What is MTB Orienteering

Orienteering on a mountain bike. A real adventure!


Mountain Bike Orienteering or MTBO is the adventure sport that combines mountain biking with navigation skills. This sport is also known as Bike Orienteering. MTBO challenges you to navigate through a series of control points, usually marked on a map, while riding a mountain bike as fast as you can.

Events take place in a wide range of terrains. From dense forests and mountain trails to open fields and urban areas. The variety of terrain makes the sport appeal to a wide range of riders.

Like orienteering you use a detailed topographical map to navigate to control points. The maps shows different types of terrain, such as forests, tracks, and open areas.

You use navigation skills to work out the best route between control points. The ability to make quick decisions about route choice is the challenge. Things like distance, track quality, terrain, and elevation changes have to be considered. You can use a compass to help with direction.


In mountain bike orienteering in Australia there are five formats: long distance, middle distance, sprint distance, mass start and score. In each format there are always a range of courses that have different levels of navigation challenge when riding. Which route will be the best to get from one control point to the next. Which map information to read to get from one control point to the next.

Long Distance

  • Long-distance MTBO courses are designed to test endurance and navigation skills.
  • Participants cover a considerable distance and face a variety of terrain.
  • These races can last several hours, and navigation becomes critical over the extended duration.

Middle Distance

  • This course type is a middle ground between sprints and long-distance races.
  • It requires a balance of speed, navigation, and endurance.
  • The length is usually moderate compared to sprints and long-distance events.

Sprint Distance

  • Sprint courses are typically shorter and more intense.
  • They emphasize quick decision-making and fast-paced riding.
  • Control points are close together, and the focus is on speed and agility.

Mass Start

A mass start course is a variation where all riders start together at the same time. Unlike staggered or interval starts where participants begin individually or in small groups, a mass start involves the entire class or the entire field of competitors starting simultaneously.


In the Score format, riders have a set time limit to visit as many control points as possible. Each control point being worth a certain number of points. Riders must plan their route to maximize their point total within the course time limit. Planning, navigation and riding speed are the key.


You don’t need a massive amount of gear to go mountain bike orienteering.

  • Bring a mountain bike designed for off-road terrain. A durable frame, knobby tires, and multiple gears will help handle a variety of terrains.
  • Helmet (compulsory)
  • A spare tube or other accessories in case you break something.
  • Clothing and shoes suitable for riding.
  • A watch to keep track of time.
  • GPS device with map disabled is a good option to review where you went.
  • A board to hold you map can be a good idea. This is usually attached to your bike’s forks.
  • A compass can be good to help with checking your direction while on a course. Note event organisers often have compasses you can borrow or hire if you don’t have one.
  • Bring a water bottle for post event hydration or to take on an extra long course on a hot day.

Almost all mountain bike orienteering events use a special Sportident card (“stick”) to check the control points you go to and record your time. These flash and beep when you get close to a control point, so you don’t have to stop riding to record your passing of a control point.  Don’t worry if you don’t have one, as at events that use Sportident you can either borrow or hire a stick.


So now you know more about mountain bike orienteering it’s time to give it a go. Bring some mates, your family or go by yourself, everyone is welcome!


Your first start point is to visit the events page of each of our member associations.

Australian Capital Territory 

New South Wales 


South Australia and Northern Territory 



Western Australia 

You can also go to our Eventor page. Eventor is the Orienteering Australia events, results and membership portal that lists all orienteering events across Australia.

Mountain Bike Orienteering competitor in action image
Masters mountain bike orienteer competitor competing on a course. Note the use of a special map board to hold the course map. Get one of these once you get keen. Photo: Peter Cusworth.