Written by Kat Brown, Cycling Solutions 

Back in 2011 there was only one trail that was commonly known and annually raced on in Dunkeld, the downhill track in Craigvinean forest, with a couple of others hidden in the depths of the forest known only to the locals who created them.

Now sitting here in 2020 it's a different story. With the growth of the sport, coupled with a desire to create more trails for locals and visitors to ride, there has been a wave of new trails created circumnavigating the villages of Dunkeld and Birnam. I've just opened up Trailforks (the popular user generated app for finding trails) and I've managed to count no less than 50 trails! Quite a jump in 9 years…

Mountain Biking is not a sport that is confined to one subset of the demographic; mountain biking crosses boundaries of gender, class, background and age. Like any sport though there are, and always will be, some divisions – either between groups of riders on what makes a good trail, or between non riders and those who choose mountain biking as their passion and past-time.

Image by Small Fry Cycles

So what does the future hold for Dunkeld and other popular riding spots? Well, the main thing is the way in which trails are created and managed. Up until now these trails have mostly been created and maintained without landowner permission. Not ideal – and this news will be an outrage to some. However, this is changing, with more and more groups across the country understanding that it's important to work with landowners, and to have their permission, help and guidance.

The day this changed for me was when I was presented with a map of bird nesting sites, rare or delicate trees, archaeological sites, and so on. It was an eye opener. As with any process that involves more people, paperwork and volunteers, it can move more slowly; but, at the moment, nationwide agreements are being drafted on how large land owners like Forestry and Land Scotland and local volunteer trail associations can work together, what maintenance can be agreed in advance and what the process of working together looks like. 

The result of these changes should be better maintained trails by local riders who feel a sense of ownership and are commited to their upkeep, all with the blessing, help and support of the landowners. The Aberdeenshire Trail Association are currently leading the way and finding overwhelming support from landowners, showing that working together can benefit everyone.

Here in Dunkeld, I am always proud to see riders maintaining and creating trails, and I enjoy discussing the details with landowners. This is because all year I see the happiness mountain biking brings to so many –  new visitors and holidaymakers, locals discovering a new sport on their doorstep, primary school children proudly showing off their knowledge of the trail names, businesses doing well because of additional trade from riders, and to hear the whoops of joy as people take part in the Dunkeld Enduro. I'm proud to have played a small part in it all and look forward to continuing to progress the area.

Further information on the trails can be found in the local bike shop, Progression Bikes

Image by Small Fry Cycles