|The author rides the Davis Double, circa 1985.|
That's the unfortunate message that can be gleaned from the stats for riders in ultradistance cycling events.
Example: Statistics published by the California Triple Crown, which for 24 years has tracked the average age of the riders who finish the CTC series each year (completing at least three 200-mile "double century" rides). When the CTC started in 1990, the average age of a finisher in the series was 35. By 2013, the average age has risen to almost 51.
The figure mirrors the demographics for members of Randonneurs USA, the US organization for randonneuring. RUSA's members average 49.76 years of age; male RUSA members are slightly older (50.19), while female RUSA members are slightly younger (47.80).
Statistics for Paris-Brest-Paris, the most famous long-distance event in the worldwide randonneuring circuit, tell a similar story. In the most recent running of PBP in 2011, the average age of a finisher was 48.7 years of age. Male finishers in 2011 averaged 49.0; females 45.4.
The median age in the US in 2013, by comparison, is 37.1. The average age of U.S. men in 2013, by the way, is even lower--35.8 years.
Using that measure (because ultramarathon cyclists are overwhelmingly male), the average age of a long-distance cyclist is almost 16 years older than men as a whole in the U.S.
Why is this? It's probably true that other types of cycling--mountain biking, racing, etc.--appeal more to younger riders and attract younger participants. Long-distance cycling demands a measure of endurance and patience that many younger cyclists don't have. It's also expensive--the average double century now costs more than $100 to enter, and most require travel and overnight stays. All told, one ride can easily cost $500 or more. Many of the younger cyclists that we know can't afford that kind of scratch.
|The author at the 2013 Davis Double|
There are some bright spots. In 1990, the CTC had only 33 finishers. Last year (this year's season isn't over yet), there were 515. That's partly due to the larger number of double centuries to choose from (just six in 1990 and 24 this year), and partly due to the growing awareness of the series. Still, CTC participation peaked in 2007 with 555 finishers, and has exceeded 500 only two years since then.
We're interested in your take on this issue. Let us know what you would to do increase participation in ultramarathon cycling in the comments below.