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

May 2, 2021 at 11:24
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.




Some may have noticed Ruaridh Cunningham is riding with the 387 number plate today. It was to honer his uncle who was a policeman in Vancouver and was killed in the line of duty last year. His badge number was 387.

We're taking a look at the data from each of the major disciplines surveyed and talking about some noteworthy or eye catching pieces of information. Now it’s enduro’s turn.

Enduro is still a comparatively young discipline, in that its professional ranks only formed with the inaugural Enduro World Series in 2013. The sport, in these eight years, has changed and I would imagine it will continue to evolve over the next eight. Some notable events include the partnership with the UCI in 2018, the addition of qualifying and EWS100 or EWS80 events, plus the implementation of the Trophy of Nations team racing and the E-EWS. As we roll into a decade of the EWS, it’s still evolving and growing.
Enduro Cohort Details

Number of Riders: 68
Downhill Riders Who Race EWS: 7
Men/Women: 40/28
Juniors: 11
Elite Race Winners: 7
Elite Top 5 Finishers: 21
Home Continent:
Africa - 0
Asia - 1
Europe - 41
North America - 16
Oceania - 10
South America - 0
Median Wage: 10,000 - 20,000 USD

The definition of enduro has steadily changed after a few seasons to both those inside the sport and on the sidelines. Gone are the days of the open face helmet strapped to a backpack, gone is the idea that these riders were any less talented or more risk-averse than their downhill counterparts, and gone is the notion that the EWS was gentle green pastures where downhill riders could come to ‘retire’. The sport has undergone a wave of rampant professionalism in merely a handful of years. So what’s the current state of enduro?

Of the enduro riders surveyed, everyone was from either Europe, Oceania, or North America, with one exception. Of those surveyed, 59% identified as male.

The results of these riders are very impressive. Of the elite field, nearly 11% had won an EWS, a further 35% have scored a career-high top five and an accumulative total of 68% have achieved a top 10.



There are some interesting differences between Enduro and Downhill rider pay.


Race run berm explosions from Sam Hill We think he even had a grin on his face when he rode past.

The breakdown of how much the riders are paid is available to read in full. In today’s survey snapshot, we’re talking solely about enduro racing. We have the confidence of the riders to protect their anonymity and won’t do anything that could undermine that trust. For that reason, we’re not publishing a full breakdown of in-discipline earnings but I will pull out these statistics - of the riders who nominated enduro as their primary discipline, 24% earnt between 0 - 5,000 USD annually. If we exclude juniors, that falls to 18% in the $0 - 5,000 bracket, 9% in the $5,000 - 10,000 and 16% in the $10,000 - 20,000 bracket. What’s interesting is that, compared to downhill, the average wage is higher. Nearly 50% of the elite EWS field surveyed make between $20,000 and $100,000 per year. Compare that with around 23% in the downhill.

So you can forget green pastures of which to be put out to stud, for your mid-pack rider who is used to gravity-fed and technically demanding racing the EWS may well be more of the proverbial (comparative) cash cow. However, that’s not to say there isn’t real money to be made in the downhill, where 9% of elite riders surveyed earn over $100,000 per year. This compares to 5% in Enduro.



Riders Believe Races Shouldn’t Be Blind but Local Knowledge Carries an Advantage


Adrien Dailly shows the propper way to get around a Swiss Switchback turn.

There was a time when enduro was almost synonymous with wing-it-wonders and hitting trails flat out having never so much as seen them before. There is still that style of racing out there, and racers can seek it if they wish, but the EWS has settled on a pattern of sighting the track before race day with allocated practice sessions. This is apparently very popular with riders. 75% of riders either disagree or strongly disagree that racing should be blind.
Enduro racing should be totally blind
Strongly Agree: 3 (4.3%)
Agree: 5 (7.1%)
Neutral: 9 (12.9%)
Disagree: 26 (37.1%)
Strongly Disagree: 27 (38.6%)

At the other end of the spectrum, compared to blind racing, is the rider who lives near the race venue. Often, they have a level of knowledge that is hard to come near to over a whole weekend of racing, let alone one practice run. More track time will almost always correlate with faster times. The problem of riders knowing the trails is something that the organisation does take seriously but if people have ridden all the trails in the area it puts the organizers in a difficult spot.

