Going off-road: The Stellenbosch Winelands as a mountain biking destination
Research on mountain biking in human geography and the social sciences, particularly in Africa and South Africa, is underexplored. In 2015, the Western Cape government earmarked cycling as an important driver of economic growth, yet it remains unclear what aspects of the area contribute towards this notion. This study seeks to investigate the product offering and growth of mountain biking in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in order to provide a platform for and more research into the tourist offering for this lifestyle sport. The research is set out to provide a brief overview of the historical development of mountain bikes and the sport of mountain biking on an international scale, then narrows it down to the Western Cape of South Africa, and finally examines the town of Stellenbosch as a case study. The case study is presented using an analysis of the existing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the area as a mountain biking destination. The findings presented originate from a snowballing process of personal in-depth interviews with 15 stakeholders and participants in the Stellenbosch mountain biking community, including professional and amateur cyclists, professionals in the bicycle industry and other people connected to mountain biking through employment or recreational pursuits. Findings include major opportunities for economic growth through tourism, as well as in social upliftment and personal wellbeing for participants across all demographics. Challenges faced include destruction and damage of trails due to fire as well as escalating and aggravated incidences of crimes against mountain bikers. In conclusion, suggestions for further research are proffered.
Keywords: Lifestyle sports, mountain biking, South Africa, Stellenbosch, tourism