Get Out There

Mountain-biking academic makes waves with thesis project

Ted Morton’s project looks at the wider impact of a growing sport 

Ted Morton is a long time leader of the local biking scene. Photo supplied

A fixture of Kamloops’ mountain biking scene is looking into the unintended impacts of mountain biking as part of his graduate studies — and it appears there is major interest in what he’s studying. 

Ted Morton, who owns and operates the Canadian Enduro Series, was recently awarded a $1,000 prize after winning Thompson Rivers University’s (TRU) virtual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. 

The competition gives students three minutes to explain the significance of their research to a non-specialist audience, giving the researchers an opportunity to practice their public speaking skills and communicate their ideas to a wide audience. 

Morton’s presentation raised some difficult questions about the impact of the sport, both on the landscape and affected communities and stakeholders. 

Morton, who’s now a second year Masters of Science student under the supervision of Dr. Courtney Mason, said there is little in the way of scholarship that looks at how land-use policy is influenced by mountain bikers and recreationalists at large. 

According to Morton, impacts include negative interactions between hikers and bikers, pressure on land owners or park management, and the displacement of other user groups.  

And then, of course, there is the environmental cost. 

“Once you build a trail, that trail exists, and you put a new use on the land,” he explained, pointing to erosion as being one problematic outcome. 

Over the years, unsanctioned trails have led to major tensions between bikers and landowners in many areas in B.C.  

Morton said while such building still happens, there is is a wide recognition that it’s not the way to go.

“I think it still happens, for sure,” he said. “But the stakes are now much larger;  mountain biking is much more public now. And when people are [unsanctioned] trail building, they’re really risking a lot for the mountain bike community….We have a lot to lose.”  

Reflecting on the competition, Morton said it provided a wonderful way to share a topic he is truly passionate about. 

It was a way for him to learn how to present the issue in a way that makes it relevant to anyone, not just mountain bikers.

After competing in TRU’s competition, Morton advanced to the Western regional competition, which was hosted on September 23 by the University of Alberta. He did not advance from there. 

You can watch Morton’s piece here: