Mountain Biking the Key to Engaging At-Risk Youth: Case Study

A two-part, Midland Mountain biking pilot program, held between Midland and Kalamunda lasting a duration of six weeks, delivered invaluable skills to atrisk youth 

The program was a Bike Rescue maintenance and bike rebuild program run by Dismantle at Swan City Youth Service (SCYC) and a mountain biking skills session at Rock ‘n’ Roll Mountain Biking.  

Program outcomes 

The program had been developed to engage at-risk young people and promote recreational activity and development of pro-social skills. The program has been successful in:

  • fostering an increased sense of belonging and acceptance for at-risk  young people into the community 
  • substantial benefits in increased community involvement 
  • sense of achievement, confidence, and self-belief.  
  • experiencing the risks that come with mountain biking, improved resilience for many of those involved. 



“One female participant had never ridden a mountain bike before. On her first day she toppled several times. For the next five weeks her experience was falling off, getting up, and going again, her perseverance earning the respect and admiration of her instructors. By her account, it was the one-on-one mentoring by staff that helped her tackle the challenge of mountain biking and build resilience. The Rock ‘n’ Roll coach describes:   

“Tears, breakdowns, I can’t, I won’t, and I thought I would potentially not see her again… When she walked around the corner [week 1], my jaw dropped.”  

“Today – huge difference in her. I don’t think I even heard the word I can’t, she just did. Where she had her really big stack, I said we’ve got two options – we can go back, or we can go and she’s like, ‘No. Let’s go.’”  

The positive experience also makes her want to keep riding. She’s interested in hiring a bike for now, or finding a similar program to join to continue on this journey.” 

All round benefits  

Attendance rates in the program increased noticeably and were backed up by participant’s survey responses giving 100% recommendation to friends and family. Post-survey responses reflected reasons for partaking in the course with 100% indicating it was to try something new, 94% to develop new skills and 86% to “feel better about myself”. Mountain biking fills a niche for people who cannot participate in, or do not like, organised team sports.  

The flexible structure of this program was a particularly important feature in retaining young people who often had complex lives.  

Positive review of participants indicated a desire to continue with the sport after the program had ended, as seen in examples given by two female participants:

“The program makes me more motivated to try mountain biking as a leisure activity.” Female participant, aged 25.

“Yes, would love to continue biking and find similar programs.” Female participant, aged 25.

Mountain biking was able to provide these young people  with much needed physical activity, life skills and connection to others.