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Cycling participation edges higher in 2016, NSGA reports

Published May 5, 2017

MOUNT PROSPECT, Ill. (BRAIN) — Cycling participation ticked up a mild 0.5 percent to 36.2 million riders in 2016, according to new figures from the National Sporting Goods Association.

The NSGA defines participants as those who have ridden a bike six or more days per year, and tracks this for Americans ages 7 and up. The association has tracked bicycle riding since 1984. Participation peaked in 1989 at 56.9 million riders.

Youth participation last year dipped 0.7 percent to 10.5 million riders ages 7 to 17, while adult participation rose 1 percent to 25.7 million riders 18 or older. But fewer female adults rode last year, down 2.6 percent to 15.2 million. Male adult participation rose 2.8 percent to 21 million.

"Since the year 2000, adult participation has basically remained flat at about 25.5 million, whereas youth has seen a significant decline," said Dustin Dobrin, the NSGA's director of research.

In the previous year's research, the NSGA investigated the reasons why people did not ride, and found that the primary obstacle to participation varied by age group. Youth ages 7 to 17 lacked the desire or interest to ride, while the 18 to 34 cohort cited lack of access to a bike/not owning a bike. Adults 35 to 54 said they didn't have the free time to ride, and adults 55-plus cited physical and health obstacles as the reason for not participating.

Mountain biking, which the NSGA has tracked separately since 1993, rose 2.1 percent last year to 5.7 million participants, but that figure is well below the all-time high of about 10.2 million in 2008.

The NSGA's Sports Participation in the U.S. report tracks 55 sports and activities. After seeing across-the-board growth in 2015 participation, this year's 50/50 split between growth and contraction among activities continues "a pattern of inconsistency and lack of growth that has been experienced for many years," the association stated.

Segments experiencing growth last year included open water sports (+3.6 percent), shooting sports (+0.8 percent), fitness activities (+0.7 percent), team sports (+0.3 percent), and outdoor activities (+0.3 percent). Segments declining included wheel sports (-0.5 percent), individual sports (-0.8 percent), indoor games (-2.8 percent), personal contact sports (-2.9 percent) and snow sports (-5 percent).

"Cycling isn't alone. The majority of the segments in the industry have struggled to grow participation," Dobrin said. "Looking back on our historical data, since the 1990s only the fitness activity segment has been able to consistently grow participation."

"Fitness activities" include aerobic exercise, yoga, running, jogging, exercise running, exercising with equipment and other activities.

The full report is available for purchase at the NSGA website. It includes quick-view snapshots by sport/activity, allowing users to easily see a 10-year participation trend (when available) as well as details regarding age, income and U.S. region. 

As an additional bonus, purchasers of the report will also be invited to an exclusive webinar providing greater details about participation trends since the 1990s.

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