Friday , 25 September 2020



For women, mountain biking can be both liberating and intimidating. It can also be both stimulating and frustrating. Based on our research, we estimate that women make up between 20-25% of the South African mountain bike market. Whether it’s a fifth or a quarter, it’s an important segment that’s growing. Are women well catered for in South Africa?  We decided to find out more and ran the TREAD SA Women’s MTB Survey, presented by Biogen.

At total of 579 women completed the survey, which ran for six weeks and was promoted to women around South Africa via various social media channels. The questions crossed a broad range to gather sufficient information to help create a profile of the average South African female mountain biker. We have broken the responses into three parts, here is Part 1 – You and your riding:

 Where do you live?

Gauteng 43.50%
Western Cape 34.14%
KwaZulu-Natal 10.40%
Eastern Cape 4.95%
Limpopo 1.91%
Mpumalanga 1.91%
North West 1.56%
Free State 1.21%
Northern Cape 0.52%


As with most of our TREAD surveys, the biggest percentage is Gauteng. As the most densely populated province, it’s not surprising. We were somewhat surprised at the high percentage of female mountain bikers in the Western Cape. We know mountain biking is popular there, we just didn’t expect to see that many women. It’s great to see!

How long have you been mountain biking for?

More than 10 years 14.90%
5-10 years 36.22%
2-4 years 31.20%
1-2 years 10.57%
6-12 months 3.81%
3-6 months 1.56%
Less than three months 1.73%

Interesting to see that more than 50% that took our survey have been mountain biking for 5 years or longer. This would indicate that a large percentage are experienced enough to be discerning – ideal for a survey.

What would you say is the main reason you started mountain biking?

Purely for fun/social reasons 15.77%
I wanted to join my spouse/partner who is a mountain biker 15.60%
My mountain biker spouse/partner wanted me to join him/her 6.41
It looked like a cool sport/activity 12.48%
I enjoy being outdoors 20.45%
To get fit and compete 1.56%
To get fit and healthy 17.85%
To lose weight 2.25%

We gave eight main options and a ‘Comments’ option. Of the 64 comments, recurring themes included ‘to be able to exercise after suffering running injuries’, ‘because road cycling is too dangerous’, ‘emotional reasons to deal with divorce, depression or addiction’; or for ‘me-time’ and ‘to spend more time with my kids/parents’.

When you started mountain biking, which did you do?

I bought a brand-new bike 52.86%
I borrowed a bike 5.72%
I used a spouse/partner’s old/other bike 12.65%
I used a friend’s old/other bike 6.41%
I bought a second-hand bike 22.36%

We were surprised by the high percentage that bought a new bike. But also satisfied that bike shops are doing a good job – in general – of selling the right bike. We go into more bike detail in Part 3.

Rank the following in terms of motivation to get you out on your mountain bike:

Post-ride social interaction 47.31%
Training for an event/race 23.57%
Getting fitter/into better shape 15.77%
Meeting my riding friends/tribe 13.34%

We always knew that some of us female mountain bikers see our weekly ride as a group therapy session. Based on this, seems like it’s not just SOME of us…

What would you say is the biggest barrier to you being able to ride mountain bike trails more than you currently do?

My work/career commitments 29.81%
My family commitments 8.32%
My family and work commitments 23.57%
Difficulty getting to/from the trails (transport) 2.95%
No safe riding group 22.36%
Other 13.00%

For women, the sacrifice of riding more in favour of family and/or work commitments is expected. Unfortunately, ‘no safe riding group’ is the reason given by more than one fifth of the respondents. A South African problem in general and a good reason to join a cycling club or local women’s trail-riding group if you’re in one of the bigger centres. Under ‘other’ the most common reasons are lack of safety and not having MTB trails nearby.

Trails feedback

Safety:On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extremely important and 1 being not important, how would you rank SAFETY at an MTB trail park? 9.32

Trail grading signage:On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extremely important and 1 being not important, how would you rank TRAIL GRADING SIGNAGE at an MTB trail park? 8.05

Directional signage:On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extremely important and 1 being not important, how would you rank DIRECTIONAL SIGNAGE at an MTB trail park? 8.73

While all the above were deemed important, SAFETY remains a major consideration for female mountain bikers.

Is entering races important to you?

