Based on bicycle sales stats from a range of retailers, mountain biking in South Africa is continuing to grow in popularity by the month. But one of the greatest challenges mountain bikers face is crashing. Almost every mountain biker has crashed. And if they haven’t yet, they will. The first SA MTB Crash Survey, presented by Gert Nel Inc. Attorneys has revealed some fascinating insight about each participants’ most recent crash and worst crash. In this first part of the three-part reveal campaign, we focus on demographics, most recent crash and insurance.


A total of 1680 participated in the TREAD 2017/2018 SA MTB Crash Survey, presented by Gert Nel Inc. Attorneys. If you’re familiar with open/public South African sports surveys, you’ll appreciate that it’s a very good response. What is the sample size in relation to the size of the market? That’s hard to tell because nobody really knows how many mountain bikers there are in South Africa, with estimates ranging from 500 000-800 000.

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 four weeks. Because the survey was so extensive, we have broken it down into three separate reveals. 

Here are the results and analysis from the first reveal:

Of the 1680 that participated in the survey, 1670 said they had crashed and only 10 hadn’t (yet). That’s 99.40% that have had some sort of crash while mountain biking and clearly a very solid base from which to glean the answers to our crash survey questions. The gender break-down was 78.87% men, 21.13% women.

Because we wanted to find out what kind of trails or riding terrain our respondents are riding, we gave seven options that cover pretty much most South African-style riding conditions.

The routes you ride mostly (more than 70% of your rides), what describes them best?

Answer Choices Responses
Mosty gravel roads 1.97% 33
Gravel roads and jeep track 3.28% 55
A mix of gravel roads, jeep track and smooth single track 30.71% 515
Mostly smooth, gradual-gradient singletrack 2.27% 38
Twisty singletrack with some occasional obsstacles (roots, rocks, ruts) 24.15% 405
Twisty steep-gradient (up and down) singletrack with obstacles (roots,rocks, ruts) 19.85% 330
Loose-surface, twisty steeo-gradient (up and/or down) singletrack with obstacles (roots, rocks, ruts) 17.95% 301
TOTAL 1677

There’s a fairly good mix here, with the first three answer options representing the least complicated trails and surfaces. So, most of those that took the survey encounter some kind of challenging surfaces and/or terrain on at least 70% of their rides.

Then we wanted to find out what kind of mountain biker our respondents are. South Africans are generally very competitive and because we have such a high percentage of well-organised events, we wanted to know more about how much racing our respondents represent. Racing is a strong word, because while many enter races, they tend to ride to finish rather than race to the finish.

Describe what kind of mountain biker you are (mostly)?

Answer Choices Responses
Recreation only 9.72% 163
I do the occasional event – less than 6times a year 37.09% 622
I do about 6 events a year 24.03% 403
! Do about 7- 12 events a year 18.96% 318
I do more than 12 events a year 5.19% 87
I’m very competitive and race as often as I can 5.01% 84
Total 1677



Age of survey participants:


Not surprisingly, the largest age groups are in their thirties and forties: 

28.99% in their thirties

35.83% in their forties

Disposable income, career stability and still young and mobile enough to be able to do an activity that’s generally regarded as tough.

Where do you live?

Answer Choices Responses
Gauteng 47.53% 799
North West 1.07% 18
Limpopo 0.89% 15
Mpumulanga 1.31% 2
Free State 1.90% 32
KwaZulu Natal 9.93% 167
Northern Cape 0.36% 6
Esatern Cape 5.59% 94
Western Cape 29.68% 499
I’m South African but live outside the country 1.73% 29
TOTAL 1681

No real surprises here. This is a very good reflection of the South African mountain bike market provincial split with by far the biggest percentage in Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

When was your most recent mountain bike crash?

Answer Choices Responses
Just this past week 9.16% 154
In the last month 15.47% 260
In the last 3 months 18.26% 307
3 – 6 months ago 19.75% 332
7 – 12 months ago 16.18% 272
More than a year ago 20.76% 349
Never 0.42% 7
TOTAL 1681

Confirmation that crashes happen all the time. If you combine ‘just this past week’ and ‘in the last month’ you get 24.59% whose most recent crash was, well, very recently…

What was the reason for your most recent mountain bike crash?

