The 2020 South African Mountain Bike Survey, presented by Garmin attracted a total of 3128 respondents. Of the that number, a total of 2877 answered every one of the 50 questions (not every question relates to everyone). This is an impressive sample size when compared to the 1213 (1034 100% completion) from the 2019 SA MTB Race Survey, presented by Garmin.

Photo: ZCMC

In 2019, the survey included a number of questions relating to mountain bike races/events because this remains a foundation for the market in a country with a highly competitive mindset, great year-round weather and some of the best quality mountain bike events in the world.

The South African government’s reaction to the Covid-19 outbreak – a lockdown of varying levels of restriction from the end of March until, well, it’s ongoing (as at end of January 2021) – crushed the 2020 race calendar. Fortunately, mountain bikers continued to enjoy their riding and the decision was made to adjust the second annual Race Survey to a more general Mountain Biking Survey.

We will split the survey results reveal into four parts – Rider Stats, Bike Stats, Gear Stats and Performance Stats. Where relevant, we will include a comparison to the same question from 2019. We ran the survey for a period of four weeks (essentially, the entire month of December 2020), promoting it on our website, in our weekly mailer and via our social media channels.

Photo: Hellsend Dirt Compound

Where do you live?

Region % 2020 % 2019
Gauteng 51.18% 48.90%
Western Cape 27.08% 27.31%
KwaZulu-Natal 8.50% 8.29%
Eastern Cape 5.18% 4.93%
Mpumalanga 1.85% 2.74%
North West 1.82% 2.50%
Free State 1.57% 2.03%
Limpopo 1.02% 1.02%
Northern Cape 0.54% 0.63%
I live in a neighbouring country 0.64% 0.94%
I live outside Southern Africa 0.61% 0.70%

A total of 78.26% live in two provinces – Gauteng and the Western Cape. This explains why mountain bike retail and marketing – and high-profile events – focus heavily on these two regions.

How long have you been mountain biking for?

Duration %
One year or less 6.30%
1-2 years 7.03%
2-3 years 8.38%
3-5 years 13.97%
5-10 years 27.78%
10-15 years 17.87%
15-20 years 8.92%
More than 20 years 9.75%

A total of 35.68% have been mountain biking for less than five years, with a very solid 45.65% in the 5-15 years segment. From an industry perspective, it’s important to keep the attraction for newcomers high. Events form a key part of this in terms of goal-setting and motivation, so here’s hoping that they can return in some form, sooner rather than later.

Photo: KAP Sani2c

What level of mountain biker would you say you are?

Level % 2020 % 2019
Very social 4.38% 2.50%
Recreational 25.83% 22.14%
Very keen 47.15% 51.10%
Highly committed 22.63% 24.26%

Considering our 2019 survey was focussed on races/racing, it was to be expected that the percentages would shift for a general mountain biking themed 2020 survey.

Which is most applicable to you in terms of your occupation?

Occupation % %
I am a learner (still at school) 2.08% 0.55%
I am a student 2.11% 2.11%
I am currently unemployed 2.37% 0.86%
I am a stay-at-home parent/spouse 1.79% 1.80%
I work part-time in one or more jobs 3.42% 2.58%
I have a full-time job with a salary 59.49% 61.50%
I own a business 23.95% 27.39%
I am retired 4.80% 3.21%

Well if any stats would change between 2019 and 2020, it would be this set! Overall, though, based on our survey respondents, the majority of mountain bikers are fortunate to still be in an income-earning position.

What is your age category?

Age category % 2020
12-15 years 0.86%
16-19 years 1.95%
20-24 years 2.40%
25-29 years 5.05%
30-34 years 7.61%
35-39 years 13.20%
40-44 years 16.24%
45-49 years 18.70%
50-54 years 15.03%
55-59 years 10.23%
60-64 years 5.56%
65-69 years 2.24%
70 and older 0.93%

The bulk – 68.93% – of South African mountain bikers are over 40, confirming the lifestyle nature of mountain biking – travel, health and fitness – as well as the relatively high cost of bikes and gear affordable to those in higher-earning positions. The increasing popularity of eBikes will also see consistency and likely growth in the 50-years-plus segment too. It’s also important to note that teens generally don’t take surveys and the teen numbers are obviously much higher than reflected here.

Photo: 947 Ride Joburg

What is your sex?

Sex % 2020 % 2019
Female 19.12% 15.88%
Male 80.88% 84.12%

While it may seem – from these stats – that a lot more women have taken up mountain biking since 2019, it’s not quite the case. By opening our survey up from being focussed on racers in 2019 to all mountain bikers in 2020, we get an idea of the split that’s more reflective of the whole market, not only the racing segment.

