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.

KAP Sani2c

For one-day races, which distance do you mostly enter?

Distance %
Ultra-marathon (90-180km) 15.07%
Marathon (50-90km) 58.54%
Half-marathon (30-45km) 22.91%
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? 

Companion choice %
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)?

Travel time %
More than 3 hours 15.16%
2-3 hours 27.61%
1-2 hours 44.60%
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?

Feeling %
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?

Singletrack volume %
More than 75% 14.81%
50-75% 45.03%
25-50% 24.39%
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?

Importance level %
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:

New experience



Fitness test

To give myself a goal

To ride trails normally not possible to ride

For fun

To try beat my mates

The challenge

A weekend getaway


The outdoors

The route

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

For enjoyment

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 ‘gees’

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

Overall experience

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

Poor organisation

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

Crappy food

Boring 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 

Event %
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%
Barberton Classic 3.06%
Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB Challenge 2.92%
STBB 4 Good 2.92%
Fedhealth MTB Challenge 2.78%
Darling Brew X 2.78%
Tiletoria Elgin 2.36%
Illovo Eston MTB 2.23%
Picket-Bo-Berg 2.09%
Nissan Trailseeker Cullinan 2.09%
Hollard JUMA 1.95%
Garmin MTB Challenge 1.81%
Jackal Dash 1.67%
Longmore Classic 1.25%

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 

Event %
Karoo to Coast 38.40%
Momentum Health Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen 25.32%
Race to the Sun 10.76%
Berg 100 6.54%
Barberton 6.32%
Around the Pot 2.53%
Swartberg 100 2.53%
Go Durban 100 1.27%
Amarider 100 1.05%
36ONE Half 1.05%
Magalies Gravel Xpress 0.84%
Highland 100 0.63%
Cederberg Traverse 100 Miler 0.63%
Tip Trans Cederberg Experience 0.42%
Ride the Karoo 0.42%
TransBreede 0.21%
Swellendam 100 Miler 0.21%
Maloti 100 Miler 0.21%
Tiletoria Jansenville 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?

Feeling %
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)?

Feeling %
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?

Preference %
Point-to-point route 16.77%
Clover-leaf route 28.46%
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…

KAP Sani2c

If you do/have done them, for a stage race, how much singletrack do you prefer? 

Singletrack volume %
More than 75% 12.81%
50-75% 47.01%
25-50% 26.28%
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 

Event %
TransBaviaans 63.29%
The 36ONE 15.15%
Cullinan 2 Tonteldoos 6.39%
Trans Elands 5.05%
The Munga 4.04%
Trans Drak 2.02%
Midnight Express 1.34%
Nedbank Desert Dash 1.01%
Trans Xhariep 0.67%
Freedom Challenge 0.67%
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.

FNB Wines2Whales

Which is your current favourite short stage-race? Total responses 826 

Event %
FNB Wines2Whales 27.36%
KAP Sani2c 20.94%
Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush 16.34%
Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen 4.11%
3 Towers 2.78%
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%
Sabie Xperience 1.08%
Ride 2 Nowhere 1.08%
Y2Karoo 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%
Magoeba Trek 0.84%
Namaqua Quest 0.84%
Other 10.89%

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 

Event %
JoBerg2c 50.00%
Absa Cape Epic 34.50%
Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen 13.73%
TransCape 1.76%

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.