Things We Learned from the State of the Sport Survey

Apr 11, 2024 at 8:13
by Sarah Moore  
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Welcome to the 2024 Pinkbike State of the Sport Survey. To read the introduction to the survey click here, and to see all the published SOTS articles click here.



Pinkers


Women's Racing Has Good Momentum & Close to 50% of Pinkbike Readers Are Interested in XC
Sarah Moore's Takeaways

This was the first year for the Public Survey and a question that I had that we were able to answer is how many people watch the women's broadcasts compared to how many watch the men's broadcasts. If you look at the number of women in downhill finals and the discrepancy in pay, you'd assume that barely anyone cares about women's racing and that's why there are fewer riders in the field and they are paid less overall, but the differences aren't as big as I would have suspected.

First of all, 80% of people surveyed said that they do follow women's racing. If we look at downhill, 72.4% of fans said that they watch the Elite Men's broadcast, while 57.8% said they watch the Elite Women's broadcast. 19.7% said that they watch the Junior Men's racing and 13% said that they watch the Junior Women's racing.

Unlike downhill, there is a much more even split between the men's and women's content in XC as I might have suspected, with 58.4% of people saying they usually watch the Elite Men's XCO race and 55.3% saying that they usually watch the Elite Women's XCO race as well. I was hoping we might see the number for women's racing here actually be higher than the men's racing, but we're just about even, so I take that as a win, particularly since the respondents of the public survey were 96.2% male.

I can only see the playing field levelling out in coming years with the incredible racing we've been seeing in the women's fields in XC, DH and Enduro and that was a piece of positivity that I took from the survey.

Another takeaway was that 93.4% of you are interested in downhill racing, 77% of people saying that they are interested in enduro racing and only 47.9% of people are interested in cross-country racing. I'm interested in seeing how those numbers change throughout the years as it seems like cross-country has a lot of upward momentum right now, especially headed into an Olympic year. You know I'll be doing my darnedest to try and make more people care about it!



A Very Mixed Bag - Rider Support, Injuries, & More
Alicia Leggett's Takeaways

The State of the Sport Survey results are really all over the place, but a few little stats jumped out at me: More than 26% of viewers think a World Cup win should earn the rider more than $20,000 USD. Rider income is increasing, but the riders are scared about finding future sponsorship. Racers and fans alike are unhappy with the state of enduro right now. Most don't think performance-enhancing drugs threaten XC racing. Today's riders are a fascinating bunch, and I feel extremely lucky to have had this window into that world.

The public survey was interesting, too, getting to see the overlaps and differences between the riders' and fans' experiences. (And there's a real fanbase: 37.2%, the largest category, said they watch at least 10 races each year.)

More scattered factoids I stumbled across: 37% answered agree to "Social media has a negative impact on my mental health," with a bonus 8.3% responding strongly agree and another 37% staying neutral. Most viewers were various forms of dissatisfied with 2023 World Cup race coverage, most paid less attention than they had in previous years, and most said they're various forms of unlikely to pay to watch those events this year. The riders, for their part, were a little more neutral in their ranking of the Warner Bros. coverage and 37% were neutral to the idea that the Warner Bros. takeover could improve rider opportunities to the future. That said, they'd really like better communication and are generally in favor of riders' union representation.

The injury section was interesting to me too, though I have no real takeaways. Here are a few bummer notes about accident safety: The largest group of 42% disagree with "All venues have adequate emergency response." 31% think courses aren't always well-made. 71% have some form of health insurance, compared to 29% with none. Compared to last year, there's a slight decrease in riders that agree with "Enough is done to ensure rider safety at races or events," and with 38% between the two agreement categories, that's still not super promising. Riders are quite predominantly concerned about long-term concussion effects.

It's not all so heavy, though. In response to I would be adequately financially supported in a case of a serious injury, the agree crowd has been growing: 27.2% in the two agree groups in 2021, 37.4% in 2023, and 34.3% in 2024. Those admittedly aren't high numbers and the improvement isn't linear, but I'll still take that growth as a sign that at least some parts of the industry are moving toward rider wellbeing, that these riders can keep putting their hearts into this thing that we love, and they'll have the support they need no matter how the races play out.

I'm editing this one last time to add in: I also really want to include a shout-out to Ed and Sarah. it's been great working with them on this project and I always appreciate seeing how both of them are able to take an idea, run with it, and make something really cool out of it.



