Having a mountain biking qualification demonstrates that your guide or coach is recognised as being competent. This should be important to you, but, more importantly, it also demonstrates it to insurance companies. That’s important for two reasons.

If you have a nasty wreck that’s not your fault, you’ll want your guide or instructor to be properly insured. To get that insurance, his (or her) insurer will want to know that he’s properly qualified for the job. A lot of guides are insured through British Cycling’s own scheme. Having an MBLA is an absolute must. But beware. As we said, the MBLA is a leadership, not an instructing qualification. If an MBLA holder causes an accident when guiding, that’s fine (at least from the insurance perspective). But if he was to cause an accident doing something that might been seen as instruction or coaching, that’s another matter. The British Cycling MBLA doesn’t cover instruction, so he’s not officially qualified to do it and the insurance may not pay out. So please, don’t be put off if your guide seems a little timid and won’t teach you how to do something. And, please, please, if you want an instructor look for someone with a BC coaching qualification.

Second, your guide’s or instructor’s insurance will cover his (or her) negligence. If you have an accident that was his fault, you can make a personal injury claim against him and his insurance should pay out. But if the accident was not his fault, tough; his insurance is not there to insure you. We really, seriously recommend you have your own adventure activity insurance.

Next, check exactly what your insurance covers. Particularly check it if you’re planning to ride in the Alps. A lot of adventure activity insurance policies grew out of winter sports insurance. Generally, ski insurance will only cover you when you’re on piste; off piste you must have a qualified guide. Adventure activity policies are increasingly the same, so check for limitations. It could well be that if you’re planning to ride above a certain height or certain distance from a road, you must be accompanied by a qualified guide. In France (in particular) that means French qualified. In Scotland we’re lucky, mountain rescue and helicopters are a free, but in most of Europe they’re not. Bad biking accidents are fortunately rare, but believe us, if you have one the last thing you’ll want is then to get the bill for a helicopter and hospital treatment only to find out that your insurance doesn’t cover it because you didn’t have a locally recognised guide. Please, check your insurance before you go.