The perceived benefits of, and constraints to, participation in off-road mountain biking
Author(s)Cassels Brown, R. J.
secondary school student
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AbstractThis study examines the perceived benefits of, and constraints to, participation in off-road mountain biking for Christchurch secondary school students. Mountain biking research in New Zealand has traditionally focussed on the negative impacts of mountain biking (see for example Cessford, 1995a; Chalmers, 1989; and Horn, 1994). Prior to the current study, the positive impacts or benefits of mountain biking in New Zealand were unknown. This study aims to address this research gap and, in doing so, will enable better informed management decisions. The perceived personal, social and environmental benefits of off-road mountain biking are examined. Recreational behaviour and the subsequent realisation of benefits are inhibited by constraints (Jackson, 1990). While leisure constraints have been the subject of considerable research, the constraints to mountain biking participation in New Zealand were previously unknown. This study examines the perceived intrapersonal, interpersonal and structural constraints to participation in off-road mountain biking. A qualitative focus group and a quantitative questionnaire survey were used to examine the perceived benefits of, and constraints to, participation in off-road mountain biking by Christchurch secondary school students. Compared to the general public, secondary school students are typically more physically active and are, therefore, more likely to be active mountain bikers or have latent demand for the activity. Ethical considerations were addressed by parental consent forms and supervisor presence during the focus group. The current study reinforced the findings of past research by showing that European males from higher socio-economic backgrounds dominate participation in off-road mountain biking. However, analysis of respondents with latent demand for off-road mountain biking suggests females and other ethnic groups are likely to increase participation and reduce this dominance. Recreation benefits literature indicates that people derive benefits from their chosen recreational activity, and that benefits influence participation choice (Driver, 1996). Enhanced perceived physical fitness and energy levels appeared to be linked to higher levels of participation in off-road mountain biking. Active mountain bikers typically identify fitness as a main reason for participation. Enjoyment is also commonly identified, suggesting psychological benefits are achieved. Active mountain bikers typically socialise with other mountain bikers, which suggests the activity may provide a social medium for this interaction. As participation in mountain biking increases, its role in environmental advocacy will become more important. Recreational access to natural areas is an effective way of promoting environmental appreciation. This study indicates that participation in off-road mountain biking is perceived to require high levels of skill and fitness. Risk of injury is also commonly identified as a constraint to participation. Opportunities exist to promote and manage mountain biking in a way that addresses these images of off-road mountain biking to encourage higher levels of participation. Financial cost is a significant constraint to participation, particularly for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. It is likely that if financial cost remains constant, the current domination of participation in off-road mountain biking by higher socio-economic groups will continue.