This is potentially worrysome- 'specially since my kids are now interested
This is potentially worrysome- 'specially since my kids are now interested
As the link states, participation has increased. What we are seeing is the result of improvements in medical, nutritional, and sports science, such that those who started at 35, 30 years ago, are still strong and hard at it. This is a new development. Those of us who are older are breaking new ground. To ensure that things keep on going, our local club is increasing its outreach with more shorter rides that will appeal to riders who are just starting out in the LD discipline. It seems to be working. After all, we all started somewhere. We experienced riders have to provide an entry point for new folks.
As event costs have increased, we have found ourselves staging private events or doing brevets instead of paying the big bucks for big events. More fun anyway, as well as safer.
It's pure bunk. LD may attract (and retain) retirement-age people preferentially because they have more free time (and money) to do all the rides, but the overall numbers are exploding, and today's corporate cog (me, ~33 y.o.) who has time to do some of the rides will be tomorrow's retired rider who does everything. Randonneuring is getting more and more press in the popular media as well, so I think there should be plenty of people of all ages who are giving it a thought.
Similary, the average RAGBRAI rider's age goes up every year, and there again, it's skewed by middle-aged and older riders getting into it, and the fact that the committed people keep getting older. Numbers-wise, it has been more popular than ever in recent years.
If you think about it, if the average age and participation numbers stayed low, that would mean you have complete turnover, so you need to be that much more worried about recruiting new people!
I think the average age of the U.S. riders at PBP has stayed pretty much the same. I have seen a number of younger riders getting started, I'm not worried
Out of curiosity, I've plotted age histograms for CTC for a few years from 1997 to 2013. (Incidentally, they have just published the results from the double century on 9/14 and they have me as an official 3x finisher now.)
In all years there was a cutoff at about 30: very few people under 30 ride doubles now and very few rode doubles in 1997. (In absolute numbers, out of 140 CTC finishers with known ages in 1997-98, only 2 were under 30. In 2012, that's 16 out of 468.)
Low-end age structure does not look substantially different now vs. 10 years ago. In the 30-39 bracket, 28/185 in 2003, 44/409 in 2008, 39/468 in 2012, 36/343 in 2013 to date. Participation mainly takes off above age 40.
The most significant difference is at the high end. In 2003 the histogram had a narrow peak at ~46 years old. In 2012-13 there is a plateau up to late 50's and a gradual decline. In 1997-98 only 3 out of 140 finishers were 60 or older. 2013 is shaping up to be a record year, there are already 55 finishers in their 60's and 8 finishers in their 70's and there are still several doubles left.
What I think it all means is that there has been a lot of growth in retirement age groups, in part because they have time, in part because the ones who got into the sport 10-20 years ago are still keeping at it, in part because people started to realize that you can still ride double centuries at 65, when everyone used to think that 65 means cane and rocking chair. There has been some (but less) growth in younger groups. As mentioned above, people under 30 often don't have time or money. Among younger cyclists there's probably substantial interest in racing, which competes for time with LD.
Another problem with the 35-50 age bracket is the one I've run into; I don't rando anymore because I'm busy supporting my kids racing road and cyclocross. No availability for rando rides, but since I want to do something, I've switched to racing single-speed 'cross.
Someday I hope to get back to it.
I've been doing this since the early 90s and I remember having discussions back then about all the old guys doing it. I think it's always been an old guy sport. They're the ones who have the time and the money to do it. Nothing new here...
Maybe a better demogrphic would be the average (or median) age of those who START the LD events, and not the finishing age. Since you have to commit to the event before you get to the finish line (register, train for it, etc), tht migth provide a better indicator of the whole LD community. Maybe there ARE more young 'bucks' in the LD crowd, but they're just not finishing event for some reason. Just a thought...
My impression is that LD events usually have low DNF rates. Last double century I did (fairly brutal course with 11600' of climbing) had the DNF rate of 8%.
I am not quite sure what the point of the blog post is. He states ages for PBP in one year, but neglects to do a comparison with previous runnings of the event.
Indeed, he points out that the CTC had only 33 starters back in the first running, but had 515 this year. If the health of that event(and it is only one event he is focussing his attention on) was so poor and in decline, why are there so many more competitors?
There also is another factor that can be at play here. It is well known that major events or series -- which the CTC qualifies as by its bulk of participants -- have three stages: Development, maturity and decline. One might suggest that CTC is well beyond development in on its way to maturity. PBP, given that it is held every four years, is to me, on the edge of the step between maturity and decline, although its mystique has helped it through so far.
In addition, there has always been, in my observations, a drop-off in participation in "ordinary" randonnees as the distances increase. So there will always be a big turnout for the 100-mile and under events, a reasonable turnout for the 200s, then a fairly rapid decline as the events move through the 400 to 600 marks.
Remember, also, that the longest events often require a commitment much greater than just filling out the entry form and a bit of training. For a 1200, there is often a requirement to do a SR series first, and they aren't run just down the street, so there are major logistical issues to be sorted before getting to the start.
And finally, the younger generation is in for the "instant fix", so a few hours on an MTB attacking a trail, or racing a crit or even a century are far more attractive than 12, 20, 30 or 60 to 90 hours of what many see as torture to finish a long randonnee.
I would think the Seattle Randonneurs or the BC Randonneurs groups, as among the most active in promoting and running their events, would provide a far more meaningful profile or participants. I suspect, my observations wouldn't be too far off the mark. I also wonder what the profiles are like in French LD and randonneuring events.
