With our 2019 SA MTB Race Survey, presented by Garmin, we set about establishing some data on preferences of South African mountain bikers that participate in races. Racing has always formed the foundation of the sport in this country, although many races have seen a decline in entries over the past couple of years.
In this, the second part of the survey reveal, we focus on races. Survey participant opinion on race entry fees, travel time investment, reasons to return to a race, percentage of singletrack preference and more. We also reveal the favourite SA MTB races in five categories: Half marathon/Marathon, Ultra-marathon, Ultra-endurance, Short Stage Race and Long Stage Race.
For one-day races, which distance do you mostly enter?
|Fun Races (20-25km)||3.14%|
|Fun Rides (less than 20km)||0.35%|
A total of 1148 answered this question and the majority mostly enter marathon distance races (50-90km). Combined with the 15.07% that prefer ultra-marathons, this shows that one-day mountain bike racers in South Africa are still primarily focused on races that challenge endurance.
Nissan Trailseeker Legends MX
When you enter a one-day race, do you usually?
|Do the whole race on my own||46.69%|
|Do the whole race with a friend or family member||24.22%|
|Start with a friend/family member, but we separate during the race||29.09%|
What’s better than riding (racing) your mountain bike? Sharing the experience, it seems…
Of the 1148 that answered this question, more than half start the race with a friend or family member.
How much travel time are you prepared to invest to do a one-day MTB race (marathon or shorter)?
|More than 3 hours||15.16%|
|Up to an hour||12.63%|
This is important for one-day race organisers to note in terms of geographical marketing strategy and investment. Time away from home and travel costs are obviously key factors for most when considering entering a marathon of half marathon…
How do you feel about one-day event entry fees in general?
|They’re generally fine||27.87%|
|They’re mostly very well priced (good value for money)||38.85%|
|They’re mostly too expensive (not enough value for money)||27.00%|
|They’re mostly too expensive for me in my current situation||6.27%|
Of the 1148 that answered this question 66.72% are content with one-day race entry fees.
Sappi Karkloof Classic
For a one-day MTB race, how much singletrack do you prefer?
|More than 75%||14.81%|
|Up to 25%||8.62%|
|I’m not that big on singletrack||7.14%|
One-day race organisers, take note… Singletrack is much of what defines a stimulating mountain bike race route.
ABSA Cape Epic
At one-day races, how important are refreshment points/water points to you?
|Always very important||45.73%|
|Fairly important, but I mostly rely on my own nourishment||43.82%|
|Not too important as I use my own nourishment||10.45%|
With the trend continuing to move towards more people using bottles and not hydration packs in races, refreshment points remain at least fairly important on the whole.
What is the single most important reason you decide to enter a MTB event for the first time?
This was an open-ended question with 1278 answers. These answers below represent a summary of the most mentioned themes:
To give myself a goal
To ride trails normally not possible to ride
To try beat my mates
A weekend getaway
For something different
To improve my race times
To ride with my husband
To race with my girlfriend
Because I am competitive
The race location
The social element of a race
To ride with my friends
The post-race excitement
To relieve stress
The challenge or racing different conditions under pressure
To prove I can finish
It’s on my bucket list
To ride new places
Road racing (and training) is too dangerous
Meeting new people
To spend fun time with my son
To achieve new personal limits
For the satisfaction of achieving a goal
Because I have heard good reviews from friends
I have seen the positive comments in the media
The thrill of the unknown
For health reasons
To relax from my busy schedule
Good perceived value for money
What makes you decide to return to an event you have completed once?
How often have you done a race and decided that you want more of what you experienced there? Well, many events have found the formula that makes for many eager returns.
A total of 1278 answered this question. These are some of the responses, with these themes recurring throughout.
Quality of the trails
Challenging nature of the race (more challenge, more attractive)
Great organisation and presentation
Rider satisfaction and affordability
If it was fun
To beat someone in particular
Decent prize money
Technically challenging routes
Changes to the route
Distance to get to and from the race
Social experience with friends
To improve my time
Value for money
Safe parking and good water points
Decent trail preparation
The energy and vibe
To improve with a better strategy
The first time is to finish; the returns are to improve my time
The route is king. The more singletrack, the better
How well the riders are treated
What are the main reasons you won’t return to an event for a second or third year?
