A question that raised itself last night whilst at a friend's house watching the England game. He said that the great thing about football was that it's relatively cheap (equipment, access to facilities, training etc), and that he's glad his son has chosen football over a number of more expensive sports such as tennis, go karting and cycle sport. And the accessibility of football to even the very poorest globally makes it a far more democratic and equal sport; you achieve success through talent and endeavour, rather than through wealth.
We then got onto cycling/mountain biking as a hobby/sport/pastime, and he commented on how much I spend on bikes etc. Certainly, the cost of a pair of decent cycling shoes compared to a pair of equivalent quality fotobal boots. We agreed that mountain biking in particular seems to be a relatively very expensive activity, which naturally limits participation to those who have the economic means to become involved. Mountain biking world champions are all from wealthy 'western' countries, and there seems to be little or no participation from places like Africa from where you'd expect high performing athletes to emerge, especially in endurance events.
Aside from the economic issue, cycling doesn't seem particularly popular amongst ethnic minority groups here in the UK; you see white kids from poorer backgrounds out on bikes, but not so many Asian or black kids. The bicycle as a means of recreation doesn't seem anywhere near as popular amongst those communities (yet they appear to embrace cars as much as any other group). Do black and Asian kids not ask for bikes for christmas as much as white kids?
A few friends are in cycling clubs (mainly road racing), and they all say that the clubs are almost exclusively white, and above a certain income bracket. Mountain biking seems to be even more polarised in this sense, with the added issue of very low female participation.
Apparently there are one million bicycles in Beijing (according to popular culture). So it's not like other parts of the world shun the bicycle. And a really good bike costs a fraction of what a car does to buy and run. So why is it such a 'rich white mans' sport? How can it be made more accessible?