Youth sports have been on hold all spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that seems to be benefiting one sort of forgotten activity.
That would be biking. Have you seen more kids getting on their bikes pedaling through the neighborhood? You are not imaging things if you are.
According to Aspen Institute's Project Play, bicycle sales across the nation grew by 50 percent in March and kid bike sales have increased 59 percent from a year ago.
"Consumers are looking for outdoor and kid-friendly activity to help better tolerate the challenges associated with stay-at-home order. Cycling fits the bill well," Dirk Sorenson, executive director of the National Purchase Diary Panel, a market research company, told Project Play. "The growth we are noting is coming largely from children, BMX and adult leisure bikes that carry a more approachable price point than some of the more expensive bike styles we have seen sell well prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
"In the end, more people are likely riding than we have seen in years past."
According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, there were 4.7 million U.S. kids ages 6 to 12 who were avid bikers in 2018. Research shows kids on bikes has been slowly declining for years, including a 28% drop from 2008.
The NPD Group also reported a 170% increase in stationary bike sales in March. With most gyms closed, adults are having to adapt and find new ways to exercise. That's happening in two ways, stationary bikes and parents riding with their kids.
But when things get back to normal will the increased interest in biking stay?
"I don't think anybody expects 100% of the people who have taken up riding again to continue to do it,” Steve Frothingham, editor at Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, told Project Play. "But even if a small fraction of that number continues, that’s good news. Bike sales in general had been fairly flat for quite a while. Some people in cities like New York could say it’s nice not having all the cars here.
"For transportation purposes, I think it will be a while before people want to get back on subways and buses."
Mike Binkowski, coach of the Prior Lake mountain bike team, is an avid biker. The Minnesota High School Cycling League starts riding in August with the first scheduled event set for Aug. 29-30 at Brophy Park in Alexandria.
Binkowski is always looking for more riders for his team, which includes grades 6 through 12. The Lakers' team, like many across the state, is a no-cut program. All riders are welcome.
Binkowski said there are many trails in the metro area to ride if kids and families want to get off the neighborhood routes, or if you want a challenge to train for the Lakers this fall.
Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve in Savage is a popular trail, one of Binkowski's favorites.
"I love this trail for a number of reasons, first of which is that it's so close that I can ride to and from the trail head," Binkowski said. "It's only a mile from my house. The trail itself is a fun, twisty single track ride through a 10-mile trail, all loops, and it's got a little bit of climbing, a few bridges and other features to keep things interesting.
"The bird loop is another favorite section, even though it's only open for part of the year, August through November," Binkowski added.
Binkowski also recommends Lebanon Hills in Eagan, the Lake Marion Trail in Lakeville and the Minnesota River Bottoms.
"Lebanon Hills is a really fun trail; it's got something for everyone and can challenge even the best riders," Binkowski said. "It's also is great for beginners with fun, flowy green and blue loops that offer climbs, descents, tight single track and other features."
Binkowski said Lake Marion is one of the new trails in the south metro. It's a series of interconnected spurs that are mostly fast.
"It's a relatively compact trail, but has so many options that you can ride it several time in a session and not take the same route through each time," Binkowski said. "Minnesota River Bottoms may be one of the best mountain bike trails for pure adventure. The river bottoms are a unique gift to the metro area in that you can ride pretty much in the middle of a urban metro city but feel like your in the north woods."