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Coinciding with the start of the UCI Cycling World Championships last week, climate action non-profit Protect Our Winters (POW) have released a new report detailing findings that indicate the substantial risks posed to cycling by climate change. The report, Downhill From Here: How Climate Change Threatens Cycling as We Know It, hears from athletes experiencing the negative impacts first-hand and explains what will happen as climate change continues.
As extreme weather threatens access to trails, the safety of events, and the overall health and enjoyment of cycling, POW is urging brands, governing bodies, teams and individual cyclists of all levels to take action through education, campaigning and implementing climate strategies that will help with the ultimate goal of achieving Net Zero by 2040.
With the UCI cycling championships underway, all eyes are on UK’s world-class biking trails. The report details the viability of sports and events that rely on these trails and environments, finding that they are more at risk than ever before, highlighting threats to access, health, and experience in cycling, including:
Extreme weather, wetter winters, melting roads, wildfires, flooding, and erosion all threaten bikers’ access to the trails.
Rising temperatures and decreased air quality risk the spread of vector borne disease, while reduced access may have an impact on participants’ overall mental health and wellbeing.
Cycling events are under increased strain due to unpredictable weather, compromising participation, enjoyment, and their ability to operate at all.
In documentary-film Winds of Change, former Downhill World Champion Manon Carpenter highlights the effects of extreme weather on bike trails in Aberdeenshire and Northumberland, and the ways in which the cycling community has had to adapt to the changes.
Speaking about the effects of climate change on the sport in relation to POW’s report, Manon said she had ‘become increasingly aware of the impact extreme weather is having on the environments we depend on for mountain biking. Drought, high temperatures and forest fires are affecting trails or riders directly. These are events happening now, let alone into the future where we can expect increasing severity and unpredictability of these events.’
Drought, high temperatures and forest fires are affecting trails or riders directly
This year, Red Bull Hardline, one of the world’s toughest downhill mountain bike races that was due to take place in July in Wales, was cancelled due to intense rain alongside heavy winds. Meanwhile, the UK’s shift towards a hotter and overall drier summer, has meant that important trail surfacing work has been difficult to complete – as in Glentress, Scotland, where the Masterplan trails are closed for public use until September.
As well as the increased risk of cancellation for all future events, rider fairness and safety are set to be impacted too. Inability to keep cool impacts decision making which could cause more injuries, as well as direct health risks such as heart attacks. This puts the cycling industry of £5.4bn contributed to the economy and 64,000 jobs at risk in the UK, and a $54 billion cycling market globally.