Big MTB Year launches in South Africa


    Mountain bikers around South Africa are expected to participate in the Big MTB Year, a unique event that encourages, trail riding variety and frequency managed by a Smartphone app. Fifty-five of South Africa' s established, marked mountain biking trials, such as Sappi Karkloof (pictured) will be on the Big MTB Year's 'to-ride' list. Compulsory photo credit: DINO LLOYD

    South Africa, probably the world’s most prolific and proactive country when it comes to competitive mountain bike events, is about to see the launch of another innovative mountain bike event when the Big MTB Year launches on Sunday, 15 December.

    Based loosely on the 2011 movie, Big Year, which highlights the informal competition between birders to see or hear as many species of birds as possible in a single year in a specific geographical area, the Big MTB Year is expected to gain widespread support with its unique characteristics.

    Mountain bikers around South Africa will enter the ‘event’ by downloading the Big MTB Year app on their Smartphones and then have a target list of established mountain biking trails to complete, each time scoring points. Points accumulation is based on number of trail rides on the 55 designated Big MTB Year trails in all nine of South Africa’s provinces.

    Points are allocated for trail riding frequency to reward regional competitors, while those keen to travel will be able to rack up points for trail riding variety – and frequency. At the end of 2014, prizes will be awarded to those with the most points as well as those that have consistently scored points throughout the year, encouraging riding through all seasons.

    “It’s taken a year from conception to launch and we have invested a considerable amount of time and money into developing the Big MTB Year app,” explained Wikus van der Walt, of Ecobound, the company behind the Big MTB Year, which also organises established traditional mountain bike events such as ‘To Hell and Back’ and ‘Transbaviaans’.

    “The aim is to encourage mountain bikers to ride trails in their own area more often as well as try riding different trails across South Africa. There is no incentive for speed, so it’s unlike Strava in that regard, although we anticipate the faster, more skilled Big MTB Year entrants will develop their own competitive communities,” added Van der Walt.

    “Mountain bike racing is very popular in South Africa, especially marathon and stage racing. But the Big MTB Year brings something very different in that it’s an event, but far from a traditional event and it stimulates more out-of-competition riding, which is unique and which will add more depth to the sport,” said Sean Badenhorst, editor of TREAD magazine, South Africa’s leading mountain biking publication.

    “We have pretty good year-round weather in South Africa. That, together with the huge increase in the establishment of marked, mountain bike-specific trails across the country in recent years, has created a superb platform for the Big MTB Year’s launch.

    “What’s really great is that Big MTB Year entrants have to rate each trail after they have ridden it in order to score more points. These ratings will help raise the standard of the trails as well as help categorise them, which is a key element for TREAD as we have been actively encouraging the growth, development and grading of trails since we launched in 2009,” added Badenhorst.

    Riders can score a maximum of four points per trail ride per day as follows:

    • Check-in to trail = 1 point
    • Submit photo at Big Year sign board = 1 point
    • Complete trail = 1 point
    • Review Trail / add comment = 1 point

    Riders will then become categorised based on their points accumulation as follows:

    Rookie > MTB Junkie > MTB Enthusiast > MTB Warrior > Big Year Pro > Big Year > Master > Big Year Guru > Ultimate Trailer.

    For a detailed breakdown of how the Big MTB Year works, click here.

    The Big MTB Year app will be available from Sunday, 15 December to download from Google Play and the App Store and will be compatible with Apple and Android smartphones. The cost is R200 and the app will be active from 15 December 2013 until 14 December 2014.