How to Grow the Sport of Mountain Biking
Just my humble opinion on the subject. I assume as riders we want more mountain bikers because we will have more clout in keeping trails open and opening new ones. The industry will sell more bikes, equipment and gear. Towns will increase revenue as the cater to the growing number of mountain bikers. People will become more fit because they have a passion to train and ride, which they can do almost anywhere.
Currently - the sport of mtbiking is divided into different segments. The largest is probably cross country style riding and racing. At the other end of the spectrum is downhill. And, in between there are several sub segments such as bmx, dirt jumps, bike trials etc.
The largest segment seems to appeal well to endurance type athletes and also those that want to use the sport for what endurance training offers - get fit, lose weight, overcome a tough challenge etc. The other end, downhill, bmx etc., appeals more the the extreme sport crowd. These segments have high injury rates, that's part of the reason why they are considered extreme.
There is a very large segment of the population kind of in the middle. They aren't big endurance athletes and they don't want to take big injury risks. But, they want to do outdoor sports, be in nature and have fun, while getting some exercise. I think a good analogy is the downhill skiing and it's popularity among the outdoor sports masses. It's a blast and it pays to be in shape to do it. But, you don't have to be among those in the best shape to really enjoy it.
To a large percentage of people, cross country mountain biking is seen more as getting exercise, more than having fun. Especially if you compare it to sports like downhill skiing. For this large group in the middle I think a new approach is needed in terms of goals, phrasing and offerings. This is key. If you talk and market to them as endurance athletes, you will turn a lot of them away. They might have tried a triathlon or a mountain biking trip. But they are really turned on by a ski trip, a snorkeling trip or something they consider "really fun". It's a mistake I see people in the mountain bike industry make - they appeal more to the endurance side, or in rare cases the extreme side. I'm not talking about selling hybrids to the bike path crowd here. I'm saying there is a whole new way to look at the sport as a low injury adrenaline sport - more downhill than up.
Part of the answer is already being built - fast rolling, roller coaster style single track. Also, I believe the Super D format of racing and riding is part of reaching this group. 3 - 1 ratio of downhill vs. uphill terrain. Also, I suggest course design which might include a forest road to go uphill efficiently, but has miles of rolling, turning singletrack coming back down the ridge of the mountain. And continued uses of lifts and shuttles. We need more of this stuff and we need different marketing messages to those people that will most enjoy them.
For decades, I only looked at mountain biking as exercise, and a "sufferfest" form at that. I just used it as training for other more adrenaline sports that I considered much more fun. Just recently, I've started riding again. Now with a new mindset. I love this new fast rolling single track. I can just go uphill at my own pace, taking in the scenery. Then bomb down the hills, savoring the turns. I love that feeling of standing up on the pedals in a balanced attack position, using gravity, momentum to smoothly flick through the turns. I feel like I've sliced through the hills like butter. I end with a huge grin, just like a great ski run.
My other adrenaline sports buddies from various sports don't believe me when I tell them how much fun I'm having mtbiking. But, they've never experienced these modern trails in this way. I will convert a few soon.
Last edited by mm9; 03-29-2011 at 12:43 PM.
If mountain biking grows, particularly in the extreme/DH/Freeride demographic, it'll only lead to more user conflicts and closed trails- unless that group is mostly confined to ski areas.
I don't think it will ever grow due to the fact that it is too much work for most people. Even the OP used to think of mtb as a sufferfest. Add to that the cost of a worthy bike, and you have a pretty stagnet population, which is fine by me.
The problems I see with the sport now are the same ones that happened to windsurfing- too much focus on the "extreme" end of things and too much focus on having the latest and greatest ($$$$) gear. The magazines are largely at fault for this- how many "family outings" do you see in the bike mags, and how many sub-$1000 comparisons do you see? Pretty much none. Windsurfing killed itself by continuously showing high-wind and big wave coverage, along with really expensive gear (to the point you would be snubbed on the beach if you happened to show up with last year's gear), and as a sport has been struggling to bring back the simple enjoyment of just playing in the water, regardless of low wind conditions, which is what most people have access to. Also, many trails are so rough that if you don't have a pretty decent bike, it can be pretty hard on the body. Just like ski areas, there should be multiple trails of varying difficulty that all lead back to the same place.
I'm not suggesting growing the extreme segment. I'm suggesting that the meat of the market is in a segment that might be called downhill crosscountry (kind of like super D). And/or fast rolling singletrack, without a tremendous amount of climbing.
