It would appear as though the lion's share of responses to this year's surveys has been collected so I figured I give it a look see this morning whilst waiting for the temperature to rise to a point where I could coax my beloved out for ride (vs. her staying in doors on the CyclOps Fluid II). Sun's out, so I've got a chance...
Anyway, for those who'd rather form their own assessments as previously noted, I've created a survey archive page on the Web that has links to the previous year's results as well as both Parts I & II of this year's survey that you can find at this URL: http://www.thetandemlink.com/surveys/surveycentral.html
OK, now on to my take on what I see in the data.
First off, I would note that in 2005 there were 256 folks who responded to my winter survey. In 2006 is was interesting to see that 258 folks took the survey, a net change of only 2... pretty amazing even using big numbers theories. In 2007 interest spiked to 612 and I'll be darned if I know why... unless there's just a lot more interest when the questions are solely limited to bicycle ownership and technology, as that's the only thing that made that survey different from the others. This year' survey drew 406 respondents to Part I and 334 to Part II. So, right off the bat, it would appear as though there are either more folks surfing the net for tandem information, or who have just decided to share their opinions. I tend to think the latter as the data from the rest of the survey may bear out.
As for what I found with the population that participated in both surveys, I think it's fair to say that tandem owners are generally more affluent than the average citizen or cyclist. The vast majority of folks riding tandems are riding premium or high-end models.
However, the average age of tandem teams is also pushing toward the upper end of the bell curve where you'd likely expect many folks to be higher wage earners or successful business owners.
While it seems like tandem enthusiasts have been on something of a buying spree over the past 5 years, most of the new tandem purchases have been upgrades not necessarily new participants. However, teams that upgrade also feed the second hand tandem market and that does provide the seeds for new participants seeking a lower priced entry point to the sport.
It's noteworthy that baby boomers were what fueled most of the surges in tandeming over the past 30 years, as best as I can tell. Therefore, boomers continue to shape the tandem enthusiast landscape. As for the health of the sport, it would appear as though 10% - 14% of the survey participants have recently taken up tandeming which probably off-sets the number of tandem teams that drop out each year. Put another way, tandeming as an activity is probably flat and it would appear as though the average age of tandem teams is going up, not down.
Family tandeming remains a small (15%) portion of the sport, and competition is barely a blip on the radar at about 2%. The vast majority of participants use their tandems for fitness, recreation, and social purposes and are content to be enthusiasts, not club racers. While there clearly are some Elite and very fast teams, they are the exception.
Tandem rallies and such are still a niche market in the overall scheme of things and more of the survey respondents seem to be more likely to use their tandem for an event like RAGBRAI, BRAG, MS150, or a local metric century than anything else. Moreover, if you back out the numbers, the vast majority of tandem owners simply ride on their own or with single bikes, not with other tandem teams.
Anyway, those are some of the impressions that I was left with as I looked over the data this morning (Part I) and then this evening (Part II). Obviously, my biases and view of tandeming (rallies, riding with other local teams, or just getting out and logging a weekend miles with my wife for fitness and quality time) shapes what I see in the data. I would expect that others might see things differently based on their biases so please don't feel as though I place any greater value on my own observations... because that is all they are.
Again, these survey's are unscientific and intended to help me understand more about out sport and are shared with a wider audience for entertainment purposes only.
What follows are my summaries of Parts I & II of the survey.
Original graphed results can be found here: http://www.opinionpower.com/results.cgi?id=316051829
Q1. When did you first purchase and/or begin to ride a tandem on a regular basis?
The largest group were the folks who took up tandeming within the past 2-3 years (19%), where 11% of the respondents joined the tandem ranks during the past year. All told, 44% of the respondents have taken up tandeming during the past 5 years, and 63% within the past 10. The next largest single group was the "over 10 years of experience, but less than 15" @ 17%. Our most seasoned tandem teams represented about 9% of the survey respondents.
