MOUNTAIN biking tracks in Lochaber are now attracting cyclists on four wheels, as well as two, thanks to a specialised club.
And it is hoped this new trend will provide a welcome boost to the local economy.
Rough Riderz gravity biking club was formed in 2006 to help disabled and able-bodied mountain bikers participate in the UK’s newest downhill mountain biking (MTB) scene, and promote it as an integrated sport nationwide.
Club members ride specially-designed, four-wheeled mountain bikes down purpose-built downhill MTB trails. By raising awareness, they hope to increase interest in the sport, creating a more vibrant and inclusive biking scene.
Originally designed for wheelchair users, ‘gravity’ bikes have no pedals and rely solely on the downhill gradient of trails to propel them along the off-road technical terrain associated with regular mountain bike riding.
Based in Preston, Rough Riderz club secretary Phil Hall has been travelling to Scotland to test as many trails as possible to find suitable venues for this innovative and accessible new sport.
And the locations the club has tested on four wheels include cycling routes in the Fort William area.
Mr Hall said: “As a paraplegic downhill rider and huge extreme sports fan, I wanted to find a way for those with access needs to experience the thrill of downhill mountain biking.
“Riding on a gravity bike is such a great, fun sport. We quickly realised it should be available to all and we have many able-bodied members now, too.”
He added that the club was currently involved in designing a practical and affordable new bike, intended to be easy to ride, service and repair.
It is aiming for this to be ready to purchase by the end of the year.
VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: “It is fantastic to hear that Scottish mountain bike trails and tracks are attracting four wheel, as well as the traditional two-wheel bikers.
“Mountain biking in Scotland is an incredibly popular sport, largely due to the great terrain and scenery.
“These amazing gravity bikes ensure this extreme sport is more accessible and inclusive, opening up the experience of riding some of the most exciting mountain bike trails in the world up to many more people in Scotland.”
He added that this would boost the visitor economy locally, as hotels, restaurants and accommodation providers all benefit from the sport’s popularity, often outwith the traditional tourist season.
VisitScotland research has shown that domestic visitors to Scotland who take part in mountain biking or cycling stay, on average, over two million nights and spend £109 million each year.
Source: Lochaber News