UK Mountainbike Usage

An IMBA-UK Estimate

There is very little reliable data available to accurately estimate the number of active mountain bikers in the UK – or the number of rides undertaken. The following estimates use UK adult population figures, to which mtb data from the USA has been applied, modified, where appropriate to mirror UK usage.

No. rides/year
Family / Casual 3.0m 9.0m
Regular trail cyclists 1.2m 19.0m
Enthusiasts 1.3m 50.0m
5.5m 78.0m

The calculations used to reach these figures are as follows:

UK population is 60 million of which 20% are under 16
So adult population is 48 million.

Since 1986 some 44 million UK cycles have been purchased.

BikeEurope suggests that the sales breakdown is 40% adults, and 60% under 16.
So adult bicycle sales are 40% of 44 million = 17.6 million.

55% of ALL cycles sales in the US are mountain bikes (including children).

UK trade sources suggest that this seriously under estimates the proportion of UK mtb’s sold to adults in the period 1986 to 2004. It is estimated that mtb adult sales would be nearer a figure of around 75% total bike sales during this period.

75% of 17.6 million gives us total UK mtb sales 1986 – 2004 of 13 million. mountain bikes.

It is suggested that 15% of these have been scrapped, giving 11 million mountain bikes ready for use.

Assuming one mountain bike per user, then 23% of the adult UK population own a mountainbike.

US data  shows that 25% of the US population ride a mountainbike offroad more than once a year, giving an average number of 18 offroad rides per year  per mountain bike rider. ie around one ride every three weeks.

It is highly unlikely that this level of offroad usage is attained in the UK, as it is suggested that 50% of UK mountain bikes are either unused, only occasionally used, or only used on the road.

This leaves 50% of 11 million = 5.5 million UK riders who ride offroad at least once per year.

An estimate can then be made of UK adult mtb offroad use by using US % use figures as a template:

Riding Frequency
Total Number of Rides
User Category
15% ridden once per year. 0.8 million rides per year Family / Casual
15% ridden twice per year 1.7               “ Family / Casual
25% ridden 3 – 6 /year 6.2               “ Family / Casual
9% ridden 7 – 10 /year 4.2               “ Regular
13% ridden 11 – 30 /year 4.7               “ Regular
23% ridden 31 + /year 50.6(Based on 40 UK rides) Enthusiasts
TOTAL 78.2 million rides per year All

IMBA-UK recognise that the above figures are, at best , a best estimate, and would be delighted to learn of usage data derived solely from UK sources.

September 2005