Johnathan Tisdale goingfor the win on a carbon fiber 29er with a paper plate on the bars. All photos courtesy of Andy Jordans Bicycle Warehouse.
Do you wish your local area had more mountain bike events? More chances to hang out with other riders and have a good time? I did too, so last summer I joined forces with a friend of mine who works at a local bike shop and we put on a four-race time trial series on a local trail with an emphasis on fun, not competition. The trail was a short 2.7 mile loop inside the city limits and the entry fee was only $5. It was short and cheap enough that even non-racers came out and gave it a go. Our first race had 10 riders, and zero spectators. By the final race, we had over 20 racers, and just as many spectators. Heres how we did it and what we learned so you can go put on a race yourself!
If you want to put on a race series, youre going to want some help. There are two good places to look for help: local bike shops and your local advocacy organization. Both can promote the event to a wide audience through meetings, e-mail lists, and word of mouth. It also gives organizations a chance to earn some trail cred with the community. Your local club and bike shop probably have a waiver that can be used to keep you from being liable if someone gets hurt. I was already a member of the local SORBA chapter and when I pitched the idea to the president he was all for it. So was everyone else, they just needed someone to lead the way – I bet youll find the same in your area. Having some help will also give you a chance to race.
A National Mountain Bike Patroller provided support at our time trial series.
Land use permissions and weather
Before you get a big group of people together with a few stop watches, be sure to get permission from the land manager. Most managers will be very open to the idea but some may not. If you dont get permission and end up getting caught, the land manager may quit allowing mountain bikers access to the trails clearly thats the last thing you want!
If the trail will be hurt by riding it in wet conditions, you need a rain plan. The best way is to just postpone the race a week and thats exactly what we did on one occasion. Let people know what the plan is and where to look for updates. We used the local SORBA chapters forums and the bike shops e-mail list to keep racers posted.
Get the trail in shape before the race. Go through the local advocacy group and organize a work party if needed. If some work happens, let the land manager know the trail benefited from the event theyll be happy to let you do it again.
Be sure you take everything you need to the race. Print out registration sheets and waivers and whatever else you might need. Take several pens and markers and make sure they all work. Bring two stop watches (just in case one of them dies) and make sure the batteries are good. Create number plates and find a way to attach them to bikes. We used paper plates and zip ties – theyre cheap and encourage the just for fun atmosphere. Its hard to be too serious with a paper plate on your bike!
Staying on course
You need to mark the course – every possible turn, intersection, etc. needs to be marked. Dont assume people know the way or can tell which way is right. Signs with arrows will work but its better to physically block people from going the wrong way. When riders are hammering really hard with their head down they may blow right past a sign. We used race tape and downed tree limbs to keep people from making wrong turns. Its best to mark the course the day of the race so theres less time for people to tear down whatever you put up.
Make your race a family-friendly event and youll have more spectators.
Get to the trail really early. Get all your stuff ready and start registering people as soon as they show up. If you have separate classes, assign each class a certain range of numbers (beginners are 100-199, sport class is 200-299, etc).
Bring plenty of noisemakers to up the fun factor. Cowbells are the classic and bullhorns are great for broadcasting words of encouragement to the racers.
Remember KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). If youre putting on an event focused on fun, you dont need big trophies or awards. We awarded the money from entry fees to the fastest three racers and awarded some tiny trophies to the top 3 in each class. We got the trophies at a dollar store and they cost about $0.25 a piece. We customized them by writing the class and place on the trophies and decorated them with worn out chains and cassette cogs (which the bike shop had plenty of).
All he won was a customized dollar store trophy but look how happy he is!
Make it happen
Thats pretty much it. We kept things as simple as possible, and everyone had a great time. I handled timing at the first two races, and got to race in the last two. I even made it on the podium once! I can honestly say I had just as much fun running the event as I did racing.
So if you want some local weeknight racing in your town step up and make it happen!
dgaddis has been a singletracks member since 2007 and is a member of SORBA-CSRA and IMBA’s National Mountain Bike Patrol. He lives in Augusta, GA, home of the IMBA Epic Forks Area Trail System (FATS) and host to the 2010 IMBA World Summit.