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Last month we conducted a survey to find out where mountain bikers buy their gear, how they make purchase decisions, and how they maintain their rigs. It was an ambitious survey but nearly 1,500 of you took the time to share your thoughts!

Big Takeaways

With all the talk about how local bike shops are under assault from online and big box retailers, we were surprised to see just how esteemed the LBS remains in the eye of the mountain bike consumer. Consider these stats:

  • Half of all MTB gear purchases happen in a local shop.
  • 71% of respondents are on a first-name basis with a shop employee.
  • 58% shop regularly at the same shop, even when there are other shops in town.
  • 90% of consumers do online research before most purchases in a local bike shop. Compare that to just 45% who have EVER looked at gear at their LBS and bought online instead. [Based on this, it seems online retailers have a decent case for complaining about reverse showrooming.]
  • Bike shop employees are the most influential when it comes to MTB purchase decisions, beating out magazines and even online publications like Singletracks.

On average, mountain bikers spend $335.66 on service and $1,042.14 on MTB equipment each year. With roughly 4 million core mountain bike riders in the US, that’s a $6.4B market (and doesn’t include the other 3M+ “casual” MTB riders). On average, mountain bikers think an entry-level mountain bike should cost $1,259.31 or less while any bike priced above $3,455.56 is considered high-end.

We did some additional analysis on these dollar figures to see if there were differences in price sensitivity between various groups of riders. According to the data, beginning and experienced riders generally agree on the cost of high-end and entry-level bikes. However, if we compare riders based on income, the difference is more pronounced:

Below median income Above median income
Entry-level bike cost $1,174.74 $1,358.67
High-end bike cost $3,086.93 $3,732.70
$$ spent on MTB gear annually $804.93 $1,315.94
$$ spent on MTB service annually $256.18 $399.15

Limitations and caveats

Of course there’s no such thing as a perfect survey, and the biggest source of bias in this survey data is the uniform respondent demographic: namely, online users who follow Singletracks.

  • Clearly those who use social media and websites like Singletracks are more likely to be comfortable making MTB purchases online. This means the % of purchases made at the LBS and related stats are probably on the low side.
  • The influence of online review articles is probably overstated.
  • LBS support may be overstated since supporting one’s LBS is seen as the politically correct thing to do, even though the survey itself was conducted anonymously.

Your turn: what surprises you about this survey data?

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# Comments

  • Michael Paul

    Most of that is not surprising to me except:

    1. The percentage of patrons on a first name basis with an LBS employee. That seems exaggerated to me for some reason.

    2. The amount spent annually. A lot of people spend some serious cash on bikes and parts, but I feel that most spend in big chunks, then only replace a tire or broken part here or there.

    I also find it curious that demo days aren’t more decisive.

    The N is 1477, but do you have the power of the study and the confidence intervals for either the whole study, or the sum of its parts? It would be interesting to see how accurate it is.

    • Jeff Barber

      1. I agree. I bet if you carted many of the folks in the 71% to their LBS, no one there could actually identify them. 🙂

      2. It’s hard to know how people answered the question; this is, whether they included new bike purchases or just parts and accessories. My guess is there’s a mix of both so the # is higher than just parts and accessories but lower than what people spend if they spread out the cost of a new bike over the lifetime of the bike.

      3. Perhaps demo days are underrepresented because not everyone has attended one. Not everyone has access to demo days or is aware of them so many who claimed they were not influential may have simply never participated in one.

      Which data points are you concerned might not be accurate based on the # of responses? Does it really matter if 74% are actually on a first name basis with their LBS vs. 71%? 🙂 Most of these numbers won’t shift too much in either direction and we only included figures with reasonable confidence on the graphic. At the end of the day this is a pop-sci presentation, not necessarily a marketing report to be used for making business decisions.

  • Michael Paul

    Honestly, just pure academic curiosity. Just wondering how well 1500 people represent 4million + riders.

    PS. I loathe statistics 🙂

  • tygarber

    Surveyors should tap into the NICA league surveys. Even though these are juniors, demographics prove participants ranging from true entry level riders/racers to national/international racers. Stats would produce a much higher data set than the 1400 surveyed in this stat eval. And isn’t that the future of mtn biking anyway? Manufacturers, LBS and other retailers should be focusing on these juniors for long term sustainability in their marketplace!

    • Greg Heil

      This survey was open to EVERY mountain biker who wanted to respond… including high schoolers 😉

  • schwim

    I think I’m most shocked at the at their LBS being only 14% more expensive. At the 4 shops I’ve frequented, they have consistently doubled the price of anything I could purchase online. My brother found the same in his travels. Maybe those polled are just really bad at finding the best price online? Either that, or 100% of the bike shops within 1 1/2 hours of me haven’t gotten the memo.

    • C-Lo

      I totally agree.

    • jeff

      I can’t speak for everyone who answered this survey question but in my experience, the markup just depends on the item and the store. Some things might be 50% more in the store (tubes, for example) while other things–like name-brand apparel–are only slightly more expensive in store, if not the same price as online.

      On average peoples’ *impression* is the price is 14% higher but not all shops are the same and not all items are marked up the same amount.

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