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?
First, not all missionaries ride mountain bikes. Some ride 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?