The South African government’s reaction to the Covid-19 virus has been similar to that of many countries around the world. Five levels of lockdown as well as other measures changed life as we came to know it. For some more than others. Here’s how the lockdown, which is still in place after 19 months, has affected South African mountain bikers.

It’s widely known that the early phases of the South African lockdown, which were highly restrictive, generated major interest in outdoor exercise in general and cycling in particular. Mountain bike sales were unprecedented and bike shops, those that were still in business after the initial Level 5 hard lockdown, enjoyed a record winter in 2020.

We wanted to find out a bit more about how the lockdown has affected South African mountain bikers, so we created a survey. We ran the survey, with the support of Ciovita for four weeks in August and September 2021 and promoted it via the TREAD website, weekly mailer, TREAD Bulletin and the TREAD social media channels. A total of 576 responded to the survey.

We are mindful that many people lost their livelihoods and their lives were altered dramatically, many for the worse. It’s likely many of those weren’t in a position to take this survey. We are also mindful that mountain biking tends to attract those that are positive and optimistic and wish those that have been worst affected all the best as you pursue whichever altered life path you have been forced to take.


How has the lockdown overall altered your standard of living?

I’m better off 11.63%
I’m about the same 55.21%
I’m worse off 25%
I’m significantly worse off 6.77%

We had an ‘other’ option here where some in the restaurant, events and tourism industries mentioned their income was significantly affected.


Did the lockdown lead to a loss of employment for you?

Yes 8.16%
No 58.16%
I’m self-employed 24.13%
I’m retired 3.82%
I’m a scholar/student 2.43%
Other 3.30%

In ‘other’, the most comments were about a spouse that had lost income which affected overall household income. Also those who had to take pay cuts or increased workload with no increased income.


If you’re self-employed or a business owner, how did the lockdown affect you?

I was fortunate & am doing better 22.10%
I was unfortunate & am doing worse 26.42%
I had to close my business 1.62%
I had to change my business/type of work 19.68%
Other 30.19%

The high % of other is those responding where they weren’t required to, saying they’re employed, or a student or retired. However some comments were: ‘business remained the same’, ‘opened a new business’, ‘spouse is a business owner and was negatively affected’.


During the lockdown, how has your volume of mountain biking been affected?

I ride more than I used to 28.47%
I ride about the same as I used to 36.46%
I ride less than I used to 30.56%
I am unable to ride much anymore 2.26%
Other 2.26%

Comments in ‘other’ include ‘I ride less outdoors and more indoors’; ‘I ride less, but run more’ and ‘rode less in 2020, but more in 2021’


With races heavily affected by the lockdown, have you ridden more mountain bike trails than before?

Yes, significantly 16.49%
Yes, a bit 19.10%
About the same 32.99%
Have ridden less 28.65%
Other 2.78%

Comments in ‘other’ include, ‘I don’t do races’, ‘I’m new to the sport’ and ‘ridden more on the road bike’.


Did the lockdown motivate you to buy a home stationary trainer?

Yes 22.57%
No 34.55%
I already had one 34.38%
I upgraded the one I had 4.34%
Other 4.17%

Most comments in ‘other’ mention a desire to buy one but unable to afford it.


Have you bought a new bicycle during the lockdown?

Yes, more than one 7.29%
Yes, one 24.65%
No 65.28%
I had to sell mine to survive 1.04%
Other 1.74%


During the lockdown, have you bought a bicycle that’s designed for a different sub-category of cycling to what you normally do? You can choose more than one.

No 75.17%
Yes, XCO/Marathon bike 5.38%
Yes, Trail/Enduro bike 5.56%
Yes, Downhill bike 0%
Yes, eBike (MTB) 3.47%
Yes, eBike (Road) 0.52%
Yes, Gravel bike 5.90%
Yes, Road bike 4.34%
Other 1.91%

Comments in ‘other’ include, ‘bought a BMX bike, ‘bought a track bike’ and ‘bought a road bike for the indoor trainer’


Have you had difficulty buying a bicycle during the global and South African stock shortage?

Yes 14.24%
No 77.26%
If yes, give details 8.51%

This was a tricky question to ask as most of those that answered ‘no’ weren’t trying to buy a bike. Anyway, the comments were really what we were interested in, so here’s a summary of what they were:

‘Exchange rate made it prohibitive’

‘Struggled to find my size bike’

‘Just no stock’

‘Bought the frame locally, but sourced all parts from overseas’

‘Had to buy second-hand due to no stock in new models’

‘Orders are delayed, still waiting’

‘Had to settle for colour I didn’t really like due to limited stock’

‘Had to phone around for ages to find a bike’

‘Settled for a different bike to what I wanted due to stock shortages’


Have you had difficulty buying parts, spares or accessories due to the global and South African stock shortage?

