It never rains but it pours. A week or so after the UK floods came news that a bunch of cows were to be culled because they'd contracted Foot and Mouth disease. This was bad news for cattle farmers, and a PR nightmare for the Pirbright labs.

COMMENT: Filthy lucre and no mad cows

And it was deja vu for any UK business specialising in outdoor recreation. In 2001, the British outdoor and bike trades were severely impacted by Foot and Mouth because rights of way were closed all over the country. Many outdoor shops and IBDs were brought to their knees by the clumsy handling of the epidemic.

This time round there was a sense of urgency from the Government and disaster was averted but it highlighted that free and easy access to the outdoors is something we take for granted. When this access could be at risk – even for just a short period – it brings home how lucky we are to have such a wonderful rights of way network. MTBers – your customers – rely on this network.

There’s also an ever expanding network of privately-owned trails, which fuel sales of top-end MTBs and kit, especially DH products. Forestry Commission trails can be closed and diverted on a whim so should definitely never be taken for granted.

To protect our playgrounds it’s essential we get our hands dirty. Some bike shops do. They are active in the local trail building community or have volunteered to sit on their local authority’s countryside access forums.

But how many bike shops do you think are members of the UK chapter of trail protecting organisation IMBA, the International Mountain Bike Association? Two in England (Big Foot Bikes of Bromley and Sideways Cycles of Alsager), none in Wales, one in Northern Ireland (Real Cycles, Belfast) and three in Scotland (BaseCamp MTB of Laggan Wolfrax, Cycle Highlands of Ballater and Nevis Cycles of Fort William). How many bike companies? None. Shocking, really.

If you sell MTBs, you ought to be a member of IMBA UK. It costs £25 per year for a shop, £80 a year for a bike company.

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