Trail, All Mountain, XC, Downhill, Dirt Jumper, Freeride – picked a style yet?
And once you have picked your flavour – where are you going to ride?
Mountain biking, as with many sports there will always be genres within genres, sub categories, alternatives, tribes – just look at football and lingerie football.
Fuelling these categories will be bike companies and component manufacturers, apparel designers and sponsors who have selected one, two or in some case all genres to target different segments within the mountain biking market – a market size of 3.6M mountain bikes sold in 2011 (specialty bike stores), in the US alone (source).
What is interesting is that these tribes or sub-genres can be almost clearly identified by a quick glance at a bike, clothing or helmet to quickly profile a certain rider.
This can be a marketers dream, when each market within Mountain Biking is clearly segmented and defined, making it easy for companies to deliver their message.
In recent Bike magazine letters to editor there were passionate outbursts of reader’s opinions on what should and should not be featured in their magazine. When I first read these, my initial thoughts were that Bike magazine were failing to listen to their readers, but what was clear was that each letter to the editor there were passionate about their style of riding and clearly wanted to see more of it ( and less of the other styles) in the magazine. The identity that riders draw from a particular mountain bike segment relates to a deep emotional response as to why they ride, where they ride and who they ride with. And as we know, bike marketers know and film makers know – emotions are a very powerful in connecting you to a particular brand, style of riding or trail location.
As mountain bike riders we are always in search of experiences or adventures that reinforce our identities and who we are.
This blog has been targeted towards the trail/all mountain rider, which is a genre that I identify with and reflects the type of riding most of the readers of this blog ride. I also believe it offers a complete mountain bike experience – big descents , lung busting climbs, all while requiring a high level of technical skill and bike handling ability.
As one respondent in the recent reader survey mentioned, this type of riding is what is generally available to us – rather than specific DH trails or dirt jumps, the trail, and in particular singletrack is what makes mountain biking special.
The is style riding is also what you are likely to come across when travelling to marquee mountain bike destinations from around the world – places like Forrest Australia, Rotorua NZ, Portes Du Soleil France, Fruita Colorado US, Wales UK to name but a few.
But unlike mainstream sports such as football, mountain bikers need trails, preferably well built singletrack to feed their passion for riding.
So where is all this going?
After the recent survey results, it got me thinking. The overall needs and wants for many mountain bikers of all segments are more trails and increased trail access. It’s about the trails and riding them (and your functioning trail/AM mountain bike) if you get what I mean.
This blog celebrates the search for singletrack and discovering new trails. It is what we need more of to progress the sport of mountain biking – not some random piece of componentry or another coloured stem.
The below video is an example of that search – featuring Matt Hunter on an overnight trail/AM backcountry trip – riding in the South Chilcotin Mountains in BC, Canada.
So with that in mind, what practical steps can we take as mountain bikers to increase trail availability?
Below are some mountain bike advocacy tips that may help:
- Ride More – The more riding you do, the more awareness that you create for the sport. Also the more you ride the fitter you get and the more enjoyment you get from riding the trails – rather than gasping for breath after being dropped by your riding mates time and again.
- Ride in a Mountain Bike Event – Riding a local or international mountain bike event reaffirms your support for mountain biking and contributes to the opening up of land for trails and trail access. Participating in a mountain bike event such as an Enduro or marathon race also has a knock effect for the communities of where they are run. Accommodation providers, restaurants & cafés, local bike shops and other tourism providers all benefit from our participation.
- Respect the Current Trails – Riding in a respectful way, and essentially not being dickhead on the trail. There are enough idiots out there already without adding fuel to some disgruntled hikers opinion that all mountain bikers are dangerous, stupid or both. It’s not that hard to slow down and say hello, before going on your merry way.
- Supporting your Local Advocacy Organisation – Whether this is on a national level with the likes of the IMBA (or country equivalent) or via a local club. We may not have the time to help build sweet singletrack but donations (monetary or equipment), intelligent articles on the benefits of mountain biking to communities, lobbying of national, state and local government officials all help raise awareness. Again the more mountain biking is top of mind, the more likely it will be in the mix of considerations for the next ‘recreation planning meeting’.
- Go on a Mountain Bike Holiday – There is something very powerful relating to the visual impact of 2-3 cars loaded with bikes on the roof, roll into small mountain and country towns, ready for action. Locals take notice. Not only the local riders and mtb supporters, but the broader community. And with the increase of visitors from a particular sporting segment, the town begins to put services in place that specifically target them and the local government begins to see this lucrative, growing customer base to tap into. And when the locals start to rally for better services to cater to riders, new trails start to get built. So go travel, spend money and make known to locals as to why you are visiting.
Yes bike and component manufacturers make products that can help you to tackle difficult terrain or improve your on-bike performance – but only so much. Once you have carefully selected your quality kit, all there is left to do is ride – and ride is what ye shall do…onwards & upwards!
On a side note I am still in the midst of researching for the free resource of the top epic rides from key destinations from around the world. Again, if this sounds interesting to you and you would like to be one of the first to receive it, just enter your email below and I will send it direct to your inbox.
The free resource will feature epic rides from the US, Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia and possibly from France and Germany. The timeframe has been pushed out to target the end of August. I will certainly keep you updates on any further developments.
PS. Yes – I managed to weave lingerie football and mountain biking into one post – even I’m impressed!
You might also be interested in these posts: