability Cycling

In simple terms, the aim of this project is to provide more opportunities for more people to access positive cycling (and more specifically) mountain biking experiences in Fife. This aim has been achieved by bringing together the knowledge, skills and resources of several key organisations and individuals with the resulting synergy of this network greatly enhancing the truly inclusive nature of cycling; not only in this area, but across central Scotland. It is important to appreciate that this application has been written from an Outdoor Education Fife perspective and that each contributing organisation has its own outcomes within the wider context of cycling for people with a disability.

The All Ability Cycling project focuses on three main strands:

  • Access to appropriate, quality equipment
  • Access to quality training, education and coaching 
  • Access to appropriate trails and routes

Over 5 years ago, Fabb Scotland, an Edinburgh based organisation who provide opportunities for disabled children and young adults to access sport leisure and outdoor adventure, having seen the adaptive cycling equipment available from Outdoor Education Fife at Lochore Meadows Country Park, decided to apply for funding to set up further cycling hubs across central Scotland. With the formation of Blazing Saddles, the Fabb project set up to deliver these hubs, and in partnership with OE Fife, came the beginnings of the All Ability Cycling Project.

Parallel to the collaborative work with Blazing Saddles, OE Fife were also in partnership with Active Fife and Disability Sport Fife to provide a weekly coaching session for disabled athletes to improve their cycling fitness and skill level.  It was vital with the huge increase in all ability cycling within Lochore Meadows Country Park (the base for OE Fife) that the proposed mountain bike trails included sections designed specifically to be suitable for adaptive equipment being ridden. The trails project was funded by the Legacy 2014 Active Places Fund and Fife Council’s Cowdenbeath Area Committee.

Two factors make the all ability cycling project stand out from others.  Unlike many which operate in isolation, this project’s collaborative nature has successfully brought together a real breadth of like-minded people and has located itself within local and nation strategy in terms of disability, health and cycling.  Also, it adopts a genuinely inclusive approach, providing quality cycling experiences, not just at a one-off introductory level but enabling disabled people to choose their own pathways. The possibility of progression is a central theme.

Blazing Saddles champion the Centre at Lochore Meadows as ‘Gold’ standard in terms of equipment, trails and training.   The biggest development over the last 12 months being the opening of the trail network. This new facility has been accessed by local groups, organisations, families, individuals and the All Ability bike night coaches. This team is made up of outdoor ed staff and volunteers.  One of the organisations who access the facilities on a daily basis is West Fife Community Support Service, who provide support and training for young people with additional needs. They use the cycles for health and fitness reasons, but also as a non-threatening environment for counselling and conversation…..not forgetting for fun and the social side!

The development of the project over the past year has increased participation in cycling activity dramatically, from one or two visits on a sunny day in the summer, to several visits almost every day of the year. The success of the project has also secured further funding, such as the GOGA grants from Spirit of 2012 fund, enabling the OE Fife to replace some of the more expensive cycles.
Other funding has seen the development of new hubs across Scotland, which involves supplying cycles, staff training and support.
It must be noted that the benefits of this growth not only effect the direct health and wellbeing of the participants, but have a positive influence on carers, family and friends.

What one features of your project would you highlight as a particular success or unique aspect?
The single biggest highlight of this project has been the increase in cycle activity by people who require adaptive equipment, or additional support of some kind. It’s easy to say that cycling is an inclusive activity, but the All Ability Cycling project and all of its partners have worked together to remove many of the barriers that prevented people from accessing it.

We intend to continue to support our partners to push the barriers and possibilities of adaptive mountain biking across Scotland. We are also excited to benefit from our links with the almost completed Fife Cycle Park, a closed loop circuit near Lochgelly. This facility will provide opportunities for winter training and road training/ racing in a safe environment.

Highland Skate Park  

Highland Skate Parks Association is a registered charity established in 2011. In November 2016 our most recent project of the Inverness Bike Park was completed. A £350,000 Velosolutions pump track so far the biggest track in the UK.