The vast majority of riders don’t wish for the racing to be blind, but there is a concern that hometown riders do have an advantage.

Many riding regions have their own distinctive traits and quirks. The shakedown day was introduced two years ago to help riders get a taste of the trails, without riding the race track, but to say there’s not a disparity between pre-event experience would be unfair and untrue.

I think, and it’s only my own conjecture, but the issue isn’t that the EWS likes to go to Whistler or Finale, it’s probably more that, as a racer, it might never even come to your continent, or within a day's drive of your hometown, where you can reap the rewards of your own local knowledge. Over 70% of riders surveyed agree or strongly agree that riders living near a race venue get an advantage.
I am concerned that riders who live nearer to a race venue get an advantage
Strongly Agree: 10 (14.3%)
Agree: 40 (57.1%)
Neutral: 11 (15.7%)
Disagree: 7 (10%)
Strongly Disagree: 2 (2.9%)

Going to new venues across the world not only has certain requirements in terms of infrastructure but it could be argued that racing in Europe is cheaper and more accessible for the majority of riders. Its seems to be about striking a fine balance between serving the traditional core of riders the venues that they can get to easily, as well as searching out the next big thing. In the open comments section, some riders voiced their approval for the EWS’ pattern of alternating Oceanian and South American rounds. Conversely, others argued that it's not right for so much of the racing of a World Series to happen on one continent.



Many Riders Feel that Penalties aren't Consistently Applied


Let s go racing

Over 46% of rides either disagree or strongly disagree that penalties are consistently applied. It does open up the question of policing a sport that's celebrated for riders able to out for a full day's racing and often left to their own devices. I would imagine that a lot of these instances of perceived unfairness aren't as salacious as one might imagine, but that's not to say they're not important.
Penalties are fair and consistently applied
Strongly Agree: 2 (2.9%)
Agree: 20 (29%)
Neutral: 15 (21.7%)
Disagree: 24 (34.8%)
Strongly Disagree: 8 (11.6%)

It's relatively rare to hear of rider penalties, at least in the coverage of the event. This may well suggest that the lack of consistency applies to instances that we don't hear about, as much as the ones that we do.

Whether it's course cutting, doping, or something such as illegal shutting, riders need to be able to have faith in the integrity of the application of the sport's rules. In our open comment section, people referenced instances where riders went unpunished for illegal shuttling, as well as instances of riders potentially cutting the course.



Riders are Cautious after High-Profile Doping Cases


The mud was flying on lower stage one.

Enduro has seen controversial cases in recent years. Doping regulation was stepped up with the partnership announcement of the UCI and EWS and since then some riders have been sanctioned for infringements. But, even though there is now a far greater structure to catch doping offenders, there seems to be a lack of trust from the riders. This might not necessarily mean that there are riders who are doping and not getting caught, but it could mean that the way the sanctions are applied isn’t felt to always be appropriate.

Pre-UCI involvement, a fan of the sport could often hear vague rumors of doping infringement or a rider successfully avoiding being caught. Those rumors, or the concern they created, can’t simply be removed in a year or two. It will take years to build up that trust. Currently, nearly 50% of riders are in some form of agreement that performance enhancing drugs are a problem in enduro racing.
Performance enhancing drugs are a problem in enduro racing
Strongly Agree: 2 (2.9%)
Agree: 32 (46.4%)
Neutral: 17 (24.6%)
Disagree: 16 (23.2%)
Strongly Disagree: 2 (2.9%)



Despite Doping Fears, Riders Overwhelmingly Think Racing is Fair


Jesse Melamed gives chase with Remi Gauvin to take the Canadian men s team to 3rd