Now, if I look back at 2005 where the same question was asked, the biggest shifts are on the front and back end of the curve where the newbies were at 14% and the most seasoned teams with over 20 years experience represented 12% of the respondents. The 5 years and under were at 42% with the 10 years and under at 66%. The over 30 years of experience club appears to be stable around 15 if I normalize the data.
In sum, it still looks like there is strong growth on the front end and probably an equal amount of attrition taking place across the other groups with the net effect of suggesting overall participation is flat. However, as you'll see in Question #10 of Part I, the consumption side of the sport is stronger than overall participation rates.
Q2. What is your combined Team Age as of today
This data is often times skewed when adults who ride with their children fall into the mix, but it seems to be a very small number that primarily hits the less than a combined age of 60 groups, and in particular the combined age of 50 group. That said....
The largest group by far was the 100-109 at 23%, bracketed by the 90-99 at 18% and the 110-119 at 13% for a combined 54% of the respondents. For comparison purposes, this same group accounted for 42% of the respondents in 2005 with another 19% hot on their heels in the 80-99 group.
Looked at another way, the under 100 group in 2008 accounts for about 42% of the respondents, where in 2005 this same group accounted for 66% of the respondents. At the upper end, the over 120 combined years group increased from 7% in 2005 to 11% in this year's survey.
As some of us have noticed, I believe the data does suggest that the average age of the tandem folks whom we see at the rallies and tours is keeping pace with our own age progression.
Q3. When you and your primary tandem partner first began to ride tandems how would you describe yourselve
No surprises here... 61% of the folks who tandem got into tandeming because at least one of the team members was an avid cyclist, with a little more than half of those (34%) being a Captain who introduced their stoker to cycling. The racers account for about 5% of new folks to tandems with 6% taking up tandems as a way of riding with their children. New-new folks to cycling and tandems accounted for about 4% and, as you might suspect, there were only two teams where the stoker was the avid rider who introduced a captain to tandeming.
Q4. How would you describe yourselves as a tandem team relative to skill / experience?
Again, not a lot of surprises here. About 70% of the respondents classified themselves as experienced tandem teams with a confident captain. Opening the aperture a bit, 85% of the respondents were confident in their abilities without regard to experience, where only 6% characterized themselves as cautious. Cautious stokers were well represented with an 18% showing in the experienced team category. Hammerheads make their first appearance here at 2% which will become a consistent theme in other questions.
Q5. Where do you do most of your riding?
Only 3% of the respondents indicated that they are dedicated bike path/MUP riders, whereas the vast majority are road warriors: 81% on rural roads, 64% in urban areas, and 44% who venture onto the shoulders of highways and thoroughfares. However, nearly 1/2 of the respondents (48%) also include bike paths/MUPs/trails in their riding scheme and 15% indicated they take on city traffic. About 16% ride off-road tandems, and of those 3/4's of them head for the single track and technical terrain. Track rats account for about 1% and those racers are back here again with a 2% stake.
Q6. With whom do you ride your tandem?
Again, no real surprises: 96% ride with spouses, and/or 13% -14% also ride with their children: a nice solid number relative to family tandeming. Multi-seat tandem owners accounted for about 7% of the survey respondents, which is up from about 5% in the 2007 survey. The number of tandem teams that search out or who have discovered other teams to ride with locally (72 @ 17%) are, coincidentally, equally represented in the number of teams that attend tandem rallies (70 @ 17%). Group-riders, independent of tandems, are a solid 22% - 25%. Those who race at sanctioned events... you guessed it: 2%.
Q7. Approximately how many total miles did you and your partner(s) ride on your tandem this past year (2007)
73% of the survey respondents rode more than 500 miles last year. Nearly 1/2 (49%) rode over 1,000 miles. About a 1/4 (23%) rode over 3,000 miles, and 5% logged over 5,000 miles. Thirteen (13) teams logged between 5,000 - 7,500 miles, with one (1) team at 10,000 - 15,000 and another one (1) reporting over 15,0001 miles!
Q8. Which of the following describe your typical tandem rides.
