In the first half of 2021, we conducted our first state of the sport survey
. The survey was made with the intention of shedding light on various issues within the pro field of mountain biking and letting riders advocate for themselves, albeit it anonymously, for what they should change - and perhaps what should stay the same.
For the first survey, some of the revelations were startling, and it largely painted a bleak picture within the context of pay and financial security. Half of the riders didn't feel they would be adequately supported if they were to suffer a significant injury and around 25% of the entire pro field earned between 0 and 5,000 USD per year across the disciplines. We also learned that XC riders tend to be looked after better financially, and downhill riders far, far worse.
The timing of the survey was well placed during a worldwide bicycle boom, and we were curious this year to see how the effects of unprecedented growth trickled down to pro contracts in the following seasons, if at all.
That's not to say that the second survey was conducted in the exact same manner. Whilst we want to track the results over the coming years, we also felt that changing the eligibility criteria of riders surveyed from a strong overall finish in either the 2019 or 2020 season to being a top-ranked rider in the singular 2022 season. This is for two main reasons. Firstly, when putting together the first survey the overall rankings were harder to interpret, as lots of riders chose not to make it over during the covid affected 2020 season. Secondly, when taking this into account, it also transpired that looking at the overall rankings and results across the disciplines, riders outside of the selection group were less likely to participate in all the full compliment of rounds for their chosen discipline. This took the total amount of responses down from just under two hundred to just over 150.
Lastly, we conducted this survey because we genuinely care. At Pinkbike, we love racing and just want to do our best to support the World Cup and high-profile athletes on their journey by giving them a platform.Who was surveyed?
Any rider that satisfied the criteria was invited to take part. Of course, being invited and responding are two separate things but we are very happy with the completion rate and grateful to the riders who took the time to do it.
If you're wondering how many Sessions you could you buy with Vergier's wage, or whether Aaron Gwin is a bazillionaire you're sadly going to be left disappointed - this survey was taken anonymously
. This allowed riders to be as open and honest as possible in their responses and gave us broader insights into the trends that affect the overall health of the sport.
Of the 152 riders who responded to the survey, 58.6% were male and 41.4% were female. The majority of riders were from Europe (59.2%), with 25% from North America, 11.8% from Oceania, 2.6% from South America and 1.3% from Asia. There was an even split between EWS and XC riders at 32.2% of the overall responses each coming from those two disciplines. 27% were from Downhill riders and the remaining responses were from a mix of slopestyle, freeride and media athletes.
Within that, there is a mix of juniors and elite riders from right across the board. From the results, we can tell that there are more than a few World Cup winners taking part in this year's survey, as well as riders still waiting for that big first W.Why did we do the survey?
We’ve drawn this up primarily because we love competition and we believe that having more information can only make the sport better for racers and the fans who enjoy it too. Without a broad, elevated view of the sport, we're unlikely to truly understand the issues that may be at play. Surveys such as this aren’t uncommon in other sports, and we hope that this one adds to the conversations to make the sport more transparent, equitable, and enjoyable for everyone.
The survey contained 7 sections all of which contained a variety of different questions. The areas we focussed on were:- Media and Filming
- Home Country Support
- Physical and Mental Health Support
- Opportunities and Equality
- Racing Regulations
- Women's Specific SectionLimitations
There are some clear limitations to this survey. First, by limiting it to the top individuals there's a selection bias towards the highest-ranking riders. While these riders will generally have the biggest impact on the racing scene, it does ignore the swathes of racers that sit just below them in the rankings, but might well still race full-time,
Second, it wasn't a mandatory survey, so it may skew toward respondents dissatisfied with the status quo.
Third, we are relying on riders being honest in the survey. The survey was taken anonymously and we have no way of knowing with what level of bias, if any at all, the riders answered the questions with. That said, we have taken their responses in good faith.What's next?
Over the next week, we'll be releasing the results of the survey with deep dives into the most interesting results, followed by a data dump at the end of the week that will allow you to dig into the numbers for yourself.
This will be an annual project that will allow us to track changes year over year. This snapshot of the sport on its own has produced some interesting insights but regularly revisiting these same topics will allow us to track the evolution of the sport over time.