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Mountain biking - The new everything

24th March 2015 Print
Mountain biker

We have all got used to the idea that grey is the new black and that chicken tikka masala is the new staple meal, but the idea that mountain biking has become the new golf takes a bit more getting used to.

Despite the high profile enjoyed by the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, it seems that golf is - as they say - well out of fashion. Bearing in mind that the game’s natural constituency is not exactly the most trend sensitive, that downward swing is unlikely to be reversed any time soon. A survey in 2013 found that participation figures in the UK are down around 14 per cent over the past decade.


With an even greater rate of attrition being suffered by the nation’s pubs and bingo halls, which are closing at the rate of something like 30 a week, it seems that today's potential drivers and putters are not spending their spare hours as their parents might have done.

You know it’s bad when the Chancellor of the Exchequer reduces the tax on a pint of beer as a way to drum up business for the pub trade. But the decline in the national appetite for the good old fashioned ‘local’, like the shrinking number of bingo halls and golf club memberships, is only one side of a story that involves less daylight leisure time (because we’re working longer hours), more rigid drink driving enforcement and a generally recession-hit level of leisure spending.

Economic driver

When times are hard, trips to the pub, the bingo and the golf club are amongst the more obvious cutbacks to make. But whilst those overtly leisure activities are on a downward curve, there has been a corresponding, and not entirely unrelated upsurge in the numbers of Britons taking to two wheels.

Britain is enjoying a cycling boom. No doubt inspired by the success of the Great British Cycling team in the 2012 Olympics and the incredible lifetime achievements of knight-riders such as Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins, cycling in the UK is flourishing.

Such a surge in interest has attracted many who might once have been happy to hack their way around a golf course, or to simply prop up one end of a bar - or both. It is estimated that there are 5.5 million regular mountain bikers in the UK and as distinct from the more youthful BMX and road racing constituency these riders are overwhelmingly in the age range that was once the bedrock of the country’s golf clubs i.e. those solid citizens in their late 30s, 40s and 50s.

A political lead

What is more, the turn to two wheels is perfectly in key with the cost conscious and environmentally sensitive tenor of the times. The sight of London’s Lord Mayor and the Prime Minister cycling to work is no more than the tip of a commuting iceberg. Whilst a new bike may run to three or four thousand pounds for the committed enthusiast, even that expense pales by comparison with the price of a car or even serial season tickets. And there are, it goes without saying, thousands of far cheaper cycles available.

Spring on two wheels

With spring in the air and the weather increasingly favourable for getting out and about, expect the number of cyclists on our roads to swell. Not only is it cheaper and healthier than a motorised commute, it is also part and parcel of a trend that has been steadily sweeping the nation for the past decade.


Pubs and bingo halls may be on the decline, and some other, more pedestrian sports may not enjoy the numbers they once did, but it seems that cycling has a particularly bright future. Calling it the new golf may not be entirely accurate, but the sight of middle-aged men in clothing the colour of a fluorescent chicken tikka does suggest that some trends endure for longer than others.

More Photos - Click to Enlarge

Mountain biker Golfers Cyclist