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5 Key Stats from Downhill Racers in the Pinkbike State of the Sport Survey

May 5, 2021
by Henry Quinney  
Welcome to the 2021 Pinkbike State of the Sport Survey. This anonymous survey is designed to help shed light on key issues affecting the professional field and elite competition. We surveyed the best riders in the world to hear their thoughts, ideas, concerns, and criticisms on mountain biking in 2021. We invited any rider who had finished in the Top 40 overall of their chosen discipline in either of the previous two seasons in either XC, enduro, downhill, or slopestyle & freeride, as well as notable non-competition riders and highly ranked juniors. We then published them in full and publicly. To read the introduction to the survey click here, and to see all the other currently published SOTS articles click here.


Aaron Gwin roars into the finish line as the massive crowd roars right back. The fans here in Fort William really are second to none on the Word Cup circuit.

We’ve decided to look at the data and take out a few key stats of each discipline. First up - downhill.

Downhill is often cited as the “the Formula One of mountain biking” and, in some ways, it is. The line preparation is meticulous, the tracks are well known and it follows a very structured weekend format. There are of course some major differences, firstly, there is largely no formula for bike design. The field is also far larger and just qualifying can be a battle in itself and, much to the consternation of those involved.

On the other hand, it is similar in that the pressure on riders' shoulders is huge, the entertainment engrossing, and the consequences incredibly high.
Downhill Cohort Details

Number of Riders: 82
EWS Riders Who Race Downhill: 13
Men/Women: 53/29
Juniors: 13
Elite Race Winners: 6
Elite Podium Finishers: 19
Home Continent:
Africa - 0
Asia - 0
Europe - 53
North America - 16
Oceania - 13
South America - 0
Median Wage: 5,000-10,000 USD

Included in our data are the answers of 82 downhill riders. Please note, however, that not all of these nominated downhill as their primary discipline. In fact, 15 of them, whilst being highly ranked in the UCI downhill series, actually nominated enduro as their discipline. Of the elite riders surveyed, every single one was from either Europe, North America, or Oceania. 35% of riders who nominated downhill as their primary discipline are female.

The information in our survey is coming from exceptionally talented and dedicated elite athletes. Of the riders who compete in Elite downhill included in this survey, nearly 9% have won a World Cup, another 27% have podiumed, and an additional 43% have achieved a top 20.

I think we should preface all of this data by acknowledging a blind spot in the way that we collected the data - we wanted to hear back from the very best of the elite. These riders will often have the most experience and have risen through the ranks to the very top. Now, this is exactly what we want in almost every regard, however, the one place it could be argued it might not deliver parity is when challenging the status quo in terms of the protected rider system and practice schedules.

This is an interesting point. These riders have earned their place at the top by coming through the current system, often struggling for coverage, early starts in B practice on a fast-changing track, and non-protected status. Now that they have proved themselves to be worthy of their benefits, should they be expected to challenge those structures and rulings? I would imagine that if we had asked the riders ranked 50-100 in the world we could see different outcomes in these areas. That being said, fans want the best downhill riders to stay in downhill and, as notable examples have shown, not become disillusioned and go into different disciplines.

Downhill may well be the Pinnacle of Mountain Biking Talent, but Riders' Incomes Don’t Reflect That

A quick walk to the other end of the pit row and things begin to takeon a completely different look. At least 3 to 4 privateer pits and as many times the riders squeeze into the same size space as a single factory team.

The breakdown of how all the riders surveyed are paid is available to read in full here. In today’s survey snapshot, we’re talking solely about World Cup downhill, but in order not to threaten any riders' anonymity we’re not publishing a full breakdown of in discipline earnings. That said, we can pull out these statistics - of the riders surveyed who nominated downhill as their primary discipline, so excluding those that are enduro riders first and downhill second, 49% earned a total of between 0-5,000 USD per annum. If we exclude juniors, that falls to 43% of riders are earning less than 5,000 USD. Again, excluding juniors, 11% earn 5,000-10,000 USD and 13% between 10,000-20,000 USD.

The wages of professional riders is a nuanced and multifaceted issue. Today we're mainly presenting the data from the riders, but we will be bringing further articles regarding the the results of this survey in due course.

Riders Believe Field Sizes Should Grow

It was only a matter of time before things started falling into place for Reece Wilson. Believe me when I say his performance last week was no flash in the pan he s hungry and capable of much more.

This is a contentious issue since the rule change in 2017 when the number of riders who could qualify on Saturday to Sunday’s men’s race was reduced from 80 to 60. On one hand, 60 riders in a race field isn’t small compared to other sports, but if you consider how close racing has become, and how mechanicals and ‘bad luck’ aren’t uncommon, it can mean that what is already an unpredictable and cruel sport can become even more so. By our data, 53% of riders surveyed think that the field should be over 60. Considering that a lot of these riders probably benefit from protected status, that’s actually very interesting.

Riders back having a female elite field larger than 15, over 65% in fact. Every single woman downhill rider that we surveyed wanted an increase in the size of the Elite women's field. Of the women surveyed, around 55% wanted a field size of 15-20 riders, whereas the rest wanted at least 20 riders.

