What is it?
Orienteering is, in three words, sporty map reading. There are objectives called controls marked on a map and you have to discover where they are and get to them as fast as possible. There are a number of different types of orienteering, such as the most common foot orienteering, where people simply walk from control to control, all the way to ski orienteering and, most importantly in this case, mountain bike orienteering.
Mountain bike orienteering differs from the standard foot orienteering in a few ways. Because mountain bikes are involved, it means that bikers are far more likely to keep to set paths or trails, as even with off-road capabilities, the bikes are far easier to ride on a path. Secondly, mountain bike orienteering trails are far longer than foot trails. Because of this, the maps for these trails are of a larger area and are therefore less detailed.
What do I need?
Orienteering on a mountain bike would probably need the following:
- Mountain bike. Self-explanatory.
- Map holder. This attaches the map to the bike’s handlebars allowing the map to be easily read on-the-go.
- This is to help read the map. Although you could possibly use the position of the sun, a compass is more accurate, faster to read, and isn’t affected by clouds. Many mountain bike orienteering groups do not allow GPS equipment, such as on a Smartphone, especially in competitive orienteering.
Where can I do it?
Orienteering first began in Sweden and was used by the military, whilst the first non-military competition was held in Finland. Mountain bike orienteering is most prevalent in Europe and especially Scandinavia, though it is very popular in Australia as well.
In the UK, although there are a number of local orienteering groups, there are fewer specifically for mountain bike orienteering. However, there is the BMBO, which is the British organisation for mountain bike orienteering, and which organises a number of specific events and competitions.
At a competitive level, the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships are the main event. Held every year since 2002, they are usually in the summer and have all so far, with one exception, been located somewhere in Europe. The Championships consist of four event programmes – a long distance trail, a medium distance track, a sprint, and a relay. All of these events are split into separate categories for men and women.
The most successful national team is Finland; they have won both the men’s and women’s relay more times than any other country, and have only failed to place in the medals six times in over twenty-five relays.
The most successful individual worldwide is Finnish Mika Tervala, who has won ten gold world championship medals across all four of the men’s events, as well as two silvers and two bronzes. The second highest number of gold medals goes to Ruslan Gritsan from Russia, who has won seven. Gritsan has won six silver medals and four bronzes, which makes his total medal count higher than that of Tervala.