Mountain bikers need mountains. We need the natural elements which form the trails we ride, and we need to be Greenies to protect those natural elements and the sport itself.
Climate destruction threatens the planet and the sport of mountain biking. It leads to extreme weather which destroys trails and prevents us from riding. It makes riding uncomfortable or dangerous, and could even see local trails disappear forever. The good news is, cycling itself could help solve the problem.
Climate change is happening. It is causing unpredictable and extreme weather, and it is driven by human behaviour.
Riding in extreme heat is not just unpleasant, it’s potentially dangerous. Consistently rising temperatures caused by climate change could prevent us from riding when we want, and for as long as we want.
Climate Change greatly increases the likelihood of bushfires. Rising temperatures and prolonged drought make bushland more susceptible to fires, and unpredictable weather complicates hazard reduction burning. The best way to reduce the chance of destructive bushfires is to fight climate change.
You can’t ride through a bushfire.
Bushfires also destroy mountain bike trails. Features get ruined, trees fall across trails, and large sections of land are usually closed off to riders for extended periods of time until it is deemed safe to return.
Once the area is re-opened, trails need to be repaired, and it’s ugly. Beautiful trees, plants and wildlife make way for charred, mangled, decrepit, smouldering remains, devoid of animals and the colours of nature which make mountain biking so enjoyable.
But I live in a cold climate.
Bushfires have been found burning underneath snow. Known as zombie fires, they can smoulder under snow in frozen forests before flaring up the following spring. According to experts, these are even harder, or impossible, to extinguish, and are more prevalent due to climate change.
But I live in the tropics
During the large-scale bushfires in Australia in the summer of 2019/2020, bushfires burned in Japoon National Park, in tropical far north Queensland. Scientists believe it is evidence of climate change causing fires where they don’t normally burn.
Climate change is doing exactly what its name suggests – it is changing the climate. Your local trails may be in danger.
Mountain bikers should be Greenies to reduce the chance of bushfires.
Heavy rain and storms also threaten mountain biking. Yes, rain is natural, and necessary for life, but extreme rain and storms stop us from riding.
Many trail networks ask riders to stay away during and immediately after rain, so that trails don’t get ruined. More rain equals more time off the trails, and more time for trails to dry out. Even if the rain has stopped, you might get in a quick ride after work, but if the trails are still wet, you spend more time cleaning your bike than riding it!
Climate change increases the risk of flooding.
Floods also destroy mountain bike trails. Features get ruined or washed away, trees fall across trails, puddles form in front of your favourite jumps and patches of soft sand throw you off balance just as you’re about to hit that tail whip. Due to floods, large sections of land are usually closed off to riders for extended periods of time until it is safe for people to return.
You can’t ride through a flood.
Repairing trails after a flood is also time consuming, frustrating, exhausting and sometimes expensive. I know, I’ve done it. Plus, what would you rather be doing, repairing the trails or riding them?
Mountain bikers need to be Greenies to reduce the likelihood of floods.
Land clearing is another contributor to flooding.
Overdevelopment and traditional farming techniques are the main reasons for land clearing. Not only are they major contributors to climate change, but they can eliminate your local trails forever.
Mountain bikers need to be greenies to prevent unnecessary land clearing.
Even if land clearing doesn’t stop you from riding altogether, it might make your rides less convenient. How far away are your nearest trails? If land clearing continues at its current rate, you might have to travel much further just to ride your bike, and that quick session after work might become impossible.
How far are you willing to travel on a daily basis just to go for a ride?
You might argue that riders have to accept long travel times if they live in a city or urban area – but not always. In Adelaide, South Australia, mountain bike trails are found all over the city, usually within 5 – 10 minutes drive of any resident. This is because, at some point in the past, someone campaigned to protect pockets of open, green spaces between suburbs, and some of these spaces were converted into mountain bike trails.
Some of you might not like environmental activists, Greenies or conservationists, but the example of Adelaide proves that environmental activists might just save your local trails.
Remember, you can protect your local trails without growing dreadlocks, chaining yourself to a bulldozer, living in a tree and getting arrested. Petitioning or writing to a local member about protecting local green space is a form of activism as well.
Knobby bitumen biker
Do you want to be a mountain biker, or a knobby bitumen biker?
If we don’t have mountains to ride, we’ll have to ride our knobby tyres on bitumen, and put up with that sound. That sound of fat tyres on bitumen. That sound that just doesn’t…sound right.
Riding a mountain bike on bitumen is more like the UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator. There’s nothing wrong with the Mountain Bike Eliminator. It gives more riders the chance to race and earn money, while giving cycling fans another event to enjoy. But is it really mountain biking?
There’s also nothing wrong with Road Cycling, BMX and Track Cycling…but they’re not mountain biking.
If the natural trails disappear, will we have to strap our bikes to the trainer and ride virtual mountains on Zwift?
What can I do?
First, acknowledge that Climate Change is real, and that it is caused by human activity. No, it’s not pleasant to think about, but it is something we must do in order to protect our sport.
Secondly, look at your own life. Ask yourself what you can do in your everyday life to protect the planet. Cycling is one thing – and you’re already doing it. It’s a much cleaner form of transport.
Mountain bikers need to be Greenies if they want to keep calling themselves mountain bikers.