I recently received an email from a gentleman who had this question for me:
Subject: bike trails
Don't quite understand what your problem is with naming of routes.
I ride mountain bikes, whether part of my route goes on to the road or is part of a canal toe path or anything else it is just part of the route.
Essentially, what you are describing is mountain biking, your routes may be a sub genre but I don't see what the issue is with calling it mountain biking....
I'd be glad to explain the difference between mountain biking and the type of biking I usually do now. I was an avid mountain biker for many years, and the type of biking I now do is as different from mountain biking as mountain biking is from road biking:
When mountain biking, I ride a mountain bike; whereas when trail biking I have the option to use a mountain bike, but may also use a road bike, a recumbent, a tandem, a velocycle, a recumbent trike, a hybrid, a tagalong, a bike trailer, or even a Trikke. Just like with road biking, I can certainly use a mountain bike, but it's not mountain biking.
Mountain biking, as the name implies, is usually done in the mountains; whereas trail biking may be done in the mountains, but it is more likely to be done on the plains, in the city, on the coast, or even in the desert.
Mountain biking, for better or worse, correctly or incorrectly, is noted for its steep ups & downs, often borderline dangerous style of riding, and caters mainly to riders aged 15 to 40. Obviously there are numerous exceptions to this, but I still mountain bike and would estimate over 90% of the riders I see on the mountain bike trails fall into this category. On the other hand, when I'm on multipurpose trails, every time I go out I see riders aged one (trailers) to four (tagalongs) to 90 (recumbents, hybrids, etc.).
Mountain biking is predominately single-track with a dirt surface. The type of trails I ride are asphalt, concrete, cinder, gravel, and, occasionally, dirt.
And now for the most important point. I read a lot of blogs, and I was shocked to read, in one of the blogs, that less than 1% of the people in the U.S. ride bikes on a regular basis. I'm sure that you would agree with me that that is sad. You probably feel, like I do, that biking is one of life's greatest pleasures. So how come so few people do it? It would be easy to say, "Because they're lazy, or boring, or timid, or..." But let's face it, when your two choices are:
Risk life & limb on a road where, at any minute, a distracted driver may injure or kill you or...
Risk injury on a mountainside trail where you may be taken out by a root, rock, rut, or out-of-control mountain bike or...
Enjoy riding until your 50s, then give up biking altogether when your joints begin to protest at the punishment of riding on steep trails or the start & stop of riding in traffic or...
You can seek out trails that are more mellow such as rail-trails, canal-trails, and other forms of multipurpose trails.
More and more, I am choosing this final alternative, but it is quite difficult to find good, accessible bike rides when they are all bunched into the two categories of mountain biking and road biking.
Now is where I have to admit, I have no idea who you are or what organization you're with. My guess is that you probably won't change your mind, no matter what I say... for now.
But the time will come when you will tire of risking your life on the roads and your limbs on the "mountain bike trails," and you'll seek out another type of riding because, like me, you love riding your bike. Who knows, maybe you'll want to take your kids on a ride and won't want to risk their life or limb. Or maybe you'll try a recumbent bike and love it. Or possibly you'll want to go on an active vacation with friends, but some of them will be mountain bikers, some road bikers, some inline skaters, some hikers, and some equestrians; and wouldn't it be nice if you could find a trail that met all your needs so you could enjoy them together? Or what about a multigenerational outing with little kids, teens, tweny-somethings, middle agers, & grandma/grandpa. You may live in super family where three year old Susie is right on 83 year old grampa's rear tire on a twisty, bumpy, steep mountain bike trail. But that type of family is pretty rare.
It is my hope that when the time comes, you will be able to go to the popular trail sites such as Everytrail.com, trails.com, trailsnet.com, et al and find the perfect fit in a category that is simply called, "bike trail" or "multitrail." Hopefully when we make that simple little adjustment, that simple addition of one more trail category, more people will discover the joy of biking, not as an adrenaline high, not as a race, not as some type of constant competition, but just as a form of recreational, environmentally friendly, healthy, and socially enjoyable pastime.
And of course those people who enjoy mountain biking and road biking, like I did for over 40 years of my life, will continue to do so and have a great time. Only once we add one more category of bike trails, the other 99% of the folks can join us in the joyous activity we call biking.