Mountain Biking as a Means to Encourage Public Health and Wellbeing

A Master of Public Health Program student publication

This manuscript explains how mountain biking is related to public health and the issues underlying trail access in the United States.


Mountain Biking as a Means to Encourage Public Health and Wellbei


Mountain biking is a popular form of outdoor exercise. There are 8.3 million riders in the U.S., 2.8% of the population (The Outdoor Foundation, 2016). The National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/trends/nsre-directory/) places the number of participants much higher at 42.7 million riders, but their definition is less restrictive (Cordell, 2012). The National Survey includes anyone who has ridden a mountain or hybrid bicycle in the last twelve months, regardless of riding surface, while Outdoor Recreation Participation Top Line Report (The Outdoor Foundation, 2016) estimates are based on riding surface. Therefore, to avoid confirmation bias, the lower Outdoor Recreation Participation Top Line Report figures will be used for the remainder of this paper. Bicycling (including road and bicycle motor cross) is the second most frequently participated outdoor activity in America with an average of 63 annual outings, just behind running/jogging with 91 annual outings (The Outdoor Foundation, 2016).

Off-road cycling has its origins at the invention of the bicycle, but modern mountain biking is a child of 1970s California. Though a young sport, there are now many disciplines within the sport ranging from cross country, enduro (all-mountain), downhill, dirt jump, and freeride (see Table 1). There are competitions at the youth, high school, collegiate, olympic, and professional levels. There are specialized bikes for each purpose. Bikes may range from a few hundred dollars for an entry level bike to ten thousand dollars for the lightest bike with the most current technology (https://www.specialized.com/us/en/bikes/mountain).

Although mountain biking is a popular form of outdoor exercise in America, legal access to suitable trails is limited and under constant threat to be further limited. This manuscript explains how mountain biking is related to public health and the issues underlying trail access in the United States. The author argues that public health organizations at local, state, and national levels should be advocates for mountain bike trail access.

Published August 11, 2017

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