I am relatively new (7 months) to mtn biking, have a long way to go technically but in decent shape physically. I know that I could "finish" an XC race at the beginner level (1 lap ~10 miles), but how good do I need to be before getting out there to try it? I don’t want to embarrass myself, but at the same time, if there is no shame in coming in last but just finishing (like people who run 5k’s for the first time), I might give it a shot just for the experience. Thoughts?
Speaking as one who’s first race will be 24 hours of Moab this fall, I would recommend researching the race course of the race you are interested in, and ride it on your own. See how you do stamina-wise, but more importantly, see what technical obstacles on the trail give you issues.
As much as you can stand it, retry those obstacles until you can handle them comfortably and then take another day and ride the whole course again with the goal of gaining some speed and not stopping or getting off for anything.
**In most races there will be off-the-bike incidents as traffic clogs up at choke points, but just in case you find yourself out front it would be nice to know that you won’t be the hold up**
Another education that will come out of these preride sessions is any weak mechanical points on your bike, and also what accessories and equipment you should or should not carry. For example a good friend of mine dropped from 1st to not finishing in a race due to not bringing a spare tube. it was a conscious decision to save weight, but it bit him in the butt.
So anyway, once you have gotten a feel for how you can do on the actual course, throw your name in the hat and go for it…at least that’s what I’m doing!
I recently had the same question, and now have done two races. A couple of good points have been mentioned, but one has been the most important tom me: have fun 😃 Racing is fun! There are riders who take it a bit "too seriously", but there are a lot of nice folks out there too. Don’t worry about where you are in the pack, strategy etc… at first. Just ride. The rest comes later. Now given that I don’t have much race experience, I can say that my riding gets better after a race, and I learn something every time. That, and the fact that its fun, makes it worth while no matter what.
Good luck…and have fun 😃