Sunday , 27 September 2020



For women, mountain biking can be both liberating and intimidating. It can also be both stimulating and frustrating. Are women well catered for in South Africa? 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. We decided to find out more and ran the TREAD SA Women’s MTB Survey, presented by Biogen.

A 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 3 – Your gear and bike preferences.

Do you have a ladies-specific saddle?

A total of 60.21% say they do have a ladies-specific saddle and 32.76% say they don’t. The saddle is the contact point between body and bike that can create the greatest discomfort drama and can be the difference between enjoying riding and despising it… Here are two previous articles that deal with women’s comfort saddle comfort

How often do you replace your cycling shorts?

A total of 50.09% buy a new pair of shorts at least once a year (39.11% once and 10.98% twice). With cycling shorts being more of a function garment than a fashion garment, this illustrates the importance placed on comfort.

What style of jersey do you prefer?

There are different styles? 5.83%
Any active/workout shirt 10.46%
Ladies-specific fit (shaped around the waist with looser arms) 60.55%
I’m fine in a men’s cycling jersey (tight fit) 28.82%

The majority (60.55%) of women prefer a ladies-specific fit cycling jersey/top. This isn’t surprising since they’re more comfortable and this is the garment where colour and fashion is most evident in cycling. And we ladies like to look good when riding mountain bikes…



How do you normally transport your bicycle?

Back seat or boot 18.52%
Roof rack 6.35%
Rear-mount clip/hanging rack 14.92%
Rear-mount towbar rack 60.21%

What didn’t surprise us was that the rear-mount towbar rack is the transport method used by the majority of women (60.21%). What did surprise us is how many use the back seat or boot. What we didn’t give an option for, was back-of-a-bakkie, which a few respondents mentioned to us. They are likely to have chosen back seat/boot option, which could explain which this percentage is so high.

What wheel size is your bike?

A total of 66.38% of respondents ride a 29-inch wheel size. A quarter (25.04%) ride a 27.5-inch wheel size and just 7.72% ride a 26-inch wheel size.

Despite some bike brands continuing to push 27.5-inch as a ladies wheel size, the fact remains that women ride what’s most comfortable and enjoyable. Sure, for smaller women a 27.5-inch wheel can be a better option, but with most brands now making a small-frame 29er, this ‘in-between’ wheel size is likely to diminish further.

That said, 27.5-inch is an ideal wheel size for younger teenagers and smaller women that are just starting out. But once most have ridden a 29er, they realise that the increased stability and better obstacle roll-over ability are very evident, especially now with 1×12 gearing options.

What brand of bike do you ride?

Brand %
Specialized 21.31%
SCOTT 19.93%
Giant/LIV 14.03%
Cannondale 6.58%
Silverback 5.54%
TREK 5.02%
Merida 5.02%
Momsen 2.94%
Titan 2.25%
Santa Cruz 1.55%
Norco 1.38%
GT 1.21%
Rocky Mountain 1.03%
Yeti 1.03%
Pyga 0.69%
Other 10.49%

As with most of the surveys we have run in recent years, Specialized is the most popular brand, so this wasn’t unexpected. Interestingly though, three brands – Specialized, SCOTT and Giant/LIV – occupy a huge 55.27% chunk of the women’s market. South African brands Silverback, Momsen and Titan all feature in the top 10 from a total of 45 brands listed in our survey.

What brand of helmet do you wear?

Brand %
Specialized 21.14%
SCOTT 10.74%
Bell 10.57%
Giro 9.53%
Rudy Project 9.35%
Unknown 6.58%
MET 3.45%
Catlike 3.11%
UVEX 3.11%
Bontrager 2.59%
Kask 2.59%
Fox 2.42%
IXS 1.55%
POC 1.55%
Leatt 1.38%
First Ascent 1.21%
Other 9.13%

With more than one fifth, Specialized is the most popular choice of brand in helmets among South African female mountain bikers. A total of 43 brands were listed among the responses. Surprisingly, 6.5% don’t know what their helmet brand is…

What brand of shoe do you wear?

Brand %
Specialized 28.42%
Shimano 14.90%
Giro 8.31%
SCOTT 8.14%
Unknown 6.23%
Louis Garneau 5.19%
Bontrager 3.81%
Sidi 3.63%
Olympic 2.77%
First Ascent 2.07%
Nike 1.90%
Cape Storm 1.55%
‘Takkies’ 1.38%
Catlike 1.21%
Fizik 1.03%
Mavic 1.03%
Ryder 1.03%
Other 7.40%


Specialized is once again the dominant leader in shoes, almost double Shimano in second place! As with helmets, over 6% didn’t know what their shoe brand is – or perhaps took the survey far from where their shoes and helmet were, couldn’t check.

Which of the following gadgets do you use?

Basic bicycle computer (distance, speed, time) 15.98%
Sports heart rate monitor device 29.55%
Cycling-specific GPS device 61.17%
None of the above 9.45%


Exercise feedback and data seem to be important to the majority of women. More than one option could be selected, with over 60% confirming they use a cycling-specific GPS device.

How do you carry your liquid?

I carry liquid refreshment in bottles 57.90%
I carry liquid refreshment in a hydration pack 14.60%
I carry liquid refreshment in a hydration pack and bottles 27.49%

The majority use only bottles, but hydration packs still occupy a prominent chunk of the women’s market.

What do you carry on your rides?

As expected, most women take along the holy trinity – spare tube, CO2 bomb and CO2 bomb applicator. We missed out plugs in our options, but soon realised this through the comments, where many confirmed they take these along too. Other items include phone, derailleur hanger, cable-ties, quick link (chain link) and duct tape…

 What is your current pedal set-up?

Flat pedals with ‘takkies’ 8.93%
Flat pedals with MTB shoes 6.87%
Clip-in pedals with MTB shoes and cleats 84.19%

Good to see the significant majority are using mountain bike shoes with clip-in pedals, by far the most secure/stable method of foot-bike contact.

What is your preferred gloves set-up?

Short-finger gloves 46.56%
Long-finger gloves 51.72%
No gloves 1.72%

No real surprise that almost all women wear gloves. Short-finger gloves are more appropriate for women have longer nails though, hence the relatively high short-finger glove percentage.

Did you miss Parts 1 and 2 of the SA Women’s MTB Survey, presented by Biogen? Here they are:

Part 1:

Part 2:

SA WOMEN’S MTB SURVEY RESULTS: PART 3 – YOUR GEAR AND BIKE PREFERENCES Reviewed by on . For women, mountain biking can be both liberating and intimidating. It can also be both stimulating and frustrating. Are women well catered for in South Africa? For women, mountain biking can be both liberating and intimidating. It can also be both stimulating and frustrating. Are women well catered for in South Africa? Rating: 0

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