We’ve all said ‘never again’ after completing an event for the first time…or second time.What is it that creates this decision? With 1278 responses to this question, here are a selection of the answers that represent the recurring themes.
Too many people
If I didn’t have fun
Poor accessibility from home
Poor route marking
No variety of terrain
Cost too high
Lack of safety
Too much technical terrain
No value for money
If the route feels unsafe to me
If there’s too much focus on the commercial aspects
Logistical difficulty of getting to and from the event
If a route is too challenging for me
Poor after-race vibe
There are so many events, it doesn’t make sense to keep repeating the same ones
No catering for supporters
Too much crowding on the singletrack
If the route doesn’t change each year it can become boring
Poor communication leading up to the event
Poor timing/results management
When there’s minimal effort put into creating a good race route
Inadequate ablution facilities
If the entry fee goes up unreasonably
Event not delivering what was promised
Lack of enthusiasm from organisers
Discovery 947 Ride Joburg
Which is your current favourite one-day marathon/half-marathon? Total responses 719
|Discovery 947 Ride Joburg MTB Challenge||9.46%|
|Sappi Karkloof Classic||5.84%|
|Nissan Trailseeker Buffelsdrift||4.87%|
|FNB Magalies Monster||4.73%|
|Knysna Cycle Tour MTB||4.45%|
|Nissan Trailseeker Van Gaalen||3.20%|
|Ladismith Cheese 7 Weekspoort MTB Challenge||3.20%|
|Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB Challenge||2.92%|
|STBB 4 Good||2.92%|
|Fedhealth MTB Challenge||2.78%|
|Darling Brew X||2.78%|
|Illovo Eston MTB||2.23%|
|Nissan Trailseeker Cullinan||2.09%|
|Garmin MTB Challenge||1.81%|
With 719 responses, this race category – Half-marathons (30-45km) and Marathons (50-90km), received the biggest sample size. It actually received 821 but 89 of those didn’t name a specific event, but named the Nissan Trailseeker Series as a whole, while another 13 named the USN Cup Series as a whole. We were after a specific event so have listed those that were named as such. A total of 110 races were named but we have only listed the top 20. There are quite a number of the races we had never heard of, but we verified the existence of each one as being a current MTB event.
There was a much more even spread of votes here compared to the other race categories. Discovery 947 Ride Joburg MTB event holds the top spot – quite firmly – but we can’t help but wonder what the Buffelsdrift and Van Gaalen Nissan Trailseeker races would have tallied had more people chosen a specific event and not the series.
Some old favourites feature in the top 5, including Sappi Karkloof Classic at #2, FNB Magalies Monster at #4 and Knysna Cycle Tour MTB at #5.
Some of the events here, such as Barberton Classic, also feature in the Ultra-marathon division as there are different distance options.
Karoo to Coast
Which is your current favourite ultra-marathon? Total responses 474
|Karoo to Coast||38.40%|
|Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen||25.32%|
|Race to the Sun||10.76%|
|Around the Pot||2.53%|
|Go Durban 100||1.27%|
|Magalies Gravel Xpress||0.84%|
|Cederberg Traverse 100 Miler||0.63%|
|Tip Trans Cederberg Experience||0.42%|
|Ride the Karoo||0.42%|
|Swellendam 100 Miler||0.21%|
|Maloti 100 Miler||0.21%|
|Ride to Phoenix||0.21%|
Of the 474 that answered this question, a total of 55.72% voted for two events as being their favourite Ultra-marathons. Ultra-marathon is defined by this survey as any race distance from 90-180km. Karoo to Coast and Attakwas are both iconic events among mountain bikers, both taking place largely on gravel roads with point-to-point formats…
If you do/have done them, in terms of stage race routes, what do you feel about events that use existing MTB trails parks routes that you can ride anytime?
