Unfortunately, crashing is part of mountain biking. For many, the risk adds to the excitement, but for most, it’s just a matter of managing the risk : reward ratio carefully. Part 1 of our 2021 SA MTB Crash Survey, presented by Bontrager revealed the stats about South African mountain bikers’ most recent crash, most serious crash and injury details. In the final part here we reveal stats a relating to concussion, helmet and light buying patterns and helmet and light brand popularity.

A total of 1010 participated in the 2021 SA MTB Crash Survey, presented by Bontrager. That’s a solid sample size by anyone’s standards. We ran the survey via our TREAD Survey Monkey account and promoted it via a link on our website and our social media channels for six weeks. Because the survey was so extensive, we have broken it down into two separate reveals.

We ran a similar survey in 2017 and, where relevant, have included those stats for a comparison – four years later. If you missed Part 1 of our current survey, here’s where you can find it.


Have you ever required surgery under general anaesthetic to repair damage from a mountain bike crash?

2021 2017
Yes, once 18.12% 17.77%
Yes, twice 6.73% 5.05%
Yes, three times 1.78% 1.25%
Yes, more than three times 1.49% 1.07%
No 71.88% 74.87%

More people riding? Lower skills levels? More high-risk trails? Hard to tell, but there are increases all-round in terms of surgeries to repair mountain bike injuries since four years ago.


What is the longest time you have been off work/studies/school due to a mountain biking injury?

2021 2017
Zero days 36.73% 44.03%
Up to 3 days 17.62% 18.30%
Up to 5 days 10.79% 10.75%
Up to 10 days 7.33% 5.64%
Up to 14 days 7.13% 6.48%
Up to 21 days 3.66% 2.61%
Up to a month 4.26% 3.15%
1-3 months 9.90% 6.65%
Longer than 3 months 2.57% 2.38%

There’s definitely more people taking longer to recover than four years ago. Every member of the TREAD team has sustained serious injuries from a mountain bike crash at some point, so we understand the frustration of the long healing process, but also share the joy of making a full recovery!


Have you ever suffered from concussion as a result of a mountain bike crash?

Yes 29.90%
No 70.10%

The Bontrager folks asked us to add this question for 2021. It’s an important one! It’s telling that such a high percentage of riders have suffered from concussion. We don’t know anyone that rides a mountain bike without a helmet, so this confirms that head injuries (concussion is an injury) are a constant risk.


If you have suffered from concussion as a result of a mountain bike crash, how long were you affected by the concussion afterwards?

Just that day 61.83%
Up to a week afterwards 22.33%
Up to a month afterwards 9.35%
Up to three months afterwards 3.05%
Up to six months afterwards 0.76%
Longer than six months 2.67%

There’s an increased awareness of concussion as an injury in sport in general over the past few years. Those that suffer from a concussion are being treated with greater focus and are usually recommended to avoid returning to the bike too soon.


Have you become a more cautious/slower rider since your worst crash?

2021 2017
Yes 37.62% 30.18%
No 41.68% 48.60%
Hard to tell really 20.69% 21.21%

There’s a definite shift in perception here since 2017…


Have you ever broken your helmet in a crash?

2021 2017
Oh yes, more than once 16.34% 14.62%
Yes, once 35.84% 29.53%
No 47.82% 55.85%

Helmets are designed to break or fracture with a hard impact so that your skull doesn’t. It’s often not obvious, so examine your helmet carefully, inside and outside after any fall to find any evidence of an impact. If there is evidence, even something that seems minor, it’s best to replace it as it’s structural integrity has likely been compromised. Many major helmet brands have a crash replacement policy that ensures you pay a percentage of the price for a replacement helmet after a crash. They usually require your damaged helmet in return – for obvious reasons.


Tick the most appropriate to you: The risk of crashing:

2021 2017
Adds to the thrill 11.98% 17.85%
Is something at the back of my mind 58.81% 57.11%
Is always a concern 24.55% 21.53%
Makes me so nervous 4.65% 3.51%

A definite shift in thinking here since 2017. By nature, mountain biking is a relatively high-risk activity. But there are now so many sub-disciplines of mountain biking, with riding/racing on relatively non-technical routes experiencing an increase of around 6% since 2017 – and likely the endurance mindset that accompanies it.


How often do you tend to crash (minor and major crashes)?

2021 2017
Quite often (almost every ride) 0.69% 1.44%
Occasionally (every 3 or 4 rides) 4.16% 8.70%
From time to time (once a month) 15.45% 18.54%
Not too often (less than 3 times a year) 43.07% 42.29%
Very seldom (maybe once a year) 36.63% 29.03%

Again, a definite shift in the past four years and likely due to the increase in riding/racing on relatively non-technical terrain/routes by those that took this survey (remember, most teens – the biggest risk-takers on mountain bikes – don’t take long surveys).


Do you wear reflective/hi-vis clothing when riding?

2021 2017
Yes 30.20% 30.33%
No 39.60% 28.90%
Sometimes 30.20% 40.76%


If you wear reflective/hi-vis clothing when riding, when is the most likely time you wear it?

