Each year, VMBA fields a membership survey to better understand who our members are, their riding behaviors, and where we can improve to better deliver on our mission to ensure the sustainable future of mountain biking in Vermont and to thoughtfully promote the best riding in the Northeast. The results provide an invaluable resource as we define our path forward.
First and foremost, thanks to the over 800 members who responded to our survey. We sincerely appreciate the time and are grateful that over 10% of our 2020 member base participated. It is worth noting that we did not sample members at random, and the sample is therefore biased to those that had the time and interest to participate.
In terms of the survey demographics, nearly 80% of sample identified as male, suggesting a need to continue to welcome and elevate the profile of female and non-binary riders. We’ve certainly made progress here in recent years, evidenced by the wealth of womxn’ rides Chapters now host, though it’s clear we have room to grow. Additionally, the vast majority of respondents were 30 and older, suggesting a significant opportunity to do more to engage riders in their 20’s and encourage them to support the trails they love to ride.
In terms of geography, our sample – and membership – remains skewed to the north-center of the state, with Chittenden, Lamoille, and Washington counties representing a disproportionate share of members relative to their population. Many of our newer and smaller Chapters lie along the periphery of our state, and it’s clear we should double down on our efforts to engage communities and develop trail systems in these regions.
Travel, Time, and Importance
Keeping line with the guidance in place for much of 2020, survey respondents chose to predominately “ride local” last year. Three-quarters of our sample typically drove 30 minutes or less to ride, underscoring Vermont’s tremendous value in providing “backyard” recreation opportunities. The close proximity of home networks to folks also undoubtedly contributed to respondents’ ability to get out on the trails multiple times a week on average. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic also forced many to realize the importance of trails as an essential resource, with two thirds of those surveyed indicating that the trails meant more to them in 2020. Surprisingly, only a modest majority spent more on riding in 2020, perhaps underscoring supply chain challenges that set in during the latter half of the year and continue to persist.
As far as trails go, the clearest takeaway was support for Chapters’ projects, with over 90% of respondents approving of their Chapter’s trail work. It’s also clear, at least among those surveyed, that we have come a long way in creating options for beginners. Only 15% of those surveyed felt a need for more beginner-friendly trails, and even among those that self-identify as beginner largely agree that there are enough low-difficulty options available. In terms of what respondents want more of; while the demand for flow trails remains high, with nearly 60% of respondents asking for more, a similar proportion of respondents would like to see more technical options and nearly half would like more purely advanced trails. This won’t change our ambition to create progressive trail networks, but does emphasize the need for more trails at all difficulty levels and the importance of having aspirational advanced trails to continue advancing our sport.
Another bright spot in our survey findings was communication. More than three-quarters of the sample felt were well-informed by the VMBA office, with only a slight drop for Chapter communications. Most relied upon the member newsletter for their information, though social outlets continue to grow in importance among the membership. It is worth noting that there is some room to grow in sharing our advocacy efforts, which we’ll work to communicate more often and more clearly.
VMBA has integrated diversity, equity, and inclusion into our mission and embedded these principles into our operations, and it’s rewarding to see DEI issues matter to members, with two-thirds of respondents indicatings such efforts should be at or among our top priorities as a riding community. That said, a quarter of respondents did question the importance of DEI to VMBA, highlighting an opportunity for us to share how and why these efforts are making us stronger as a community and organization.
Lastly, a large majority of those surveyed indicated that the Member Benefits that accompany a VMBA membership are an important aspect of their membership. Unsurprisingly, given COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, use of one of the most popular benefits – the complementary DH day passes – was down, though we are thrilled that the bike parks should be up and running at full steam this summer.
If you’re interested in a visual summary of the findings, including much of the underlying data, please follow the link below. And thanks again to all those who chose to respond – these findings will be instrumental as we chart our path for the rest of this season and beyond.