How many men should qualify for Elite World Cup finals?
20 or fewer: 0
20-40: 4 (4.8%)
20-60: 4 (4.8%)
It should stay at 60: 29 (34.9%)
60-80: 44 (53%)
80+: 2 (2.4%)

Riders want stronger National series

Danny Hart

Mountain biking occupies something of a strange place in sports. While many other sports have thriving domestic calendars mixed with occasional events on the continental or world stage, inclusion in which is either done by way of qualification or by showcasing exceptional performances.
If my national series was more prestigious or better funded, I would rather attend that
Strongly Agree: 19 (22.9%)
Agree: 14 (16.9%)
Neutral: 23 (27.7%)
Disagree: 21 (25.3%)
Strongly Disagree: 6 (7.2%)

Mountain biking, for whatever reason does the inverse of this. It wasn’t always this way, of course, but today it's largely world-cup-or-bust for many athletes; there are few thriving national series to serve as a talent pool and ease the transition to international competition. The World Cups are exhausting to attend, both logistically and financially, but could compliment a domestic race season well. A surprising 23% of riders surveyed strongly feel they would rather race a better funded and more prestigious national series than a World Cup.

Riders are Generally Okay with the Protected Rider System

Outgoing overall winner from last year Myriam Nicole had to settle for third today.

41% of riders agree with the current protected rider system, with an additional 5% in strong agreement. Another 24% are neutral to it. This might be surprising to some, given the hard time and downright confusion it is greeted with from viewers. The protected rider system not only ensures closer competition in terms of the overall but also adds commercial value to larger teams and riders alike, as they can subsequently near-guarantee live coverage.
The current protected rider system ensures fairer racing
Strongly Agree: 4 (4.8%)
Agree: 34 (41%)
Neutral: 20 (24.1%)
Disagree: 16 (19.3%)
Strongly Disagree: 9 (10.8%)

However, these survey results could be affected by selection bias—the status quo benefits many of the riders we surveyed. It’s worth noting that more people feel strongly against it as they do strongly for. Also consider that if a rider often falls outside the benefits of the protected system they are likely to consider the system more, whilst if they are a rider that consistently benefits, they may not have to confront or acknowledge their feelings towards the current system in the same manner.

Over Half of Female DH Racers are Unhappy With the Practice Schedule

Rachel Atherton smashing rocks and raindrops in Fort William.

The dissatisfaction with the practice weekend practice schedule is something we hear a lot about, not least at the events themselves. Our results would seem to suggest that the disgruntlement isn’t as prevalent as you might think though. 52% of riders agree with it, with a further 5% strongly agreeing. However, if we look solely at the women's field, we can see that over 50% of female riders either disprove or strongly disapprove of the current schedule.
I like the current weekend practice schedule (men & women)
Strongly Agree: 4 (4.9%)
Agree: 43 (52.4%)
Neutral: 13 (15.9%)
Disagree: 14 (17.1%)
Strongly Disagree: 8 (9.8%)

Currently, the women definitely get the short straw in terms of practice. Not only is it early in the morning, which can often lead to complications regarding the weather, but it also means that their time isn’t used so efficiently over the course of the weekend with more waiting around in the pits. At an elite level when rest is important, this is surely a disadvantage to achieving your optimal condition. Not only do you have to warm up twice during the course of a day but there are also bigger gaps between riding the track as it develops, and not all of them get timed practice. These problems are compounded by the women's field being split between Practice A and B.

A Selection of Comments from the Riders

bigquotesThere is a gulf of difference between the practice/preparation riders have in A category when compared to those in B category.

bigquotesIt's all about teams with big budgets. If you consider the trackside video analysis and coaching, coupled with ability to practice a largely unchanged track prior to the event, it makes a huge difference to results.

bigquotesThe only major issue I have with the state of WC downhill is there are just not enough rounds. Very few legitimate sports have so few events at the premier level and I think this needs to change.

bigquotesSometimes schedules could be changed to ensure fairer racing.

bigquotesWe are still dealing with the rule that the top five female riders are able to train later in the day on the 1st and 2nd day. This is a complete joke as a later practice is clearly an advantage, knowing the race takes place at the same time as A practice is every day. A few riders, myself included, wrote to the UCI and riders representatives, we discussed it but the rule is still in place. The schedule for B practice is horrendous and it's a big issue but splitting the women's field in two is unfair as it gets. It's just not the solution! The 6th ranked rider isn't really that much slower than the top 5.

bigquotesWith the protected rule it's hard to get upfront every time, and separates the field into two groups with different concerns. As a privateer or semi-pro it's hard to see a top 20 rider, who gets paid, having a puncture because they’re going all out in qualifying and still be able to race on Sunday. While the 20+ riders that have to worry about getting down safe and still make it into the top 60. I would prefer to have no protected riders at all and instead create a last chance qualifier like supercross has, which means that if a top rider has a puncture and they can’t feature in the live stream, they’ve got another chance to show their "superstar" level.

bigquotesIn terms of doping and cheating, whilst I feel that downhill racing is honest and fair, I really don't believe that the issue is that there are hidden ebike motors or something like that. On the other hand, with a defined A and B practice it's a different story.

bigquotesThe gap between factory top riders from big teams and normal "privateer" riders when it comes to technical and medical support is too big.

bigquotesExplanation on practice schedule fairness: I do not think it is completely fair for the top 5 women to be able to practice in A practice and timed training. Practicing at different times means different track conditions and is an oppotunity to ride the course closer to when the race takes place.

bigquotesThere’s very very little in the way of testing bikes for cheating so we don’t know if "mechanical doping" an issue. Is any advantage classed as cheating? Hard to say if it’s all fair.

