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Is the Tweed Valley an accessible destination for adaptive mountain bikers?

We want mountain biking to be for all and to ensure as many people as possible can access our amazing trail network if they want to. We have been working with many experienced folks and organisations over the last couple of years, those with real life lived experiences, to help make this happen. Last week we took a step further.

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As part of a much wider engagement with adaptive mtb-ers, we worked with Craig Grimes and Rik Legge from Experience Community, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company that helps disabled people access the outdoors through a range of inclusive walking, cycling, conservation and arts activities. We were keen to hear their views on the Tweed Valley and how its stacks up as an accessible destination for adaptive riders and draw up action plans to address the gaps.

To achieve this, we looked holistically at the destination and covered not just the need to have suitable trails but also the full user journey and experience for visitors. Ambitious it certainly is but we believe it is doable!

The aim? To assess the current opportunities, limitations and gaps in provision in the Tweed Valley and identify actions to develop it as a relevant and welcoming destination for disabled riders using adaptive mountain bikes. Over the coming year we will develop an action plan, with partners and key stakeholders, and work towards creating a truly accessible destination.

Days one and two brought together representatives from British Cycling, Dirt School, DMBinS and Ridelines plus we were fortunate to have a parent of a disabled young person too who was able to provide real life experience being an non disabled support rider.

Workshops looked to considerations around ride planning, disability etiquette and leadership – as Craig says, it’s about giving mountain bike leaders confidence based on knowledge and experience to lead and guide riders using adaptive bikes.

To see more adaptive riders on the trail not only raises awareness to non-adaptive riders but also to aspiring adaptive riders. It’s hard to be what you can’t see and the more accessible mountain biking is, the more adaptive riders we will see on our trails and from there, hopefully more adaptive leaders and coaches.

The afternoon sessions saw the group head to the trails. Craig and Rik led riders, who while not disabled themselves, were on adaptive bikes and gained practical experience that helped put context into reality as some trails excelled, others were not quite so accessible and sadly this was often due to just a single feature!

What a phenomenal opportunity for us all start to assess which parts of the Glentress trail network is suitable for the variety of adaptive bikes we had.

Craig Grimes, Experience Community

It’s about giving mountain bike leaders confidence based on knowledge and experience to lead and guide riders using adaptive bikes.

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Whilst “Good Game” was suitable, the risk of taking adaptive bikes down the steeply cambered berms of “Turn and Burn” was too great.

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The Bowhead took more concentration to get the most out of this surprisingly competent piece of kit.

On day three Craig offered valuable personal insights of his experience riding adaptive bikes at a broad range of locations throughout the UK and further afield. Forestry and Land Scotland representatives were on hand to hear feedback first hand of his riding experience, and how small changes to trail networks and local facilities can have a fundamental impact to their viability for disabled riders.

Tweed Valley Trails Association, whilst having stewardship of the least adaptive suitable trails in the valley, have offered to support FLS with auditing trails and putting in place remedial actions to hopefully open-up kilometres of trail only obstructed by a few 10’s of meters of issues.

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The FLS staff also had an opportunity to experience a selection of the adaptive bikes.

Friday offered the wider community the opportunity to catch up with Craig, and saw representatives from the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team, Edinburgh Napier University, and South Of Scotland Enterprise join the morning workshop.

Topics such as suitable accommodation and facility offerings were discussed and the real-world experiences shared by Craig when speaking to the TVMRT regarding considerations when dealing with an incident involving someone with existing physical conditions and a hefty adaptive bike, were insightful.

The afternoon saw an excursion on adaptive bikes up and around Cademuir Forest. Expanding the audit of trails in terms of both location and experience adaptive riders can access around the valley.

This was a pretty incredible ride as we took the group decision to get to the top of Cademuir Hill, which offers outstanding 360 views across Peebles, the wider Tweed Valley and on a good day, the Pentland Hills!

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It was a bit of a challenge to get to the top, but with help from the support riders, both adaptive and non-adaptive riders enjoyed something that many of us take for granted - that view! There’s something about getting to the top of a hill!

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It is really important for us that this is part of a much wider consultation and if we don’t know you already, and you have a vested interested in helping us create a toolkit to enable greater accessibility to our fantastic outdoors using mountain biking as the medium, do please get in touch (for those of you who know us, don’t worry, if we haven’t spoken with you already we certainly will!).

Right now though, we are pulling together all the findings from the last week, and will feed it back to relevant stakeholders. From accommodation and facilities to MTB Guides and Leaders, through to the trail network itself; we hope to highlight small changes that could make a significant difference to the experience for disabled riders in the Tweed Valley.

Watch this space, this is just the start!

We want mountain biking to truly be for all. We know that mountain biking is awesome, and we would like as many people as possible to have the opportunity to access it, if they want to, and discover the benefits for themselves.

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This project is funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. For more information.

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If you can, please consider donating to the Scottish MTB Heath Fund and help us with our work in this space. Thank you.


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If you can, please consider donating to the Scottish MTB Heath Fund and help us with our work in this space. Thank you.