Originally Posted by @dam
I think this is the current "endurance oriented" model of thinking regarding the sport. Remember back during the origins of the sport when Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly and friends were bombing down Repack rd. The fun was going down a long downhill run with fat tires which offered better traction than other bikes at the time. Our emphasis today is all about getting in better shape, dealing with the pain, suffering the longest etc. Or the wild and dangerious Freeride side. I like that side, but it's too dangerous for my tastes. Lately, I've found that riding can just be fun!!! When you ride to have fun, it's amazing how much you look forard to it.
Originally Posted by Guy Cool
Originally Posted by mm9
You mean racing for lazy people. Whats wrong with what we already have? If you want to grow the sport, get promoters to lower fee's to race.
It's hard to say because when it comes to MTB the ratio of climb and descend would be about 3:1 or 4:1 because of the descending speed.
I think the easier way to grow the sport is to produce more smaller neighborhood parks, short hill would be good.
small basic skill area like steps, 18"ledge, some berm corner, flat corner switch backs, a few steep loose climbs.
nice slightly grade loop. Total up to about a mile.
Then people can come out with their whatever bike and run 2-10 laps depending on the time they have. It would be a good way to get the feet wet with the sports 10 of these would be better than one big multi-use trail. I would imagine it would be easier to get permit and build as well as it would pretty much be street-side.
More riders we added to the sport then more voice we'd have it would ultimately be easier to get more trails built or keep existing ones open.
Well, unless you take a shuttle or lift, you'll have to climb just as many vertical feet as you descend. (IMO, it's more interesting to climb on singletrack than a boring dirt road). If people are shutteling on multi-use trails, they'll bring big bikes and it's prime for conflict.
Originally Posted by mm9
Yeah- swoopy flowy trails are fun. If you got 'em ride 'em You kind of have to ride whatever the trails around you are like though. I don't know that many people who ride to suffer- most of them do it for fun, even if it involves a bit of suffering here or there.
"Phil's Wold" in Cortez CO might be a good example though of flowy trails like that, built specifically for bikes (no hikers, can only go in one direction). Very fun, but it's a big effort to build something like that. Also, there's still just as much up as down. No way around that without a chairlift or shuttle.
Cycling in general is not going to be a growth sport for two reasons. Women don't like to get hot and sweaty and playing in traffic is dangerous with people talking on cell phones.
As for Mountain Biking, I can remeber when it was a novality to meet another mountain biker on the trail because their was so few of us. Personally I would very much okay if mountain biking went back to the few and elite and we were just left with the purists of the sport.
Yeah, I know it's kind of an oxymoron, but I'd rather see MORE trails and LESS riders.
Originally Posted by arkon11
The appeal of a bike is the freedom to roam and explore. Think about your life as a child, having a bike was probably liberating. You could get around the neighborhood, maybe explore new areas. You could cover a greater distance riding than you ever could while walking. The sport would need to capitalize on the feeling one gets from riding. That means dirt bike paths through forested areas, preferably with curves and maybe a bit of elevation change.
From there, one would need more "blue runs." These are more challenging trails, with longer climbs, more downhill, and some technical features, such as rocks, logs, small jumps(18") or less. Those trails would entertain most of the mountain biking community. They should be challenging, but safe enough to allow beginner riders to build their confidence.
Mountain biking hasn't gone this way at all. Even the endurance/xc crowd is pushing more for technical/downhill/trials type riding. You see it all over in pictures on this board. Banked turns, wood rollers, riding logs, climbing down boulders, etc. Trails that were once considered the best XC trails are now looked at as being simple dirt paths, not worth riding. In some places, these trails have disappeared, Trails are rerouted not only to bypass tough features, but the experienced crowd is creating new tracks to make these trails more difficult, which is frowned upon in many areas. Then it turns into a blame game and people WITHIN the community begin arguing with one another.
I understand that there are conflicts over trails in several areas, but if one really wants to grow the sports, shouldn't the MTB community be building trails to suit a multitude of users? What would be wrong with creating a bypass for the hard stuff and a separate line for the technical? I am sure that would anger a lot of the gnar crowd who prefer to keep the biking places to themselves. However, it would grow the sport and eventually mean more access for bikers the way there is for hikers. There are places like this out there and they should serve as a model for future trail access, instead of people advocating for trails that only suit their personal style of riding.
I have to agree with this poster. Many people do not want to get up early in the morning in the summer and go out for a ride when it's cool. They think I'm insane to go out between 90-102 degree heat with high humidity.
