“I think there are a lot of people who have gotten into it as an excuse to be outside and appreciate the outdoors,” one mountain biker told Alexander.
Moreover, a Boulder County park ranger told Alexander that people have been needing a physical and mental escape from the pandemic. Hence the turn toward outdoor activities.
Mountain Biking Is a Lucrative Niche
According to Alexander, mountain bike sales ran to a total of $1.5 billion in the past year. That’s a 69 percent increase over pre-pandemic sales levels.
Meanwhile, outdoor recreation giant REI says its mountain bike sales have tripled during the pandemic.
Alexander spoke to the staff of a bike shop in Boulder who said business is booming – so much so that they sometimes have to disappoint people and make them wait for their bikes. They blamed that on supply chain shortages and manufacturers’ inability to keep up with demand.
Pastime Is Not for the Faint of Heart
For his part, Alexander occasionally struggled to keep up himself. His mountain biking teacher was a U.S. Olympian and World Cup winner, Christopher Blevins, who scorched the rocky trails fearlessly.
“Next time, we’re gonna do this at sea level,” Alexander said, gasping for breath.
Watch the trail cam footage and Alexander’s dispatch here:
Constructing Mountain Biking Trails Is a Complex Endeavor
Professionally built mountain biking trails can cost as much as $50,000 to $70,000 per mile to design and build, Marketplace reports. And with mountain biking surging, there’s a growing need for trail planners, designers, and builders.
“We’re still a really young industry,” Mike Repyak, Trail Solutions planning and design director, told Marketplace. His company crafts trails all over the country for the International Mountain Biking Association.
Moreover, Blu Tenbrink of Rock Solid Trail Contracting, a large Copper Harbor, Michigan trail building company, told Marketplace there’s plenty of room for the industry to grow from where it is today.
“There’s more work than we know what to do with,” Tenbrink said.
Trail building takes patience, however. Builders have to try different approaches to keep water off the trails so as to keep them from eroding. A 1-mile stretch of trail can take as long as a month and a half to complete. And then there’s the bureaucratic red tape and environmental planning process.
Still, with plenty of money in it for interested parties, trail building looks to be a growth industry for the time being.