Welcome to the 2023 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 as we go into 2023, all in an anonymous format. To read the introduction to the survey click here, and to see all the other currently published SOTS articles click here.
In some major sports such as soccer, Formula One, or even road cycling, athletes' salaries are common knowledge and published annually. In mountain biking, athletes’ salaries are often shrouded in mystery. How much a rider gets paid can be an elusive number that is hard to decipher as a ‘salary’ is often a medley of bonuses, prize money and sponsorship fees.
To try and get a better picture of how much riders are earning, we included remuneration as a section of our State of the Sport survey.Mountain Biker’s Salaries Vary WildlyThe largest group of riders surveyed (23.3%) revealed they earned just $0 - $5,000 USD
per annum from mountain biking, with the second largest segment - 18% - making between $50,000 - $100,000 USD. We also know that 19.1% of riders don't get paid at all.
67% of mountain bikers in our survey earn less than $50,000 USD per year, and for 55.3% of all riders, this makes up their full income (i.e., they do not have another job to support themselves). But how much of this income is dependent on results, sponsorships, and prize money?Salaries Aren’t Guaranteed
Mountain bikers' salaries often vary wildly from paycheck to paycheck. Most pro riders are entitled to some sort of base salary, but they are incentivized to increase their pay through other means. Of all the riders surveyed, just 19.6% were able to earn a full living from a concrete mountain biking salary
, without having to supplement it with another income source.
Overall, 61.2% of riders stated that they relied on good race or event results for their livelihood. Another 29.7% told us that less than 20% of their income is guaranteed
, and the majority of riders having approximately 60-80% of their income solidified from mountain biking. This means in total, over 80% of riders have to have a second income stream after their take-home salary (but for most riders, this income stream is still in the industry of mountain biking).
Possibly as a response to this financial instability, 28.5% of survey participants outwardly disagreed that the need to be aligned with a brand’s ethics and beliefs to accept sponsorship or support from said brand. 61.8% of participants believe that they must create content to maintain their income. Despite the Financial Sacrifice, Most Athletes Think They are Paid Fairly
43.4% of riders believed they made sacrifices to their education to prioritize their riding and get to where they are now. 31.6% of riders said that they believe that they are paid unfairly, with the remaining 68.4% agreeing or remaining neutral to the statement that they are paid fairly for what they do. For some, being paid to ride your bike remains a dream job. Perhaps they may be willing to give up a higher salary in exchange for the lifestyle of a professional athlete.
For those who feel underpaid, lack of social media following was cited as the main reason, followed closely by poor contracts. 90.1% of riders believe that results are the main reason for a rider to be well paid, however only 8% think that lack of results are a reason for their own underpayment
. Having a large social media following and inherent marketability (based on factors other than riding) were cited as the main reasons for riders to be well paid. 37.5% of riders also believe that the amount you earn has no reflection on how good a rider you are.
We asked our riders what they believe their sponsors value the most in an athlete, and the majority of them (57%) said that it was consistent results in their chosen discipline. A further 17.2% of riders said it was good one-off results in their chosen discipline. If there was ever an insight into how nerves can impact an athlete's performance, this is it. Almost 75% of athletes will be trying to justify their wage in the start gate
, and they generally have less than one opportunity per month to do so over the course of a year.There Is a Gender Pay Gap in Mountain Biking, and the Women Know It
The data shows that a whopping 63.5% of professional women surveyed made less than $20,000 USD in earnings from mountain biking last year. 33% of those females made less than $5,000 USD, compared to just 16% of men. Over one-fifth of male athletes reported making over $100,000 USD, compared to just 6% of women
. For the most part, female pro mountain bikers' pay tops out at about $50,000 - $100,000 (only 4 reported earning over 100K), while some of the top paid men earned significantly more than that. This displays a much lower ceiling than the men’s category.
This won’t come as a surprise to the women; more than half the women surveyed responded ‘strongly agree’ to the statement ‘there is a gender pay gap in mountain biking.’ Another 30.8% responded ‘agree,’ putting the total agree answers to 83.1%. These women estimated that they make 30-50% less than their male counterparts, and the comparison chart above shows this to be relatively accurate.
