So you want
to race mountain bikes eh? Here's some useful information
from Peter Thornton - an experienced racer who a couple
of years ago gave up the splendor of riding in the muddy
English countryside in favour of the snowy Canadian Rockies.
|Racing for the first time...
If you've been biking
for a while and have a good level of fitness its a
natural next step to try a race. You don't need to
have a titanium bike and less than a pound of fat
on you. Or be a buttocks model. Though that may help.
Just a desire to see how well you can do and to push
your fitness and riding skills.
There are many rides
you can enter with little fuss. Typically, novice
races have short sections that are more technical,
while the rest is easier but demands your fitness
instead. I began riding in various competitions in
the South-East (UK) and most courses were like this,
consisting of a lap of several miles with three or
four laps, taking between one and two hours to complete.
Races are held for
all age groups and levels. Novice races are less pressured,
and you can always start further back in the field
if it's your first time
few basic rules...
Just make sure your bike is in good
condition, and particularly the gears work well. Don't worry
about all that suspension and dual hydraulic disk brakes
that everyone else has. Even off-road, lightness is king.
I've raced on a rigid mountain bike. Most bikes these days
come with front shocks and are a good trade off between
lightness and comfort. Every extra pound saved will feel
like 50 pounds late in a race. Note, even World Cup racers
seldom use rear suspension or disk brakes. Likewise, try
not to waste energy by having tyres that are too soft or
fat. In road racing, even the best riders could not be competitive
on tyres that aren't pumped up fully. It's the biggest energy
loss in cycling. Every extra pound of pressure can make
a huge difference in a long race. In mountain biking, harder
tyres also mean less grip on loose surfaces and a rougher
ride, so a compromise is called for. But as most of the
course is probably less technical you may want to go for
harder than if you were on a casual ride.
Also, you'll need a puncture repair
kit, or preferably a spare tube to carry. Don't forget the
pump and tyre levers. A set of Allen keys is worth having
too. You're not likely to fix a broken chain in a race so
leave the rest of your tool box behind.
If you are just staring
out, you can get a good bike (with front suspension)
from a good manufacturer for about £300.
for special deals
depends on the individual but as these races are typically
under two hours, food is not so critical. Have a good meal
and drink before hand, though. An energy bar should do it
for the race. Water depends on the individual and the weather.
Just don't overdo it. Carrying a gallon of water is going
to make you need a gallon of water, so try to strike a balance.
load: The night before a big race eat foods that are high
in carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes… which your
body will burn at a slow rate releasing energy over a relatively
long period of time.
This one is important...pre-ride
the course. Get there early and leave at least an hour for
learning the course, in addition to registration time. That
way you won't be the one who takes his head off on the low-hanging
branch or hits a four inch stump on the way out of that
tight turn. Because you wont see it when chasing a cloud
of racers and dust on the first lap.
Don't be intimidated. You won't believe
the money some people spend - and that's just on their cycling
shirt. Gear wankers are a fact of life in this sport. Their
bikes will be so clean that you'll think they've never been
in the mud. They haven't. Console yourself with the fact
that a fair proportion of these guys will blow out of the
race with excuses ranging from 'my rear suspension is a
little tight since the rebuild', to 'my ultra-light frame
snapped in half'...to...'I didn't want to get my bike too
Now the fun starts!
You'll get a bike freaked out at
the start as you wait for the off, like you're going into
battle , but remember, its only a laugh, not Omaha beach.
Oh, just try not to run over anyone who falls in front of
The pace will tend to be unrealistically
high at the outset, but hard to resist as you ride with
the pack. Once in the race, save your energy. For example,
walk - don't ride. What? Believe me, short technical spots
and sections that are rideable with effort normally - but
would leave you out of breath - will kill you in a race.
Even a third of the way through the race you'll be quite
tired. Don't waste energy trying to ride up that short slippery
bank. Get off and run up it. Its usually less effort, will
give your cycling muscles a break, and its often faster
too. Save your energy, you'll need it. Then get your head
down and settle into the less dramatic sections where the
race is really won and lost. In long narrow sections, let
faster riders pass. Be courteous, even if it means losing
a second or two. You'll wish the guy in front blocking your
progress would do the same.
to pace yourself, don't burn-out too early!
its all about. Forget who came in front of you (unless its
your mate of course). Don't worry about your time. Its infinitely
better than the guy who dropped out cos he went too fast at
the start and then vomited on turn two. Then look for your
tiny name in the fine print of finishers. You'll never feel
so proud. Then with your first race done, you can start plotting