While the likes of rugby and football will first jump to mind when thinking of popularity of sport in South Africa, another athletic past-time has seen huge growth in recent years, even when comparing on a global scale.
Mountain biking has seen a massive surge in South Africa, and it should come as no surprise – the social and fitness aspects make it extremely attractive and a fun family sport to do; not to mention we have some of the best trails in the world at out doorsteps.
“There has been a recent movement in South Africa to a more active lifestyle and mountain biking allows you to get a good workout and be social at the same time,” explains Dan Martin of Concept Cyclery, one of the country’s leading specialised bike stores.
“We have seen a large rise in mountain bike clubs and corporate teams promoting the social aspect of riding. We are also seeing more and more estates/ destination venues that are being built with Mountain bike trails on their properties to attract customers.”
Legacy Lifestyle, one of Concept Cyclery’s partners, are even looking at hosting mountain bike races through Africa in conjunction with their properties through Legacy Hotels, and with some incredible locales all over the continent (simply imagine how incredible a scenic ride through Pilanesberg would be!), it’s lining up to be a massive step forward to help grow the sport.
Martin also emphasises that mountain biking is an inclusive sport, and the social aspect is a key factor in its growing popularity amongst casual and competitive riders.
“There is a large number of events are being added to the racing calendar each year with an increased focus on safety and added activities that cater for the entire family.”
The coverage and backing behind the sport has also helped tremendously with the education and exposure of mountain biking to the South African public, giving people the opportunity to learn about and experience the sport themselves.
“Mountain biking has become so popular it is now included as a curricular sport in schools, so kids are being exposed to this wonderful sport at a young age and there are now events, such as the Spur Mountain Bike Series, which is a set of races throughout the year for the kids to participate in.”
“Even SuperSport has started covering a large portion of the racing events on the calendar bringing more awareness to the sport,” added Martin.
While mountain biking is beginning to feature more prominently as a staple of the South African sporting landscape, the fact that the bicycles themselves are becoming better, safer, more affordable has a lot to do with the interest in the sport.
“Traditionally, mountain biking was perceived as purely a racing scene and the mountain bikes that were being sold only catered for this type of rider. Then came the rise of the more trail orientated bicycle, with longer travel suspension and a more relaxed riding position which instilled faith in the rider giving them more confidence on the trails.”
“The barrier to entry for mountain biking is lowering with a larger variety of entry level bikes and more competitive pricing on offer which is making the sport accessible to all levels of society.”