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.
Mountain biking is a male-dominated sport, and so snapshots of pro riders as a whole are not necessarily representative of how things are going for the smaller population of women within the sport. While women's mountain biking has grown significantly over the last several years, the women's competitive side of the sport is less developed than the men's side of things. In this survey, 61% of the riders were men, while the remaining 39% of those surveyed are women. This article deals specifically with responses from those 77 female pro riders who gave us their thoughts on the state of the sport.
Most Women Want to Race the Same Courses as the Men
The vast majority of women surveyed think that men and women should race on the same courses. Many of them feel that to promote equality and respect for women, it's important to understand that despite physiological differences from men, the professional women in this sport are exceedingly capable and can compete on the same courses as the men.
We did, however, receive one comment from a woman who says women would benefit from having smaller jumps in some competitions. That perspective is interesting, for example looking back to the 2019 Crankworx Whistler Speed & Style event, the first of its kind with a women's category. A strong group of women showed up to throw down - including some household names - but many struggled to carry enough momentum through the course to clear the big jumps, especially in the wind that showed up on the big day. Instead of being able to show off their best tricks, the competition became more about just getting over the jumps. After the event, some competitors said they wished the course design had been more realistic for the current stage of development of women's freeride.
That said, women's mountain biking is evolving quickly as more opportunities are afforded women and the sport develops further. It seems like big jumps and gnarly courses are here to stay, which is exactly what most of the women want.
In response to the statement 'The course should be the same, irrespective of gender,' 53.2% strongly agreed, 35.2% agreed, 10.4% responded neutrally, and 3.9% disagreed. None strongly disagreed.Female Pros Say There's a Pay Gap
We asked women in the sport whether they think there's a pay for professional female vs. male riders.
More than half the women surveyed responded ‘strongly agree’ to the statement ‘there is a gender pay gap in mountain biking.’ Another 29.9% responded ‘agree,’ putting the total agree answers at 83.1%. 11.7% were neutral, 3.9% disagreed, and 1.3% strongly disagreed.
It seems that many of the pro women we surveyed would like to be valued based on competitive results, rather than on social media followings or other metrics. We saw similar feedback from the men's side of the survey. It's important to acknowledge that the competitive mountain bike scene is subsidized by brands that want to sell their products, and that racers and brands aren't always motivated by the same things. Brands that hire racers to sell things will always be somewhat at odds with racers who feel their only job is to compete, regardless of gender.A selection of anonymous responses to the question 'How much less do you think you might be paid than an equivalent male rider?The Numbers Say There's a Pay Gap Too
The pay gap is real across all disciplines in mountain biking. Many men in the sport earn more than $100k, but it is much more difficult for women to break out of the $50k-$100k pay bracket - just 1.4% of women surveyed earn more than $100k each year, about 10 times less than the amount of men that do. Similarly, many more women than men earn less than $5000 from mountain biking each year: 32.9% of women responded that they earn less than $5000 each year, compared with 23.4% of men.
Note: The chart and comments above represent all the responses except one, which came from the only rider to tell us they make more than $500k per year from mountain biking. We know that a select few riders in the sport (male and female) do make more than $500k, but since only one shared this information with us, we have decided to exclude them from all charts that break down salary by gender, discipline, or other characteristics that could be used to identify them. In creating this survey, we promised the riders anonymity, and we want to deserve their trust.
It's also worth noting that once a rider reaches a certain level of celebrity, they are able to transcend the mountain bike world a bit and attract sponsors from outside the sport, meaning that the outliers who attain that status are not totally representative of what happens within the bike industry.The Majority of Women Surveyed Feel They've Have Experienced Sexism In The Sport
It's no secret that mountain biking is still
quite male-dominated and, although things are shifting, attitudes toward women in the sport have a long way to go. The numbers here suggest that the majority of female MTB pros feel they've experienced sexism in the sport, while roughly 20% say they have not personally experienced sexism in mountain biking.
In response to the statement ‘I have experienced sexism in the sport of mountain biking,’ the largest contingent of women (35.1%) answered ‘strongly agree,’ while 28.6% responded ‘agree.’
The remaining 38% was divided into 14.3% who responded ‘neutral,’ 18.2% who chose ‘disagree,’ and 3.9% who strongly disagreed.
Interestingly, some who said they had not experienced sexism in the sport did answer that there is a gender pay gap, perhaps suggesting that they feel the pay gap is not inherently the result of sexism.75% of Women Would Support Legislation to Diversity Teams
One idea that has floated around to help diversity the sport is to require UCI trade teams to include female and/or junior riders. Such legislation would help ensure that fewer women and up-and-coming riders are left out in the cold, so to speak. Such legislation could perhaps also help narrow the pay gap by offering women better sponsorship opportunities.
In response to the statement 'I would support legislation to diversify the professional field. Ie. an elite UCI trade team must have at least 2 of the following: a male, a female and a junior,' 41.6% strongly agreed, 33.8% agreed, 15.6% were neutral, 6.5% disagreed, and 2.6% strongly disagreed.How can we make the sport more inclusive? A selection of responses to the question 'What changes would you like to see in mountain biking to make it more inclusive for women?'