23 year old here. My upper limit ride length is about 70 miles. It's a time thing. I work my ass off because you have to if you want a career. 60 hour work weeks (with 40 hour pay...) are pretty standard. You old geeezers got the time and $.
BTW Davis bike club before it split up was (and may still be) bigger than Seattle and BC Randoneurs. Someone could probably go to RUSA and check. For many years it was the biggest and most active club in north America.
As for the Davis bike club? If Machka's experience with her participation in the Goldrush was any indicator, the poor way the club organised events had more to do with scaring off participants than anything else. Big does not always make best (despite what Californians and Texans might think). The split obviously was a positive thing.
when I saw CTC, I thought "Crush the Commonwealth," i.e. the annual race across Pennsylvania.
Slightly OT humor
Lately I've been "reading" slightly cross-eyed/dyslexically if that's possible.
When I first scanned the Thread Topic list today I read it as Ultracycling THERMOdynamics.
Now THAT really got my interest.
I know Machka has a less than pleasant experience on the GoldRush but I don't think one event is indicative of their level of support over the years. They have many years of an excellent track record. I remember doing a 600k with several hundred participants and great support. You are right that big doesn't always make better but a 30+year track record pretty much speaks for itself. At one point in the late 1990's DBC was the second largest randonneuring club in the world!The reason for the split was internal to the bike club not due to anything else. The club wanted to just run a single SR series each year and the randonneurs in the club wanted more. Thus the "split" where 4 new clubs were created, all within a 100+/- miles of each other. Interestingly they were all originally going to be run under the DBC banner but I think it works better that they are not. The bay area always has been and still remains the busiest randonneuring region in the US (and for that matter one of the biggest and best in the world). If they were scaring riders off that wouldn't be so.
One thought that comes to mind on this also- one of the cool things about Lone Star Randonneurs was that when I got involved, a lot of the people in it were right around my age- had they all been 20-somethings, it would have been a less interesting club to me.
22 Years old here. I think the real problem is 1) the cost of entry is enormous and most of us young people don't have that kind of money. and 2) Young people like to see other young people doing an activity before they take to it themselves.
I did my first series on a 30 year old racing bike. Granted, when it was new it was a very expensive bike, but it had been ridden hard and put away wet for decades. Just riding a series isn't all that much money, the longer rides can be though. Rando is cheaper than just about any sport I can think of
Rando can be cheap, but it can get expensive fast if you have to travel to get to rides. But seeing how many 20-somethings are into USCF racing, I don't think it's the price tag that keeps them out of rando. When I used to race (in my early 20's) my club and my races were full of 20-somethings who spent plenty on bikes, clothing, and races every other weekend (entry fees, gas, etc). Not saying everyone in their 20's can afford it, but plenty can.
That said, they all thought I was nuts for riding the distances I liked to ride even before I started riding brevets. (FWIW, I did my first brevet at 24, the FC508 the year before that at 23, and had been doing distances of up to ~400km alone for a few years before that. I did it because I liked it, but I didn't know anyone my age who was remotely interested)
Our club has had a recent influx of younger riders in the last couple of years. One thing that seems to help get them interested is the trend in bike geek circles toward certain styles of classic steel frames, traditional randonneuring luggage, etc. They get excited about the aesthetic, and about the ideal of piling a few small necessities onto the bike and disappearing off into the countryside for the weekend while still making it back to work on Monday. So randonneuring is a logical next step.
But overall, I don't get the sense that the demographic has changed much. People come and go; some get into it, do the series a few times, then get it out of their system and decide they like sleeping at night and go back to just riding centuries, or get into some other new thing. Some people get hooked and stay more or less active for years and years. But there are still plenty of new riders cycling through. I don't think we're in demographic trouble. :)
My experience has been that younger riders who are fully committed to cycling tend to ride races and Gran Fondos. Back in the 70's, when I was doing Cat II races, I had the opportunity to become one of the first Canadians to ride Paris-Brest-Paris. I passed, because training for a 1200-km ride would not have been good training for my 150-km races.
I would expect to see participation for long-distance riding to start bulging at around age 30 or so, and to remain steady or increase with age. Makes perfect sense; the riding is less competitive, requires less hard (speed) training (just ride), and it keeps you very healthy (compared to say, running).
I don't think cost is a factor. Costs are all over the map as far as races or long rides. Bike races, last I heard, were maybe $50 for a road race? A gran fondo is $200+. A CTC event is usually around $80. Furnace Creek was $550, Hoodoo is $350. But then a typical BC Randonneurs brevet is $15, plus a $10 membership, and a populaire is $20, with no membership required.
My youngest daughter won the women's division of a couple of 24-hour road races when she was 18 YO. Her best result was 355 miles. That was about 11 years ago. Then she got serious with road racing and gave up on the distance stuff. Going at a good pace for many hours really doesn't prepare you for a 40 mile road race or a 45 minute crit.
I've seen a fairly steady flow of younger guys randonneuring. I suspect there is a bit of a "bucket list" mentality for a lot of them, and life's responsibilities catch up with them and their participation wanes. I suspect a lot of them will be back later in life. I learned of randonneuring back in the '70s, and I was intrigued, but didn't think I could participate. Then a few years back, I read something about PBP and decided to go for it. Who knows how many people like me there are? Probably a lot more than there were before rando became as popular as it is now. I don't think people recognize that it really is a fairly new sport in the U.S.
Hopefully the rules instituted due to field limits for PBP don't discourage younger riders