Rather than just build the track and leave it to run itself we have created a family friendly environment with a wide ability of riders. We run women’s sessions every week term time with anything between 10-15 riders. Kids camps in the school holidays with qualified MTB coaches. We have even provided a floodlighting system which has been a big hit with the local mountain bikers.
We are mainly run by volunteers and we couldn’t do it without them from simple thing of picking up litter to funding applications.

The pump track has been build alongside our skatepark which means we also have the BMX kids riding the track too. You really can ride it on most types of bikes. Running the women’s nights has attracted a new type of rider that would usually avoid skate parks as the majority are teenage boys and they feed back is the would have felt intimidated before but now we have regulars that would also use the track out with the session times. By running these sessions we are providing a safe environment.

On a weekly night there is regularly about 20-30 riders and at the weekend this regularly exceeds more between both the skate park and pump track around 70 at peak times. We have everyone from balance bike toddlers to World Cup riders Greg Williamson and Kenta Gallagher. It’s very inspiring for the children to see such talented riders and we hope there will be a lot more athletes to come out of Inverness following this project.

Our most successful feature would definitely be the kids camps where the dates sell out in under a week and we always have a waiting list! The beauty of the pump track is it can be ridden in all weathers except ice and snow!

We are in the early stages of working with the Highland Council to encourage us of the pump track as part of social work. Targeting kids with attendance issues. We have got a small fleet of 3 bikes which we allow the council to use for 1:1 work. We are also in talks with running some coaching sessions for kids that are having difficulties transitioning from primary to secondary school. The council add extra activities to the curriculum and are very keen to get us involved.

4X Wednesdays  

4xWednesdays originated as a small regular meet up at Cumbernauld BMX track for mountain bikers over winter looking to improve basic bike skills and fitness. I was becoming more involved in 4X racing and saw the benefits it gave for all riding disciplines, so was keen to share my experience and the fun of the sport with others. 4X has taken a back seat publicly in recent years but after finding the love of the sport I wanted to involve others in it as well.

The project has pulled from and engaged a huge variety of people, facilities, companies and organisations. What really sets it apart is the group of regular riders who come along. We have a massive variety of ages, disciplines, skill sets, backgrounds and expectations. We have riders on costly trail bikes and kids on second hand BMXs. This mix has shown a real unification of mountain biking and BMX, showing one side the benefits and fun of engaging with the other. Some mountain bike racers have picked up BMX racing. Some BMX racers are now crossing over more into mountain biking.

We offer a fun evening with a community feel to it. Using social media, we promoted that myself and a few other riders would be along at the track every Wednesday, happy to pass on our skills and have a fun evening of riding. We involved the staff at Cumbernauld BMX track, the Cumbernauld Centurions Club, Western Titans BMX Club, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and Lanarkshire mountain bike meetups. We engaged with and have official sponsorship from Roost MTB Holidays, Jack Brown eyecare who offer discounted Oakley products and local Glasgow store Spartan Protein. We worked in partnership with Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup offering free tickets to members.
We were subsequently contacted by MTB media company Descent World who wished to document what we were doing. For this we organized a January event at the track kindly supported by my race team Leslie Bike Shop DH. We pulled in multiple British MTB personalities such as Greg Williamson, Luke Cryer, Sam Flockhart and multiple other DH/ EWS/ 4X stars to encourage everyone to participate and enjoy an evening on their bikes. The video from this proved hugely popular, inspiring a franchise which has spread to Birmingham, Cornwall, Decoy and is about to launch in multiple locations around Europe also. 

From here we launched our Female Development program offering women focused coaching, helping them advance in their chosen discipline as well as seeking to bridge the gulf in 4X race attendance at the Fort William World cup. Alongside this we ran an Instagram contest to give away Fort William World Cup tickets. To highlight the talented riders visiting Scotland I asked my 4x Protour competitors from around Europe to attend a session on the Wednesday before the World Cup. This had over 100 people attend with £1000 worth of prizes from our sponsors and Sick Skills MTB Coaching.

In order to direct the focus of the organization and keep it purely for the benefit of the sport, we began the process of registering as a charity. This is currently ongoing. Our mission is to bring National 4x Racing back to Scotland, raising money to allow u16s to do their first race for free.  We took #4xWednesdays to Fort William with the assistance of West Highland Wheelers, coaching a session for over 50 members along with Ben Cathro. This gave us the idea of having a large Fort William based event in conjunction with Scottish Cycling, Leighton Vans, Oakley, Jack Brown Eyecare, Roost MTB Holidays. This event had a £2000 budget and was documented in full by Descent World. 