Yes 33.51%
No 39.93%
If yes, give details 26.565

Again, another tricky one to ask, but we knew there was a major shortage, not just in South Africa, but globally as we have had difficulty getting our own parts. Again, we were interested in the comments:

‘Shimano MTB shoes and pedals’

‘Lyne components shortage’

‘No SRAM GS AXS stock in the country’

‘Brake pads and tubeless tyres’

’10-speed cassette’

‘Shortage of chains’

‘SRAM! And Specialized saddles’

‘Chains and tyres’

‘Shimano parts’

‘Limited supply of 27.5 tyres’

‘Bought extra tyres, chain and brake pads when they arrived’

‘No stock of MTB wheels’

‘Groupset parts hard to find’

‘No dropper seatpost in my budget range’

‘Struggled to buy a rear derailleur’

‘Broke a crank and shifter – had to downgrade replacement due to parts shortage’

‘Waited 6 months for Shimano XT 1×12 upgrade kit’

‘Shimano drivetrain components so hard to come by’

‘MTB shoes in my size’

‘Replacement hubs’

‘SRAM AXS battery’

‘No stock of headset bearings, limited brake options’

‘SRAM everything just about’

‘Took 2 months to get my carbon wheelset’

‘Struggled to find Maxxis tyres, Rock Shox forks, Crank Bros pedals, Vittoria Airliners’

‘SRAM cassettes’

‘SRAM jockey wheels’

‘Shimano components and Maxxis tyres’

‘Wholesalers that were bad before Covid have been even worse now’

‘MTB rims’

‘Needed to replace SRAM derailleur – no stock so ended up changing entire drivetrain to Shimano’

‘No Shimano XTR brakes’

‘SRAM drivetrain shortage made me change to Shimano’

‘Shimano groupsets’

‘Entry-level helmets!’

‘Brake pads and helmet – no stock in SA!’

‘No spares for Crank Bros Eggbeater pedals’

‘Cassettes, chainrings and chains at all price levels’

‘No Race Face rims so changed to DT Swiss – more expensive but they had stock’

‘Shimano was always difficult to get, now almost impossible’


Have you done any online buying for your riding/bike during the lockdown?

Yes, most of my buying is now online 15.63%
Yes, but I always used to buy online before the lockdown 9.55%
Yes, but I buy online AND from a local bike shop 46.18%
No, I only buy from a local bike shop 27.95%
Other 0.69%


Have you encouraged/helped someone else get into mountain biking during the lockdown? You may select more than one if relevant.

No 40.28%
Yes, my partner/spouse 10.59%
Yes, my parent 1.91%
Yes, my sibling 2.60%
Yes, my child 8.16%
Yes, a friend 38.89%
Yes, a relative stranger 9.20%
Other, please specify 2.78%

Under ‘other’ comments include ‘a client’, ‘my nephew’, ‘brother-in-law’, ‘I’m a coach and saw a big increase in clients’.


How has your health been during the lockdown?

I’m healthier than I was before 15.45%
I have remained very healthy 61.63%
I have had some illness 11.63%
I have been very ill 0.69%
I have been very ill, but am recovering 5.03%
I have been very ill but am now fully recovered 3.30%
Other, please specify 2.26%

Other comments include: ‘I’m healthier (not been sick) but fatter!’, ‘physically I’m healthier, but my mental health took a big knock’, ‘I partied too much!’, ‘haven’t been ill, but lacked motivation due to trying to keep my business alive’, ‘developed an overuse injury from too much time on the smart trainer’, ‘healthy but put on weight’.


What has been your greatest frustration during the lockdown?

This was purely and open-ended question. Here are the most common answers:

‘Lack of freedom to move around’

‘Unable to travel’

‘Curfew times’

‘Unable to get parts and spares’

‘Ridiculous government rules’

‘Cancellation of events/races’

‘Disruption of work and training hours’

‘Wearing a mask!’

