Today I saw a kid riding 24in wheeled bike with drop bars and it suddenly struck me that mountain biking is, if not dying, definitely on its last legs. The last time I saw a small wheeled bike with drop bars was in a time before mountain bikes, but these days it’s rare to see a kid riding a mountain bike; plenty of BMXs but very few mountain bikes.
Okay, so kids not riding mountain bikes might not sound to you like it heralds the death of the scene but consider the fact if you don’t catch ‘em young are they ever going to get the off-road riding bug?
It’s not just youngsters who are no longer on fat-tyred rides either. Go out on any Sunday and you’ll see more road riders than ever before, sure that’s a good thing. But turn to the bridleways and you’ll see very few dirt riders. They may be at trail centres, but they’re not getting out and about in the numbers they used to.
It could be argued that it’s simply because the bikes aren’t so available. Next time you’re in your local bike shop take a look at the bikes in stock. Where once there would be one or two road bikes tucked away in a corner, the balance has now done an about turn and it’s the MTBs that are getting relegated to the back of the shop.
Mountain bike manufacturers are doing themselves no favours either. I mean what’s with all the different wheel sizes, do we really need 26in, 27.5in and 29in? I’m all for choice but from a consumer point of view it is getting way too complicated, especially if you factor in the new ‘plus’ sizes as well. Not only that but people are getting clued up about what they really need from a bike and wide-ranging gears, fat tyres, and long travel suspension simply doesn’t cut it for the majority of casual riders in the UK.
Take a look at the current trend for gravel bikes – road wheels with sensible sized tyres, disc brakes and drop bars – there’s a type of bike much better suited to the sort of riding most people do, far more so than any mountain bike.
Still need more convincing that MTBs are not long for this world? Take a look at what’s on offer in the local newsagents. That’s right, there’re plenty of road riding titles but much less in the way of mountain biking. Indeed, it seems to be that like many publications for niche pastime MTB magazines are increasingly subscription only as there are simply not enough casual buyers to make it viable for publishers to keep the titles on shop shelves.
I’d like to hope that I’m wrong. It was mountain biking that got me into bicycles more than 25 years ago and it was mountain bikes that led me to have the life I have today and many of the friends I have. Then again I find myself getting out on the road bike more often than the MTB these days, especially when time is limited.
Maybe I need to reschedule some of my commitments and make the time to get my tyres muddy again before my tribe disappears…
Featured image for this article is courtesy of Martin Dinse
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