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 sustainability of mountain biking in Vermont and thoughtfully promote exceptional riding experiences for all through advocacy, education, and community-driven stewardship. The results provide an invaluable resource as we define our path forward.
First and foremost, thanks to the nearly 800 members who responded to our survey. We sincerely appreciate the time and are grateful that over 8% of our 2021-22 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, 73% of sample identified as male, a drop from 79% in last year’s survey and suggesting we are making some progress in elevating the profile of female and non-binary riders. Nonetheless it’s clear we still have plenty of room to grow and deeply appreciate our growing relationships with Pride Rides and other organizations creating welcoming spaces for historically underrepresented groups. Additionally, we also made headway in the number of young adults who participated in the survey, and we hope our new U25 membership will bring even more riders in their early 20’s on board.
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 in southern Vermont and along the periphery of our state, and we will continue to double down on our efforts to engage communities and develop trail systems in these regions.
Travel, Time, and Importance
While pandemic restrictions on outdoor recreation were largely lifted by the 2021 riding season, our survey respondents largely continued to “ride local” last year. 70% of our sample typically drove 30 minutes or less to ride, down only slightly from 2020, 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 trail multiple times a week on average, with nearly 9 in 10 getting out to ride at least twice a week. Perhaps most affirming for us, over half of respondents said that 2021/2 was their best season yet. Spend on mountain biking appeared relatively flat, though new bike purchases retook the lead in terms of the greatest area of spend and supply chain challenges continue to persist, especially on components.
As far as trails go, the clearest takeaway was continuing support for Chapters’ projects, with nearly 90% of respondents approving of their Chapter’s trail work. It’s also clear, at least among those surveyed, that we have ample options for both beginners and advanced riders. 70% of those surveyed agreed that there were sufficient beginner-friendly trails, with 80% agreeing that advanced riders could find sufficient riding challenges. In terms of what respondents want more of; while the demand for flow trails remains high (56% of respondents), nearly 70% of those samples would like to see more intermediate trails with technical options, facilitating progression. The demand for pure advanced trails also outweighed that for pure beginner ones, emphasizing 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. Over 85% of respondents felt were well-informed by the VMBA office, with only a slight drop for Chapter communications. Nearly two-thirds relied upon the member newsletter for their information, which actually grew in its role as primary channel for information despite VMBA’s growing presence on social media. 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. Over half of those surveyed believe DEI should be at or among our top priorities as a riding community and only 6% felt it should not be a priority at all. Roughly half felt VMBA was either already appropriately engaged or could be doing more on DEI, though a similar proportion expressed no opinion on our current performance, a fact that highlights an opportunity for us to share how and why these efforts are making us stronger as a community and organization.
Lastly, 75% of those surveyed used at least one Member Benefit last season, and respondents clearly indicated that the program was an important aspect of their VMBA membership. Use of one of the most popular benefits – the complementary DH day passes – was up significantly, thanks to fewer COVID restrictions. Over half of those sampled used at least one bike shop benefit, another valuable part of the program brought to us by our Retailers Alliance.
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 our 25th season and beyond.