World Cup Prize Money is too Low & Riders Love the Junior/U23 Broadcasts
Ed Spratt's Takeaways

While there weren't many surprises in this year's State of the Sport data it was interesting to at least see confirmation that some of the feelings we have been hearing about the sport do ring true (at least from those we surveyed). The sport's competitive side has undergone some big changes in recent years and it seems like there will be more to come. Hopefully for everyone involved the sport will be in a healthier and happier place soon.

My first takeaway, which we have heard from riders for a while, is that prize money for World Cups is not good enough. With an elite World Cup win currently offering just €3,750 for DH/XC and just €1,000 in Enduro before taxes there is a clear dissatisfaction from racers with 88.8% feeling it is not an okay amount to receive after a race victory. The prize money is even lower for Junior downhill and U23 XC racers at just €200. Riders are nearly always going to ask for more money, but if other smaller events can offer large payouts for a win why can't the World Cups?

While there has been plenty of unfavourable feedback towards the new race organisers and broadcasters it was good to see some praise for the Junior and U23 race broadcasts. We found that 95.4% of the Junior, U21 and U23 racers thought the live broadcasts were positive for the sport. These are long overdue and it was great to see WBD offering these as a viewing option allowing the future talent of the sport to be given a broadcast spotlight and not hidden inside result articles and race reports.




Author Info:
sarahmoore avatar

Member since Mar 30, 2011
1,396 articles

41 Comments
  • 77 3
 Nothing to See Here - Everything is in Great Hands
WBD Takeaways

WBD is pleased with a 100% rider response that they do indeed ride mountain all-terrain bicycles. It has come to our attention that some even do it for nearly free, or indeed free, in support of WBD's management enrichment program. Our ongoing plans will further increase the opportunities for riders to acquire appointments with their local banking managers in order for them to live and rent homes and travel to our events.

We are further buoyed that we have created a simple five-step authentication and paywall pathway for viewers in different continents around the planet, now with each continent having varying difficulties in finding and paying for access to the Whoop UCI World Series powered by Michelin 5-star eateries. Gone are the days of a one stop shop access point previously delivered by GCN+ to all nations around the globe, which we found was "old-school" thinking, and didn't deliver enough key point indicators for our myriad of metrics. We are very pleased to have encouraged viewer engagement, with multiple emails and messages arriving in our inboxes with such positive feedback on our steps to create such an easily navigable viewing experience - who would've thought that there were so many Chris, Christian, and Christopher Ball, Balls, and Ballers, in the world?

The near 100% "strongly agree" response to our choice of commentators has warmed our coal black hearts and confirmed that our choices were indeed inspired and that change was well overdue. It was unfortunate that the copy of results sent to WBD had a typo in the survey question that asked "commentary with Warner was better in 2022", however we won't hold this against Pink Bike for not catching the wrong year was used (we all knew they meant 2023).

Lastly, we are flattered that so many people have contacted us, or left comments under articles, that they have been so inspired by our direction and ideas for the sport, that they have now decided to ride more and watch television and online streaming broadcasts less. This is a sure sign that we are on the correct path for encouraging growth in the sport - more people on bikes out in the wilderness, the better.
  • 39 0
 It would be interesting to see a poll measuring how many people are going to pay to watch World Cup DH/ XC this year. I love it and have watched for many years, but there's no way I'm paying $235 CAD to watch 7* (not exactly sure of the number of races this year) races while being subjected to advertisements.

RedBull coverage with Rob Warner, Eliot Jackson, and Tracy Hannah was the best.
  • 13 0
 You Canadians surely have been ripped off.

While your blood pressure was undoubtedly lower than those of us in NZ, South Africa, and Asia, whom didn't think we were going to get to see any broadcasts until 16-hours before the first XCC of the year, we're only being inconvenienced by $5.99 USD a month, or $42 USD for the entire season with the only downside being we need to mirror from the Ipad to the TV.
  • 6 0
 Aye, the next year's survey is going to be brutal.