Author Info:
henryquinney avatar

Member since Jun 3, 2014
347 articles

  • 166 4
 In short, stay in school kids.
  • 55 1
 I can honestly say that I didn't expect salary numbers to be THAT low. Did I expect 6-figures, no, but to lay your health and well-being on the line for $10,000 USD is tough... Even 20k or 30k. I can see how it would be difficult to manage training and working if you were not at the pointy end of salaries.
  • 59 0
 Or rather: ride your bike after school
  • 18 0
 @buckwheat23: I agree but then again not shocked...I'd be curious how many of these 'lower tier' folks are just glorified Privateers paying their own way at shop prices rather than truly sponsored.
  • 11 1
 @buckwheat23: It is basically a hobby that they slightly get paid for. It is difficult because there is no big TV contract to fund salaries. To make money in cycling the formagt needs to change in some way to make it appealing to the average person.
  • 20 1
 @rcrocha: exactly. These riders are getting paid to do things the rest of us are paying to do. If you aren't at the very pointy end of the field, you aren't selling bikes for your sponsors either - nobody cares if you're top 50 in the world because nobody's bike purchases are significantly influenced by the guy who came 50th, and who else outside the bike industry is going to pay the riders and for what? If all you're paying for is exposure for your brand, you're probably better off sponsoring events than riders, because at least that way your banner/logo shows up every time a rider goes past it, regardless of who the rider is.
  • 7 1
 @rcrocha: you make a good point. No coverage, no revenue, no high salary.
  • 6 18
flag DoubleCrownAddict (May 5, 2021 at 20:42) (Below Threshold)
 Seems like these type of articles degrade the athletes and their overall image and would make younger riders less likely to be inspired to pursue the dream of racing.
  • 3 4
 stay in school - /* MEDIAN */ salary
You probably saw this - but that means 50% of respondants are below & 50% above.It says nothing about the average of the top guys. The result indicates there's probably a lot of people who make zero / essentially zero. That being said - i'm sure for the top guys - it's a lot lower than supercross...

Asside RE stay in school vs try and go pro - newly crowned "old guy" - recognize if you're considering, when u start to compete, you'll know in a couple years. If you're not crushing with less effort - stay in school. I did - lifes great, still ride, no regrets.
  • 13 0
 @buckwheat23: This is why a lot of mtb yeewwtubers are making more than pro racers. Ratings, ratings, ratings.
  • 8 0
 @DoubleCrownAddict: The article documents facts and provide rider commentary. There's no degradation going on. Interpretation is up to the reader, but salary facts are facts. It's probably better that kids understand the economic realities of their dream before pursing it.
  • 2 19
flag DoubleCrownAddict (May 6, 2021 at 3:56) (Below Threshold)
 @bertimusmaximus: It's am unnecessary degradation of racing and the image of mountain bike racers as a whole, just to make a little money from article clicks. Articles like this actually devalue racers and give sponsors less incentive to sponsor them. I guess none of the racers who were manipulated into taking this survey realized that. Nothing positive comes from this in the way it impacts racing, its all negative impact that dampens the enthusiasm for mtb racing.
  • 3 0
 @DoubleCrownAddict: Maybe then, the usefulness of this article comes in the form of MTB racing being able to receive and act on anonymous feedback given by racers. Maybe if the race organizers take action, then racing will be an activity that will maintain that enthusiasm. The only way to improve things is to acknowledge the issues and make them known so that solutions can be found.
  • 41 0
 They want to expand the field so more riders could make no money. Oye, I feel for these guys/gals. Living the dream in one sense but at what cost.

@brianpark - love the series, how about the next survey be with marketing managers at brands asking about why they sponsor, tangible ROI on sponsorships, social campaigns, etc. ?
  • 39 0
 Hah we were just talking about this. It’s absolutely not as simple as “bike brands greedy, bike racers good.”

I actually tried to get some marketing folks to give some anonymous feedback on these results and nobody I spoke to wanted to stick their necks out, understandably. Maybe if it’s part of a bigger group of marketing folks people would be more keen in the future.

Either way I know what we’re going to argue about when we record a special edition podcast tomorrow. Smile
  • 5 0
 @brianpark: Thanks for the response. 100% agree that its a lot more complicated than people think...clearly the ROI on racers is murky at best...especially once you get outside the top 10? 20? Plus we all know the scariest phrase a marketing person can hear is 'what's the ROI on that?'
  • 23 1
 @MikeyMT: I did an informal survey of recreational mountain bikers years ago and 90% didn't know who Steve Peat, Greg Minnaar and Rachel Atherton were, much less what brands they represented.

