Echoes continue from Bike Boom to Rock Trail Traffic

The parking lot on the road to Green Mountain in Lakewood, Colorado on April 1, 2020. Photo: Matt Miller.

While many retailers are seeing signs of the bicycle boom, it is becoming clear that mountain bikers are clinging to the sport, and in some cases doubling down. With most cities and states easing and even removing mask restrictions, there is a real question as to whether new riders will be pulled off the tracks and back to ball fields, movie theaters and restaurants. To answer this, we collected track usage data from land managers and officials across the United States, starting with the popular local track in Metro Atlanta.

Local trails continue to attract riders

Blankets Creek is consistently ranked as one of the busiest trail systems in the Atlanta area thanks to the high quality of the singletrack and excellent facilities. SORBA and Woodstock volunteers maintain the trails and the group has passive electronic trail meters installed at entrances to mark the trails to get an idea of ​​how many people are using the trails. They’ve been collecting visit data for several years now, and they’ve seen a very clear rise in visits in 2020, the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Visits to the mid- and flowing Van Michael Trail are up 36% compared to 2019 levels, while the highly rated rocky and rooted South Loop saw a 111% year-over-year increase.

Average daily visits to the South Loop and Van Michael Trail (VMT).

After these huge increases, potentially linked to the pandemic, traffic remained high in 2021. Both lanes saw usage fundamentally unchanged from their highs in 2020, indicating that many are sticking with their new procedures. Of course, counters at Blankets Creek record anyone entering the trails—whether they’re cyclists, runners, or dog walkers—so this data may not be fully representative of mountain biking participation versus other outdoor activities. However, it does indicate that trail-based recreation remained popular in the second year of the pandemic even as other parts of the community reopened and moved toward normalcy.

Creek Blankets file photo.

Another factor to consider is that many of the races and events canceled in 2020 returned in 2021, which may have contributed to usage remaining at or above 2020 levels.

Anthony Duncan, IMBA’s director of local programs, tells me that groups he works with have seen similar traffic patterns, and those numbers appear to hold well into 2022 as well. “Among the data we have internally, we saw a spike in 2020 with a stabilization in 2021. So far in 2022, the numbers have remained roughly the same as in 2021. This is the general case with other communities that I’ve been in contact with since speaking. Some of them have Slight to moderate increases in usage (but increasing nonetheless), while most see flat numbers compared to 2021.”

Provincial parks are seeing continued interest as well

Cheyenne Mountain State Park photo: Singletracks member camelkicker.

Local parks and trails turned out to be convenient outlets during the early stages of the pandemic when many communities had stricter lockdown measures in place. Although state parks are in many cases as inaccessible as city and county parks, they are still seeing huge increases in visits starting in 2020.

Many of Colorado’s popular mountain bike trails, such as the one at Cheyenne Mountain, are located within state parks. Colorado State Parks public information supervisor Travis Duncan shared data showing annual visits to the parks barely budged between 2018 and 2019, then jumped nearly 31% to reach 19.47 million in 2020. The following year, in 2021, Visits remained high at 19.76 million, roughly a 1% increase. The data paints a similar picture of what happened in Georgia, where park traffic remained elevated more than a year after the pandemic began.

Destination driveway traffic continues to grow

Slaughter Bean Trail, Arkansas. Photo: Greg Hill.

Bentonville, Arkansas was already growing as a mountain bike destination, and the pandemic may have fueled that growth. While we couldn’t get the exact numbers for 2019, it’s clear from the data IMBA shared that tracking visits jumped roughly 50% or more from 2019 to 2020. Then, in 2021, it looks like everyone decided to take the bike vacation. the mountain they lived in. It was postponed for a year.

Urea Nazario of Trailblazers + ETHIC (formerly NWA Trailblazers and Bike NWA) says traffic was up 74.48% in 2021 compared to 2020. “Although our MTB trail data is not nearly as accurate as aggregating the numbers for 22 track meters have been installed throughout the Bentonville area Hopefully, we’re still seeing more [2021] Use in all 22 lanes/lane heads where the counters are located. ”

Data for visitation to national forests in 2021 was not available at press time, although forests had seen massive increases in use in the pandemic’s first year, 2020. As we noted in an article in the lower year, federal lands in many areas were awash with recreational activities visitors, many of whom spend overnight. As a result, land managers in places like Crested Butte and Sedona have attempted to reduce access through new reservation systems and restrictions. It is not clear whether this affected the number of visits to those sites, although based on the data we have, it appears unlikely that it reduced interest or demand for arcade-based recreational activities.

supply chain trail

Much of the coverage of the bike sales boom has focused on supply chains, with delivery times reportedly rising to two years or more for many items. Compare that to a lead time for new trail projects, which has traditionally been years — or in some cases decades long, and trails are likely to remain crowded and overused for years to come, long after orders for our new bikes finally come in. Even the threat of recession likely won’t dampen enthusiasm for the tracks anytime soon. As Fox CEO Mike Denison noted on a recent earnings call, “If you’re a mountain biker, you’ll be a mountain biker no matter what the economy does.”

In March, we asked Singletracks readers if their local tracks were crowded this year, and 43% of respondents said “often” or “always.” However, this leaves a lot of paths completely untapped. One commenter wrote, “[Used] To have a lot of children, now no one is going there. Suddenly everyone disappeared. I have no idea why…”

Leave a Comment