Mountain biking injuries up 141%

Accident Compensation Corporation claims for mountain biking injuries in the Queenstown Lakes District have increased 141% in the past five years, reflecting the sport's rapid rise in popularity.

The organisation received 598 claims last year, up from 248 claims in 2009. The cost of those claims has nearly tripled, up from $352,301 in 2009 to nearly $1 million last year.

St John Central Otago/Southland Lakes territory manager Kelvin Perriman said most people were playing by the rules and wore approved safety equipment.

However, accidents happened and a rise in injuries reflected the increased popularity of mountain biking as a sport.

''It's certainly a noticeable part of our summer workload.''

Queenstown Mountain Bike Club (QMBC) committee member Fraser Gordon said the sport had ''exploded'' in popularity in the past five years.

The club had 780 members, up from about 100 when he joined in 2008, and was targeting 1000 by the end of the season.

The typical member was a male or female aged between 25 and 40.

''They are people who are settled here, have a bit more income, and are more on to it in terms of the community and volunteer side of the club.''

The biggest boost to the sport had come in 2011, when Skyline Enterprises opened up gondola access for riders to the Queenstown Bike Park, Mr Gordon said.

Since then, Queenstown had become a ''premier mountain biking destination'' with a range of trails and facilities to suit most riders, including the Queenstown Trail, the Gorge Road Jump Park and remote back-country routes through areas such as Moke Lake, Skippers Canyon and Macetown.

A supporting infrastructure of businesses had emerged to cater for the market, which he expected to ''steadily grow''.

Mr Perriman said St John had a good relationship with Skyline - which runs the gondola-accessed Queenstown Bike Park - and the company sometimes provided staff to help with incidents.

He also praised QMBC for its trail work.

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