Despite some of the concerns from the riders, 80% are in some form of agreement that racing is fair and honest. It's comparable with other disciplines, and sits just behind downhill, which has 87.9% and ahead of XC, which has a 75%. Enduro riders, compared to XC athletes, are more suspicious of competitors using performance enhancing drugs, even if they trust the integrity of their race series more.
The racing is, in general, fair and honest
Strongly Agree: 6 (8.6%)
Agree: 50 (71.4%)
Neutral: 12 (17.1%)
Disagree: 2 (2.9%)
Strongly Disagree: 0



A Selection of Comments from the Riders


bigquotesI would just like to see a more even playing field for privateers in terms of practice shuttles and team support. There is nothing worse than driving past someone pedaling up for practice stage, everyone should have to pedal as it is called "Enduro".
bigquotesIt's not fair having 80-100 percent of the racing in Europe. The trails are very different all over the world and there are great riders everywhere that can't pay to go and race overseas. I think if racing was truly a World Series it would be split evenly and not heavily in Europe
bigquotesThere are still some questionable lines being taken. Plus, shuttling stages in practice and not being punished is full bull****.
bigquotesI think the current system with the possibility to track walk and have one test run is fair. You will always have a local that will know more at one race but it levels out over a season.
bigquotesI think that the EWS is making an effort to make it as fair as possible but it's definitely not an easy task for them.
bigquotesWith a lot more track and fewer marshalls than at a DH race, it's easier for riders to take shortcuts and I feel like there are many who are taking that chance. In my eyes, in the sport of enduro, it's a bigger benefit to have team support than it is in downhill. That's because training days are way bigger and the advantage of a private shuttling or a mechanic that is allowed to accompany you is way bigger than having your (private) pit setup nearer to the lift station than a privateer at a downhill race.
bigquotesMost of the time I'd say yes it is fair and honest but on quite a few occasions I have seen tape changes been made between practice and racing, as well as cut lines. (Tape the cut lines out).
bigquotesI have witnessed several cases where penalties were randomly not issued although clearly should have been. The information flow for teams and riders got a lot better but could still use some improvement and more involvement of teams to shape the future of our sport.
bigquotesThere have certainly been instances when riders hang out and ride a venue for a couple of weeks long before the event or get some inside info as to what the course is going to be. They can then ride them a bunch in the months leading up to the event.
bigquotesThe rules could be clearer and more specific to erase any grey areas and stop riders from pushing the limits of the rulebook. More consistent enforcement of the rules would also help.
bigquotesI’ve seen people take shortcuts and even have footage of some and it never got checked or penalties. They just get away with it. Plus there are factory riders with so much more support and it helps make their life so much easier.



60 Comments

  • 78 3
 "I am concerned that riders who live nearer to a race venue get an advantage"
9 disagree
French riders... - 9
  • 82 11
 "performance enhancing drugs are a problem in enduro racing"

