My LBS (Piermont Bicycle Connection, Piermont NY) tells me that MTB sales are soft, road bike sales strong, and this trend seems to increase slightly each year. Hmmm. I'm a long time Road Nazi, but I've always wanted a Ti MTB, so I'm trading my 1999 Jamis 853 Reynolds Dragon hardtail for a Bikes Direct Motobecane Fly Ti. Lots of good MTB riding within 5 miles of my home. The Piermont store is closer to Manhattan (I'm 50 miles away from NY City) so the MTB opportunities are more limited there, plus it's on the OCP Manhattan Road Bike Weenie trail to Nyack, with an endless stream of Road weenies passing through.
So don't blame me. I just purchased a new MTB @ age 50, and the motivation that will give me to explore all the singletrack around here intrigues me. I like the simplicity of a hardtail, and the zing and cushiness of Ti. Perfect setup for me. I'm not the kind of woods rider who's going to take big air @ 25mph. I go alone, I ride my own pace. Even when it's not on the trail I use the knobby tires whenever potential icy/snowy roads makes riding 700c road bike tires a bad idea (that's about 10-20x each winter around here). I've owned an MTB now (and ridden them in the woods on occasion, sometimes regularly) for about 20 years.
What's up with that? Is that an industry-wide trend, or just a phenomena particular to my LBS? My overall sense is that MTB riding isn't as popular as it was 12-18 years ago.
One of my favorite aspects of MTBs has always been the tech schwag factor. The coolest cycling crap is always on the MTB side. All road bikes today owe their geometries to MTBs which introduced sloping top tubes 20+ years ago. Off road cycling conditions provide an extreme proving ground for ELS (Expensive Lightweight S***).