Answer Choices Responses
Rider error (myself) 85.81% 1433
Another rider 7.66% 128
Incorrectly marked trail/race route 1.68% 28
Bike/gear failure 3.65% 61
a motor vehicle 1.20% 20
TOTAL 1670

On one hand, it’s alarming how many riders blamed their most recent crash on themselves. On the other, self-improvement is very possible, mostly through skills clinics and partly through experience.

The ‘another rider’ option yielded a worryingly high number. This indicates either selfishness, lack of adherence to trail signage or simply also being not sufficiently confident, such as stopping unexpectedly at a drop-down or unable to roll over some rocks.

We added the ‘a motor vehicle’ option because a number of mountain bike event routes share some gravel and tar sections with motor vehicles. Also, those that ride from home to a trail will need to be on a road at some point. And of course, we know that some mountain bikers also enjoy road cycling.

How serious was your most recent crash?

Answer Choices Responses
Not too serious 40.87% 687
I went down hard 45.45% 764
Very serious 12.73% 214
Life-threatening 0.95% 16
TOTAL 1681



Many of us take a little tumble every now and then. It’s part of mountain biking. Even Greg Minnaar eats dirt from time to time. You’re never immune to crashing. So a relatively high percentage for ‘not too serious’ was expected.

‘I went down hard’ – this is that crash where you take some time to get back on your bike. Or don’t get back on it and call off your ride or race. Sometimes it results in a cut that requires stitching closed, sometimes a minor bone fracture. But mostly just a really big fright with some questions about why you ride mountain bikes, what you did wrong to go down that hard, or, simply, cowering for a while under yourself admonishment for being so stupid or inattentive…

Have you ever broken your helmet in a crash?


This is interesting. While many may not think their helmet was damaged in a crash, it often is. Just because it doesn’t show signs of obvious breakage, a reasonable knock to the helmet creates a weakness in the helmet shell. This can compromise the helmet’s ability to protect you properly in a subsequent hard impact. Helmets are designed to be light and protect your head in the case of a serious fall. However, they should not be seen as a once-off purchase. More info on this here: How Safe Is Your Helmet? 

Is your bike insured?


A third of those that responded to our survey haven’t insured their bike. We found this to be quite a high percentage considering the relatively high replacement cost of bicycles and the fact that we live in a country with a high crime rate. While mountain bikes are made to be robust, there’s also the risk of serious bicycle damage in a crash, to both components and frames.

We published this advertorial recently, which offers some useful bicycle insurance advice: Debunking Some of the Myths of Bicycle Insurance.

Are you covered by medical aid?

Answer Choices Responses
Yes 81.50% 1370
No 3.75% 63
Just a hospital plan 14.75% 248
TOTAL 1681

Only a tiny percentage of our survey respondents don’t have some kind of medical insurance. This is reassuring, especially when you see the responses to this next question…

If you have crashed badly, requiring medical treatment, approximately what did it cost?

While the colourful graphic shows the majority have either paid under R5000, or aren’t sure what they paid, these percentages and numbers are rather sobering:

Answer choices Response 
Never crashed badly 28.13% 470
Under R5 000 28.13% 470
R5 001-R7 999 6.76% 113
R8 000-R11 999 4.55% 76
R12 000-R19 999 3.77% 63
R20 000-R29 999 4.07% 68
R30 000-R39 999 3.89% 65
R40 000-R49 000 3.39% 55
R50 000-R99 999 5.03% 84
R100 000-R199 999 3.17% 53
R200 000-R499 999 0.90% 15
R500 000 or more 0.78% 13
Not sure 7.54% 126
TOTAL 1671

Consider this: 81 people (4.85%) paid more than R100 000 for medical costs as a result of a mountain bike crash. If you don’t have medical insurance, you’re in deep trouble…

Look out for Part 2 f our SA MTB Crash Survey, presented by Gert Nel Inc. Attorneys on Monday 12 March. Part 2 will cover safety gear questions, including helmets, lights, high-viz clothing and the brand popularity of each. For more information on Gert Nel Inc. Attorneys, specialised personal injury attorneys with a passion for cycling, head over here: Gert Nel Attorneys 




Do you find our TREAD surveys interesting? Check out the results of our 2017 Absa Cape Epic rider survey:




And the results of the 2017 KAP Sani2c rider survey:





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