16 disagree
Us riders - 16

2 strongly disagree
Graves and rude has left the chat
  • 11 0
 @sevenup: to be fair it said 16 North American riders.. USA is not the only country in North America..
  • 5 0
 @sevenup: shots fired!
  • 2 0
 @sevenup: oof size large
  • 39 5
 The last line of the last quote: "...Plus there are factory riders with so much more support and it helps make their life so much easier." - ummm exactly, but that rider earned their way onto that team with hard work, talent (yes bit of right place, right time helps). That is the way life is...
  • 6 10
flag jaame (May 7, 2021 at 23:58) (Below Threshold)
 All I'm hearing is boo hoo, sniff sniff. It's not fair for poor little me!
  • 33 0
 Only 68 riders... I know what I must do.
  • 17 0
 But do you have the strength to do it?
  • 2 0
 become a professional enduro racer
  • 20 0
 I understand why EWS doesn't do blind racing, and think that 1 run practice format is a good compromise...that being said, being able to read terrain on the fly and ride fast and clean without practicing tons and tons is the epitome of being a great rider, and more enduros should absolutely be raced blind. The best enduro events I've participated in have been blind and they were awesome experiences.
  • 32 15
 I guess all in all as much as I love football, a mountain biker who hurls a bike down a mountain and crashes on their arse, should definitely be getting more pay than a footballer who dives when someone tickles them
  • 54 0
 Agree 100% on the risk. However, soon as all fans pay crazy ticket prices to watch the races (50k to 100k fans) and millions pay for merch, we may get there. However, most of us bitch if we have to pay $10 to park our car much less pay to be admitted to the races.
  • 8 0
 The footballer have to hang out at the football field all day while the mountain biker can ride his/her bike all day in the woods. So maybe not so unfair after all Wink
  • 10 0
 Then start buying merch and asking for tickets of some sort
  • 2 1
 @bman33:
I wonder if downhill was televised as much as football if it would share the same popularity. I think it would begin to after a couple of decades, but yeah that ain’t gonna happen!
  • 16 0
 Nobody on the planet's compensation is based on the sacrifices they make on the job. Compensation is about the market rate for the skills you have and the amount of money you make for the person who signs your paycheck. MTB riders don't make nearly as much money for their sponsors as soccer players make for their....whomever pays them...so their pay reflects that.
  • 1 2
 @bman33: as we can see lately fans don’t mean shit in football. Clubs make money by tv coverage and investment. Football clubs are money pits but still get millions from the league and tv.
Mtb needs that tv and investment from outside to be able to pay out to riders. Football players should do Dh for a day! Pinkbike make that happen??!!!!
  • 1 0
 @IF-OBA-WILLS-IT: yeah they shouldn’t make as much as a footballer but they should be making more considering how much money they make their sponsors.
  • 2 0
 @kipvr: Haha - Good luck with that. I don't think any football club would let their riders spend a day downhilling. Imagine if someone had an accident and missed a game!
  • 3 0
 @freeridefruitcake: but why do the clubs make money from TV and investment? Because SKY TV know that they can buy the rights and then sell them to the fans. It all comes down to what the fans are prepared to pay to watch their sport, and in football that is many magnitudes greater than in mountain biking, sadly.
  • 2 0
 Yeah but would you want 46000 football fans riding around your local trail every weekend in their tracksuits, swearing and spitting near your kids, stopping on the tracks all the time for a *ag or a can of Stella?
  • 1 0
 @jaame: oh there isn’t people like that where you ride?
  • 3 0
 Athlete pay has nothing to do with skill or risk. It is 100% tied to revenue, as they are simply a means to bring money to their "brand". Pro athletes in the big sports make a lot of money because BILLIONS come in every year and they get a slice. Anyone who thinks it is about how they play the game is wearing blinders. Look at the NBA vs WNBA to see very clearly that it is all about revenue stream. Hell, look at an athlete with awesome name recognition/brand, and you can be pretty confident they make more than an anonymous player who is better.
  • 2 0
 @SprSonik: 100% spot on. Folks just don't want to hear it
  • 1 0
 @freeridefruitcake: "fans don’t mean shit in football"

Well that's not entirely true, is it? Fans' protests seemed to have played a major role in pulling clubs out of that ESL shit show.

