Contrary to the popular notion that only the very strong, well-sponsored and aggressive riders can enter a competitive mountain biking race, everyone – even you – can become part of it.
Who can race?
Everyone! Most mountain bike race events are divided into different categories: gender, age and ability. So even if you are just beginning to love the sport or if you have been riding for several years, there is a race for you.
Who organizes the race?
Many of the best mountain biking races for beginners are organized by local communities. And most participants can be your friends and neighbors. How many joins this race? Depending on its popularity – maybe 30 or 100. The good thing about community-organized races is that they are less competitive as they are often participated by average riders like you. So if it is your first time to join a race, this is a good starting point.
Check with your local bike shop and bike websites to find if there are race events nearby.
Racing improves your riding skill and makes you a better rider. Racing gives you a goal, which drives you to perform better than in casual biking. It improves your focus on the road. Since you dare to ride as fast as you can, it increases your reaction time to every bend, corners, rocks and dips. Also, knowing that the race is coming up, you eat and prepare better.
How much does it cost?
Entry or registration fee for community mountain bike race usually costs between $10 and $35. This usually includes t-shirt. Regional races are a bit higher. Often, gift certificates and bike gears are given and prizes.
Speaking of prizes, awards are given in all categories like Women 30-39 Beginner, Men 30-39 Beginner, Men 30-39 Expert, Men 40-49 Beginner etc. So there are several chances of winning. When they speak of the “depth”, it means the number of places that is awarded for a particular category. If the awards are “five deep”, that means prizes are given from first up to fifth place.
Either way, it is not about the prize but for the fun of biking.
What are the rules?
Know if you should be “self-supporting”, meaning you have to provide everything you need during the race from water supply to repair tools. If not, ask if you can share tools and inner tubes with your teammates or other rides. Also, check if you can munch powerbars while riding or get water-bottle from your pit-crew as turn a lap. These are important details to know.
There are unwritten, non-technical rules in mountain biking race. First, do not mess with other riders. Do not block. Do not draft (riding directly behind another rider and use him as shield block the air). Do not endanger another rider. The aim of the race is fun and camaraderie so do not spoil it by kicking someone else’s bike or throwing an empty water-bottle to other competitors.
What to prepare?
Be physically fit. Get stronger. Ride more often. Run the course at least once before the race to familiarize the terrain. Register in advance. Pack everything you need a night before.
On race day, arrive an hour early. This gives you time to rest, mingle with other racers and do some final check with your bike (do not change major parts on race day unless it is completely necessary). After the race, hang out with other racers, cheer for the late finishers, wait for the awarding and recall the day’s event.