Nino and lots more euro XC stars make good money. MVDP clears a few million I am sure. PFP, Yolanda Neff, maybe even kate courtney are likely clearing 3-400k. As well they should btw as thats still less than half the NFL MINIMUM.
4 rainbow jerseys for PVP, like working 4 jobs.
seems like a f*cking bargain really. in the biggest market in America(Cali.) and America being far and away the biggest market in the world, it would behoove a Califronia company to have the most famous Californian MTB of all time on their team.
also, he owns part of Intense, so he is making a lot more than his racing salary. lol
Arguably more successful in terms of overall titles than Gwin.
Fabio, Danny Mac, Sam Pilgrim and Matt Jones would fall into that latter category.
It's stated over and over in other sports that salaries leak to the public because agents are intelligent (not stupid).
They will "leak" a client's salary to aid the negotiations for their other clients.
@captain23 at one point represented GM, Gwin & others (I assume in the capacity of sports marketing agent) but never heard him leaking it to the public as a strategy.
With some salaries having escalated, I'd be curious to know WHY there are relatively few...if any....agents for hire in the MTB industry?
But I'm not dismissing it either.
Question is...if AG was using Big House as an agent in the monetary sense, are others using agents? Is Houseman still acting as an agent on behalf of other athletes. What sports marketing companies out there HAVE mountain bike athletes in their client list?
Maybe Jim Halpert and AthLeap, a subsidiary of Adidas, have a roster of MTB athletes???
Any chance you'd weigh in on agents and if they are playing a role in pro MTB and if so what role you see them taking in the future? I'll give you a virtual if you chime in.
35-40 years old with no significant savings/assets and no experience in a "real job" / being out of said job for 15 years isnt that great of a place to be.
We could just rationalize them away together with arcitecture, cooking, music and many more. We then spend our lives in concrete boxes, eat porridge and work for 12 hours a day, because there is nothing else to do.
You dont care about art and someone else doesnt care about mtb. Just let people live.
/end of social critique
i'd say he was referring to people with degrees that can't get them jobs outside of "non-profits" and other govt/ESG bureaucracy positions where there is no demand for "work" they do, only supply.
when they don't get that kind of job, they end up serving coffee or flipping burgers
If children, eventual retirement and maybe a house to call your own arent your cup of tea, youre doing just fine.
So no, you dont need to be "set" at 40. I think in most cases its simply a question of one door closing and another one opening.
At least in America it basically works that way. I cannot comment on Germany, I'm not very well traveled lol.
"Go to school for a career that will pay you enough so you can go snowboard at Baldface and ride one of your Yetis in Durango when you feel like having a vacation." He graduated college and is one test away from his CPA license and already making more than $80K a year at 24. We are going to Moab in April....
School pays. go to school. I was an idiot and didn't go back until I was in my 40's. In less than 6 years I quadrupled my yearly income.
Go to school
Go to school
The next step is to create companies using skills that not many are willing to get (first two tricks) and then sell these companies. (Third trick) Most people put their heart and soul into their baby company and are unwilling to sell it and let it grow up and move out of the house. This makes you the most money.
So 3 things that people are generally unwilling to do. Go to school. Start your own company. Sell companies. You'll get a lot of haters but also a lot more time on a bike/skis/climbing on your way to early retirement.
This works if you skip the first school step too. Do the work others are unwilling to do, start a trades company in a town nobody services, employ lots of guys, do it again in another town. etc.
With a world moving closer and closer to computerization, and automation, we will need people to be able to install, troubleshoot, and fix things.
It doesn’t matter how much of our world moves to electronically integration, people still need heat in their homes, they still need bathrooms, and they still need lights…
If you’re going to work that hard, may as well do something where you’re likely to make more $$$. CPAs are overworked and underpaid.
My friend has been at E&Y for 15yrs and works like a dog. Makes ok money, but I still out earn him by a factor of 3, and have ultimate flexibility (CRE consulting).
