3. RESULTS - Rider Characteristics
SUMMARY: Riders are a distinct recreationist
group characterised by younger male participants with professional-type
backgrounds, an interest in `active' types of recreation, and
a high degree of club involvement. Activity levels and relative
experience levels are high, although experience is limited as
mountain biking is only a recent development.
- The age, gender and occupation characteristics
of these riders were representative of `active' outdoor recreationists.
Women were a small minority of riders overall, although they represented
almost half those rating themselves as beginners.
- Few riders had over 5 years experience,
although activity levels and self-rated experience were high.
- More experienced riders had high club
involvement, more experience of overnight trips, and had spent
more on their bikes and associated improvements.
- Many riders also participated in running,
walking, tramping and road cycling. With experience, more riders
were involved in tramping and skiing, and less involved in walking
and team sports, reflecting a more `active' outdoor orientation.
The descriptive characteristics of mountain
bike riders were addressed in three ways: their socio-demographic
features, their experience levels, and their degree of commitment
to mountain biking.
3.1 Socio-demographic characteristics
The patterns of age, gender and occupation
(Table 3.1) generally match those of other `active' outdoor recreationists
such as trampers; being characterised by a predominance of younger
age groups, and of those with higher educational and occupational
status. One distinction amongst mountain bikers was the gender
balance, which was weighted more heavily towards men, to levels
characteristic of activities such as climbing, hunting and fishing.
More general activities such as walking or tramping tend to have
more even gender balances (but most often still dominated by males).
These characteristics can be considered to make mountain biking
more representative of the other `active' types of outdoor recreation
(e.g., climbing, backcountry tramping), as compared with the more
`passive' types of outdoor recreation represented by walking.
Table 3.1: Socio-demographic characteristics
|AGE (years)||Under 20||OCCUPATION||Professional/Technical|
|20 - 29||Student|
|30 - 39||Admin/Management|
|40 - 49||Clerical/Sales/Service|
|50 - 59||Labour/Transport|
|Over 60||Not Working|
3.2 Experience characteristics of
3.2.1 Overall riding experience
Rider experience at off-road riding was addressed directly by the number of years they had been riding mountain bikes, the number of races they had done, and their usual number of days spent riding off-road in the year. It was also addressed indirectly by riders rating their own experience and skill levels on a scale provided (Question 4). Results of these questions for all riders are summarised in Table 3.3.
The main finding of these experience
related questions was that only 10% of the sample had been riding
mountain bikes for more than 5 years. This emphasises how new
this activity is in the outdoor recreation environment. Although
riders had not been active for many years, their activity levels
were high. Almost 50% were riding off-road on over 50 days per
year, representing a frequency of 1-2 times per week on average.
When seasonality is considered, the activity level in the peak
season (non-winter) would appear much higher.
Considering that this sample was drawn
from race entrants, experience of racing is not extensive. Less
than 25% had done more than 20 races. This may reflect the recent
development of the activity. However, when compared to the number
of days riding, these results suggest that racing is not currently
a big part of mountain biking activity for most riders.
Overall, riders did consider themselves
experienced, with only 12% classifying themselves as beginners.
Table 3.2: Experience characteristics
of riders (%)
|EXPERIENCE||Beginners||EXPERIENCE||1 year or less|
|(self-rated)||Moderately experienced||(years riding||Between 1 - 2 years|
|Have much experience||a Mountain bike)||Between 2 - 3 years|
|Very experienced/expert||Between 3 - 4 years|
|EXPERIENCE||None done before||Between 4 - 5 years|
|(races done)||Only 1 race||More than 5 years|
|2 - 5||EXPERIENCE||Only ride on road|
|6 - 10||(days off-road||Off-road under 6 days|
|11 - 20||riding per year)||7 - 12 days|
|21 - 50||13 - 24 days|
|50 - 100||25 - 50 days|
|Over 100 races||50 - 100 days|
|Over 100 days|
3.2.2 Variation in age and gender by
Changes in rider age and gender did
occur across different experience levels (Table 3.3). In age,
the proportion of riders aged 20-29 increased with experience.
However, this may not reflect a stable pattern, as the activity
is very new, and current rider numbers amongst the young may be
maintained into the older age-groups with time.
High interest in mountain biking by
women was indicated by their high proportion amongst the `Beginners'(42%).