Thirty nine (39 - 9%) of the survey respondents reported that you use their tandems for basic transportation and, pulling from Part II of the survey, eleven (11 - 3%) are living car-free as well. At the other end of the spectrum, 18 of the survey respondents (4%) are competing against other cyclists or the clock with 101 (24%) doing hard/fast training rides. The big distance riders represent 13% of the respondents and the majority of teams (52%-59%) are using their tandems for fitness or social rides of varying lengths.
Q9. Do you think of yourselves as an Elite, A, B, or C Team or perhaps just Civilian Cyclists?
Half of the respondents were modest and claimed equal halves of their status as being simply average or civilian cyclists. About 37% are either a bit faster than most other teams, with some (10%) trying to hang-on to the group and some (6%) trying to bridge up to the A Team. The very fast and Elite riders, to include the sandbaggers, represent 6% of the respondents, with about 1% (7) claiming Elite status, two of whom have the hardware to prove it.
Q10. When did you purchase your last BRAND NEW tandem?
First off, 15% of the survey respondents are assumed to have never purchased a new tandem given that they opted out of this question but answered all of the others in Part I. Conversely, 22% of the survey respondents have purchased new tandems within the last year. Over 1/2 of the survey respondents (52%) have purchased new tandems within the last 3 years which suggests a lot of folks have been driving new tandem sales by upgrading since only 30% of the survey respondents entered the tandem market during the same time period... and Question #1 of Part II would indicate that only 60% of first tandems were purchased new. If we go out to 10 years, the same pattern remains: 78% of the survey respondents have purchased new tandems, where the number of folks who took up tandeming represents 63% of the survey population. At the other end of the bell curve we find 4 teams who have not purchased a new tandem since 1978 and, overall, about 4% of the survey respondents last purchased a new tandem before 1988.
Original graphed results can be found here: http://www.opinionpower.com/results.cgi?id=159051851
Q1. Pick the statement that describes your first tandem
Overall, 60% of first time tandem buyers opted to go with a new tandem and of those, more than half (33%) went with a premium-level machine. Entry-level tandems -- new and used -- accounted for about 20% of first tandems for the survey population with 3% of the respondents having found their first tandem at a garage sale. Only one department store tandem was reported along with 4 rental units, which pales in comparison to the 58 (15%) high-end first time tandem buyers, either new or used.
Q2. What type of traditional, upright two-seat tandem(s) do you now own?
While the premium road tandems dominated the responses with 55%, the one that jumped out at me here was the abundance of high-end / custom / exotic tandems: 29%. I was also surprised to see a fairly large number (25%) of respondents with off-road tandems of one sort or another, but only 5% ownership of "classics".
Q3. What type of non-traditional tandem(s) do you now own?
This was actually the second half of question #2, but I didn't clearly convey it that way. Thus, I'll do my best to salvage what I can....
Multi-seat tandems are owned by 7% of the 334 Part II survey respondents (23 of them), with only 6% (21) reporting a recumbent in their stables: 15 short wheelbase & 6 long wheelbase. Semi-recumbents also seemed somewhat under-represented (2) and I'd love to know what the 15 "some other type not mentioned" were.
Q4. If forced to describe yourself as a cyclist, the following would most closely apply
It was nice to see a strong showing (14%) in the cyclo-tourist / travel enthusiast category along with a 6% showing for the family connections. That 53% of the respondents classified themselves as "roadies" was no surprise. The 6% of off-road riders struck me as a bit lower than I expected, particularly since I stacked the deck by letting my off-road tandem enthusiast's list know about the survey: Egads, imagine what it would have been without them!!! It was nice to see 11 folks representing the bicycle industry... some of whom I believe we know and it was also interesting to see we have a professional cyclist out there somewhere.
Q5. If forced to describe yourself as it pertains to bicycle advocacy, the following would most closely apply
Racking and stacking the data, it would appear that ~64% of Part II survey respondents are what I would call passive advocates who exercise their rights to use the road, with 13% clearly in the bicycle lane / path / MUP camp. In retrospect I wish I had included a write-in where folks could identify which advocacy group they are affiliated with... 21% seemed high and it dawned on me that we may have quite a few members of the League of American Bicyclists formerly known as Wheelman (LABFKAW). However, once you parse the 72 advocacy group 'members' from the folks who attend meetings or have a more official capacity as an advocate, you're left with 12 survey respondents (6%).