RIP your son’s young adult life.
This was the most compelling and insightful thing I’ve heard on the subject. I know it sounds unrelated to pro mountain biking, but it wouldn’t take much imagination to see the parallels.
one thing that i would like to see is salary vs lap times. that would shine a light on how performance reflects pay or if it really does.
They were just dancing around the obvious conclusion, the pay gap is not based on discrimination or anything nefarious…. Then at they end they ask, what should be done about it?? …I remember yelling at my car stereo, “NOTHING, YOU IDIOTS!! Your own research concludes the system is working exactly how it’s supposed to!
Anyway, I’m glad you were able to read between the lines, even though they wouldn’t state the obvious. At least the show made it clear what’s actually happening.
Good luck ever getting laid incel...
Re-reading your comment, I'm not sure if it's satire or not
But Vali Höll does ride for Rock Shox Trek not the other way around.
However they do have plenty of female representation on their other teams, XC, CX, Road and Tri. Jolanda Neff came out last year and said she felt well supported by Trek.
I usually only watch the fastest run, so I know I am part of the problem.
I watch what I want to watch and I don't feel obliged to keep anyone in business.
I do however think that reluctantly watching the women's races is a far better option than contacting the brand and telling them how to spend their money.
Does she have access to any other info other than the genitals of people between their legs and the pay? Pay is determined by many factors such as hours worked, work experience, education, job performance, and even how often raises are discussed with the employers.
There is no gender paygap that is supported by actual data and logic other than to say "average pay for women is less!" (Without considering job choices, hours worked).
Companies are trying to cut cost where they can as much as possible to compete, if they can get away with paying women less, they would just hire more women but it isn't the case.
Oh wait, if that was possible it would already happen, until things normalized, and wages would equal out.
Some slightly forward thinking marketeers will catch on to the idea that there is a pretty big untapped market out there, and well if we try to market to them, it will inevitably increase sales.
I’m not sure that Bruni, Minaar, etc really drive sales that much, it’s a real niché sport, and most regular people have no idea who those guys are, and certainly aren’t driving sales of Stumpies and Bronsons.
The level of ignorance in that comment, hopefully you're 14 years old?! And for it to get 26 upvote is just blowing my mind even more... But now it's less surprising that gender pay gap still persists, and guess what it is because of people like you, all of you that diminish women's performance, base you arguments on made up facts, because it makes you uncomfortable otherwise.
After being part of the 19.6 % of pro racer that don't get paid (no salary)for half of my 15 years world cup career, living of podiums prize money, bonuses, bike sales... I've had a happy career, life, but i'm not fat from being "poor", at least financially. It's all because you love it! But some company DO take advantage of that love, the lifestyle, to justify getting riders for free especially female and upcoming young males. That needs to change. I wish I could go back and say not to the sponsor that didn't want to pay me. I can't. But I won't stand for it!
I also said female gymnasts rightfully make more money than make gymnasts. Am I diminishing men' s performance in this case?
In order for you to get paid, that money has to come from someone else's pocket. In the simplest terms possible, in most sports male sports simply sell better which is why there is a higher pay for male athletes in general. Do you understand this concept? There are also sports that women tickets sell better so women get paid more than men too.
I see you live in Switzerland, one of the richest countries in the world. Women in Switzerland make more money on average compared to women in Sudan. Are you willing to equalize your pay with Sudanese women by giving up your unjust paygap over them? It seems that paygap is only an issue when you feel like you are the victim, but not to those below you.
People make different pay within and outside of gender. That's okay because people's pay cheque is determined by how much money they can generate through economic activities. That is what makes it fair for everyone.
Sooner you realize you are not a victim of your genitals but capable of achieving whatever you put your mind to, without your genitalia holding you back, the happier and more successful you will become.
Do you believe that Spesh is making a profit selling DH bikes because Bruni is winning races?