Originally Posted by Guy Cool
I think the key to making this sport grow is to make an easy trial system around city parks that have multiple entrances and exits that can be ridden on almost any bike. They can choose to ride as long or short as they want, the trails would be mostly smooth, but flowing so more advanced riders could enjoy it, and build this on an area with rolling hills.
The more advanced riders could ride fast and the hills and make more advanced loops off the main trail. Everyone else could ride the main trail, get some exercise, and exit the loop whenever they're tired.
There is not much choice between rotten apples.
Always thought of mtbing as fun. Road riding sometimes more for exercise than fun but still fun. Zooming the downside of the mountain on a roadbike doin 45+, Yahoo, but Hmmm....an interesting twist on a thread. Think that what's popular is more a sign of the times and mostly what the younger crowd spin into trend like, bmx, skateboards, snowboards, now it's pump tracks ss and fixies. When mtbing took off in the 90's was 1 of those times. Something different, fun. Once it had a chance to be more main stream the price of mtbs soared and the people who road them became more segregated because of that. Like road bikes it became more about googling over the lightest, latest and greatest, and less about cool, your bike's fixed, let's go have some fun. The xc crowd, the am crowd, dh, fr you get the point.
In many areas the mtbing population would surely grow if there was more, better places to ride. That would take planning and interest so unless it falls back into style in a big way, or it magically becomes profitable to build riding areas, it's kind of a catch 22.
Last edited by theMeat; 03-29-2011 at 07:37 PM.
"Tortured by mental illness" ~monogod
the sport has grown leaps and bounds guys. it has moments when XC is popular, then DH, then DH dies and FR comes in. then the dirt roadies in lycra come back.
Compare MTB to 1991 or even 2001, its getting vastly more popular
I have never been one to promote the idea that mountain biking beginners should start on dirt. I have started hundreds of riders but always start them on the pave to build stamina shifting and breaking knowledge, a sense of preparation, sense of hydration and nutrition, proper clothing and safe practices.
In our East Bay locale the next step, that of getting on dirt, is always a challenge because the grades are immediately so steep. Getting people passed that takes 100 hours of rehearsal to build the body and the mental attitudes needed to deal with that. In addition climbs right out-of-the-box mean that steep downs occur for riders of very limited skills.
What I'm hearing in this thread is that certain kinds of trails should be more available and I can only agree. Yet as a longtime trails advocate I have to say, sure but how will we make these trails come about? I don't know if there is some sense in mountain bikers that they should just have trails provided for them like we have roads them schools and hospitals provided for us. Or that they just magically occur or we simply take over trails that horses and hikers used to dominate?
Yet they have to come from somewhere and somebody. By and large I see the same faces over and over at trails advocacy meetings, trails building and maintenance sessions, manning information booths. And it is a pretty small pool of people. What I don't see is the rank and file mountain biker stepping forward to do anything, really. They would all rather ride their bikes. Who can argue with that? Riding bikes is what we are about. If we're not riding our bikes then what is the point of any of this?
If it wasn't for MTBR most of the people who participate here would not know about petitions and surveys and meetings and local events concerning the mountain bike community. In fact I suggest that most people might not even care about those things if we didn't take the time to build an awareness of them here, amongst people who share the love of the sport.
So it is all well and good to say that we need more of a certain kind of trail to grow the sport. But as long as people can hide behind keyboards or simply ride without contributing, there is no way to bind them to the effort of trail access and development. This is key to the present and future enjoyment of our sport, whether you want it to grow or not.
I was under the impression that it was/is growing quite a bit?? Just look at the beginners forum here, there are how many "help me pick my first bike" threads per week?
I think, at least for the states, the emphasis should be on growing all forms of cycling instead of only mtbing so that more of the population begins to see it as a viable form of transport instead of something crazy people do.
Oh man—I could go on for PAGES on this topic! (Don't worry—I won't.)
Whoever mentioned the extreme side of mountain biking being a negative (as far as growing the sport) was dead-on. And also dead-on about the industry promoting this. I'm also a whitewater paddler and it's the same in that sport.
The extreme side of any sport is nothing more than a circus in my opinion—just a crazy sideshow that attracts people in the same way that YouTube videos attract people, but that's it.
What sucks is that the media coverage of the extreme stuff is WAY out of proportion with the number of people who actually do extreme stuff—and the media beating it to death leads directly to the general public having the perception that mountain biking (or whitewater paddling) are for suicidal nuts.
