Why do Missionaries Ride Mountain Bikes?

Huzzah! New question in the inbox! This one comes from someone named “Mitch,” which is probably not his real name. Here’s the question:

Another question about Mormonism. What’s up with the mountain bikes? Every time I see some young Mormons out about town it’s always the same, they travel in pairs, white shirt, black tie on mountain bikes, no exceptions. Why no other types of bikes?
Also, I never see one without a helmet, are helmets mandatory?

Great question!

First, not all missionaries ride mountain bikes. Some ride fixies:

mormon-missionary-fixie

Mormon Missionaries with their Sweet Fixies.

But… you’re right… most Mormon missionaries ride generic mountain bikes. The traveling in pairs, white shirts, and dark ties (not necessarily black) is all mandated directly out of Church headquarters in SLC. Your guess is as good as mine regarding why the strict dress code, but probably all the same reasons any group has uniforms.

Also, not all missionaries are on bikes. I served a full 2 year mission for the church and didn’t ride a bike the entire time. It depends a lot on where they are and what they want.

Helmet wearing, I’m sure, is also mandatory. I asked a couple of local missionaries if that rule came directly from SLC, or if it was a local Mission rule, and they weren’t sure. They were sure, though, that it was required.

But why Mountain Bikes? It’s probably the same reason most people (especially bike newbies) ride generic mountain bikes: They’re cheap, generally reliable, have a more upright riding position than road bikes, they’re all terrain, and the people riding them don’t know any better.

Each Mission (a geographic area containing somewhere around 100-200 missionaries) has a different process for buying bikes. In some missions, the Mission owns all the bikes, so purchasing and distribution is handled centrally. Missionaries come and go, but the bikes stay put for the next set of missionaries to come along. In these cases, I’m sure they buy generic mountain bikes because they’re buying 30 at a time and they just want something cheap. Also, about half the time, the guy buying them is likely to be a 70 year-old man or woman that hasn’t ridden a bicycle since they were 15. When I was a missionary, I heard of other missionaries requesting better bikes from the Mission Office on a couple occasions. The response was typically something a little manipulative like, “Elder, Mission funds are sacred. Don’t you want Mission funds to be used to perform the Lord’s work rather than buying you a fancy bike?”

In other Missions, each missionary is responsible for buying their own bikes, and sometimes there’s even a Mission rule that they aren’t allowed to spend more than x dollars on it (so as not to make the poor missionaries jealous or something). Since Missionaries are typically extremely poor (they receive a stipend of somewhere between $100-$200 per month, but that’s after they pay somewhere around $400/month just to be missionaries in the first place…), cheap mountain bikes are a logical choice.

Or maybe it’s because (according to this source) Liahona Bikes, a maker of mountain bikes marketed exclusively to LDS missionaries, received some kind of official endorsement from the Church Missionary Department in SLC to sell bikes to missions.

Any More Questions?

Ask Me Anything!!!

11 comments to Why do Missionaries Ride Mountain Bikes?

  • Ren

    They should ride penny-farthings!

  • @Ren – lol. I agree. Or Unicycles.

  • Kassie

    I love that the missionaries ride bike. I have lots in my neighborhood and I love to watch them riding their bikes. It is sort fun to watch young boys on bikes…

    Two quick points…

    1) Saw a missionary just today on a road bike. I was impressed.

    2) The way missionaries ride has changed over the last few years. Just two summers ago I was going crazy about all the missionaries on the sidewalks, two abreast, riding the wrong way. Now I seem them in the streets riding with traffic the way they are supposed to ride. It is really nice to see.

  • FrozenOkie

    I rode one of the Liahonas on my mission in Australia. They were part of a package of things that the mission office bought in bulk and that each missionary bough when we got to the mission. I gave mine to a missionary who had his bike stolen a few months before I went home because I was in an area where I didn’t need it, though I rode a lot earlier in my mission.

    I’m also glad to see missionaries riding properly. We rode on the street with traffic- it was stressed by the mission that we weren’t to ride on sidewalks. (since we should obey the law and all that) In some of my areas we did ride on dirt trails or cut through parks which meant that the all terrain nature of the mountain bikes was useful (it also meant that in some of my areas I didn’t know how to get some places by car)

    I’m horribly clumsy and not good at biking- I bought a generic trek mountain bike a few years ago. It would be nice to get a road bike- though I’m not sure I’d ride it enough to justify spending the money/time on one.

  • KT

    I’ve heard another reason for the spending cap on bike purchases is to reduce the target for theft, especially for those serving in tougher neighborhoods.

  • In my mission, the Swiss Geneva Mission, all the missionaries rode bikes.

    I basically never stopped riding bikes! Have never owned a car… I guess I always just figured if I could do everything I needed to do as a missionary with just a bike and public transportation, why would I ever need anything else??

    (Actually, there are situations where I need a car, so fortunately I have friends who occasionally let us use theirs, and then there’s HourCar!!!)

  • That picture of Mormons on fixies is pretty much awesome.

  • @Kassie – Good news to hear.

    @FrozenOkie – Cool story. I kind of wish I’d gotten to ride bikes as a missionary, but I probably just would have spent the whole time joyriding.

    @c.a.y.l.a. – if you google “mormon missionaires fixie” or something, you can find a few more, including one of those guys trying out his track stand skills.

  • YENYS

    Mormons are part of a cult; their ignorant, blind, and part of a multi-billion dollar “religion”. They are satanic and full of sins according to actual and factual text from the holy bible. C’mon.. THE BOOK OF MORMON..give me a break. Also, “do you all know that you are worshiping lucifer(devil,antichrist,hell,etc.)?

  • @Yenys – can’t tell if you’re trolling, or just stupid.

  • Elder Alexander

    All i can say to YENYS is you don’t understand Mormon. It calls you and you come to it naturally on your own. It becomes a desire, an investment with many benefits in return. It is a huge security blanket you can always depend on. I have been Mormon for 30 years. Mormons are extremely money smart. Almost frugal in a sense. Due to the Church and my learning i have been able to retire at the age of 45 with over 3.5 million $ to live out the rest of my life. A standard donation to the church is 10% of your total income which is a small amount after you consider all that you have benefited.