I'm huge fan of downhill racing and raced as a privateer for 14 years in the pro class. I've worked with Greg Minnaar quite a few times so I'm certainly not anti racer sponsorship, I just don't think the ROI towards sales is worth it. Maybe for R&D and brand awareness it's worth it.
  • 58 0
 @BetterRide: it's a super interesting topic. While 90% of rec riders may not know who pro riders are, the theory is that most of those rec riders have a core bike enthusiast friend that they trust for purchase advice. So while it'd cost millions of dollars in non-endemic ads to reach all those rec riders while competing with coca cola, etc, you've got a better shot at reaching them by winning with their core bike friends through WC racing.

I don't know enough to say it's the right or wrong approach, but I will say that's what I do when it comes to activities I don't know as much about. Motorcycles? I'll talk to Radek. Headphones? My brother. Cars? Uhh, actually not Levy, that's for sure.
  • 4 0
 @BetterRide: I agree about the riders who don't follow racing not knowing who matters in the racing world, but I know that Devinci's sales of the Wilson were primarily driven by Steve riding their bikes, period. That man sold a ton of product for Devinci just by being himself.
  • 5 0
 @BetterRide: I think advertising through rider sponsorship is more akin to how cigarette marketing ended up before the big shutdown in the UK. Its not so much about growing the market, that's done through other avenues, but 'winning' the exiting customer base to their brand.
Take Endura clothing as an example; I don't think it would be so hard to get hold of some if it wasn't for the likes of MacAskill or the Athertons being used as vehicles to get their name out there. In my mind those riders don't sell the kit, the quality and design does that, but the sponsorship puts the brand in contention amongst people who are already invested in the sport, and at least have an idea of what they're looking for.
  • 4 4
 @brianpark: Hmmm the hardcore enthusiast friend is interesting idea...I'm convinced Specilized Instagram Ambassadors sell more bikes than Loic and Finn.
  • 2 0
 @brianpark: That's probably because they are embarrassed that they make more salary than the riders.
  • 2 0
 I think it needs to be remembered when e we are talking about marketing, and that’s what pro sport is about really, is that ultimately it’s all paid for by those who buy the products. It’s not funded by the bike companies or any other part of the industry. It is all funded by us, the punters who buy the products
  • 9 0
 @brianpark: I am that core guy for my rec rider friends. I'll talk about WC DH, EWS, Aaron Gwin, Richie Rude etc and their eyes will glaze over. Then they'll talk about the Phillies, the Eagles, Flyers etc and MINE will glaze over.

But when it's time for them to upgrade a part or to a new ride then they come to me and my brand knowledge from sites like this and from manufacturer press or from team riders comes into play. So yes that works at least in my circles. Just don't ask me about Philadelphia sports teams!
  • 3 0
 @BetterRide: You’re right. I can’t say I’ve ever been influenced to buy a bike by who’s riding what. Hell, my last bike was a Turner. When was the last time they sponsored a big name?

I love the sport and spend a lot of time on my bike, but up until a few years back, I couldn’t name a single racer. I started paying attention about the time Gwin won his chainless run.

I guess I noticed YT a little more when he rode for them. Never bought a YT, though. And now I have no interest. Rachel Atherton made me think about Trek a little bit, but never enough to buy one. But then maybe for every few guys like me, there’s a rider who makes that conversion. Four of us take notice but one guy buys. Maybe that’s how it works. But I think it’s kind of a minor factor compared to the real deciding factors, like how a bike rides, what it costs, reputation, etc.
  • 3 0
 @brianpark: I've given product opinion and purchasing advice to a lot of people. ..aAnd I'm a sucker for PB product reviews and watching what the pros use....
  • 2 0
 @MikeyMT: Respectfully disagree. Based on zero evidence, I am positive Rude drives sales for Yeti and Spesh would do better if they had a dominate Enduro racer. As to Loic and Finn, no one buys DH bikes and, also based on no evidence, I doubt their success influences sales of the stumpy or enduro.
  • 4 0
 @ROOTminus1: Difference with cigarette advertisements, is profits made, when raw material & manufacture costs are so low, Yes mountain bikes are addictive too, but not in same way!
Always going to be a problem getting sales high enough, for profits. but for manufacturers, sponsorship is a tax deductible expense, no matter how much costs, but still has to be payed from bike sales
  • 2 0
 @aljoburr: "Riding thrills", "Riding gnar may cause heart palpitations and stoke" and never forget "Poor saddles may reduce the blood flow and cause impotence"
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: So, would a bike company do better with it's marketing budget to copy what the ski industry does with pro deals? In the ski industry, they offer pro deals to certified coaches and instructor which should be well below full retail (the ski company sells the product at below cost, and the store passing some/most of that savings on to the coach). While some of this likely goes on for some mountain bike coaches, the bike industry could expand this sort of pro deal to local stores to 1-2 core local riders/influencers (not necessarily coaches or racers) chosen by the store.
  • 2 0
 @brianpark: Also, I've got to say at my age, what bike Aaron Gwin is riding this year wouldn't affect my buying decision. Basically I assume on any given day he could win no matter which bike sponsor he had, with or without a chain. I hear people say Steve sold tonnes of bikes for Devinci - but then again, maybe he helped develop a better bike for them too? At the end of the day, proof is in the pudding. I want to try the bike. If some guy has a nice ride and lets me jump on for a rip - that's a huge. Similarly, why don't bike companies do MORE demo days with a big trailer full of bikes. I think you have a much better shot of getting someone to try your brand (that they may not have been thinking of), if there is a rack full of properly tuned bikes waiting at the trail head making it easy for people to try. And having the tech set up suspension properly for you can make a huge difference.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: Is another part of the ROI around product improvement and trickle-down technology? I'd assumed that part of the benefit for a brand was having professional riders who can communicate what make their bikes faster, along with data and competition results to prove it. Competition theoretically being the best driver of innovation.