Doubtful. Spesh likely makes the bulk of their money by selling body geo soft goods, not selling Demos. You think SC is making money for PON cause Minaar is still out there crushing it, that’s hard to believe, pretty sure no one’s walking into the store asking for a tallboy, cause Minaar is winning worlds….
Smaller DH focused companies (Intense, Commencal) might shift more based on racers being celebrities etc.
We are into it, and I think we get caught up in our involvement in both the sport, and the past time of mountain biking. But its niché as hell man.
Your argument for win on Sunday, sell on Monday is pretty weak. Willing to bet nowadays that insta, tictak, etc shift more bikes than WC DH riders.
I will say, I’m in agreement that bringing in sales should directly refelct salary, if those are the terms that youre hired under. But I also believe that representation is important, and likely an untapped market with female riders.
Sorry, you got it all backwards.
Yes people will walk into a Specialized and SC stores for those athletes winning races. It increases brand recognition and trust, even if they do not buy the exact bike that the racers use. It is marketing 101.
Car companies also spend millions in F1, WRC, and NASCAR for the same reason. They want to sell their brand. Car companies also make Halo flagship exotic cars for this reason (Ford GT, Nissan GTR, Lexus LFA).
So it only makes sense that bike companies pay a higher salary to athletes who get the most wins, and more importantly more publicity for the brand. In this sport of mountain biking, it happens to be male athletes getting paid more on average. If it were a sport that women pay more attention to and spend more money in like yoga for instance, it could make sense that female athletes make more than men. Do you understand that?
And you keep talking of "representation", it may matter to you, but bike companies need profit to sustain their business. They are not charities. If the demand from women is there to get into biking, I assure you these bike companies will jump at that. They will market to whichever demographics that make them more money. If you want female athletes getting paid more, encourage more women to get into the sport and the pay for female mountain bike athletes will adjust accordingly as market capacity changes.
"We also know that 19.1% of riders don't get paid at all."
If they don't get paid for mountain biking, why are they in this survey? That's not a "professional"* in the context of talking about salaries.
*("following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain")
What are you even talking about? Try harder.
There are 13 UCI world cup events in 2023 as far as I can find. The only viewership data I can find has it around 6 million hours per event. There were 741 registered riders in the UCI mountain bike roster last year. That makes each rider responsible for - on average - 105 thousand hours of viewership. That makes the average professional basketball player worth roughly 312 times as much as the average rider. And I'm not even including the WNBA for the basketball stats, but I am including female riders. So the delta is probably closer to 500 times as much.
The average NBA player pulls in roughly $8 million per year. If we apply that ratio to bikers we should see average salaries around $27k per year. Based on the numbers in this article, riders are fairly to slightly over-paid when compared to other professional sports.
By the way, the ONLY sport I follow is the EWS and UCI downhill and even I barely tune in for that.
the average annual pay for a NFL Player in the United States is $45,866 a year.
At which point I stopped
DH racers get paid for those 20 min. of exposure during races plus any extra media they produce (although a lot of the top guys barely produce any). If someone was hypothetically talented enough to get results and exposure without any work between the races, I guarantee the sponsors would still pay the same (as has happened in the past when it was still possible).
The idea that people who have historically (and still are in many cases) treated as second class citizens need to somehow show they are equally marketable with a fraction of the resources to do so is not only stupid, its a disgusting proposition. "Pull yourself up by your boot straps, but you only get half a boot and we're not going to give you a full pair until you can do it anyway."
Take a hard look at the way you think about the world. Something tells me you were born with all you needed and have never had to struggle in your life. It's not too late for you to realize your myopic view is not only harmful but very unnecessary to share on the internet.
If you start a whole group out by handicapping them, they're not going to be as competitive for viewership...
Racing is about racing the competition in your field. Women's racing is just as exciting as men's (that's one of the reasons MTB is so awesome).
You are perpetuating a fallacy that women cannot produce exciting racing or capture a large viewership... which has been proven false when women are given an equal playing field and air time.
At least your user name is accurate.
your arguments hold zero water.
It is not, and has never been a level playing field. Perpetuating the pay difference is a short sighted business decision, along with being morally wrong.