Yes 59.79%
No 40.21%

The majority of us are either competitive or enjoy that everything has been organised and that we just have to rock up and pedal our bikes at an event. Even better is that at stage races, we don’t have to think about preparing the food…

In which age category do you fall?

Teens 1.91%
20-24 2.77%
25-29 6.07%
30-34 12.13%
35-39 19.58%
40-44 22.53%
45-49 16.29%
50-54 11.96%
55-59 4.68%
60-64 1.39%
65-70 0.35%
Older than 70 0.35%

Just over 70% are in their 30s and 40s with 38.82% in their 40s, the biggest age decade. We often wonder if retailers realise this because apparel styles and sizing options often don’t seem to reflect this…

How often do you ride outdoors?

Seldom – about twice a month 12.44%
Regularly – about once a week 31.09%
Frequently – two or more times a week 56.48%

This was an encouraging result! It’s fantastic that so many women are able to ride outdoors two or more times a week. The percentage would no doubt be higher if safe-riding options were more available.

Do you do any indoor training?

Yes 74.44%
No 25.56%

We figure that this number is so high because riding mountain bikes is more fun the fitter you are. Riding can be quite addictive so once the bug bites, most want to get the most out of the sport. For many, adding indoor training to your schedule becomes a must.

If you do indoor training, what type of indoor training do you do?

Power training in a studio/gym 32.27%
Power training at home 21.28%
Stationary bike at home/gym (no power measurement) 22.88%
Spinning at a gym (no power measurement) 23.57%

There is a fairly even split here. It’s probably due to the fact that women will do what is most convenient. Those with gym memberships will chose this option for indoor training, the self-disciplined will do their indoor training at home, if they have the equipment.

As a mountain biker, what is your biggest fear?

The three biggest fears that came up in this open-ended question were:

  • Fear of crashing/falling,
  • Fear of being physically attacked
  • Fear of having my bike stolen/bike jacked

Interestingly, fear of snakes came up quite often too! Sadly, two of the three biggest fears are related to the high prevalence of crime in South Africa, a good reason to choose more secure trails venues and to ride with others.

Here’s a selection of other answers to the question: As a mountain biker, what is your biggest fear?

Getting too old to ride all the beautiful singletracks


Something going wrong mid-flight off a ramp or tail-whip

Crashing into another person. Another person crashing into me.


Losing my teeth

Rock gardens and having to use a CO2 bomb

Damaging my bike because I won’t be able to replace it

Struggling to repair my bike as I lack the strength – for example breaking a chain


Slamming a case on a big double

That I get slower on uphills

Racing snakes

Falling when clipped in

Not being fit enough

Going over the bars


Technical obstacles, especially rocks and technical downhills

Running out of water

I don’t have many fears to be honest, wait, maybe snakes!

Sustaining an injury and no one around to assist, or at a place where medical assistance cannot reach me.

Missing out on a ride

Falling badly over my handle bars or any hard crash. Facial damage with a fall or breaking or fracturing bones

Being raped

Soft sand – ha ha ha ha

My lack of technical skills

Crashing and having no one to help me

Being bike-jacked again



Right-hand switchbacks

Uphill switchbacks

Being attacked and violated, injured or killed while out riding

Being chased by dogs

Rocky climbs

Getting lost because of my epilepsy or having a seizure

Riding close to a river

Damaging my bike


Lack of skill. Love speed

Falling and seriously hurting myself or others

Too much speed

Something breaking and my budget not allowing me to fix it, so I can carry on riding

Neck and back injury

Over thinking

The sight of males peeing at the side of the road…

Idiots on singletrack

Not being able to ride until I’m old and grey

Hurting my hands if I fall on a racey, adrenalin-packed downhill

Yet another hospital visit

Unexpected big drops

Embarrassing myself and falling hard

Breaking something on those awful technical bits that some people really like

Having a mechanical and not finishing a race

Sharp turns

Harrisons Pass at Joberg2c


Got any comments or want to give some survey feedback, email

SA WOMEN’S MTB SURVEY RESULTS: PART 1 – YOU AND YOUR RIDING Reviewed by on . For women, mountain biking can be both liberating and intimidating. It can also be both stimulating and frustrating. Based on our research, we estimate that wom For women, mountain biking can be both liberating and intimidating. It can also be both stimulating and frustrating. Based on our research, we estimate that wom Rating: 0

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