MTB Trends: The Rise of 29ers and Long Travel Bikes

I admit it: I’m big mountain bike data geek. I want to know how many people ride a particular trail, what kind of bike they’re riding, and how often they ride it. And if you’re familiar with singletracks.com, you know we collect this data and display it on trail and gear pages for everyone to see. We even use these metrics to produce our best trail and best gear listsand over the years we’ve collected a ton of data from many of the 150,000 mountain bikers registered on the site.

Recently we decided to start mining that data to see what kinds of trends we could uncover for some slick mountain biking infographics. Our first order of business: determine what types of mountain bikes are trending up or down in 2012.

This chart above shows percentage ownership of various types of mountain bikes. For our purposes, full-suspension (FS) and hardtail (HT) bikes are generally of the XC-variety (4 inches of travel and under). The “Other” category includes mostly longer travel bikes (all mountain, downhill, freeride) but also includes hardtail dirt jumpers. The 29er category includes both full suspension and hardtail bikes. There is no overlap between categories (that is, a hardtail 29er will only show up in the 29er category and not the hardtail category too).

Reading the chart you can estimate the percentage of ownership by subtracting the difference between colored lines. For example, in 2011 FS bikes comprised about 30% of the bikes owned — 55% minus the 25% share for 29ers. Make sense?

Now for the analysis. Clearly 29ers are trending up in a big way, with just 5% of singletracks members owning a 29er in 2008 vs. 25% in 2011. But what is 29er growth coming at the expense of? Hardtails with 26-inch wheels, no big surprise. But take a look at the FS share in the red block. It looks like the FS share hit its peak in 2009 and lost ground in 2010 and 2011, perhaps due to more FS 29er choices on the market in the last two years. The “Other” gravity-type bikes are gaining ground too, though at least here on singletracks they aren’t a big part of the picture yet.

So what can we expect in the future?

Using the numbers from singletracks members’ wishlists, we see a similar trend, at least with respect to 29ers. Almost 25% of members wanted to buy a 29er in 2011 which should push the ownership percentages even higher in 2012. This isn’t a big surprise to me – the 29er trend still has a lot of steam, despite the far off predictions of a 650bresurgence in the market.

From this chart it’s also clear that 4-inch (and under) FS bikes aren’t as lust-worthy as they used to be. The FS wishlist share is trending downward while the longer travel share (AM, FR, DH) is growing. As such, I also expect to see long travel mountain bikes growing on the ownership side for the next several years,especiallyonce costs come down a bit.

Another way to look at this chart is to consider the mountain bike buyer’s timeline. In the first chart we see the share of HT mountain bikes is much higher than in the second. It stands to reason that a lot of people own HTs because that’s what they start out with (these bikes are generally less expensive) but for their second bike (the wishlist) they’re more likely to want a bike with some travel (either short or long).

Caveats

As you might expect, this data and analysis comes with a few caveats. While the data is from a very large set, it still only captures singletracks members who use the gear lists and it also assumes people are truthful in their gear list choices. Further, the analysis relies on the way the bikes have been categorized on singletracks which may not be 100% accurate.

So what do you think? Share your analysis in the comments and feel free to suggest other MTB trail and gear data you’d like to see crunched!

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