The feedback from #4xwednesdays has been very positive. As well as spreading to multiple locations, we have successfully proven that there is desire for 4X racing in Scotland again, and will be bringing a British National round and potentially a European round to Fort William as well as the 4X Protour. We have almost 500 members in our group who visit on Wednesday nights when they can, with a core of around 30 regulars. The skill sets they have accumulated and fitness training have benefitted them for Enduro and DH racing.

We have set up a bridge between Scottish BMX and Scottish MTB. Offering the two groups a way to interact regularly has brought the two communities closer, with crossover between the two. This has resulted in us recruiting more coaches and Protour standard racers for MTB, and boosted number at BMX training and races.

As a result of this success, we have had significant interest from Scottish cycling in developing this idea of bridging two large cycling communities, as well as investing in making 4X a regular feature on race calendars again. We have been asked to consult at Glencoe mountain resort on the development of a Protour standard 4X track, as well as two other Scottish locations seeking to construct race tracks.

The truly unique aspect of our work is the attitude of the organisers and regular attenders. Part of setting up this group was a feeling that MTB scenes can seem exclusive if you are not already a part of them. We have worked hard to create a culture of inclusion, where no matter your skill level, age, cost of bike or fitness level, you can come and have fun at #4xWednesdays. It has given riders a place to interact with world standard racers and share bikes as a common interest. We certainly have riders developing that otherwise simply would not engage with mountain biking in any way. The location of our meetup makes it unique amongst MTB meetups also. The track is floodlit and all weather, which provides a guarantee for riders of having a place to ride without the need for lights or changing riding conditions.We have a wealth of plans for the 2018 season including:

  • Launching our own race team including Elite 4X and DH riders
  • Raising money so that all u16 riders can race their first 4X national for free
  • Working in collaboration with Morzine based companies to offer 5 young riders a free week in the Portes du Soleil to ride with  DH World Cup and 4X Protour athletes
  • Multiple charity fundraiser events including a Morzine benefit evening in le Cottage
  • A place on the Fort William World Cup official program with a session on Wednesday evening with professional racers (pending planning)
  • Regular coaching sessions in Fort William in combination with Sick Skills

This project has demanded a great deal of effort, time and love from those involved. It would not have been possible without the assistance of Josh Hanlon at Cumbernauld BMX and help from my DH team mate Kris Gemmell. I run this alongside training as an Orthopaedic Surgeon, and they have helped pick up the slack when work has been demanding.

Teenage Girls Bikepacking Pilot

Despite year upon year increases in women participating in events and becoming members of the organisation, Scottish Cycling decided that they would like to keep the momentum on increasing participation in cycling and mountain biking from women and girls. So we created a 3 year plan to engage, support, mentor and train female coaches, leaders and role models whilst simultaneously providing additional opportunities to increase participation.  In its first year the key focus was on mentoring, training and developing new leaders and coaches. The Awards for All funding we received helped support experienced and professional coaches run mentor opportunities at the following events: Endura Go Girls Programme (4 Days in Spring & 4 Days in Autumn), SXC Womens Coaching(5 days over 2016 & 2017), Dales Road Race Series preparation sessions(two sessions in 2017). The final event was to pilot a teenage girls programme over 2 days.
We then started to look at ideas to engage and capture the attention of teenage girls. It had to be something different. After a few minor setbacks, we decided to look into the possibility of a bikepacking adventure. Could it work?

We first of all took our idea to The Adventure Syndicate's Lee Craigie. She is a great supporter of our project in general and we are of her epic and awesome adventures. The tag line of TAS is to Inspire, Encourage and Enable, and this was exactly what we wanted to achieve with our teenage girls. We knew this would be a special collaboration.  Initial talks with Lee gave us and idea of just what we needed to do to make this all work. We decided on the area, Inverness, to carry out this pilot, which would enable us to work closely with another supporter and project Lee was involved with Velocity Cafe and Bike Workshop. This would be an ideal base camp and meeting point for the girls and their families. Lee and Ferga Perry, Velocity, were able to give us so much information about just what equipment was needed and the steps we needed to take to make this happen. Kit lists were then prepared and we set about trying to gather enough kit for 10. 8 girls and 2 leaders.   