The gender pay gap and investment gap in sport is massive compared to other industries in large part because old white men (like you) remain in positions of power and refuse to make genuine efforts to tap into the market that is 50% of the populace.
In collegiate sports, Mens Football pays for all other sports to exist. Most schools break even on Mens Basketball, and thats it. The rest of athletics is subsidized by young men willing to risk (a very high risk) CTE, early onset arthritis, and other health problems for the glory of football. Every other student athlete except maybe Mens basketball is on football-subsidized welfare.
When I ran Mens Track & Field, despite generating $0 for the school, we still had access to the same facilities, the same trainers, the same training equipment as the football team (well, they had their own weight room). The cost of trainers, tape, buses, plane flights, pole vault poles, etc, is very expensive. We were given all the support we could possibly ask for, but PEOPLE STILL DIDN'T WATCH THE TRACK MEETS. The playing field is as level as could be, but people have different preferences. The same principle in football vs track applies to men vs women in mountain biking.
Paygaps exist not only between men and women but among men and among women too. But people only complain of "gender pay gap". You as an American woman have a pay gap above other women doing the same work as you in Asia, or Africa. According to you believing that everything needs to be equal, are you willing to share your unjust pay gap with other less fortunate women? Probably not.
People only deserve the pay for the money they bring in. That is what makes it fair.
Male mountain bikers make more money than female mountain bikers for the same reason female gymnasts and volleyball players make more money than male gymnasts and volleyball players. It all depends on the viewership and the money generated from that.
You are insane. Women are different to men not just physically.
From purely guessing I’d say XC or Enduro riders would probably have the strongest argument for saying that doing well on a bike will lead to an actual uptick on sales for a brand. Honestly, how many DH bikes are actually sold each year? Almost the entirety of the slopestyle new bike market is Ticket S sales and I’m going to guess Trek doesn’t move that many of those each year notwithstanding the wizardry that Emil and Brandon can do on them. I would not be at all surprised if Pinkbike/Vital etc crowning a particular bike “Bike of Year” has a more meaningful effect on actual sales then race results of a particular athlete. All of these guys and girls are fast/talented and I’d suspect equipment makes less of a difference than people think.
Where does that leave people trying to actual make a living at this sport – I don’t know. I do know that $100k is really not much money in a lot of places where mountain biking is good (eg. Anywhere with hills in BC). Unless people are willing to pony up to actually pay to watch the sport in person (which would really only maybe work for Rampage/the Crankworx slopestyle events/or something that can be made to fit in a stadium like supercross), or pay for a subscription stream to view it I can’t really see much changing. I can’t see anything generating anything remotely close to Tour du France levels of viewership and sponsorship/ad dollars. Maybe it will slowly get better if more people take an interest in the sport but that would likely also mean there is more people trying to ride professionally.
Would more salary transparency help any of this? In larger professional sports its generally known what particular athletes make (at least in terms of a base salary). That obviously has an effect on the market. It was very refreshing to see Gwin make his million dollar comment a few years ago. Maybe pros talk to each other and this is all well known in the industry so it’s not much of an issue. However, based on some of the survey results concerning contract satisfaction that doesn’t seem universal. I’d suggest an good place to start would be for Pinkbike Racing to announce what they pay their riders. Maybe that would inspire/pressure others to follow and help riders make some more informed decisions. To a certain degree Pinkbike does it with the Pinkbike Academy winner so it would be somewhat of an extension.
I sold bikes for 4 seasons, 90 % of customers have no idea about any geo.
No one who comes to the local bike shop has any idea who won the last EWS or UCI worldcup or any other discipline. They just buy a bike from the available 2-3 brands there.
In short: there hardly is only one reason people end up buying what they buy, be it bikes or anything else, and surely brands would like to utilize every sales channel possible.
