Trail bike riding means different things to different people. To some it’s about the challenge of handling the bike over varying terrain; to others it’s about experiencing the outdoors and seeing the country in a unique way; for many it’s about the adrenalin and mateship; for some families it’s about spending time together engaged in an activity that the whole family can enjoy.
Recreational trail bike riding is undertaken in informal groups, with family or alone in a non-competitive environment. Trail riding occurs in off-road vehicle areas, on private land and on roads and trails in state forest and public land. It is a physical outdoor activity which is exhilarating, challenging and delivers social, economic and health benefits.
Western Australia is experiencing rapid growth in the popularity of recreational trail bike riding. Sales of off-road motorcycles and quad bikes have increased by 60% between 2004 and 2008 with an estimated 50,000 trail bikes currently being ridden. The overall value of the off-road motorcycle industry in Western Australia is around $150 million per annum.
Types of licences:
Trail bike riding falls into two main legal categories – road-registered bikes ridden by licenced riders and non-road registered bikes and/or unlicenced riders (typically those not yet old enough to hold a licence). Road registered bikes are entitled to be ridden on any open public road or trail, including those managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation. Non-road registered bikes can only be ridden on private property or within Off Road Vehicle areas gazetted under Western Australia’s Control Of Vehicles (Off-Road Areas) Act 1978.
Types of riding experiences:
Recreational trail bike riding takes many forms from riding on managed or impromptu motocross-style circuits, to long distance off-road touring. Riding is typically conducted outside an organised club structure, as riders seek freedom of time and place.
Destination riding is most closely aligned with the experiences sought by bushwalkers and mountain bike riders. A destination ride is a ride to somewhere and back again. It can range from a couple of kilometres of single loop or up to many hundreds of kilometres covered over several days.
Trail/enduro bike riders seek a variety of trails including tracks suitable for four-wheel drives and unmaintained tracks that provide some challenge sections such as hills, rutted or rocky sections, water crossings and tight twisty sections.
“Single trail” sections where the track is literally only the width of a motorcycle tyre tread and winds its way through the bush are valued as these test the skill of the rider and can be especially satisfying to ride. Because of the tight nature of single trail, these sections tend to be relatively short – typically less than a kilometre. A quality ride will have segments of single trail interspersed among the more open tracks.
Freestyle riding is usually an extension of cross-country riding and typically refers to the discovery or building of obstacles such as jumps or other challenges. There is a parallel between the skate park and skiing terrain park culture and freestyle dirt bike riding, with proponents typically being younger and riding motocross bikes.
Motocross-style circuits can be formal or informal and provide a high-adrenalin experience in a relatively confined space. Motocross circuits typically have tight banked corners and jumps connected by short straights and provide the rider with racing practice or riding challenge. The circuits can vary in technical challenge from a simple flat loop for young riders up to international level super cross circuits requiring a special permit to access.
Types of bikes:
We use the term ‘Trail Bike’ in its broadest context to describe any motorcycle or quad bike that can be used on a trail. This includes motocross, enduro, trail and fun bikes and quads or ATVs.
Types of riders:
RTRA represents the 90% of trail bike riders that ride non-competitively and often do not belong to clubs. The riders themselves encompass a wide age range from 5 to 75, come from all socio economic backgrounds and ride for a wide variety of reasons.
Generally when discussing the health aspects of trail bike riding, the negative impacts of injury are the focus. However there are health benefits as the activity is physically and mentally demanding.
Non-riders may perceive that riders are passive on the bike. However the rider is continually moving, is standing most of the time and both upper and lower body are constantly exerted. A degree of physical fitness is required particularly on challenging trails. The exercise and fitness aspects of the activity are key to the enjoyment of most riders. Parents in particular cite the benefits for children in being outdoors and physically active.
The activity is mentally engaging with a high degree of concentration required, so for many riders along with the physical demands trail bike riding provides stress relief and relaxation.
Socially trail bike riding provides for time with friends, family and other like-minded people. Families in particular credit the activity with providing quality family time and an opportunity for parents and children to bond over a shared interest. There are not many activities that are particularly popular with children, teens and young adults that can be shared with parents. It is a hobby, an interest and an outlet.