The Formula One comparison seems strong here too thinking about say Schumacher and the F1 car innovations that have since turned up on their road cars.
  • 2 0
 Seriously. More riders, more well-funded events at all levels and better salary... it would be nice, but it isn't realistic.
  • 1 0
 @ROOTminus1: Re Endura kit, they got market share through good value pricing on Wiggle and Chainreaction over a decade ago, and kept it as the pricing went up through good customer reviews on the same sites. I'm sure Danny drives some extra sales with his millions of youtube views, but more than increasing volume I think the sponsorship allows them to push pricing up-market.
  • 35 1
 I sometimes get mad at how little they are paid, then I think about how little they race....
How many rounds of Supercross, then how many rounds of outdoor in the summer.
Those guys are racing 17 weekends in the winter/spring
Then about 12 weekends through the summer
29 weekends of racing at the highest level

WC riders do 7 races, then Worlds. 8 Elite level races
I know most do a few other local races and some like WIndrock have some top talent, but they are not the level of the World Cups.

More races = more money, just need the UCI not kill the venues to hold these events.

Roots and Rain 2019 events (I think most races report to them these days)
Minaar - 10 results
Bruni - 12 results
Pierron - 12 results
Verfier - 11 results
Gwin - 12 results
Danny Hart - 20 results (earning his money)
Richie Rude - 8 events

You work 8 - 12 weekends a year and expect big money???
I know training happens every day, all athletes put the time in all year.
  • 6 1
 supercross guys also get paid WAY more than WC racers.
  • 3 0
 Came here to say the same.
More exposure = more money, it's simple marketing/economics.
  • 4 0
 I was going to say the same, UCI has forced road cycling teams to pay a minimum salary of 31,000EUR to all ProTour riders but these guys will normally put in the same amount of race days in before February that WC DH does all year. More coverage, more events and more exposure is what it is needed but the UCI don't want to invest in that
  • 4 0
 Seems like they really do need more races. I like how many of the people surveyed said they wanted more prominent national races. That would be really cool, and would make travel expenses a lot cheaper. Could get more people racing and more people interested in the sport. On one hand I can see why the pay is so little. On the other hand it's ridiculous how much those in other sports gets paid and I feel like mtb racers deserve much more, in comparison.
  • 1 0
 @DylanH93: I am old and remember when NORBA was the big series, WC was still big, but not like NORBA races. So a good national series with 5-6 races and then WC with about the same made for a full year. Most riders were living in the U.S. back then for the summer so it was not a big deal. Now the majority of riders are European so a U.S. series without some serious payouts would not make it. UCI just needs to figure how to get more venues in without bankrupting them.
Would love to see 4-5 European races, take a break for National Champs and then 4-5 North American Races. Base the start of the season on where World Champs are, if they are in Europe, then the second half of the season is in Europe so everyone is over there.
They also would need to figure out how to get Australia/N.Z. involved as well as South America.
I like what EWS was doing, one year they would do a couple events in South America, then the next year Australia and N.Z. Eventually I think Asia will need to be there as well.
  • 2 0
 MTB racers don't race a lot, but it is not about how much they race, it is about how many people watch the races. Supercross has about 1.77 million viewers while UCI races has viewers in the thousands. Ratings for mtb racing is very low which means races get much less money from sponsors.
  • 33 9
 I love DH to death, but the truth is there is just no depth in the sport... On any given World cup weekend, only about 20 men and 2 or 3 women have a real shot at winning ... they are the ones getting a paycheck... the others are amateurs with pro dreams...
  • 7 12
flag parkisatool (May 5, 2021 at 14:30) (Below Threshold)
 You gotta be shitting me... The talent poll has never been deeper in the circuit. I'd say top40 are a menace.
  • 18 4
 @manolo No depth? And how many other individual sports in the world have over 20 people capable of winning any given event?
  • 6 0
 @parkisatool: you need to listen to a video I’m trying to remember the name of. Came out maybe last month?
But it was saying that on any given day that the top 20 men can take a W with their skill but only 5 ever will because of the mental side
  • 3 0
 @stormracing: I think that was the new episode of Red Bull's "Fast Life" where Loic talks about how Loris got his mental game together and can be a real threat to the title. They talk about how many riders are able but only a few achieve.
  • 3 0
 Do you think it’s even 20 men who have a shot each race? I’d say less than half of that. Maybe 8-10.
  • 2 0
 @ream720: yeah that’s it!
Exactly. Was interesting to hear them talk about that
  • 3 0
 And then there's Tom Brady and Lewis Hamilton...
  • 1 0
 Maybe on a good weather day but throw in bad weather,( it's an alpine sport remember! Prepare a skill set for shite conditions or do a boo hoo aboot it! ) crashes an mechanicals an anyone there is in with a chance. The sport has proved this Many times....
  • 1 0
 Yes, because other sports don't have elite performers who rise to the top of millions and millions of competitors. MotoGP- ho hum Rossi and Marquez, NBA- LeBron and Curry, NFL- Mahomes and Brady, etc etc
  • 1 0
 @TheR: I was being polite and I agree with you 100%
  • 1 0
 @withdignityifnotalacrity: You must have missed all of the 2020 MotoGP campaign. There were 9 different race winners (none named Marc Marquez) only 3 riders won more than 1 race and Joan Mir won the title on a Suzuki. MotoGP is insanely competitive right now.

