What is MTB Orienteering?

What is MTB Orienteering?

Mountain bike orienteering is just that – orienteering on a bike!

It is a navigational sport suitable for EVERYONE of all ages and abilities. Like foot orienteering, the idea is to navigate your way around a series of checkpoints (called ‘controls’ for those in the know!). This adventure is completed using a map and a compass on, you guessed it, a mountain bike! The aim is to visit controls in a set order, however you decide on your course! It’s just like XCO but you choose your own adventure. You can pick between riding over the hill, through the windy single track or along a longer but fast fire road. The map describes trails according to their difficulty (from Easy to Difficult) so you can ride according to your ability.

There are several courses available, typically ranging from 10 – 30km in length. From the elite to the weekend warrior to kids, there is a mountain bike orienteering adventure available to everyone.

What type of equipment do you need to join in the fun? Below is a list of items that will help you get you started.


  • mountain bike or decent hybrid bike
  • for ‘urban’ events – any bike will do!
  • helmet
  • water bottle or hydration pack
  • map (provided by the organisers)


Recommended equipment:

  • map board to attach the map to your bike (can be hired at events)
  • compass (can also be hired at events)
  • spare tyre, pump and other bike tools

For some riders it is the thrill of the challenge to ride against the clock as hard and as fast as their abilities will take them. For others it is the ‘give it a go’ event that is accessible to anyone who rides.  Some say, “MTBO harks back to the original ethos of riding natural trails on whatever bike you had to hand, just for the thrill of it.”

Add navigation into the mix and what you have is an adventure like no other. One of WA’s MTBO living legends opens up as to why he lives and breathes MTBO:

“I first came across MTBO after doing one of WA’s first Adventure Races (The X-Adventure Raid in Kalbarri, 2004) and it was the first time I’d ridden in a race involving mountain bikes, which also incorporated map reading. From there I was enthusiastic about finding other MTB races and did a couple of XC races before being introduced to MTBO the following year. I competed in a few races, eventually honing my riding and navigation skills before discovering world championships and eventually qualifying for the national team in 2012 to compete in Hungary.  From there I’ve not looked back but you don’t need to be a superstar to ride and enjoy races and our events attract a wide range of participants – from those who want to race fast to others looking to enjoy the experience and just ride through the bush.  Our season starts off with two urban based races in March and April before the bush season launches in May with a double header weekend at Pile Rd and Wellington Dam (near Collie). Each day will provide vastly different riding.”

Ricky Thackray, national team representative 2012, 2013 & 2016 (commenced mountain biking at age 27 so it’s never too late)

Tash Sparg explains why she loves MTBO:

“I was first introduced to MTBO by my partner and this was how I learned to read maps. I used to get lost driving around in the city but since I started MTBO I am now comfortable travelling anywhere! I love MTBO because I have a passion for being outdoors. Often I ride around with a camera and stop every now and then to take photos of the beautiful landscape I find myself in. I’ve seen amazing wildlife, beautiful flora and been surrounded by the best that WA has to offer! MTBO offers a great mix of adventure and getting fit while doing it. The people who do MTBO are a mix of novices to masters and yet everyone is so friendly and supportive of whatever level you are at.”

The WA state MTBO league is run under the banner of Orienteering Western Australia. Head to https://wa.orienteering.asn.au/events/event-calendar/mountain-bike-mtbo for more information on how to get into MTBO!

Photo Credit – Natasha Sparg


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