What would you say is the average age of mountain bikers these days? Based on my observations at the local trails I’d say it’s about 30-35 and doesn’t seem to be getting any younger. Our own surveys show the average singletracks rider is 36, though I suspect the actual average may be just a bit lower. Regardless, getting young riders in the saddle and growing the sport is tough and I suspect one reason is that mountain biking just ain’t cool anymore. Without new riders mountain biking might as well be dead.
Why isn’t mountain biking cool anymore? A few thoughts:
- MTB takes skill and stamina: To be good at mountain biking you gotta be in shape. That means less Xbox, more time in the saddle (uncool).
- Mountain bikes are expensive: Many current trends have their roots in urban culture and kids in the city can’t afford mountain bikes. Instead they take up basketball or skateboarding and the suburban kids end up following.
- Mountain biking is location based: Most young people don’t live near mountain bike trails and it’s tough to get out to the trailhead without a car. By the time kids do have cars, mountain biking is the last thing on their minds Skateboarding and BMX, on the other hand, can be done in your own driveway or street.
- Who is Tony Hawk: Lance was cool but he was a roadie plus he didn’t have too many daredevil moves for the cameras. No mountain bike “rock stars” makes us lame and obscure.
- We’re all getting old: A lot of us got into mountain biking in the 1990s when manufacturers were just starting to put front suspension on bikes. Since that time we’ve aged and today it’s just as common to see dads riding with their kids as it is to see hip 20-somethings shredding the trails. If your parents do it (did it) then it must not be cool.
- MTB is no longer extreme: In the early days riding fast on dirt through trees was an extreme sport. The bar has been raised since then and today things like mountain boarding and kite surfing seem much more exciting to the younger generation.
- Mountain bike clothes are (were) lame: Spandex isn’t hip with the younger set and fortunately we’re moving away from it on the trail, though much of the damage to our rep is already done.
- Mountain bikers are no longer “bad boys”: We used to be rebellious rule breakers, but now, for the most part, land managers are happy to accommodate MTB trails whenever possible. We’re also responsible enough to wear helmets most of the time
Of course mountain biking spinoffs like freeriding and urban riding are attracting young, new riders but the industry as a whole continues to slide. Downhill races are becoming more popular and in many ways mountain bike tricks are on par with motocross. Could this be where mountain biking is heading? What can we do to change our image? I’ll think about some ideas and share them in an upcoming post. In the meantime, be cool…