On the financial side, of course fans, or to be more precise the sheer number of fans and their willingness to pay for stuff, matters a lot.
  • 16 0
 @EWS - Come back to Northstar, pls
  • 23 1
 No, it was too scary
  • 19 5
 "Performance enhancing drugs are a problem in enduro racing"
Richie Rude strongly disagrees: "no they work very well! "
  • 9 0
 Once again, another problem that can be solved by more events in the series. If there were 15 races per year I doubt we’d see factory riders spending much time making extra trips to ride all the trails at a particular venue. Locals will always have an advantage, having more events dilutes the effect so that it won’t have any real impact to the overall results.
  • 3 0
 Local advantage is there in every discipline of MTB, I don't see how you get away from that but as many people have pointed out it kind of evens out over a year but the shuttling thing, this is frustrating. I've raced across Europe and almost every event I've been to that has road access you will see people illegally shuttling and upon raising this to race organisers they are reluctant to do anything about it, if it started being policed at an EWS level you would hope it filters down to national and local races. I think it's also a very easy one to police.
  • 1 0
 Apart from the Hannahs and Minnaar, have their actually been any high results from "locals" in DH?
  • 1 0
 @L0rdTom: I feel like local isn't broad enough of a word for what it actually represents. For example almost every British DH rider competing at WC level will ride Fort Bill in the national series so they are going to know how the track rides that year better than any rider from outside the country. I'm sure there's similar things going on in with riders in France and the states.

Also, using Fort Bill as an example still I think it would be interesting to find out the results of Brits on that track against their average results across all the other tracks through the season.

I'm sure there's more examples of this across other disciplines like damn I race enduro and I know I've had some results that I've defeintely benefitted from knowing the track fairly well all be it living four hours away so by no means 'local' and I've had results where I've really wondered what went wrong when its a new venue to me but theres a lot of local riders that come on for one race of the series because its their 'local'

I guess this difference is less the higher up you go but maybe the margins are tighter? I don't know but its cool to nerd out on this rather than wheelbase, stack, anti squat blah for a change
  • 1 0
 Enduro should be no more then 2 practice runs for each stage and EWS needs to make should that the stages are not leaked, so teams can't go and practice weeks before the race. EWS should work with the local promoter to create new raw stages, that after the race will be shutdown and given back to mother nature to work her magic.
  • 4 1
 I think it's fine to have stages be known. I do think they should spread out more stages into north America considering the trail systems we have here.
  • 2 1
 Why? Let them learn the track. Let’s see how fast they can go. Enduro needs making more entertaining not less so.
  • 3 0
 @thenotoriousmic: and just have one track to make sure they can really learn it! and let them catch the chairlift up so they aren't tired and we can see how fast they can really go!

Wait a minute..
  • 1 0
 @L0rdTom: that’s a fantastic idea. Basically multi stage downhill racing on trail bikes.
  • 6 2
 That salary range is pathetic for a professional level athlete.
  • 2 0
 Can't even buy a bike
  • 20 0
 That’s pretty much the main reason I’m not a pro mountain biker.
  • 3 0
 While they do get some perks (bikes, parts, travel), that range was eye opening but, I can understand why. People talk about enduro but no one really watches it. It is next to impossible to see in video format and you have to be devoted to it to find it.

Win on Sunday, sell on Monday...Unless you are an enduro rider. Win on Sunday, well, congrats but it will not translate into any sales. I am sure I will get down voted but the truth hurts.
  • 1 0
 Shuttling in practice days not going penalized is a real shame. Regarding more races in different continents it all comes down to the bike destinations applying for them and having the infrastructure to hold them.
  • 1 0
 I tried a couple of local enduro races in Arizona (Sunrise and Prescott) and the amount of course cutting that happened by the so called elite riders was just atrocious. Im never racing that again.
  • 4 1
 Why do they allow shuttling in practice?
  • 3 0
 cool stats
  • 1 1
 Someone needs to check their maths on the percentage of riders who disagree or strongly disagree on penalties being fairly applied. I get 36%, not 46.
  • 2 5
 Are you counting neutral as "some form of agreement" on the doping question?
I'd strongly disagree with that, it clearly means "I don't know" for a lot of respondents. Because they don't, that's the insidious thing about doping.
I'd suggest changing your interpretation of that one @henryquinney - it's at best misleading and at worst fake news.
  • 3 0
 @chakaping Sorry, I genuinely don't have any idea what you're talking about. I didn't consider neutral as agreement, no.

Strongly Agree: 2 (2.9%)
Agree: 32 (46.4%)

"Nearly 50%". Is this misleading? Genuinely asking and not being facetious.
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