Rescuers at the scene of a mountain bike crash

Rescuers at the scene of a mountain bike crash

Rescuers are urging mountain bikers to be aware of the dangers of their sport after a significant increase in callouts to accidents involving off-road cyclists in recent years.

Three mountain bikers have died in accidents in the past 12 months and the last seven years have seen 10 fatalities.

Mountain rescuers are often called out to deal with accidents involving those on two wheels.

The umbrella body for teams in England and Wales said it was not trying to discourage people from mountain biking, but wants them to be aware of the hazards.

Ged Feeney, statistics officer for Mountain Rescue England and Wales, said: “The number of accidents requiring rescue team help has seen a rapid increase over the last seven years, and we know that these are probably only the tip of the iceberg of actual falls and injuries.

“There is little doubt that this is principally due to the increased popularity of the sport and the number of participants.”

The organisation has released statistics on the rise of callouts to mountain bikers, which shows a steady rise in incidents in the last 13 years, with the frequency markedly increasing in the past three years.

“Our briefing note aims to raise awareness so that participants, and those looking after dedicated cycling trails and popular routes, can take steps to reduce the likelihood of future accidents, he said.

The briefing note and statistical data were pulled together at the request of Phil O’Brien of the Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team. “We have an area called Gisburn Forest in Lancashire that over the last few years has seen a massive increase in MTB activity,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It now has its own cafe, skills area and trails and attracts a lot of visitors. This has corresponded to an increase in callouts.

“One of the common injuries we see is lower leg injuries where bikers have come off on boardwalks, which often results in a broken ankle or broken leg or both.”

Another popular area for mountain bikers and a hotspot for rescue callouts is Guisborough Forest in the Cleveland MRT’s area. “The forest can see a dozen or so call outs in a year,” said Gari Finch of the team, “and the combination of long downhill stretches, trees and speed can create all sorts of problems.

“Some of the injuries we have seen are very serious and life-changing.”

Mr O’Brien said: “Wearing protective head gear and having good skills is an absolute must.”

“Our main concern is that there have been three fatalities in the past 12 months and mountain bikers need to be aware of this and plan to reduce the risks to life and limb.”

MREW said that, while travelling at speed and with the body moving head-first, a fall stands a greater likelihood of having life-changing consequences. This has been noted particularly in the frequency of upper body injury.

Many boardwalks are covered with chicken wire. Rescuers said in wet or frosty conditions, it greatly increases the traction, especially when travelling at speed. “However, there are many boardwalks that are not finished in this way,” a spokesperson said. “The build-up of moss and slime, as well as mud, can leave the surface with very little traction.”

John Graham, 59, of Silloth, Cumbria, died while biking on Lonscale Fell last September. In July, Gordon Moss, 54, of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, died in a fall on Laddow Rocks on Black Hill in the Peak District.

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