btw so far in 2021 Rossi's best finish is 17th and hasn't won a race since 2017.
  • 25 0
 maybe the track wouldn't change so much if everyone slowed down a little and stopped late braking into turns Wink
  • 14 0
 all these hacks blowing up corners
  • 18 0
 2 points to take away.... 1.Imagine the sport without Redbull. IF there is no money in DH then Redbull is doing all of us racing fans a huge favor by putting money into broadcasting it. 2. For the upcoming DH racer with aspirations of racing WorldCups - you better have deep pockets, er I mean, your parents better have deep pockets because there's very little payout if you reach the top of the foodchain and there are a lot of people competing to be at the top of the DH foodchain.
  • 19 0
 I agree, that's why I drink a Redbull at least twice a year.
  • 16 0
 I miss when NORBA was still around... Racing at Purg and all those rad places
  • 12 0
 How do we have more participants, but also have more fair practice? Serious question.
  • 3 0
 There are always tweaks and improvements that can be made, but, I agree with you, improving one group’s experience or perceived fairness will come at the expense of someone else’s. As the saying goes, “There are no solutions, just trade-offs” in complex systems. A lot of things could be made better, but it would likely end up requiring a ton more time and a ton more money, which would make the events unsustainable economically and logistically. Again, I’m sure there’s room for improvement, but I doubt there are any free gains to be found that won’t come at someone else’s expense.
  • 4 0
 Random start list for practice
  • 1 0
 @husstler: what about protected riders?
  • 4 0
 Randomize all the practice positions. Protected and all. I bet Minnaar would still be a champion if he was given the occasional less-prime practice slot.
  • 1 1
 separate course for qualifying, then the race course gets more gnar for those who make it.
  • 9 0
 As a long-time fan and former participant (amateur) in DH, motocross and motorcycle road racing I think there should be an elite 20 or so riders in the premier class. Let them run 2 laps on race day for a combined time or best run. The support classes would provide a stage for privateers to show off their talent and actually compete for podiums in a 'support' class and possibly open up sponsorship opportunities.

This works well for motorsports and honestly I'm usually just fast forwarding through the early runs until the top 20 qualifiers start to drop. It would be more interesting to watch the lesser known riders if they were actually in a race for top spot.
  • 4 0
 Especially if this were paired with stronger national series for those outside the top 20, who are clearly not making any income in the first place.

The World Cup should be way more than 10 rounds, and only for the absolute elite riders. Cutting the field would eliminate the problem of unfair split practices too, and by doing best of 2 or something you also eliminate the stupid mechanicals or weather delays altering the results.

Cutting the field HAS to be paired with better regional (national/continental) series with more events, so that up and coming privateers have a place to make a name for themselves to earn a spot with a World Cup team. Local race series sellout in minutes, there’s a demand to participate but the organizers don’t have the bandwidth to hold more events.
  • 2 0
 So a privateer vs factory series or more like a moto3, moto2, MotoGP?
  • 4 0
 @Muggsly: I’m thinking more like a premier world circuit with national rounds to scout talent, more analogous to NCAA vs NFL, though that’s obviously US only. By pushing out all but the absolute elite from the World Cup, the caliber of racing will improve at the local scene, reduce the travel expense for privateers, and provide a more marketable product for the World Cup broadcast.
  • 1 0
 I think this makes the most sense... It would create a better TV product for the Elites which would translate to more money for riders. I know the TV component is annoying at times but it really is important for salaries.

You could run the WC2 circuit in conjunction with the WC1 races just earlier in the week. This way teams can have racers in both classes and do proper scouting. Privateer riders would also get exposure to the Elites. You could also do a Pro/Rel style where the Top 10 in WC2 move up to WC1 and the bottom 10 in WC1 move down to WC2 for the next season.

