Applying geomorphic principles in the design of mountain biking singletracks: Conceptual analysis and mathematical modeling

Ilan Stavi, Hezi Yizhaq

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Mountain biking, also known as singletracking, is an emerging sector in outdoor recreation activities. Experience shows that although bicycling is considered a low-impact activity, singletracking may have adverse environmental footprints. Here, we review and conceptually analyze the forces applied on singletracks, and implement mathematical modeling of these forces, for a range of climatic conditions and geographic settings. Specifically, we focus on the hydrological and geomorphic impacts of singletracking, and highlight the importance of applying geomorphic principles in their design. Also, we demonstrate specific measures for establishing singletracks on hillslopes and in ephemeral stream channels. We discuss how climate, topography, surface roughness, hydrological connectivity, and pedology determine the processes of water runoff and soil erosion on singletrack trails. Further, we demonstrate how riders’ behavior determines the rate of shearing, wearing, compaction, deformation, and rutting of the singletrack, as well as the expansion of physical damages to the track’s surroundings. These conditions and effects determine the durability of singletracks, with implications for maintenance requirements over time. The specific implications of the emerging sector of electric mountain bikes on singletrack durability are discussed. Insights of this paper will benefit landscape designers and land managers aiming to foster ecotourism and sustainable recreation opportunities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number442
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Biking velocity and acceleration
  • E-mountain bikes
  • Environmental planning and sustainability
  • Erodibility
  • Geo-ecosystem functioning
  • Gully erosion
  • Intrrill
  • Outdoor recreation
  • Rill
  • Shear stress
  • Water overland flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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