Q6. With respect to the future of cycling and tandeming
There were clearly a lot of optimistic folks who responded to the survey... 74% of the folks who took Part II of the survey responded to the first pair of question and overwhelmingly (71%) felt that cycling is growing and attracting new participants. 70% of the folks who took Part II of the survey responded to the second pair of questions and 61% see motorists becoming MORE tolerant of cyclists (having been maliciously swerved at by a middle-age male in a brand new Ford F350 today while we were out riding our tandem in our matching and very red DF winter weight jerseys, I'm not sure I'm in that camp). Only 41% of the folks who took Part II of the survey responded to the third pair of question but overwhelmingly (96%) felt that they would be seeing better on-road accommodations for cyclists. I'll fess-up to being one of the 5 respondents who indicated that they'd live to see bicycles banned from some local roads. The next paring (pro tandem growth) was interesting in that 97 folks indicated that participation at tandem rallies would be growing in light of the fact that only 70 had indicated they attend rallies back in Part I. Since presumably 12 of the 70 who attend rallies responded to the the last pairing of questions (it's all down hill from here), I must assume that at least 39 of the 96 are planning on attending their first rally in 2008! Anyway, while I'd like to see tandeming continue to grow as the 65% of the respondents do who weighed in on the pro-tandem growth questions, my sense is that it is at best flat and as Question 2 in Part I indicated, the demographic may be graying.
Q7. Of the following apparel items, indicate which of the following items your team owns that match and if you intentionally coordinate your outfits before group rides, etc...
Pretty straight forward: 32% of the respondents consciously go for the team look and have most of the apparel items to do so, and 26% have nothing that matches. Frankly, I thought matching socks would score high until I remembered that only 17% of the folks who took these surveys attend rallies where they're likely to get matching socks in their give away bag. For the record, we have a lot of matching jerseys, but rarely match in warm weather and our helmets match. That's about it.
Q8. Which of the following accessories do you have and use on your tandem?
90% Computer – Captain and/or stoker
62% Luggage rack / trunk bag
44% Bell or horn
29% Full Panniers (front and/or rear)
27% HRM – Captain and/or stoker
24% GPS device – Captain and/or Stoker
24% Mud Guards / Fenders
15% Trailer (Bob, etc)
13% Communication System (Tandem-Talk, Com, etc.)
2% None: we travel light
Wow. 24% with GPS devices... that caught me by surprise. 24% with mud-guards was also a bit of a surprise since we rarely see any tandems sporting mud-guards except in the Pacific Northwest. Panniers (29%) and trailers (15%) also were a bit higher than I expected, even given the 14% of respondents who classified themselves as cyclo-tourists. However, I would note that the ever-present 2% club made a showing here in the "none, we travel light" camp.
Q9. When reading about tandeming, which five of the following topics are the ones that appeal to you the most
79% Tandem technology, maintenance & how-to information
65% Question & Answer exchanges
62% Tandem lifestyle / anecdotes
60% Travel Info / Trip Diaries
46% Riding tips and cycling safety
34% Fitness and nutrition
28% Family cycling topics
25% Anything goes / potpourri
22% Bicycle advocacy & activism
15% Commercial announcements / notices
Kinda speaks for itself, but suggests that there's an audience for just about everything... even though the majority of readers may not have an interest in everything.
Q10. What’s your total household’s annual gross income?
~95% have a household income over $50k per year.
~62% have a household income over $100k per year.
~31% have a household income over $150k per year.
~16% have a household income over $200k per year
~ 9% have a household income over $250k per year.
It has been suggested that tandem enthusiasts have higher than average incomes and discretionary spending limits that exceed the norm... I would say that if one used median household income numbers that would clearly be the case, along with any other national metrics.