The sports tracking app Mountainbike United gathers the mountain biking community on a single platform. The app makes riding flexible and accessible, and allows mountain bikers to easily organize across age and skill levels.
By Camilla Bevensee, Nordic SportsLab
Two right-angled triangles make a large ‘M’ against a neon green background and ensure that you can always locate your stalwart mountain biking companion in the confusion of apps on your home screen. You press the icon and soon you have your feed of tracks, groups, and news read to scroll at the touch of your thumb.
You press ‘Go’ and power on at the first leg of a 24-kilometre-long mountain bike route tagged with ‘tough inclines’ and ‘muddy turns’. You are a mountain biking enthusiast, and like thousands of other such enthusiasts, you have Mountainbike United at your side during your weekly sessions with your sport.
Founder Morten Kamp Schubert has no doubt about the goal: to become the leading service for the mountain biking sport worldwide. The tech entrepreneur and his team are on the right track after the relaunch at the beginning of the year. The new version emphasises community, and aside from providing guidance for routes, the app has many features meant to embrace the community so important for the mountain biking experience.
“We want to be the app mountain bikers go to not only when biking, but also when they are not biking, and when they are just thinking about it,” Schubert says.
Technology Brings More Out in the Woods
The relaunch of the app as a unified universe for mountain biking is supported by the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Association’s innovation project for entrepreneurs, DGI Impact, which over the last three years has selected a handful of start-ups with potential for developing and proliferating sports across Denmark and has supported them with up to half a million kroner (about 80.000 dollars).
“The app makes it possible to go out and try out the sport, and because it makes practice so flexible, it can be used as a recruitment tool to get more people into mountain biking,” explains Jakob Breddam, project manager at DIG Impact.
He hopes that the app can support clubs established at multiple locations, and help retain people already active, since they can practice when it suits their schedule and can do it wherever they happen to have brought their bike.
Schubert from Mountainbike United agrees that the app needs to support the traditional clubs and their way of organising. More features aimed at clubs to ease the burdens of managing members and offering coaching are underway for the app, but he emphasises the importance of the platform being able to support all types of mountain biking groups.
“Fundamentally we are interested in getting people involved in official clubs, but we would also like to unite people in other groups. Whether it’s a neighbourhood clique, friends, colleagues, business connections, or someone you have met on the app, we can do so much for them all, and we will continue to do so,” says the app developer, and continues:
“There are many who don’t see it as a real sport, more as a form of exercise, a spare time interest, or a hobby. Hence only a very small portion of mountain bikers are members of a club.”
The increased accessibility and flexibility facilitated by the app is also more important for DGI’s Breddam than it is to get mountain bikers involved in clubs as a first priority.
“Mountainbike United is without a doubt helping make the mountain bike field more flexible and accessible for a lot of people. The app facilitates users taking their bike by car somewhere new and explore a new route on the way to a family event, or finding and meeting others who brought the bike to their summer home, and that is important if the sport is to grow, so more people will join clubs down the line,” Breddam explains.
Gamification Increases the Fun
Breddam also emphasises that gamification has started to become a part of the app, an important part of the potential he believes the project has for getting more people outside and participating in sports.
“There is a colour-coded map giving an overview of which tracks you’ve biked on, and of course the goal is to colour in the whole map of Denmark. It’s a fun feature, where you compete with yourself a bit, and that may motivate some to get going.”
Schubert has a long range of gamification features up his sleeve in the style of ‘Ride the World’, which has already become a popular challenge in the community.
“Challenges like that are irresistible to many. We see that for some of our users, it has changed their behaviour and their way of engaging with the sport. Suddenly it becomes very empowering for them to reach the next turn, to colour in the next area,” explains the active founder, who himself plans on having the whole map coloured green in time.
App Prevents Conflicts
While Mountainbike United is addressed at mountain bikers, Schubert explains that the app is developed with a mind for all forest-goers, so everyone can coexist in the environment despite different speeds and interests.
“We want to help the environment and the different nature-goers coexist and get along. We do that by pointing mountain bikers towards places with official routes,” he says.
Even though anyone can find a great route for mountain biking in the forest, consideration for other nature-goers bars the possibility for this kind of user-generated content on Mountainbike United.
“We only put in officially approved and sanctioned routes, and in that way we direct bikers away from paths and areas where they might not be welcome. It happens often that mountain bikers aren’t quite as welcome if they blast through a highly trafficked walking route or through an area for walking dogs,” Schubert, who has always loved the terrain-going biking sport, explains.
On official and approved routes, other forest-goers need to expect that mountain bikes can suddenly appear, so they are cautious and keep away from active routes. The same is not true of other parts of the forest, which can lead to bad experiences and in the worst cases collisions. By guiding users to the approved routes, the app helps prevent the kind of conflicts that unorganised high-speed mountain bikers bring with them.
Interest in mountain biking has exploded in Denmark over the last five years according to the Danish Nature Agency, and especially during the corona crisis, the routes have seen increased activity. There are no exact figures, but it is estimated that around 300,000 Danes mountain bike more or less regularly. Of those, only 3% are organised into traditional clubs.
The app currently has 133,000 downloads, and Schubert estimates that around 60,000 of those constitute active users. The basic version app is free to download and use, while many features require a monthly subscription fee of 49 kroner (8 dollars).