2021 2017
Dawn 48.29% 41.24%
Dusk 17.71% 18.65%
At night 17.12% 23.90%
In bad weather 16.88% 16.21%


Do you use a front light at all when riding?

2021 2017
Yes 63.17% 62.63%
No 36.83% 37.37%


If you use a front light when riding, even occasionally, what brand do you use?

2021 2017
Extreme 22.03% 33.81%
Ryder 18.34% 13.39%
Bontrager 7.4%
Marvel 6.47%
Lezyne 6.01% 5.33%
Magic Shine 4.16% 8.58%
Specialized 2.62%
Knog 1.85% 1.69%
Blackburn 1.23%
Garmin 1.08%
Other 28.81%

Extreme and Ryder are both South African brands and remain the two most popular, although Extreme has dropped in market-share percentage in the past four years. Bontrager, Marvel, Specialized, Blackburn and Garmin didn’t feature in the top 10 brands in 2017. It’s worth knowing that ‘Other’ isn’t necessarily only other brands, but also survey takers writing ‘not sure’, ‘don’t know’ or ‘no name visible’ in their answers.


Do you use a rear light at all when riding?

2021 2017
Yes 72.48% 66.15%
No 27.52% 33.85%


If you use a rear light when riding, even occasionally, what brand do you use?

2021 2017
Ryder 23.51% 11.71%
Bontrager 8.4%
Extreme 7.94% 7.77%
Garmin 6.72% 1.74%
Lezyne 5.5% 4.37%
Marvel 5.04%
Knog 3.66% 5.59%
Specialized 3.05% 1.74%
Cateye 2.6% 8.47%
Blackburn 1.29% 2.36%
Other 32.39%

Ryder has increased its lead in this segment, while Bontrager and Marvel make a strong appearance after not being in the top 10 in 2017. Garmin only makes one rear light – the Varia, which doubles as a motor vehicle radar detector. As with front lights, ‘Other’ isn’t necessarily only other brands, but also survey takers writing ‘not sure’, ‘don’t know’ or ‘no name visible’ in their answers.


When buying a light, does brand name affect your choice?

2021 2017
Yes 34.75% 27.12%
No 65.25% 72.88%


When buying a light, does number of lumens affect your choice?

2021 2017
Yes 88.61% 87.96%
No 11.39% 12.04%


When buying a light, does price affect your choice?

2021 2017
Yes 86.93% 84.86%
No 13.07% 15.14%


What brand of helmet do you currently wear?

2021 2017
Specialized 16.04% 17.94%
Bell 11.39% 18.37%
SCOTT 10.59% 8.08%
Giro 10% 9.92%
Bontrager 6.93%
Rudy Project 6.83% 9.98%
Fox 6.34% 4.04%
Leatt 5.25%
UVEX 3.27%
First Ascent 2.08% 2.51%
Catlike 1.49% 3.61%
Lazer 1.39%
Abus 1.39%
Kask 1.29% 2.57%
POC 1.29%
Other 14.43%

Bell has dropped in popularity from its top spot in 2017 with Specialized losing percentage but moving to the top compared to four years previously. There’s definitely more brand availability now than four years ago and Bontrager, Leatt, UVEX, Lazer, Abus and POC all move into the top 15. Interesting to note that Leatt is a South African brand.


When buying a helmet, does brand name affect your choice?

2021 2017
Yes 62.38% 60.55%
No 37.62% 39.45%


When buying a helmet, does colour affect your choice?

2021 2017
Yes 80.69% 80.33%
No 19.31% 19.67%


When buying a helmet, does the inclusion of special protection technology, such as Wavecel or MIPS, affect your choice?

2021 2017
Yes 72.38% 34.80%
No 12.67% 14.60%
No sure what Wavecel or MIPS technology is 14.95% 50.60%

There’s a significant change here! Education has obviously played a role, but the fact that more brands now include this technology than four years back will also be the reason for the big shift.


Other than when it’s obviously damaged, how often do you replace your helmet?

After a minor crash where I know I hit my head, but there’s no visible damage 12.87%
When I see one that I like (based on colour/style) 5.35%
Every 1-2 years 10.00%
Every 2-3 years 23.86%
Every 3-4 years 16.53%
Every 4-5 years 11.98%
I haven’t replaced mine yet 19.41%

The general rule is to replace your helmet at least every three years (unless you have had a fall on it). Helmets are made of materials that are intentionally light to ensure comfort while protecting your head. These materials in modern helmets don’t last forever. Significant changes in temperature as well as lengthy exposure to UV light can degrade the EPS (expanded polystyrene), which is the core/shell of the modern cycling helmet. Some sunblocks contain substances that can erode EPS and sweat can also gradually wear into your helmet’s EPS and affect its structure.

By replacing your helmet every three years, you are giving yourself both peace of mind as well as optimal protection.

Did you miss Part 1 of the 2021 SA MTB Crash Survey, presented by Bontrager? Here’s the link.