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Secondary Research: Mountain Biking Market Profiles, CRA, For Parks Canada, March 2010

Note: Please note that the full report is only available in English. To have access to the report or if you need more information, please contact Julie Lefebvre from the Activities and Facilities team, by email or at 819-934-1113.

Executive summary

Mountain Biking is a popular sport in many countries, with new participants starting every year. This sport is considered an adventure sport, although like hiking or skiing, participants can choose the level of difficulty. Indeed, cross country mountain biking may be considered a mainstream sport, with other disciplines considered to be niche, but with devoted participants and followers. This leads to a wide range of participants, from young children to seniors, and everyone in between. Start-up costs can be minimal, although this may not be the perception among the general population, as the cost of participation is reflected in the more affluent profile of participants, and participants can spend thousands of dollars on a bicycle, other equipment, and trail access.

Cross country is by far the most popular type of mountain biking, which is related to the number of trails available, and the ease with which participants can access cross country trails. While mountain biking attracts a wide range of athletes, active participants tend to be male, younger, have higher levels of education and income, and travel with others of similar interests. Additionally, frequent mountain bikers will often travel to seek new trails, and belong to associations or clubs.

Mountain biking is popular in many parts of the world, with the United States, Canada and Australia/New Zealand having higher participation rates than other locations. Mountain biking is an ever expanding sport, with new types of riding emerging. Indeed, the adoption of downhill mountain biking has led to a number of downhill ski operators offering summer mountain biking activities, and the popularity of freeriding and dirt jumping is resulting in parks specifically designed for this purpose.

As with any growing sport, there are challenges faced by participants and operators. Some participants who do not have ready access to managed trails can face backlash from landowners and parks that may not be developed with mountain bikers in mind. Meanwhile, operators are facing safety concerns, trail development and land access issues. User conflict is also an area of concern, although evidence suggests that through trail design and appropriate training and signage, these conflicts can be decreased.

Each market has many organizations devoted to the development and promotion of mountain biking, and tourism relating to cycling and mountain biking in particular is a growing business. Many Canadian mountain biking operators report a large number of participants from outside their province, or even from outside of Canada. Moreover, some American operators, particularly those closer to the border, report high levels of Canadian visitation.

In terms of competitions and racing, there is a well organized competitive circuit in all markets, with governing bodies that develop regulations for these events. Mountain biking, or more specifically, cross country, became an Olympic sport in 1996. Finally, an evaluation of the National Parks Service (NPS) and National Forest Service (NFS) in the US, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Australia suggest that these organizations are facing challenges with integrating mountain biking into their existing recreational offering, although progress is being made in this regard. The NFS could be considered the most 'mountain biking friendly' of the three organizations, with a wide range of trails and offerings available.