|Not a fan, stage-race routes should be unique||32.68%|
|I’m all about the race experience, the route just needs to be stimulating||67.32%|
Some of South Africa’s most popular stage races, such as joBerg2c, KAP Sani2c and Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush predominantly use routes that are unique to those events (i.e. not rideable on a daily basis). In the Western Cape, events like the Absa Cape Epic and FNB Wines2Whales incorporate sections (sometime significantly so) of existing MTB trails parks/venues into their race routes. We were curious to see what the rider sentiment is on this topic. Clearly the majority of the 924 that answered this question don’t mind…
If you do/have done them, how do you feel about short stage race (2-4 days) entry fees (in general)?
|They’re generally fine||12.59%|
|They’re mostly very well priced (good value for money)||23.50%|
|They’re mostly too expensive (not enough value for money)||36.62%|
|They’re mostly too expensive for me in my current situation||27.28%|
The majority of the 953 responses to this question feel short stage race entry fees are too steep. This is largely the opposite to the sentiment for one-day race entry fees elsewhere in this survey.
If you do/have done them, in terms of stage-race routes, which do you prefer?
|I don’t really have a preference||54.76%|
Point-to-point routes represent a journey, which can be quite appealing. However logistically, packing up and moving can be a bit of a schlep. Interestingly, more than half of the 924 people that responded to this question aren’t too fussed…
If you do/have done them, for a stage race, how much singletrack do you prefer?
|More than 75%||12.81%|
|Up to 25%||9.01%|
|I’m not that big on singletrack||4.89%|
This isn’t too different from the preferences for one-day races elsewhere in this survey and confirms that the majority of the South African mountain bikers want a good dollop of singletrack when they’re racing…
Which is your current favourite ultra-endurance race? Total responses 297
|Cullinan 2 Tonteldoos||6.39%|
|Nedbank Desert Dash||1.01%|
|Race to Rhodes||0.33%|
Well, TransBaviaans is by far the most popular ultra-endurance race based on the 297 that responded to this question. Not everyone understood our definition of ultra-endurance and marked some of these events under favourite ultra-marathon or one-day race and even short stage race… But we sifted through all the Excel sheets for each and sorted them into their correct race definitions. We included the Nedbank Desert Dash, a race in Namibia, because so many of the entrants are South African.
Which is your current favourite short stage-race? Total responses 826
|Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush||16.34%|
|Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen||4.11%|
|Dr Evil Classic||2.78%|
|To Hell & Back||2.05%|
|Bridgestone Route 66||1.33%|
|Prudential PE Plett||1.21%|
|PwC Great Zuurberg Trek||1.21%|
|Ride 2 Nowhere||1.08%|
|Savanna Origin of Trails||1.08%|
|Glacier Cradle Traverse||1.08%|
|Ride the Karoo||1.08%|
|Inyatsi Swazi Frontier||0.96%|
|Houw Hoek MTB Tour||0.96%|
We weren’t too surprised with the top three, but were surprised that Sani2c wasn’t number one, being one of the oldest, biggest and most popular short stage races in SA. A total of 48 different stage races were named by the 826 that answered this question. We listed the most popular 20 and decided to include the Inyatsi Swazi Frontier, a race in Swaziland, because most of the entrants are South African.
Which is your current favourite long stage-race? Total responses 284
|Absa Cape Epic||34.50%|
|Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen||13.73%|
There are really only four long stage races in South Africa – long being 5-9 days in duration. Doing a long stage race is a huge privilege, only possible for a few. Besides the time required to do the event (with travel time on either side), there’s the time required to train appropriately for such a long event as well as the preparation, travel and race costs. Of the total of 284 that responded to this question, half declared the joBerg2c as their favourite.
Did you miss Part 1 of the 2019 SA MTB Race Survey, presented by Garmin? Check it out here
Look out for Part 3 of the 2019 SA MTB Race Survey, presented by Garmin, which will be published here soon. Part 3 covers the gear and bike preferences of SA MTB race participants – there’s a few real surprises!
A total of 1278 participated in the 2019 SA MTB Race Survey, presented by Garmin. We ran the survey for 4 weeks, promoted it aggressively via our social media channels as well as two editions of our mailer, TREAD Bulletin. It was also shared by Garmin SA on its social media accounts. We invited the bigger SA MTB race organisers to assist us with questions for the survey and asked them to invited their participants to take the survey, either via their mailers or social media accounts.