Contrary to popular belief, mountain biking is not just a sport for young, adrenaline-crazed, muscular macho men in leather jackets. On the contrary, today’s “adrenaline-crazed” cyclist is just as likely to be middle-aged if he’s young, flaccid if he’s muscular, and feminine if he’s macho. Mountain bike racing is an equal-opportunity sport that requires only one thing from the participants: to have fun.
Before you can enjoy this activity, however, you need to learn a few basic rules of the game. Fortunately, learning these rules is almost as much fun as competing in a bike race.
Mountain bike racing is for everyone.
Unlike other sports, mountain biking does not discriminate on the basis of gender, age, or certain body types. Since the focus of this sport is on fun rather than competition, it is open to anyone to participate.
However, in order to allow for fair competition, a number of levels of competition, or categories, exist within this sport. There are categories for beginners, for different age groups, and even a category for those who weigh over 220 pounds (the Clydesdale category). So do your research and find the category that best suits your specific needs.
But choose carefully. If you overestimate your abilities, you may end up with a bruised ego (and dust on your face) as your competitors cross the finish line way ahead of you. Conversely, if you underestimate your driving skills and choose a category that is not challenging enough, you may be labelled a “sandbagger” by your competitors (e.g., someone who enters a race in a lower division to increase his/her chances of winning).
Of course, as always, it is wise to obtain your doctor’s approval before embarking on this new occupation. Mountain bike racing is considered an “extreme sport” for a reason: it can (and often is) be quite physically taxing.
Why choose mountain biking?
If you’re an avid motorcyclist (but not a racer), you might be surprised to learn that taking your beloved bike out for a race once in a while actually makes you a better rider. Experts say the varied, sometimes dangerous terrain of a racetrack forces the mind to focus on quick fixes for safely navigating unpredictable courses. These “split-second” decisions, made with complete concentration, allow a rider to learn techniques faster than years of casual riding, as well as sharpen reactions in response to sudden changes in terrain or unexpected conditions.
Tips for choosing (and maintaining) your bike
A common misconception among those new to this sport is that they must have a “special” bike. Certainly, to compete at the highest level, a bike of a certain quality is needed to allow for a level playing field. However, the most expensive choice is certainly not a necessity. Rather, the most important aspect of the bike is that it is sturdy and reliable.
While suspension and dual hydraulic disc brakes can be attractive, with regard to off-road racing, it is critical that the bike be lightweight. By the end of a race, every extra pound will start to feel like fifty. In addition, high-quality shock absorbers will help a lot with the rocky terrain that comes with mountain biking.
Finally, as may be obvious, the essential factor in choosing the right racing bicycle is that it be suitably matched to the racing course. Cross-country mountain bikes are better for riding on the trail, while downhill mountain bikes are clearly designed to make downhill racing more safe.
To ensure that you are able to address repair or maintenance issues, the following items should be carried by the rider: extra tyre tubes, a toolkit, and a puncture repair kit.
Rules of the Road:
In mountain bike racing, the rules of the road depend on the type of race. Cross-country (XC), hillclimb (HC), and downhill (DH) mountain bike races are the most popular.
Cross-country: This is the most common type of mountain bike race. The riders will go head-to-head as they ride a circular course of varied terrain. In cases where there are significant numbers of racers, the group is usually divided into subgroups by age or skill level. This is a rigorous form of racing as riders have to jockey for position and understand the mechanics and timing of passing other riders.
Hillclimb: This race pits the rider against the mountain, as compared to rider against rider. The riders are pacing as they climb the hill, individually, a few seconds apart. The winner is judged by how fast he or she reaches the top of the hill.
The riders in this race are timed by the speed at which they navigate the hill. As with the hillclimb, each rider is released individually. Do’s and don’ts: Mountain biking: What to do and what not to do
While it takes training and experience to become an accomplished mountain bike racer, some basic dos and don’ts should be noted:
Practice. Practice Practice To become an experienced mountain biker, you have to ride often.
Trains should be crossed. Mountain bike racing, in particular, requires strong leg muscles, and you will be at a disadvantage if you are not physically ready for the challenge.
Accept the fact that you are embarking on a potentially risky activity where injuries are not only uncommon, but can be expected.
Examine the track before the race. Be sure to pre-ride the track (or a similar track) prior to race day.
Provide plenty of water with electrolytes.
Inspect your bike thoroughly and make sure all maintenance appointments are up to date.
Save your energy during the race by adjusting yourself appropriately.
Let other riders pass you-never try to block a passing attempt.
WARNING: Be concerned about the other riders who have (possibly) flashier bikes, gear, or outfits.
The fact that they can afford to buy expensive racing gear is not a good indication of how good they are at driving.
when you should walk. Almost every racecourse has small sections and obstacles that are difficult to pass. Trying to push your way (using the pedals) over these obstacles can put a lot of strain on the energy you have left and increase the risk of getting hurt.
Arriving late You must be present at least one hour before the start of the match. This will allow enough time to allow for a 20 minute warm-up ride and listen to the pre-race briefing to ensure there have been no last minute changes to the course.
Think of the other racers. Doing this simply increases anxiety levels and inhibits optimal performance. Instead, focus on the upcoming excitement of the race.
Do not pass other riders during the race without properly informing them of your intent. A simple “overtake on the left” or “overtake on the right” is enough to avoid collisions and resulting injuries.
The finish line
The finish line in mountain biking is rarely the finish line. Extreme sports enthusiasts like this one are rarely satisfied with the thrill of just one race. It is, therefore, likely that one day you will look back on dozens of races that have used up all your energy and tested your stamina.
Whether you won or lost these races is incidental; what you will remember is the fun you experienced.