Recently I have written an article about the state of the global road racing bicycle market and spoke about it with an acquaintance who is succesfully running a bike shop in the greater Bremen area. It seems that my judgement was premature.
I guess I felt victim to my prejustice, which is, that all road racing cyclist are a bit like myself: Riding 10.000 km or more in a year, training hard even during winter time and attending guided tours (RTF) and open road races (Jedermann Rennen) throughout the year.
I know now after the conversation, that most buyers of road racers are not like that: They start riding when temperatures are above 15 degree Celsius only and pack the bike when temperatures drop in autumn. They do perhaps 1.000 to 5.000 km a year and prefer to ride with their friends on the weekends. And on average every five years they buy a new bike. Thus the data on the Festive 500 Strava challenge is not representative of road racing cyclists in general, although one could argue that it is nevertheless for the Southern hemisphere as riders there ride the challenge under favourable weather conditions.
So perhaps only the „hardcore faction“ of road racers has reached its maximum in recent years? To give an answer to this question I picked up a suggestion by one of the readers to take a closer look at the development of attendance rates of so-called Jedermann Rennen.
Some words of explanation ahead: If you wanted to start road racing say, 30 years ago, you would have most likely joined at young age a local club and attended licensed amateur races in the vicinity of your town. However today, most beginners do not start in their teens, but rather re-discover cycling in their 30ties or 40ties. Most of them do not like to become a member of a club, as they see rather the disadvantages of further commitments then the benefits of regular training. As a consequence, Jedermann Rennen (JDR) have become popular, not only in Germany, but also in all other major cycling countries. To attend a race, you do not need to be member of a team, nor a licence is required.
In Germany the biggest JDR are hold in Hamburg (Cyclassics), Berlin (Velothon), besides that nine races in 2017 are organized in the German Cycling Cup Series.
- Sparkassen Münsterland Giro (Finishers in 2016 about 3.500)
- Skoda Velodom Köln (about 3.400)
- Tour d’Energy Göttingen (about 2.300)
- Neuseen Classic Leipzig (about 1.100)
- Skoda Velorace Dresden (anout 1.100)
- Rad am Ring (about 1.000, without the 24 hr races)
- Rothaus Riderman (about 600, 2 stages only)
- Schleizer Dreieck Jedermann (about 500)
- Circuit Cycling Hockenheim (about 400)
There are many other JDRs organized in Germany, most notably Sauerland Extrem and Rhön Marathon, but the bulk of the riders attend these 11 races. Hamburg is by far the biggest race and the only event able to draw regulary more than 10.000 participants; Berlin is in the range of plus/minus 10.000; all other races are much smaller.
So I took a look at the attendance rates between 2011 and 2016.of the races in Hamburg, Berlin and Münsterland; these are the biggest races in Germany, have a longer history and I attend all of them multiple times by myself. Regardless of the size, I set the number of race finishers in 2011 as 100% and compared that to the years 2012 to 2016. Data is easily available on the internet but it take some time and effort to crunch the numbers.
Generally speaking, the trends shows that the number of participants is declining. Cyclassics Hamburg has drawn almost 19.000 racers in 2011, but only a little bit more than 15.000 last year. The Velothon Berlin had its peak in 2012, since that numbers are falling. 2014 had been a particular bad year, but this is explained by the poor weather conditions at the day of the race. Berlin had drawn 11.500 racers in 2012 and only 9.000 last year.
Münster, on the other hand is more or less stable. Again, the low number in 2012 can be explained by the very poor weather conditions.
My first impression was, that attendance rates are going down because the expansion of the market has stopped. Indeed, if we take a look at the gender and age distribution of the Hamburg Cyclassics race we can find ample justification:
Road cycling failed to attract the huge potential of women cyclists. In overall, only 13% of the racers were female and we can further see a drop from 20% to 4% from the „easy going“ to the most competitive races. This still looks like an electric engineering class during my university days in the Eighties.
Now, let’s have a look at the age distribution:
Overall, more than two thirds of the finishers are 40 years or older and only 10% are in a „competive age“ of less than 30 years. We can also see that despite of the level of race attended (60, 100 or 160 km) the attendance rate drops the older a rider is. With other words it is no surprise that riders stop racing when they get older than 50 years.
The question is, whether more cyclists in the age group of 30 plus can be attracted to attend JDRs as it is clear that younger riders are not growing in sufficient numbers.
But speaking about this with „M“, the bikestore owner, he mentioned also some other explanations for the drop in participant rates, maintaining that the overall market is healthy:
- JDR racing fees rose steeply during the past years. Hamburg now demands a fee of about €80 in 2017. This is quite a lot, as one has to take into consideration the cost of transportation and accommodation in addition. One can spend therefore easily €200 on cycling race. Which compares to €800 for a whole week of cycling on Mallorca.
- More and more competitive amateur racer teams are attending the JDRs. This is due to seveal reasons, mainly, that claub membership is down and therefore less licensed amateur races are organized in Germany; secondly price money at JDRs is attractive. For the average rider it has become impossible to achieve a good result at a JDR any longer.
- When I ask my friends why they don’t join me to race the most common answer is: „Too risky, I don’t want to become injured„. Indeed, as JDRs draw all kind of racers, from the amateur to the absolute beginner, many dangerous situations develop during the race and the sight of an ambulance car on the roadside is a common one. In particular older riders are afraid of injuries as healing takes much longer compared to riders in their twenties.
So, despite the fact that JDRs draw in average about 15 to 25% less riders than five years ago, there are particular reasons for this development and we can assume that nevertheless the road racing market is stable. That is, for cafe racers, who see their bike mainly as a faster alternative to their treking bikes on sunny weekends.