But their numbers declined to only 7% amongst experts. This could
represent reluctance amongst women to acknowledge their experience,
a high activity `drop-out' rate, or a more recent interest in
riding amongst women which with time will translate into greater
numbers of more experienced women riders.
Table 3.2: Descriptive characteristics
by Experience levels (self-rated) (%)
|AGE Under 20|
|20 - 29|
|30 - 39|
|40 - 49|
|50 - 59|
3.3 Commitment characteristics of
An increasing commitment of participants
to mountain biking with increasing experience levels was shown
by their investment in equipment, involvement in clubs, and patterns
of outdoor activities. These are listed in Tables 3.4 - 3.6. An
important implication of club membership is the role clubs may
play in enhancing the self-regulation of riding attitudes and
Increased club involvement by the more
experienced riders is notably high when compared with that apparent
for other outdoor activities. Local Wellington riding clubs dominated
membership at the lower experience levels, but other clubs from
elsewhere in the North Island increased their proportion as experience
levels increased. However, the race events sampled are important
on the national race calendar and attract many committed riders
from further afield. This may explain the high membership levels
with greater experience, and the presence of some members from
Further commitment is indicated by the
increasing investments made in bikes and modifications by the
more experienced riders. Amongst beginners, most modifications
involved addition of minor items such as handlebar extensions
(bar-ends). The more expensive bikes favoured by the more experienced
riders usually came with these items. However these riders carried
out other more substantial modifications (e.g., suspension forks
and clip pedals).
Table 3.4: Commitment characteristics
|Club Membership Yes|
|Bike Value ($) Under 1000|
|1000 - 2000|
|2000 - 3000|
|Done overnight tripsYes|
|% who have modified their bikes|
A high proportion of riders (41%) also
indicated they had done multi-day riding trips (Table 3.4), and
particularly amongst the more experienced riders. This suggested
riders have a high familiarity with the potential for multi-day
riding, and a high interest in doing more such rides. Overall,
30% of riders did specify particular places they would like to
do such rides in the future. The locations of these rides are
summarised in Table 3.5, along with those places such rides had
already been done.
Riders'initial interest in multi-day
rides had been largely confined to road-rides, but they appear
more interested in undertaking off-road rides in the future. The
diversity of riding areas named, and the high apparent interest
in more localised trips (e.g., in Wellington area), suggests that
pressure on specific backcountry areas from multi-day riding trips
will not be great. However, interest in having the options available
to do such rides appears high.
Table 3.5: Locations of multi-day riding
trips (those already done and those desired)
|Locations for Multi-day riding trips (categorised)|
(% of the sample who specified each location)
|South Island road riding
Wellington `Big Coast' event
North Island road riding
Queen Charlotte Walkway
Off-road riding (other South Island)
Off-road riding (other North Island)
Off-road riding (other Wellington)
Wellington coastal routes
Rimutaka Incline Track
National Parks Tracks
Rider commitment to their activity was
also investigated by the relative importance they attributed mountain
biking in their outdoor activities. Table 3.6 summarises the top
three outdoor activities indicated by riders. The % figures represent
the proportion of the whole sample who indicated the activity
as one of their top three.
Most riders included mountain biking
in their top three outdoor activities (93%). Beginners differed
mainly in that 41% did not. As experience levels increased, involvement
in walking declined, while that in tramping increased. This may
be indicative of a more `active' approach to walking amongst the
more committed riders. Road cycling was indicated by many beginners
(32%), possibly reflecting their generally greater preference
for riding on sealed roads (refer Table 4.5). This road-cycling
preference then decreased, but increased again amongst the expert
riders (29%), perhaps reflecting the preference of many competitive
mountain bike riders for road training.
These riders are active outdoor participants,
and the emphasis on `physical' outdoor pursuits appears greater
amongst the more experienced riders. Because mountain biking is
a new activity to most, it is likely that it has generally complemented
existing outdoor activity preferences, rather than being the means
by which new users have been introduced to the outdoors. Over
a third (37%) included tramping/walking in their top three activities,
suggesting that many may be aware of the potential conflicts with
other track users.
Table 3.5: Outdoor activity characteristics
of riders (their top three activities)
|MAIN OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES|
|Outdoor Team Sports|