Enduro World Series racer turned YouTuber Scotty Laughland has traveled the world mountain biking, from British Columbia to Jamaica, but world events in recent years kept him closer to home than anticipated.
Born out of a fresh perspective on his local trails after the birth of his first child, Scotty set about sharing the gems he’s enjoyed over the years – as well as some thoughts on sustainable mountain biking development, the role of trail associations and how we can support these valuable networks.
“I spent last summer touring around my home country of Scotland, producing a six-episode video series that highlights the best trails from Aberdeenshire, Perthshire, the Cairngorms, Lochaber, the North Highlands and the Tweed Valley.
Although the project was born out of being locked down and unable to travel, it became a beautiful discovery of amazing varied trails across Scotland. Trails that were right on my doorstep all along. A sort of homecoming, if you like.
You’ve got the Borders which have heavily forested, hand-cut tracks and Perthshire which is steeper and rockier. Then, as you get further north, it just gets even rockier as you head into the vast, rugged mountains of the Highlands.
The aim of the project was to showcase the trails I’d found over the last four years of riding here, from developing bike parks to natural singletrack networks and the new kinds of tracks I’d been exploring over the past couple of years; the bigger mountain epics.
At the same time, the arrival of my daughter Izzy led me through this transition phase where I became much more aware of the sustainability aspect of what we do, and what mountain biking is doing, the alarming rate at which we’re consuming things and how we can strive to be more sustainable.
I wanted to not only showcase these trails for today’s riders, but share ideas on how we can make these trails truly sustainable so they’ll still be there for her, and for generations to come.
The dedication and passion of the people who build and look after the trails in Scotland is really central to mountain biking’s success here. Of course we’re helped by great access laws which allow us mountain bikers to use all the walking paths and hill paths to string all these ace trails together. But it all takes management and credit where due.
The Scottish Trail Association Philosophy
The establishment of local trail associations provides a vital, positive link between riders, dig crews and landowners. These landowners are beginning to understand that mountain biking is really helping to build on these local communities, growing local economies.
I think for these stakeholders to be able to talk directly to a group of people who are there to help grow mountain biking in the right direction is massively important to help these trails develop sustainably.
The most crucial point that a lot of people miss is that we need this communication between the trail associations and landowners so that the trails can be authorized and accepted by the local community, and that’s only going to bring more mountain bikers.
We’re really lucky to have Developing Mountain Biking In Scotland (DMBinS) playing a really central part in guiding these local trail associations, supplying them with insurance and also working at Government level to help deliver the wider Scottish Mountain Bike Strategy.
One of the hardest parts of the project was not only figuring out how to go about producing it sustainably, but to ensure that the actions we took led to the best possible impact.
The more I delved into researching options, the more I honed in on what would be most beneficial here. I wanted not only to plant trees to offset the vehicle emissions from traveling between trails, but also to make sure these were native, deciduous trees, planted here in Scotland. Turns out not all carbon-offsetting trees cost the same, and Scottish ones are particularly pricey!
Trees For Life own multiple sites across the Scottish Highlands that they’re rewilding, improving these local ecosystems by restoring the Caledonian Forest that once covered much of Scotland.
We calculated the total mileage from filming the series across the six areas in Scotland, lift sharing where possible. Factoring in the emission rate of my VW Transporter, we worked out that to offset these emissions, we’d need to plant 81 trees through Trees For Life.
What’s more, is that through my ‘Grove’ on the site, people that enjoyed the videos, or the trails that they’d been inspired to ride, were also able to donate trees, notching up the number of trees planted to 98.
In addition to offsetting the travel emissions, we donated the YouTube ad revenue, split between the trail associations featured in the series and Trees For Life. Plus making sure we supported local businesses from guesthouses to cafes along our trip, which as you can imagine was hard work!
I wanted to make sure we included a few key messages in the video series about how we enjoy these singletracks responsibly too. We need to encourage riders not to stray off the edges of tracks which causes erosion, widening the trails. These remote mountain paths need to stay remote and small, not growing scars on the landscape. Does ‘shred lightly’ sound familiar?
In terms of giving back a little when you ride, I think if you remember that a dig day can cost around £250-400 by the time you pay insurance, so even if you donated £3 (which is the price of a flat white), that has an impact on the network being able to further develop and maintain those trails.
What’s been so cool about the video series is that I’ve had so many people messaging me, saying they’re planning a week-long trip in Scotland as a result. If you feel a Scottish road trip coming on and would like to find out more about the trails and rides mentioned here, check out my YouTube Playlist for the full Scotty’s Scotland Showcase.”
This article is part of a sponsored partnership with Komoot. We’ll always disclose when content is sponsored to ensure our journalistic integrity. Written by Scotty Laughland and edited by Katherine Moore. Photography courtesy of Johny Cook