Following this WBD debacle here on Pinkbike I checked to see if I had the world cups on my current Max subscription. I DID, but.. really had to work hard to find them:

- WBD has Home | Series | Movies | 'HBO' | 'B-R Sports' | 'CNN MAX' in the global nav on the mobile app and smart tv app.
-- So where are the world cups?
--- Searching for 'mountain biking' I get 'Any One of Us (TV) ', 'The Mountain Kitchen (TV)', 'Mountain Monsters (TV), 'Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet (TV)', 'Battle on the Mountain (TV)', 'Mountain Monsters: By the Fire (TV), AND THEN some random 'Mountain Bike' event for May 12th and 3am PST with no location, description, etc. etc.
---- Well shit, searching isn't a good way to find the races.. unless you search for 'UCI' then it works.. but for a first time viewer who doesn't know what the hell the UCI is..

--- Let's try looking at the 'B-R Sports' schedule
--- Click 'Go to full schedule' ->filter for 'Mountain Bike' -> There we go.. now I see races up to the 12th

I really wish the WBD Dev teams would implement some sort of onboarding that asked you what you're interested in. UCI Downhill and XC are setup to fail for awareness because they're competing with sports that have MANY more events in a regular season. NBA Basketball, NHL Hockey, MLB Baseball, Talk Shows, Contact Sports, and more crowd out DH and XC in this app incredibly well.


Consolidation sucks.
  • 20 0
 I was happy to pay last year, as it seemed fairly reasonable. Not this year.
  • 10 0
 Someone posted a (presumably pirated) full length feed of the mens XCO race on a popular streaming platform a few hours after the race. I watched that video for free from Canada.
  • 3 0
 Monster Energy SuperCross had a similar pay per view format few years ago, and is now livestreamed/full replay available on Peacock, for no additional fee.
I assume NBC realized that the viewership is actually pretty broad, especially when the cost relative to legacy USA ball sports is a pittance. (they also cover road cycling, golf, swimming, rugby, etc)
Maybe once off-brand Discovery+ is done ruining it, they'll offload it for cheap to one the majors to wrap into their portfolio.
  • 2 0
 @neons97: Any cryptic ways of telling us southern neighbors how to access this?
  • 2 0
 Its £74 for the year in the UK. A price Im happy to pay to watch all the races. It £10 race which isnt bad for 3 hrs entertainment
  • 1 0
 @neons97: Which popular streaming platform?
  • 1 0
 @SeanDRC: PM sent
  • 1 0
 @cky78: PM sent
  • 1 0
 @blcpdx: Supercross lost me with the Peacock deal. I'm not paying for that. I'll stick to the highlights/replays and going to the race in Denver.

On the other hand, $10/month for Max gives me all the WC mountain bike races WITH THE U23s, WC BMX racing, the drop bar stuff (which i personally don't care about), plus House of Dragons and Curb your Enthusiasm. It's money well spent.
  • 1 0
 @handynzl:

Yep. What really pisses me off about all of this: is that if we hadn't been given a last-minute broadcasting deal via Stan in Australia (which most of us didn't already subscribe to), we would also have been offered the MUCH cheaper last-gasp deal for all of those countries lucky enough to have been left till last.

Having a specific broadcasting deal is now something that we can all hope we will NOT get.
  • 29 0
 State of the sport is we are out riding instead of watching.
  • 3 0
 I'm here clicking refresh to be the first to comment on the next article.
  • 10 0
 I think that's the biggest problem for mountain bike racing. The people most interested are out training or riding. We're the type of people that are doers, not spectators.

It's always funny talking to someone at a gathering and they're like "Oh, my husband is really into sports." and I reply "Oh what sports does he play?" and they're like "Oh, I mean watching sports..."
  • 2 0
 @TucsonDon: I think you're right. A lot of MTB websites, magazines are all about going out and riding, new bikes , new tech, etc the pro racing side is very small.

Compare GCN and GMBN on You Tube.......there's far more racing content on the GCN side than GMBN......

