Bicycling is the second most popular outdoor activity in the United States. (Outdoor Foundation, 2010) But, it’s hard to say what portion of that population is out there on mountain bikes. Kyle Rozer asked August’s question of the month when he wondered out-loud if mountain biking is ever going to regain the popularity it enjoyed in the early 90′s and what we can do to increase recognition for our sport. Congratulations on winning a set of SRAM Grip Shift and 2×10 cassette! Here is Kyle’s question and my answer:
Q: So we all know about the mountain biking boom in the 90′s when the sport really took off and racing was getting tons of press. Do you think the Mountain Bike racing scene will ever get back to that level of press and hype? As an avid mtn biker racer I love the sport, it just seems all the popular press is given to the road and even the big time talents migrate to road for big contracts for example: Cadel Evans, Peter Sagan, Lars Boom. Just want to get your thoughts on how we can take our sport to the next level. - K. Rozek
A: Well, as you said, money talks. Athletes are drawn to bigger paying road contracts, sponsors support road because of the advertising dollars and TV coverage, media goes there because they are paid to cover these events, so it’s all a cycle that follows the money.
This 2005 Demographics of Mountain Biking study on the IMBA site shows MTB participation holding steady at around 40 million participants. Road cycling is double the participation numbers and growing a bit faster than MTB. Sponsors, media, manufacturers put more energy where the participation and money are. This is not to say that since this 2005 study, mountain biking has not grown or that the industry does not support dirt riders. The boom of the 90’s was an awesome kick start to our sport. It was flashy and glamorous. Now, more than 25 years into our sport, we are in a position to look at how it can grow in a more sustainable way. Even if the media is not blowing up the sport and athletes are not making super star wages, participation numbers are growing. Organizations like NICA and IMBA have launched and are proof that the sport is growing.
How can we take the sport we love to the next level? Be part of the solution! It takes individuals to start a revolution. Invovlement can take many forms and once the snowball starts gaining momentum, it’ll be hard to stop.
Here are ways to spread the joy of mountain biking and grow our community:
1. Join IMBA at the national level and local level. If you don’t have an IMBA club or chapter near you, start one.
2. Take part in local shop rides, take a kid riding, coach for your local team, volunteer for a MTB race…just be involved to help grow the community.
3. Go to your local city council meetings or the National Bike Summit in DC to talk to the decision makers about recreational trail support, recreation economy, and how important mountain biking is to you and your community.
4. Be vocal with the local and national media about the kids of articles you want to see and will support. They do listen, but only if we speak up.
6. Tweet and talk about your MTB heroes to generate exposure and awareness for these amazing athletes. They are the ones racing for the love of the sport and not the paycheck, although they wouldn’t mind a bigger paycheck.
7. Tell your shop and MTB manufacturers your opinion about product, athletes, marketing. Again, they do listen if you take the time to say something.
8. Go riding and take your friends with you!!