‘Being unable to socialise as normal’

‘Riding indoors’

‘Hikers on the MTB trails’

‘Not knowing how long or what’s next’

‘Lack of clarity on events (I work in events industry)’


‘Weight gain’

‘MTB trails being closed during first part of Lockdown’

‘Not having a smart trainer’

‘The constant shifting of the goalposts’

‘Lack of events to train for’

‘Shortage of bikes and parts’

‘Loss of routing and discipline’

‘Alcohol ban’

‘Social distancing’

‘Closing of schools’

‘The stupidity’

‘People not taking the illness seriously’

‘Working from home’

‘No overseas travel’

‘Lack of interaction with friends and family’

‘Races not being the same as before’

‘Race postponements’

‘Restaurant restrictions’

‘Gym closures’

‘School sport restrictions’

‘Huh? It’s a Zombie Apocalypse! WTF do you think?

‘The 5km radius restriction early on’

‘Not being in control’

‘Shortage of money’

‘The increase in bike parts prices’

‘Not being able to have a coffee after my rides’

‘People using Covid as an excuse for everything, especially service levels’

‘No stage races at all’

‘Everything – complete overreaction’

‘Managing staff challenges at work’

‘Unable to ride with my friends’

‘Three little kids!’

‘Lack of job availability’

‘Selling my bike to pay bills’

‘Managing my children full time’

‘Beaches and forests being closed!’

‘Delays of just about everything’

‘Mind control’

‘Unable to earn at full capacity’

‘The manufactured fear’

‘People not wearing masks’

‘Lack of motivation’

‘Listening to people complain about everything’

‘The recovery process from Covid’

‘Lack of interaction for my kids’

‘The devastation on the tourism and airlines industries’

‘Lack of life balance’

‘Not being able to have a beer after a ride!’

‘Increase in crime making it unsafe to ride alone’

‘Teenagers having no normal life’


What has been your greatest success during the lockdown?

This was a nice way to end off the survey. The adaptability of humans and the way the human spirit cannot be crushed by anything is most encouraging! Here are a selection of the answers:

‘Getting to ride more than before (when we could leave the house’

‘Not going mad’

‘Not getting Covid’

‘More time with my family’

‘Staying positive and seeking new opportunities to grow’

‘Staying healthy and keeping my family healthy’

‘Getting more engaged with online business’

‘Changed my training – more frequent shorter rides’

‘The discipline required for indoor training’

‘Not being afraid to be alone or uncomfortable in my own skin’

‘Working from home means I have more time to train’

‘Staying married’

‘Doing my first XCO race’

‘Zwift training sessions’

‘Starting cross-training which helped my core strength and flexibility’

‘I’m more focussed’

‘Creating an alternative form of income’

‘Reinventing myself’

‘My studies’

‘Losing weight’

‘Launched a new career’

‘More in tune with my bike’s maintenance’

‘Sharpening my riding skills’

‘Started running to keep fit’

‘Started a new business’


‘Riding more local trails’

‘The cycling market boom’

‘Starting a new hobby’

‘Invested in a smart trainer which improved my fitness and strength significantly’

‘Improved my relationship with my wife’

‘Surviving a bad case of Covid’

‘Getting fitter than I have ever been’

‘Moved to Cape Town’

‘More consistency to my training’

‘Did home renovations’

‘Got my son riding bikes’

‘Avoided shopping malls’

‘improved my gardening skills’

‘Improved my downhill skills’

‘Started a mountain bike skills school’

‘Improved my core strength’

‘More family time’

‘Starting mountain biking’

‘Home cooking and improved fitness’

‘Finding Ciovita clothing’

‘Realignment of my life goals’

‘Gave up alcohol and caffeine completely’

‘Breaking 6 hours at Attakwas’

‘More time to myself’

‘Sleeping more’


‘Doing online courses to further my career’

‘Three virtual ascents of Mt Ventoux on the same day’

‘Dodging the law’

‘Lost weight’

‘Not becoming a couch potato’

‘Learned to fix my own mountain bike’

‘Selling more Trail bikes’

‘Got into indoor training’

‘Eating healthier’

‘Riding Berg and Bush’

‘Finished the 2021 Swiss Epic’


‘Making new friends at the trails’

‘Got to know my kids better’

‘Lost 30kg!’

‘Dropping cleats and riding flats’

‘Riding more with my wife’

‘I became self-employed’

‘Completed the Freedom Challenge’


‘Not losing my mind’

‘Rediscovering the joy of riding without racing’

‘Lost 20kg’

‘Got my first ever UCI points’

‘Saved money on unnecessary stuff’

‘Race to the Sun’

‘Improved my technical riding significantly’

‘Lost weight – 5kg’

‘Teaching my son to ride a bicycle’

‘Building new trails’

‘Surviving without beer’

‘Not dying’

‘Improved my 36ONE time’

‘The courage to start my own business’

‘Losing weight – 10kg’

‘Training to power with a coach’