Mountain Biking Events Bring Big Bucks to Small Towns

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New Linfield College study documents economic impact of mountain biking events

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Communities are racing to reinvent themselves for the mountain bike crowd, says a Linfield College professor who tallied the economic benefits.

Hundreds of small communities with stagnant economies and abundant scenery are seeking new business models to sustain themselves, and many are looking to the recreation industry to drive business growth and create jobs.

Throughout the West, once booming timber and mining towns are repositioning themselves as adventure destinations for tourists, with mountain biking often taking center stage.

A new study by Linfield College Professor Jeff McNamee documents the economic benefits of mountain biking events in two small Oregon towns, Bend and Oakridge. Both have been impacted by the loss of timber revenues.

His research is some of the first in the United States to quantify the trickle-down economic impact of mountain biking events.

“The sport is taking off across the world, so it makes sense that communities are beginning to see the value of trails and mountain biking events,” said the Linfield College health and human performance professor.

A single event that lasted a mere three days brought more than $1 million into Oakridge, whose population is just over 3,000, and three short mountain biking events in the two Oregon towns drew more than 1,700 visitors from 28 states and five countries.

Perhaps the most surprising finding from McNamee’s research was the demographics of the visitors.

“We tend to envision mountain bikers as young punks, but most visitors at these events were older adults with disposable incomes,” he said. Almost three-quarters of the participants had incomes of $100,000 or higher, with 30 percent of all visitors making more than $200,000.

“These are the types of tourists communities want to attract,” said McNamee, whose findings also show that mountain bikers spend more than the average tourist and stay significantly longer, an average of four days.

Communities are racing to reinvent themselves for the mountain bike crowd. In Oakridge, a new brew pub serves handcrafted beers, and lodging options, including B&Bs, are growing.

McNamee’s research compliments an Oregon Bicycle Travel Survey released this month, which said recreational bike travel brings 400 million tourist dollars into Oregon.

Jeff McNamee teaches at Linfield College in McMinnville and Portland, Oregon. The small college offers a rich curriculum of liberal arts and sciences, along with select professional programs, and has been nationally praised for combining affordability and excellence.

The school is located between the Cascade Mountain range and Pacific Ocean beaches, and students experience outdoor adventures all year long, including mountain biking, hiking, skiing, snowboarding and surfing.

In addition to teaching at Linfield, McNamee is spearheading a volunteer effort to create a 70-mile bike trail that connects Oregon wineries, forests and riverways.

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Nadene LeCheminant
Linfield College
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