MOD 010: Using market forces to spot off-road racing spin

Merchants of Dirt Episode #10

Building races based on fringe race disciplines may not make any money but could be what gets it out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

Key Take Away #1: Understand market forces, competition, and customers

You can be a fan of a fringe sport and love that sport like no other.

Make no mistake, it will not make you a bunch of money.

You could love a race discipline.

It could be the greatest challenge you have ever experienced and be the reason you started getting into racing in the first place.

But if nobody else wants to do it, you will never make any money building it.

This is why you need to ask yourself this honest question: Are you ok with building races based on niche or fringe race disciplines that make no money?

If the answer is, No, then you need to understand how the market forces of markets, competition, and customers for the trifecta of why things do and do not sell.

Key Take Away #2: Fringe race disciplines

Some fringe race disciplines will eventually make money but if the market is not there, then the market is not there!

When you are first starting your race promotion business, you do not have the luxury to conduct promotional experiments.

Promotional experiments take a long, long time, and some serious dedication before they turn into something that makes money.

And that is the wrong way to build your new race promotion company.

When you’re big and profitable, you can experiment with niche sports.

However, when you’re starting out, you need to focus on keeping everything simple by asking yourself:

  • What are your market forces?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Is there a potential customer base?

Do not to hyper-analyze your competitor’s race results, only attempt to understand the size of the potential customer base within that market.

All your research needs to do is prove that customers actually exist in your chosen market area, and are willing to spend money on races.

Key Take Away #3: Applying market force thinking to the real-world sport of Snowshoe Racing

Before you base your racing business on niche off-road sports, you need to first learn about the market forces, competition, and customers of that particular sport.

With all that very basic and minimal amount of research, you can determine that a sport like Snowshoe racing has:

  • There is a market for snowshoes and snowshoe racing. The sales part might be declining, but we know the racing part is still very active
  • We know there are competitors who are promoting races, we know there is a governing association, and we know there is a National Championships every year. And a quick search found The 2017 World Snowshoe Championships that will take place Adirondacks of Northern New York in February
  • And there is a growing customer base of racers that are interested in reading about snowshoe racing, are paying registration fees, and showing up to races

Based on this research and this research alone, you might conclude that snowshoe race promotion might be good for your business.

Unless you live in Florida.

But even the No-Snow Races could be interesting — but that might be too fringe for the Everglades.

There is a rise in No-Snow off-road events.

Go over to and read my article on No-Snow Biathlon if you have an interest in No-Snow options.

For the most part, No-Snow Snowshoeing and Biathlon are both fringe sport.

However, if you live in an area that gets reasonable snowfall for part of the year, you could safely assume that you could build a following based on snowshoe racing.

Just remember to start small, stay simple, and do more research than I did for this show.

That is all there is to understanding the basic market forces that are involved in Snowshoe racing.

Key Take Away #4: Applying market force thinking to the real world sport of Fat Bike Racing

With a minimal amount of research you can discover that:

  • There is a market for Fat bikes and Fat Bike racing. The sales are declining just like snowshoes, but we know the racing part is still very active
  • We know there are competitors who are promoting races, we know there is a governing association, and we know there is a National Championships every year. And a quick search found The 2017 World Fat Bike Championships that will take place Crested Butte, Colorado in January
  • However, the customer base is more cultural riders than racers. They are interested in reading about Fat Biking, but it is unclear if they are interested in paying registration fees and showing up to races

My own experience has been that Fat Bike riders are small in number, especially when it comes to mountain bike racing.

In a mountain bike racing experiment, I ran earlier this year, the most I ever had was 4 Fat Bike riders on the start line.

Does that mean that Fat Bike racing is not a good fringe market to invest your time and money into?

In this case, the jury is still out on Fat Bikes.

When you discover a race discipline where you have to use words like “the jury is still out”, then you need to steer away from it until some stability can be observed.

Fat bikes might be balanced machines, but as a racing discipline, it needs more time to grow.

Key Take Away #5: Targeted Research

This is the power of doing some targeted research using market force thinking as your guide.

As the buzz around each fringe sport you focus on dwindles, you will see some of your customers gravitating towards the next new buzz.

Some will declare that their special off-road sport is not dying.

Even if the bigger picture shows sales are still falling or even leveling off.

One day, they will announce that pavement is dead.

The next they will say that trail running has run its course — total pun intended.

Sometimes, it is international markets that still have the potential to grow a sport.

Then what was thought to be dead in the United States, suddenly comes back to life.

This can be said about surfing, backpacking, and hunting — all off-road sports that are just now finding the value in the market again.

You will be successful in your race promotion efforts by keeping a constant eye on the market forces that impact your discipline.

When the time comes, your fringe off-road sport just might be the next one to explode in popularity.

You will be right there with a race promotion offering before anyone else, and you’ll know when it’s time to not treat your sport as fringe anymore.

Bonus Tip

Inspiring others in weird sports describes just about every famous sports success story there is.

Do not assume your passion for building a certain kind of race, will be carried by those whom you want to race in it.

Often, what you think is not always what the market thinks.

However, do not think that your love for a fringe sport will always steer you wrong, either.

Your passion is an advantage, and a great advantage to have!

It will help you keep going when the building of races becomes hard.

It will from time to time.

Your passion could be just the thing that inspires others to find the same joy in your fringe sport as you do.

You can be the catalyst that gets a race discipline from out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

Nobody really knows until you — YES, YOU — create something for others to experience for the first time.

Who knows.

If they like it, they could ask for more, and that could be just the thing to push your race business from the hobby you do in your past time, to the race promotion business you do full time.

And Know you know.

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Thank You for Listening

Thank you so much for listening to Merchants of Dirt Podcast. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to me @MerchantsofDirt on Twitter, by Email, or my Contact Form.

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Kyle Bondo
Kyle Bondo is a thinker, podcaster, author, and creative strategy dragon seeking to make a small dent in the universe. He is the founder of Reckoneer, host of the Merchants of Dirt and Get Lost Racing podcasts, and an avid mountain biker and adventure racer.
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