Section 508 Navigation
American Trails header Skip Navigation
HomeAbout usTrailsWhat's hotCalendarTrainingResources & libraryPartnersJoin usStore

Trail Tracks opinion forum

The mythical off-highway vehicle user

Wwho are these OHV users and where are they coming from? The answer may surprise you.

By Karen Umphress

"In 2005, there were just under 40 million people who used an Off-Highway Vehicle. And the numbers are climbing."

The past decade has seen a tremendous growth in the use of Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs). The State of Idaho reports that the number of Off-Highway recreationists is doubling every 4 years. As of the fall of 2005, they have more than 90,000 registered OHVs in their State.

Minnesota has also seen a tremendous growth in OHV use with over 250,000 registered OHV users in the state in 2005. Nationwide, the number of people who use Off-Highway Vehicles for recreation increased by 100% between 1982 and 2000 and then an additional 24% from 2000 to 2004. But who are these OHV users and where are they coming from?

If you mention "Off-Highway Vehicle Enthusiast" to a person who is not an OHV user, there are some general characteristics that are assumed to belong to the OHV user that come to mind. Most of these attributes are not thought of in a positive light. But how accurate are these ideas? Who is an OHV rider? The answer may surprise you.

According to a recent survey done as part of the Federal recreation planning program, an OHV rider is on average a white urban male less than 50 years old. However the participants have been increasing across all demographic groups. The largest percentage of growth is in the demographic group of urban Hispanic females between 30 and 50 years old. The study also indicates that the percentage of people in each state that use Off-Highway Vehicles is significant. The state with the least amount of people in the state that use an OHV is Rhode Island with 11.5% of its population using OHVs. On the other side of the scale is West Virginia, where 34.5% of its population using OHVs. In fact, in 2005, there were just under 40 million people who used an Off-Highway Vehicle. And the numbers are climbing.

In fact the largest growing sector of OHV use is the older population. The demographic group of people 51 and older increased by 58% between the fall of 1999 and the fall of 2004. This is a group of people that used to be able to hike and bike long distances who, as they age, have experienced decreased mobility. Many of the Off-Highway vehicles allow these people access to the nature areas that they have always loved to visit, but they would no longer be able to access under their own power.

I belong to an Off-Highway Motorcycle club. Let's use this as an example of the demographics of an Off-Highway Vehicle group. In the club, there are a variety of professions including: IT managers, doctors, EMTs, project managers, realtors, accountants, cab drivers, engineers, business owners, safety managers, etc. The majority of the club members are made up of families with 48% of the main members having 1 or more family members that are also in the club. In the club 32% of members are children under the age of 16 and 24% of the members are females. This includes many father-daughter family memberships. The fathers contend that it is an excellent way for them to establish a bond with their daughters.

Another aspect of the Off-Highway Vehicle users that people don't generally associate with them is the love and a respect for the environment. The older generation that is turning to OHV use in order to enjoy the environment is an excellent example. These people who were pioneers in fighting for environmental causes won't suddenly turn into non-environmentally friendly people merely because they got onto an OHV. Their love for the environment remains. The OHV community also does many activities and has one of the highest percentages of people who actively work to create and maintain trails. This activity gives a high regard for the trails and for the forests in which they are located.

Submit your opinion, article, or editorial to American Trails at or if you have questions call us at (530) 547-2060.

American Trails offers this website as a public resource to share ideas and opinions on trails and greenways. We have not evaluated the accuracy, feasibility, or legality of any of the material or articles. The opinions and editorials presented here do not necessarily reflect the opinion or support of American Trails. American Trails does not discriminate against individuals or groups on the basis or race, religion, nationality, or political affliiation.

Related topics:

More resources:

page footer

Contact us | Mission statement | Board of directors | Member organizations | Site map | Copyright | NRT | NTTP