Why build mountain bike trails? An exploratory mixed-methods study of volunteer motives in Danish MTB-trail building

Jan Arvidsen, Mathilde Skov Kristensen, Evald Bundgaard Iversen


Year: 2023

Publisher: Journal of Outdoor Recreation & Tourism




The trend toward more volunteers getting involved in mountain bike trail building and maintenance in Denmark is strong and clear. Less clear is our understanding of the motives of those who volunteer to develop, maintain, restore, and manage this important part of the outdoor recreation infrastructure. Motives reflect the volunteers’ reasons to participate, and such insights are vital for managing volunteer recruitment and retention. An exploratory sequential mixed-methods design, comprising qualitative interviews (N = 23) and an electronic survey (N = 354) with two separate samples of mountain bike trail building volunteers, was deployed aiming to 1) identify key motives in volunteering, 2) determine how important different key motives are, and 3) investigate how roles in volunteering predict motives for volunteering. Results show that MTB trail builders were predominantly middle-aged men with a medium to long-term higher education or vocational training as educational background. Further, top five motives for volunteering in trail building were to 1) contribute to the local MTB-trail yourself, 2) provide opportunity for positive MTB-experiences for other riders, 3) get MTB-trails close to home, 4) support the voluntary work on the MTB-trails, and 5) contribute to the making of MTB-trails at all levels. A key finding is that even though both instrumental, social, and altruistic reasons for volunteering were identified, four out the five most prevalent and import motives were altruistic. Moreover, results showed that differences in motives exist across volunteer roles but only to a limited extent. Public servants should consider volunteers’ motives to cater for volunteer commitment and satisfaction.


Management implications

  • Emphasizing altruistic benefits – in combination with instrumental and social gains – of volunteering in MTB trail building may be viable strategy in recruiting and retaining volunteers.
  • Tailored approaches that aim to satisfy specific motives of volunteers that take on different roles or with various demographic and experiential backgrounds should also be considered, although MTB trail volunteers is a rather homogeneous group.