Mountain bikers spin wheel of good fortune for Highland economy

Visitors to Scotland are being encouraged to get on their bike after a new report outlined the full extent of the value of cycle tourism to the Scottish economy.

As thousands of cycling enthusiasts flock to the UCI Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup this weekend new figures have revealed that mountain biking among domestic visitors generates £43 million a year.

Photograph by: Charne HawkesMountain Bike World Cup

The research, carried out by the country’s national tourism organisation’s Insight department, found mountain bikers spend 66 per cent more per night than those who cycle on a road or path during their holiday.

Newly analysed data shows that, typically, 122,000 people a year get on their mountain bikes while on holiday in Scotland, spending £355 per trip.

The study also shows that 76 per cent of mountain biking visitors to Scotland are male. Most cyclists are aged between 35 and 44, while 25 per cent are 45-54 and 19 per cent are aged between 25 and 34.

The Cycling Tourism in Scotland report is published as thousands of fans from around the world prepare to descent on the Highlands this weekend to enjoy the thrilling downhill action of the World Cup and the BUFF® 4X Pro Tour.

Supported by £100,000 through EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events directorate, the only UK-leg on the World Cup circuit will see the world’s fastest downhill riders go head-to-head as they race against the clock down the slopes of Aonach Mor at the iconic Nevis Range.

Photograph by: Gerry McCann

More than 250 of the sport’s biggest stars, including 2016 Downhill World Champions, British riders Danny Hart and Rachel Atherton, will be competing across the weekend as they battle it out for the Men’s and Women’s World Cup titles.

“Scotland really is a mountain biker’s dream. From the budding amateur to the hardened professional, there are trails to suit everyone,” said Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland.

“This new study shows just how valuable the sport is to our visitor economy, while big events such as the UCI Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup this weekend help to showcase Scotland’s mountain biking pedigree around the world. Scotland continues to attract world-class, high-profile international events that keep the eyes of the world on this country as the perfect stage.”

Scotland is recognised internationally as a world class destination for mountain biking. Its diverse landscapes, popular trail centres, challenging trails and enlightened land access make it a must-visit destination. Events like the Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup have helped to raise the profile of the sport and increase its popularity further, driving tourism and investment into local communities.

Mike Jardine from Rare Management, organiser of the UCI Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup, said: ”The World Cup is a unique family-friendly event and has gone from strength to strength since it came to the Highlands 15 years ago. This year we’re once again looking forward to welcoming the world’s best riders along with thousands of spectators who can look forward to witnessing some thrilling downhill action and a celebration of mountain biking in Scotland.”

Mountain biking has been a growth area for Highland tourism in particular over recent years due, in part, to the range of both built and wild trails on offer.