Cycling Mountain Bike


Discipline of Cycling
Participants 357
NOCs 52
Competitions held 14 (Venues)
Distinct events 2
IF Union Cycliste Internationale


In 1993, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved cross-country mountain biking as an Olympic event. Mountain biking is a cycling discipline taking part on specially equipped bicycles for off-road racing, including, as the name suggests, mountainous areas.

Off-road cycling has existed for ages, mostly in the form of cyclo-cross, which has never been an Olympic discipline. However, in the early 1970s, several individuals and groups in various parts of the United States started modifying their bicycles for off-road use. There was no uniformity, some taking inspiration from BMX, others making their own modifications. The first known race specific to mountain bikes was the so-called Repack Road, held on 21 October 1976, near Fairfax, California (USA). By the end of the decade, the first bicycles now recognizable as mountain bikes became commercially available. Around this time, the word “mountain bike” also first appeared (earlier names had included “klunker”). At first mostly a recreational activity, mountain biking also developed as a sport and quickly became popular in the traditional European cycling nations as well.

The first organization to stage national mountain biking competitions in the United States was the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA). The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) picked up on the popularity of the sport and started organizing UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships from 1990. A UCI Mountain Bike World Cup circuit was soon started. In 1996, the sport gained Olympic recognition, when cross-country was first held at the Atlanta Olympic Games.

Outside of the boundaries of organized sport, mountain biking remains a popular pastime, and touring by mountain bike is a popular activity in many countries. The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is an international non-profit organization that aims to make more and better trails available to recreational mountain bikers.

There are several different events in mountain biking. The most common one, and the only Olympic event, is the cross-country, held over several laps of a circuit or point-to-point. In the high-speed downhill event, riders go down a mountain slope navigating jumps and turns. The public-friendly four-cross pits four riders against each other on a challenging course. Other events include the team relay and, formerly, the dual slalom.

Mountain bikes are easily distinguished from normal racing bikes. The most notable differences are the fatter knobby tires, providing more off-road grip, and the straight, or flat, handlebars, making it easier to climb. Many mountain bikes also have suspensions in their forks to make riding on bumpy terrain more comfortable. Not all mountain bikes are identical: bicycles used for downhill events are different from those used in cross-country. There are very few UCI regulations specific to mountain bikes, as one of the only exceptions is that spiked tires are disallowed.

Mountain biking is dominated by France, with six medals and four golds, and by Switzerland, with 10 medals and two golds. Two Olympians have won two gold medals in this discipline: male French cyclist Julien Absalon and female Italian cyclist Paola Pezzo. Two other cyclists from different genders – Swiss Nino Schurter and German Sabine Spitz – have won three medals in mountain biking, each with a full set of medals.

Mountain biking is governed by the UCI, which was founded on 14 April 1900, in Paris, with five founding members: Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland and the United States. The UCI was established as an alternative to the International Cycling Association (ICA), which had been set up in 1892. In 1965, the IOC required the UCI to split into an amateur and a professional organization, the Fédération Internationale Amateur de Cyclisme (FIAC) and Fédération Internationale de Cyclisme Professionnel (FICP), respectively. In 1992, the FIAC and FICP rejoined to form the UCI. As of 2022, the UCI has 201 member nations.

All-time medal table

Olympic Games

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
France FRA 4 1 1 6
Switzerland SUI 2 5 3 10
Italy ITA 2 0 1 3
Germany GER 1 1 1 3
Czechia CZE 1 1 0 2
Netherlands NED 1 0 1 2
Great Britain GBR 1 0 0 1
Norway NOR 1 0 0 1
Sweden SWE 1 0 0 1
Canada CAN 0 2 1 3
Poland POL 0 2 0 2
Spain ESP 0 1 3 4
Belgium BEL 0 1 0 1
United States USA 0 0 2 2
Russian Federation RUS 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Olympic Games

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Paola Pezzo ITA 2 0 0 2
Julien Absalon FRA 2 0 0 2
Sabine Spitz GER 1 1 1 3
Nino Schurter SUI 1 1 1 3
Jaroslav Kulhavý CZE 1 1 0 2
Bart Brentjens NED 1 0 1 2
Miguel Martinez FRA 1 0 1 2
Gunn Rita Dahle-Flesjå NOR 1 0 0 1
Julie Bresset FRA 1 0 0 1
Jolanda Neff SUI 1 0 0 1
Jenny Rissveds SWE 1 0 0 1
Tom Pidcock GBR 1 0 0 1

Event types

Name Gender Still contested? Times held?
Cross-Country Men 7
Cross-Country Women 7