The bummer here would be the lack of the rising privateer who has a kick-ass season (i.e. denim destroyer) mixing it with elites. Although he may get more support (sponsor opportunities) dominating WC2 when all sponsors know he's moving to WC1 the next year and will be on TV every event.
  • 10 1
 That's surprising they want a bigger field of riders for the men. I'm kinda with Redbull and mostly ignore things until they get to the last 25-30 anyway unless there's a strange shakeup in the order and a top rider is running towards the bottom of the order. Maybe I'm just not a hardcore enough fan or maybe people actually onsite at the venues have a totally different perspective. But for me, watching rider after rider go through the same sections of track when generally they have no chance of making the top 20 doesn't get me excited. If there's 80 of them that will be even moreso. Just my .02
  • 10 3
 Just a thought, but why not alternate male and female riders in racers? Or every 3rd rider down is female. Because its against the clock, there is no specific need to have a strict divide between male and female riders on course, and it would go a long way towards providing the women some of the media coverage they need and deserve.
  • 14 0
 I think it'd actually paint the women in a negative light by comparing every single one of them directly to the men, when you have one or two elite male riders come through followed by a woman who's 30-40 seconds slower. It makes the disparity in speed even more obvious and isn't really fair to the women who should be competing against other women both on the clock and on the screen.
  • 1 1
 It isn't fair to have women racing against men, because men are better. But it's not fair for men to get paid more, because men and women are doing the same job. Just have one open class for all the money FFS! No age or gender classes. Winner takes all!
  • 1 0
 @Socket: that's a great point, but how many of us while watching are just looking at Green splits rather than overall time?

Plus, it might help push women's racing forward - we know that riders like Rachel aren't thaaaat far off men's times.
  • 6 0
 Regarding the number of races, I know the cost is a big part of why they don't have more events. I wonder if you took a lesson from last year and just did a doubleheader at each venue through the season. I am sure many of the venues can support an alt-track for day 2 of racing.
  • 2 0
 Issue was racers feeling that it was more dangerous and stressful doing it that way

Maybe double header but with more days between the races?
  • 8 0
 Very intriguing articles. Keep it up guys!
  • 4 0
 There is a famous video of Fabian Cancelara accelerating without pedaling his time trial bike in TDF. Now the pro DH riders saying there is no way of telling if a bike has mechanical doping.

Who makes these hidden motors and how do I get one? Call me skeptical.
  • 4 0
 Why would sponsors pay any more? They are only getting exposure on 8? weekends a year. Until the UCI expands its calendar, or racers really commit to multiple series (for example Danny Hart) it’s just not value for money. Teams are expected to plow tens of thousands into a team, mechanics, videographers, vans, pit set-ups etc,,,, to then use them 8 times a year? Where’s the value in that? Break down your crappy $20K a year into 8 weekends, I don’t think $2500 is bad for 3 days work. Basically the UCI is to blame, I don’t see how the racing side of the sport can grow, until the calendar grows.
  • 4 0
 The problem comes that for riders to get paid more, then the income from the sport/advertising/TV coverage needs to be greater than it is. You can't rely just upon manufacturers to fund the sport, it has to come from TV rights. The problem with that, DH racing is VERY much a minority sport. We as riders may love it, but we're a tiny tiny percentage of people watching bikes overall.
One figure i'd love to know is "how many people watch RebBull TV DH racing in a given weekend". I'd throw a figure out there of 200,000 worldwide. That's my guess...
Now think about how many people watch a given Premier League, La Liga, etc game, it's millions upon millions upon millions. So the revenue from TV rights is massively more.
Until DH and MTB grow as a worldwide everyday appeal sport for the masses, the money sadly won't be there for riders.
  • 4 1
 In these data is an excellent example of how what looks meritocratic at first glance is just the opposite. The elite men's category is going to get the best track times and a bunch of other perks, and you could say they earn them by being the biggest draw. But getting the best practice times is the type of reward that increases your chances to earn the very thing that got you the reward in the first place. It's a positive feedback loop, acting to widen the gap between the group that gets the best and the group the gets the rest. If the elite men are the pinnacle of the sport, surely they can suck it up and take the less good practice slot in favor of the women and juniors, to raise them up to their maximum potential in their race runs
  • 2 0
 I’d be interested to know if the Redbull monopoly on WC DH coverage is financially beneficial to the sport (and riders) in the long term. Monopolies are known to be bad for the consumer, is there an open bidding process for the coverage rights annually or something?

Given the recent boom there may be some other interested broadcasters now (see Discovery taking a stake in Enduro) which could only help boost the value of the sport. A rising tide lifts all boats and all that.
  • 2 0
 The efforts and determination put in by these elite athletes definitely deserves bigger rewards. The bike industry is making more money, the tv coverage is growing etc. The problem is that so many top riders would still do this for free, because it attracts people for the right reasons (not money). The positive side of this is that the sport is quite unique in that it is full of friendly, helpful people that look after each other. This means that you can look around at the races or in the woods, knowing that everyone is there for the same reason... passion n fun
  • 1 0
 Interesting point, football (soccer) has been destroyed by the amount of money which has been pumped in from giant TV deals. Clubs are in huge debt and predatory agents and middle men are hovering up huge fees. We don’t want to end up there (which we won’t).
  • 2 0
 I would have liked to know if the $5000 pay, is that, just pay, not pay and support. I get its not a lot of money but if you get $5000 a yeah but get travel support (even just airfare / some fuel for the van) and parts that could be worth 10k for basic support. Got to be tough financially but the big one would be travel and equipment support, get that covered and you're expenses are small.

Its always going to be tough making a living out of what is a way of life. You can't rely on just being good unless you're at the top got to bethinking of what value can I add to a brand and that's always going to be limited unless you are right at the top.
  • 2 1
 @brianpark are the stats off for this one?

