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We are continuing to work with our partners across Europe through the DIRTT project (Developing Inter-European Resources for Trail Building Training), to ensure the development of a robust training and education programme for trail maintenance volunteers and trail building professionals.

This next stage sees the results of a European wide rider survey on trails.  The survey provided evidence of many aspects of trail building that we already felt were true. Such as, not all riders want to ride manicured and heavily engineered trails and there was a real need to legitimise and build technical trails that provide a challenge as riders progress across Scotland, the UK and Europe.

Whilst that is very much the case for experienced riders, we also confirmed from the survey that less experienced riders want purpose built and flowy trails to learn and progress essential mountain bike skills. 

We are excited about the next steps of the project where we can incorporate this thinking into an educational framework and begin developing new courses to improve our trails and rider’s experiences.

Please read the full press release - 

DIRTT - Press Release

TRAILBLAZING PAN-EUROPEAN MOUNTAIN BIKE PROJECT GATHERS MOMENTUM

Need for courses and further education confirmed through academic research 

The project consortium involved in the DIRTT project (Developing Inter-European Resources for Trail Building Training) delivered its first research results. Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) conducted an MTB trail sector survey, followed by a consumer survey. 

The trail sector survey was aimed at trail building companies, the forestry sector, tourism professionals and other stakeholders involved in the planning, design, construction, maintenance, and management of MTB trails. The research highlighted the skill gaps currently present in the sector and that there is a wide range of training needs across all stages of trail development and management, with construction and maintenance topics highlighted as the highest priority. 

The majority of stakeholders who took part in the survey agreed that there is a strong demand for training that is currently not available. Employers indicated that is difficult to recruit skilled / competent employees and that Introducing certified training in the sector would be of significant benefit and increase the quality and sustainability of mountain bike trails. 

Key themes for the training requirements of the industry included but were not limited to, trail sustainability, safety, drainage, working with different soil types and documentation. The needs of volunteers were very similar although their needs were mostly focussed on building good trails utilising hand tools rather than machinery. 

Dr Tom Campbell, Edinburgh Napier University, said of the research:

“Overall, there was broad consensus on the topics to be included for learning and that the overall trail product will be improved through increased training and development of the workforce. This bodes well for the development of courses and helps us understand the needs and aspirations of the industry – both on a professional and voluntary basis.”

Rider’s Trail Preferences & Attitudes 

To ensure future training programmes and trail guidelines are also tailored to the kind of experience mountain bikers seek nowadays, ENU conducted a second survey targeted at the end consumer, the rider. The results of this survey help the consortium partners to understand trail user objectives and preferences. It also gives better insights in the kind of trail characteristics and features mountain bikers like to see on various types of trails.  A distinction is also made between rider ability and which trail characteristics they felt would allow them to progress. 

Trail riding was the most popular single discipline, selected by 76% of respondents. Enduro was the next most popular choice, selected by 63% of respondents. This result also reflected in the type of trails respondents ride most frequently. Most mountain bikers ride either easier or more difficult singletrack trails with connection to nature, descents, optional lines, and surface quality being ranked consistently high among all trail types. The research also showed that the majority of the respondents (90%) would like to progress their riding ability but that a significant proportion of riders (37%) indicated having insufficient access to trails suitable to facilitate their skills progression. Many participants (65%) indicated riding purpose-built trails was important or very important to them 

When asked about people’s motivation to ride a mountain bike, most mentioned reasons have not changed that much compared to earlier studies. Exercise, connection to nature, play, challenge, and escape (solitude) made it into the top 5. Mountain bikers feel connected to nature and would like to protect nature with many putting environmental concern above trail quality in most areas. However, this is not always reflected in the actions or expectations of respondents where some education may be required to align their intentions with their actions. 

Graeme McLean, Head of Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS), said of the rider survey: 

“The survey provided evidence of many aspects of trail building that we already felt were true. Such as, not all riders want to ride manicured and heavily engineered trails and there was a need to legitimise and build technical trails that provide a challenge as riders progress across Scotland, the UK and Europe. Whilst that is very much the case for experienced riders, we also confirmed from the survey that less experienced riders want purpose built and flowy trails to learn and progress essential mountain bike skills. We are excited about the next steps of the project where we can incorporate this thinking into an educational framework and begin developing new courses to improve our trails and rider’s experiences.” 

Next Steps 

Both reports will be used in the next stage of the project where the partners will develop an educational framework which will form the basis of all future DIRTT courses. The first course from the DIRTT Project, one of the requirements of the current EU Erasmus+ funding, is a Level 5 EQF (European Qualification Framework) a 900 hour college course on mountain bike trail building.

For more information and project updates, visit the IMBA Europe website or download the full report.

Further information about Developing Inter-european Resources Trail builder Training - DIRTT

The DIRTT project aims to develop a professional training regime for trail planning, design, construction, maintenance and management. 

The countries involved are Switzerland, Portugal, Scotland, Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

Partner organisations are: 

Fagskolen Tinius Olsen - Norway
International Mountain Bike Association Europe – Netherlands
Scottish Cycling/Developing MTB in Scotland – Scotland
Edinburgh Napier University - Scotland
BikePlan - Switzerland
Danske Gymnastik og Idreaetsforeninger - Denmark
Município de Águeda - Portugal
Opplysningskontoret for Terrengsykling - Norway

The project has been granted €387,731 through the European Union’s ERASMUS+ programme. 

The project will be coordinated by Fagskolen Tinius Olsen, a college of higher vocational education in Norway.

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