The real problem with sports like mountain biking is that the extreme/expert participants are almost always the loudest—meaning they tend to dominate the discourse. So you end up with a kind of unspoken expectation that anyone who gets into the sport must progressively ride harder and harder stuff to be a "real mountain biker." This of course is total BS.
Again, I see the identical mentality in whitewater boating, hang gliding, and snowboarding (I do all these sports). They're all carbon copies of one another—just swap out the gear and "playing field."
Start glamorizing "average" mountain bikers.
Promote the concept that it's perfectly okay if you never want to go downhilling.
Promote the idea that you can mountain bike anywhere—even on the street if you want.
Promote the idea that people can be a "real mountain biker" even if they have no desire to push the limits or tackle progressively harder terrain.
This is how to grow the sport—silence the macho, chest-beating, envelope-pushing, daredevil side of the sport and start showing average people having fun on average-to-easy terrain.
29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311
Azmtns: I think your quote represents the hard core endurance mindset I was talking about. I respect the heck out of those endurance athletes - such as marathon runners, Iron Man triathlon guys, Leadville 100 finishers etc. I don't think the alternatives are lazy though. Different people are built for different types of sports. It's why you have sprinters and long distance runners in the same sport - Track and Field.
Originally Posted by AZ.MTNS
I have a big group of adventure buddies that I think represent this large untapped part of the market. We share some sports together and really enjoy each others comradarie. Most are in their 40's or 50's and into various adventure sports. Several in the group have interesting sports backgrounds: A former pro motorcross racer, competitive surfer, serious kite boarder, car rally racer, competitive downhill skiier, competitive water skiier, competitive kayakers, etc. Needless to say, it's a fun group. They are all into staying fit, adventure and the outdoors.
As my interest in mountain biking has been growing lately, I've been talking it up when we get together. Almost all of them first tried it in the 80's. Some still use a mtnbike for fitness training. Very few have been on these modern trails. I hear a common theme from them: "Good exercise, but BORING as an adventure sport" My take is that they don't mind the knarly part -rocks, roots etc. But as one buddy put it - "I've tried it a few times. There you are suffering up a hill and you are going so damn slow - that's just boring" If I can get them out to some of these fast rolling trails on a decent bike, I think they will become hooked.
I agree with the above post and think that many not so fit folk don't mtb long enough to enjoy it, and only long enough to get winded and tired.
I also agree with Scott's post but must say that in today's day, with the media run a muck, and controlled, that mostly the weak minded are controlled by it. Unlike the founding fathers of mtbing who lit the spark, they were mavericks, free thinkers, doin their own thing, far from the main stream.
So at the risk of sounding prejudice, let us recrute another group of weak minded followers like the Jehovah's Witnesses. Who decend upon a neighborhood in groups, and like door to door salesman, try to convert the weak minded. If we got them to ride mtbs, not only would it greatly increase their range, but think of the following those shinny new mtbs could get.
Last edited by theMeat; 03-30-2011 at 08:22 AM.
"Tortured by mental illness" ~monogod
OMG you guys are over thinking this, we are just riding bicycles. People become passionate about something and suddenly believe everyone in the world should be doing it.
Scott: I've seen your posts in other threads with similar themes and I like with what you have to say. For instance, my buddy who is a former pro motocross racer calls today's Supercross "Stupidcross" Says he'd never want his kids to race modern supercross. Has gone too extreme in his opinion. I think the macho extreme endurance guys have some of the same effect. There comes a point where at either extreme, there are too many people hurting themselves for life.
Originally Posted by SWriverstone
Ha! Is this your quote? "Mission: To share our experience and to encourage and inspire others to use a bicycle as a form of year round recreation and transportation" Sounds like you are into this same idea. (Good site by the way)
Originally Posted by Saddle Up
I've been thinking about this thread. I guess I don't worry much about "growing the sport". I'm honestly not even sure what "the sport" is.
I have friends who ride with me on a casual basis. They'll go biking with me a handful of times each season. Some will borrow my bikes, because they don't have their own. Are they mountain bikers? They don't race. The don't obsess. But they'll get out a few times each summer and have fun doing it.
Last summer I helped a friend build two bikes with his sons. They live in the country. The kids ride the bikes. But again, they ride for fun. They don't race. Are they mountain bikers? I dunno. They are just two kids with cool bikes that they ride during summers.
I probably do a lot of small things to promote biking, but they are more born from my own enthusiasm for something I enjoy doing than from a desire to grow the sport.