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. To read the introduction to the survey click here, and to see all the other currently published SOTS articles click here.
The Pinkbike State of the Sport Survey has revealed that more than half of professional riders feel they would not be adequately supported in case of an injury.
Of the 196 riders surveyed, 101 (51.5%) either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, "I would be adequately financially supported in case of an injury". 42 (21%) riders answered the question neutrally while only 53 riders (27%) felt they would be supported.
Of course, "adequately" could mean different things to different riders but even in the past few years, we've seen high-profile riders such as Brook MacDonald
and Paul Basagoitia
benefit from crowdfunding to supplement their recovery costs. Could lower profile riders with less cultural cache or a less well-publicised injury do the same?
This seems to be a trend across all disciplines, but freeride athletes, in particular, seemed the most worried about this. They had the highest proportion of riders who disagreed to some extent with the statement at 61.91%, From our freeride specific section of the survey, 63.2% of riders also agreed to some extent with the statement, "I have felt pressure to drop in at an event despite not being comfortable with the conditions." Although, it's worth noting that only 21 freeride/slopestyle athletes responded to the survey, far fewer than the other disciplines.
Enduro racers felt they were the next least secure at 54.69% followed by downhill at 54.29%. XC was the only discipline where a minority of racers felt they wouldn't be supported at 38.46%. Perhaps because of this, 70.9% of all respondents take out private insurance of some kind in case of injury or loss of earnings. In every discipline, the majority of riders take out private insurance, but freeride has the highest proportion (76.19%) followed shortly by downhill (76.06%) and the lowest uptake is in enduro (64.06%).Some riders feel pressure to come back early from injury
We also asked riders to respond to the statement: "I have felt pressure to come back early from an injury". In total, 33.5% agreed with the statement and 41.6% disagreed with the remaining riders answering neutrally.
The disparity between freeride and slopestyle and the rest of the disciplines remained from the previous questions and this was the only discipline where a majority of riders had felt this pressure—57.15% of slopestyle riders had felt pressure to come back earlier from an injury, compared to 39.44% in downhill, 25.4% in enduro and 23.07% in cross country.
Whether this pressure is merely perceived, or overtly applied by sponsors and fans, it's clear that the precarious employment of professional mountain bikers contributes to some riders coming back from injury too soon. We asked riders what their sponsors value and more than 50% of riders said it was, "consistent results in my chosen discipline", something that would be impossible if they were off the bike with an injury. Other highly valued assets included, "active social media" (23.4%), "good, one-off results" (13.2%) and "face-to-face interaction with the public" (6.1%).Riders are especially worried about concussions
As the science around the topic grows, it is becoming clearer that concussions can have long-lasting and serious effects on athletes even after they retire from the sport. Recent high-profile cases in mountain biking such as Anneke Beerten
and Ethan Shandro
show that head injuries are being taken more seriously, but they are still a grave concern for riders.
Riders were asked to respond to the statement, "I am worried about the long-term effects of concussions" and 29.8% strongly agreed and a further 40.9% agreed to it. in total less than 10% of riders disagreed to some extent with the statement. These results are consistent between the main racing disciplines but do not seem to be echoed in freeride and slopestyle, where nearly 30% of riders said they were not worried about the long-term effects of concussions.
The survey also showed that a majority of riders also believe there is not enough education for riders about concussions with 54% disagreeing with that statement. Thankfully, the UCI updated its guidelines surrounding concussions last year based on the 2017 Berlin concussion consensus, and the sport is slowly taking traumatic brain injury more seriously.