"Over Half of Female DH Racers are Unhappy With the Practice Schedule"

But it seems like 73% agree/approve or are neutral about "I like the current weekend practice schedule" and that only 26.9% disagree or strongly disagree and therefore would be "unhappy with the practice schedule"?

Just checking... nice info!!
  • 9 0
 73% of all the riders surveyed (male AND female) are happy with the practice schedule, but over 50% of women surveyed are not. I'll update for clarity.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: gotcha! Thanks!
  • 3 0
 So the median wage is about the same as a nice trail bike? I think I prefer to work for a living. Don't get me wrong, I like riding, but I'd like a bike and to be able eat.
  • 1 0
 Obviously these people do this for the love of the sport. The fact that they get paid is the icing on the cake. Sure it would be cool if you could make a real living at it but unless the sport blows up onto the world stage it ain't going to happen. Cart my ass around the world so I can ride bikes and have good times, any day of the week.
  • 1 0
 This is probably the only time alpine skiing can be used as an example. Track walk for everyone, all 80 riders go for the first manche (no practice between track walk and first run), top 30/40 get to second run, where the results give points. Could also consider summing the times of first and second run
  • 1 0
 I love that the big teams all go to locations in the off season, then before the race weekend to practice, then get given the best race practice times and turn up with video analysis etc.

Then Jamie turns up in his dads car, Ben sticks him in his little tent, the weather gods play a part and he nearly wins.

Maybe it should be more fair.

Scrap protected riders.
Scrap A and B practice.

Let it go back to throw your seeding, but you lose the points and gamble for race day weather if people want to do that.

Juniors, Women still need their own race and the track does get mullered quite often after they have come down due to the elite men.

Scrap or add to qualification points to allow for the local heros to enter.
One thing that Crankworx Whistler always shows up is there are local fast people who dont race the WC circuit, no point claiming 20th, when 10 other locals who could take that of you dont have the points to enter!!!

Oh, and I really want to see played back helmet camera footage of peoples runs, then analysis of the runs side by side. ( could never do it live as all the teams would just watch the footage to look for changing track conditions, but a delayed broadcast with this footage would be so cool).
  • 1 0
 What is the prize money for a world cup event? and how far back does it pay?

I see several comments about Supercross riders making more money than downhill. Only the top Supercross riders get a decent salary (maybe 15 riders) the rest of the 40+ person field get no salary and ride for prize money and contingency money.
  • 4 0
 The LCQ idea is very good. Exciting concept
  • 1 0
 im ready to guess sponsors are making a killing and the rider compensation is but a sliver of their own sponsors yearly marketing budget. Pay bike racers better, all disciplines.
  • 1 1
 Every single woman downhill rider that we surveyed wanted an increase in the size of the Elite women's field. How are you going to increase the size of the elite field when there are only three or four elite women in the world? Even with 15 riders, 11 are riding on the coat tails of the actual elite.
It has to come from the grass roots up. You can't just increase the category size to 60 and call everyone elite when most of them are far from it.
  • 1 2
 I don’t get the whole complaint about splitting women’s practice. Aren’t the men split? Maybe the number is wrong and they should get more women in a practice but not sure why they should not be split. How many men get in a practice?
  • 2 0
 5k is dismal. I would like to see this compared to pro road cycling tho.
  • 1 0
 The top two categories in the mens have guaranteed minimum wages, and then you have many teams with zero people on minimum wage. In Proteams the minimum is roughly 30K euros and 50K euros in the worldtour. In both of these levels there are riders making millions however but also teams acting shady. In the third tier teams it is a free for all based on where the team is registered. For instance France forces minimum wage requirements for tier three, whereas in other countries, especially outside of the established cycling countries it is a free for all or even worse, pay to race.
  • 1 0
 @neoides: Pro road is a team sport so the non-superstar riders have a value as they help the leader win.

In both DH and XC there are awesome riders hitting the 40-60th place for basically no money but I couldn't name any of them. What value do they bring to sponsors if they don't get significant TV time and no one knows who they are?
  • 1 0
 @Ac282: I'm just giving stats, to @kfitz . I'm not trying to justify things in one way or another.
  • 1 0
 @kfitz To add your comparison, the average pro roadies do about 90 race days in a year, and their races are typically 5 or 6 hours long.
In UCI DH on the other hand, races are a maximum of 5 minutes long, plus one qualifying run, plus a minimum two practice runs and a walk of the course. Would the total time on the track including walking the course for one UCI world cup even add up to the same time as one road race?

A fairer comparison would be between DH racers and individual pursuit on the track. Nobody made a living racing pursuit either.
  • 1 0
 This is exceptional - what a huge undertaking. Well done on the acknowledgement of biases. Thank you for this!
  • 1 0
 What about XC riders? is there more money there?
  • 2 5
 Statistics and the inability to understand them when writing a article. Womens practice case in point. The majority are fine with it as evidenced by the numbers.....

A guy I rode with raced junior WC etc. My advice was enjoy bikes but focus on uni and his engineering degree as he was a smart lad. By these stats he would be murdering the wages of the majority of the DH Pros. I can 100% see the alure and benefit of living a fun life not being stuck in consumerism, but damn for the wages they list, scraping along is only fun when young? All that said I tell my kids to never let go of their passions and do what makes them happy, but at the end of the day they need money to live.
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