Doubles, drops and ditches: Deconstructing the art of the mountain bike trail-builder

Steve Taylor, Manuel Sand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
161 Downloads (Pure)


Mountain biking’s sustained popularity determines a need for greater purpose-built infrastructure as a stage for riders’ performance, even if these domesticated spaces may create a rather inauthentic experience compared to the challenges of the ‘great outdoors’. While ever more bike parks and trail centres are being constructed, there is little known about how the trail builder forges an unforgettable riding experience. To address this lacuna, the authors interviewed professional trail builders from Scotland and Germany in a qualitative study design that explored key design elements. These ranged from appreciation of the big picture to more directed considerations of a trail build that needs to balance the management of risk with the construction of a trail explicitly created to entertain, challenge and thrill. The findings illustrate how these experience co-creators approach a new trail build through a focused understanding of user needs and developing the affinity for the environment that facilitates the construction of trails that don’t fight the terrain, but ‘fit’ into the landscape and engender a more natural feel to the trail. Also paramount is the need to provide sufficient physical and psychological challenge to avoid ennui and set the stage, through the highly rhythmic riding of flowing trails, for the intrinsic reward of optimal experiences. While there is a certain irony in ensuring safety for recreationalists for whom battle scars can be a badge of honour, the trail builder needs to ensure that ultimately the riders are being subtly orchestrated without it detracting from their trail experience.
Original languageEnglish
Article number 100364
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
Early online date14 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jan 2021


  • Mountain biking
  • Trail building
  • Flow
  • Sustainable trails
  • Experiene
  • Safety


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