Mountain bike riding has been steadily building in popularity across the eastern suburbs in recent times, and it’s one of the few industries that have been bolstered by Covid-19.
With work underway to construct 160km of tracks for the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination project, and a group in Lysterfield also looking to expand their facilities, mountain biking is set to become a trademark of the Yarra Ranges region.
The sport has recently seen increasing numbers of participants, particularly considering it has been one of the few activities available during lockdowns.
Lysterfield District Trail Riders (LDTR) advocacy manager Ben Reeves said the club had seen a “huge 30 per cent increase in usership” during Covid-19.
“As people started to work out they could still go trail riding and travel to a destination the numbers went crazy,” he said.
“Given in a normal month some trails see over 7000 users, the increase is staggering.”
But Mr Reeves said the recent spike was actually part of an ongoing trend, with Mountain Bike Australia recording a 267 per cent increase in members from 2010-2015.
Meanwhile, LDTR has seen a 75 per cent increase in members over the past three years.
“Lysterfield has just been assessed as having the busiest mountain bike trail network in Australia, with nine of the ten busiest mountain bike tracks in Australia being found at Lysterfield,” Mr Reeves said.
“We’re in the position where our dedicated mountain bike trails are getting very busy especially with the huge investment in regional towns around the country, our sport is growing rapidly.”
Yarra Ranges Mountain Bikers club president and Yarra Valley Cycles owner Andrew Swann said there had been a large increase in trail usage based on Council’s trail counters.
“We’re seeing a massive increase in numbers. Approximately 100 per cent up on what we would normally see from six months ago.
Mr Swann attributed some of those figures to the closures of parks that had forced mountain bikers to come across their club’s trails in the Yarra Valley.
“There has been an influx of trail riders coming from other trails that would normally be ridden.”
Mr Swann shared that sales of bikes had increased as newcomers flock to the sport following the cancellation of team-based sports.
“We know through our business that bike sales are up anywhere from 30 to 60 per cent. So it’s a massive increase in sales. Every bike shop across Australia is seeing a similar increase in business.”
The increase in demand has seen LDTR look to expand its trail network, but considering it’s a predominately volunteer organisation, Mr Reeves said the support of local councils and Parks Victoria was needed.
“Sadly, to date, very little has been invested in mountain biking infrastructure in metropolitan Melbourne, in particular when compared to the millions invested regionally,” Mr Reeves said.
Mr Reeves said the trails at Lysterfield were suffering, mainly due to increased numbers and a wetter start to this year.
He said the demand for more trails was also evident through trails being informally developed.
“Just like any sport that’s in its growing phase, we have issues with kids going out there and building trails they shouldn’t,” Mr Reeves said.
“If there’s track that’s being built informally then it tends to suggest there’s a need for it so that’s what we seek to address as well.”
Mr Reeves said the club hoped to one day successfully expand the network to reduce the burden on current trails and also expand the skills park and pump track to include an asphalt pump track.
For more information about Lysterfield District Trail Riders visit, www.lysterfieldmtb.com or follow Lysterfield MTB on Facebook.
For more information about Yarra Ranges Mountain Bikers, visit www.yrmtb.com.au or follow the group on Facebook.