The pilot was then advertised and we were oversubscribed by young girls wanting to join in this adventure. We selected 8 girls and the ball started rolling. On the first night of the adventure the girls and their families met us in Inverness at Velocity and were given an introduction to their bikepacking kit and the food and supplies they would be required to pack and carry. The team were very keen for each girl to carry all the equipment that was necessary for the night - to be completely self-sufficient.  The next morning, the adventure started and 8 very excited girls left Inverness and first rode out to the Inverness Bike/Skate Park to check that all the equipment would stay on their bikes. It worked and they set out along part of the Great Glen Way.

The girls managed the ride and the overnight bivvy with incredible enthusiasm and enjoyed every second of it.  Staying out overnight, in the middle of incredible scenery, learning about what food to eat to keep energy levels up as well as coping with packing very light.  The feedback from the girls and the Leaders was so positive that we knew that this was something that should be repeated with the opportunity being offered to other young girls.  The Adventure Syndicate  then set out to secure funding to make this a sustainable project going forward. The funding has recently been secured to make this happen and they are in the planning stages of setting up a programme to make this adventure accessible to more girls across the country.

Mild Peril - A Trailfairies Trail

The Mild Peril MTB trail was founded following conversations between Forestry Commission Scotland, Glentress Trailfairies Management and TweedLove with a shared desire to build a new kind of trail at Glentress Forest in Peebles. The aim was to create a popular link on the pre-existing black grade route that would also form an important trail for exciting event use in the future. The project was challenging, ambitious and difficult to achieve under normal circumstances due to funding and resource constraints.

This was the first time there has been a broad community engagement to create and build a trail in Glentress. It was the first official collaboration of the local bike community, the Glentress Trailfairies, FCS and TweedLove. The public were invited to attend various trailbuilding sessions under the guidance and supervision of FCS staff, and normal Saturday morning trail sessions were augmented by evening sessions for the first time – allowing a completely new set of volunteers to take part for the first time. Most of this volunteer recruitment was done by TweedLove and it led to a community buy-in and very positive reaction to the scheme. For the first time, many riders felt they had an opportunity to contribute to the trail network, and many embraced the opportunity.

Over 100 individuals locally and from further afield came together to work on the project, with first-time trail volunteers joining long-standing and experienced builders to create a unique, world-class trail section. The success was such that this is the first time a partly volunteer-built trail has been officially graded and recognized within the official trail network in the Tweed Valley.
The excellent results of the project also proved this model for trail building and maintenance has a strong part to play in the future. In terms of tourism, the new trail led to thousands of social media posts and video content, attracting riders to visit the new trail. It was also a highlight section of the TweedLove International enduro race. The collaboration of the cycling community with FCS to create a top quality new trail was a big step forward and something which can hopefully be repeated.

TweedLove will continue to use its community engagement reach to to work and liaise with FCS on similar projects in the future.By using TweedLove’s reach and connections within the cycling community, we were able to bring together the resources to not only enhance the trail network in a sustainable and positive way, but lay the foundations for future projects and create new trails going forward.

Winner Scottish Mountain Bike Community Project of the Year 2016 - Stirling Cycle Hub

Since the Hub opened its doors in 2013, the Hub team have always been keen to promote both the excellent variety of natural trails and the MTB facilities available within the Stirlingshire area to people of all ages. They have achieved this through a variety of methods including :
• Providing visitors to the Hub with info on the location of local trails through led rides and the provision of route maps.
• Highlighting the trails easily accessible from the city centre and also throughout Stirlingshire with information provided by and from working in partnership with the likes of Bike Trossachs, Bespoke Community Development Company, Skidaddle, Falkirk Community Development Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.
• Acting as a referral service to any mountain bike community groups, MTB facilities and MTB service providers within Stirlingshire and the Forth Valley.
• Providing a selection of MTB events and skills sessions as part of an annual cycling programme