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?
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%|
|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%|
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.
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?
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?
|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?
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
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
Soft sand – ha ha ha ha
My lack of technical skills
Crashing and having no one to help me
Being bike-jacked again
Being attacked and violated, injured or killed while out riding
Being chased by dogs
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
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
Harrisons Pass at Joberg2c
Look out for SA WOMEN’S MTB SURVEY RESULTS: PART 2 – SPENDING PREFERENCES and PART 3 – BIKES AND GEAR coming soon.
Got any comments or want to give some survey feedback, email firstname.lastname@example.org