The sport needs to find a way to get MTB riders into the sport, as well as riding their bikes.
  • 2 0
 Agreed. I love watching motorsports, and I follow a few MTB youtube channels (and pinkbike obviously).... But I think mountain bikes are for riding, not spectating.
  • 2 0
 Yes man!
  • 20 0
 I do not think this is the best name for this survey. State of the sport is more like, who rides? how much do they ride? When do they ride? Where do they ride? How long are the rides typically? How does it vary seasonally? What are riders goals for this year? How many LBS are there per capita? How much foot traffic do LBS get? Annual sales? Some of this is answered by polls already done and some isn't. But that would be state of the Sport. This is state of world cup racing. It is not even state of racing. Just world cup which I couldn't give less of a duck about.
  • 3 0
 It's all clickbait, just like they throw around the word "Freeride".
  • 12 1
 Ready for my downvotes, but shock 50% of Pinkbike readers are interested in XC. I respect it, race it 20 years ago, but zero interest in it. Pinkbike demographics have changed for sure.
  • 14 0
 Tracks have changed too. Lots of the XCO tracks now look like something I'd want to ride and riders have had to improve skills as a result.
  • 9 1
 I was surprised as well (but pleasantly so in my case Wink )
  • 2 5
 I think it may be because pinkbike users may be getting older. My dad, a geezer, loves watching XC, however its not really my thing. I'm not sure, just a hypothesis, but idd love to see data to comfirm/deny it.
  • 4 0
 Speaking from my own experience ( riding 25+ years), the demographics haven’t changed, but a lot of us are not as young as we used to be.

XC has gotten better to watch, with the addition of drops and jumps.

So I would tell you it’s combination older viewers, who were once younger viewers, AND XC becoming much more than it used to be.

P.s. Also, I have no interest in actually racing it myself, did race a few times years ago.
  • 1 0
 @Saidrick: Very valid points and I just turned 50. Came to Pinkbike to avoid the Road/XC race scene dominating almost all other bike media outlets. If I do race not it's Enduro (natural for ex BMX/DH/Slalom guy like me). Enduro is tough to cover from a broadcast perspective. Nothing really beats good DH coverage other that really good Slalom in my humble opinion. Vital seems to be staying closer to the gravity / just ride scene vibe these days. Nothing wrong with evolution... just obervations
  • 3 0
 @bman33: I think bike integrated cameras and live rider POVS could improve enduro. Not sure about dh or xc though.
  • 1 0
 @joebiden: That would be cool. Similar to the riders on social media with their personal /team GoPro onboard footage
  • 2 0
 @bman33: Maybe like a 3d map so they can compare riders positions? And having times staggered to the point where someones always going downhill?
  • 2 0
 I reckon there should be 5 points round the course where each time they go past they have to do a tequila shot. The winner is the last rider standing.
  • 2 0
 short track XC has a ton of potential.... Easily broadcasted, easy to make sense of the circuit, intense overtaking (that you actually get to see due to short track logistics).... And - as another pink biker mentioned - the type of demographic who tunes in can actually afford the bikes being advertised.
  • 2 0
 @JonDud: I agree - Short track XC is something idd consider seeing.
  • 1 0
 If it’s on a weekend with DH, then I’m unlikely to watch. I am currently laid up w injuries and there’s noDH until Ft Bill, so I watched both xco highlights on YouTube. Supply and demand, combined with downtime.
  • 1 0
 @sarahmoore: will pinkbike be doing more to cove the Canadian dh /Enduro races this year?
  • 10 1
 Is the sport only about racing? Plenty of us will/have tried a race or two, but most people just ride their bikes
  • 2 1
 Sport usually implies competition. So the sport aspect is about racing or other competition. Just riding is an activity. Y'know, if someone wants to be pedantic about it...
  • 3 0
 The 50% interest in XC is probably more indicative of PB's US/anglophone centric respondents, and that's within the lens of PB having a more gravity focus/audience as a whole - which will skew results.
I suspect if the survey was responded to by a wider audience (presented in multiple languages, hosted by a globally focussed broad-spectrum site) there would be a different mix of interests.
still, interesting nonetheless and I suspect the numbers interested in XC will grow - the racing in Brazil was incredible!
  • 2 1
 Rider income is increasing, but the riders are scared about finding future sponsorship

This is kind of inevitable as salaries do rise then riders have to show value for money. The higher the salary the more is expected. I think income will carry on rising, not because the salaries will go up but those at the lower ends of the salary ranges will struggle to get paid as they cant supply value. (Lets be honest where is the value for a sponsor if you arent regularly in the finals, assuming your selling yourself as a racer and not a social media dweeb) This will push the average up.
  • 1 0
 I had gcn+ to follow cx racing and loosely following road racing for a few years and was satisfied before it was shut down. I watched the mountain bike world cups this year, would not have paid just to watch them and the coverage that I got last year was definitely not good enough for me to subscribe to a streaming service where I only want to see one thing from it.







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