But generally, the person that's going to spend $8-10k on a bike does know who Loic Bruni is and is not unlikely to be at least partly influenced by the bike or bike brand he rides with. Ditto for shocks and other parts. And let's be honest here - those bikes are the high profit sales for both manufacturer and local store. So there is good return on paying top dollar to get top riders on your team. And let's not forget that top riders are also part of the feedback loop when testing out new tech. So those riders also give bike and component developers important help in making ever better and more competitive bikes.
Can someone figure out how to add a 0 to their salary? I don't see a way to make that happen.
People complain about strikes from millionaire athletes from baseball, hockey and football, but a lot of those strikes mostly benefit the little guy.
I hope Red Bull teams up with crank works to make a competitive series so between the WC and them we can get 15 great events a year, this could bring in some more money for these amazing athletes that work so hard all year long.
They also didn't mention World Cup level, or any other level. They said "the professional field and elite competition" and "we surveyed the best riders in the world", with nothing about actual races raced.
No, that doesn't mean only those 19.6% do not need to supplement it. Less than 100% guaranteed does not mean one automatically needs to supplement, especially considering that the potential total salary with performance-based rewards is often higher than a similar guaranteed salary, so one doesn't need to get every single bonus to still make enough.
You're assuming that _all_ of those 61.2% don't get good enough results, and that the 20% guaranteed is _always_ below some level that requires secondary income for the other 29.7%.
What is the difference between a large pepperoni pizza and a pro mountain biker? The pizza can feed a family of four.
Every pro rider making under 30K could literally do anything else and make more money, yet they dont. It's not because they think someday the world will figure out how to pay them more. If all teams were required to pay 50K or more, there simply wouldnt be as many pros.
If i stumbled across someones obituary I would be more impressed with "was a professional bike rider" than "was a software developer"
If all teams were required to pay 50K or more, there simply wouldnt be as many pros."
Huh? That must be why there are so few pro soccer/football players.
Being a pro literally means making a living at at something - i.e. it's a person's profession. People riding at the elite category and not earning anything aren't pros, they're pursuing a passion and/or hoping to become pros.
Even if what you're trying to say is that teams would be able to afford fewer riders, it doesn't mean there would be fewer riders. They may just compete in a different category until they are good enough to race in a pro league. Usually better salaries will motivate more people to make a go at it. Which in turn creates a more competitive landscape and creates more entertaining races. If the top 15 women riders got paid $100k/season, it would attract more talent, it would afford better coaching, more full time athletes (instead of spending off seasons hussling in some other job). And in time that would make for a more competitive women's field, which would generate more viewers + more interest in the sport for women.
It depends on the viewership and the money generated. Compare the viewership numbers for the male mountain bike races and female mountain bike races, or the sheer number of races
So yes, gender paygap is a myth that has been debunked many times.
You do not deserve the same pay as another person or group you say you want the same pay as. You only deserve the money that you generate through your economic activities.
> You do not deserve the same pay as another person or group you say you want the same pay as. You only deserve the money that you generate through your economic activities.
No one actually earns the money that their labor generates. You earn LESS than the value your labor generates. The difference between what you generate and what you earn is called profit, and it goes into your boss's boss's pocket.
The paygap between gender is not due to some discrimination but men working longer hours and the career choice differences. The gender paygap is a myth in that women can earn exactly the same under the circumstances, not held back by their genitals.
Okay, you will make the money minus the overhead costs but still generated by your labor. Big deal.
> The paygap between gender is not due to some discrimination but men working longer hours and the career choice differences.
The truth of this varies depending on the industry and company. There are absolutely still places where women make less than men for doing the same work.
> Okay, you will make the money minus the overhead costs but still generated by your labor. Big deal.
No, it's not just minus the overhead, because overhead cost + labor cost = item cost. However, if you got paid your full labor cost, there's no profit for the owner, since they can't take a cut of overhead costs. So instead they take a cut of the value of your labor.
Whether or not it's a big deal is a matter of personal opinion, I suppose.
Yes if we were to go into individual cases, there would be a case for male and female discrimination on both sides. There still does not exist a systematic societal discrimination of pay in workplace. The data does not support that.
if you bring no business value, you don't get paid. simple as.
please be sarcasm.....please.
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