In a normal year, how often would you say you participate in a MTB race – on average?

Participation frequency %
As often as I can/more than twice a month 7.96%
About once a month 16.11%
About 3-6 times a year 45.24%
Not often – two or fewer times a year 30.69%

There’s no doubt that races/events are still essential to the South African mountain biker, with almost 70% doing at least three events/races a (normal) year.

What type of mountain bike races/events do you participate in mostly (you can choose more than one)?

Fun Rides (less than 20km) 5.82%
Fun Races (20-25km) 15.60%
Half-marathons (30-45km) 41.59%
Marathons (50-90km) 48.82%
Ultra-marathons (90-180km) 18.22%
Ultra-endurance Races (180km+) 12.18%
Short stage races (2-4 days) 37.21%
Long stage races (5-9 days) 10.36%
Cross-country (XCO) 11.25%
Downhill 1.66%
Enduro 6.62%
Dirt jumping 0.80%
I don’t do races/events 8.06%

Half-marathons, marathons and short stage races seem to be the stable racing diet for the majority of South African mountain bikers. Once again, worth noting that there’s a reasonably high number of teens that do XCO, Downhill, Enduro and Dirt Jumping, but teens aren’t keen survey-takers.

Photo: ZCMC

Did you participate in any mountain bike races in the Covid-19

Yes 40.31%
No 59.69%

Considering no races were held from mid-March until 1 September, and after that, only in a highly restricted format, a decent chunk of South African mountain bikers managed to get some kind of race fix in 2020. Thanks to the resilient, committed race organisers that are trying to keep things as normal as possible…

Do you feel that the growth and accessibility of MTB trails parks has reduced your desire/need to enter races/events?

Feeling % 2020 % 2019
Yes 14.67% 16.04%
No 58.82% 54.93%
To an extent yes 26.47% 27.54%

Good news for events/races! The larger size of the survey sample in 2020 and the fact that it was a more general theme, possibly have an effect on this shift from 2019. But it also shows a really good appetite still for events/races. Could absence have made hearts grow fonder?

Do you feel that the depressed South African economy in the past couple of years has reduced your ability to enter races/events?

Feeling % 2020 % 2019
Yes 36.51% 34.98%
No 34.43% 32.24%
To an extent yes 29.06% 32.79%

Hmmm. More decisiveness than in 2019.

Are you a member of an established/official cycling club?

Club member % 2020 % 2019
Yes 41.98% 45.15%
No 58.02% 54.85%

A decline in membership numbers from 2019, but once again, important to note the larger sample size and less race-themed nature of the 2020 survey.

Photo: Nissan Trailseeker/Henk Neuhoff

Do you normally take an annual Cycling South Africa (CSA) membership?

CSA Membership % 2020 % 2019
Yes 33.70% 40.30%
No 42.07% 35.68%
Only if I have to 24.23% 24.02%

For those that are highly committed to racing, it can become costly to keep paying for a CSA day licence (R50 per day) at races. An annual licence at R250 just makes sense (R150 for 16-and-unders). A full racing licence – for those intent on racing at provincial, national and international level, costs R450 per year.

Do you have a Strava account?

Strava account % 2020
Yes, I’m a subscriber 34.78%
Yes, I use the free version 55.56%
No 9.65%

Interesting to see the split between Strava users in terms of the subscriber option. It costs R600 per year (upfront payment), or R110 per month. It’s really useful. If the cost is a challenge, ask for it as a birthday gift…

Do you use sports supplements for riding/racing energy/recovery?

Yes 58.95%
No 15.47%
Sometimes 25.58%

If you use sports supplements, which brand do you prefer?

Sports supplement brand % 2020 % 2019
Biogen 16.94% 18.09%
USN 13.18% 15.40%
32GI 13.03% 10.97%
Powerbar 6.18% 4.55%
Cadence 5.85% 6.18%
PVM 5.77% 2.57%
RaceFood 5.21% 1.63%
Hi5 4.88% 5.48%
Hammer 4.50% 5.83%
GU 3.98% 4.78%
Enduren 3.31% 2.80%
Named Sport 2.32%
Cytomax 2.31% 1.40%
Herbalife 2.05% 1.75%
Sponser 1.53% 1.40%
SISS 1.38% 2.68%
Others 7.58% 14.49%

Interesting to see the changes on a much broader survey than in 2019. Notable increases in 32GI, Powerbar, PVM, Racefood and an almost-out-of-nowhere arrival of Named Sport.

Look out for Parts 2, 3 and 4 reveals of our 2020 SA Mountain Biking Survey, presented by Garmin over the next couple of weeks.