A couple weeks ago I decided to ride a WORS XC race, as XC is the only type of riding in Wisconsin besides the lone DH outpost in Wisconsin known as The Rock. Now although I ride XC trails a lot, my regular trail is a relatively flat trail and is pretty easy. When I go out west I love to really push myself and my bike on Enduro trails like The Whole Enchilada. They are really fun for me because it’s exactly what I want, a little uphill with a lot of downhill. Anyways, I was at the starting line and I noticed the first things you have to ride are the two biggest climbs I’ve ever seen in Wisconsin (Not big at all to you guys out west).
I had grunted up the climbs and wasn’t doing so well, but then came the descent off the hill I had just climbed. It was there that I discovered (I don’t want to promote a stereotype) that cross-country riders are not very good at descending. The two reasons why I noticed were 1.) they don’t shift their body weight well and 2.) they don’t grind into the turns. In that process I also noticed that XC races actually have really fun descents with some drops, wooden features, and various other goodies. It also was made even better by the fact that I was on a hardtail, so it was great challenge. Then on the descent down the hill, I passed four people (who then caught me on the next climb). Soon I started to really grind on the downhills, fighting a constant tug-of-war with those same 3 people (One completely powered up a climb and left us in the dust). Then my moment of glory came. When I was finally into the routine of grinding the downhills and going back up for the next one, I started to find myself grinding up the hills too. Gradually the 3 other guys fell behind me and I came to the finish.
I found it to be a great experience, and I will definitely be riding cross-country again. This was not only enjoyable but it educated me on just how hard these XC guys have to work to keep up (you have to be decent at both descending and ascending). At WORS it’s not about the fancy bikes, or the times, or any of that, it’s about getting out and enjoying what you love, with people who love it just as much as you.
Very cool to hear you had a great time! I entered a few races to experience it but I found an incredibly small percentage of those around me to be smiling so I went back to riding with people that are riding for the same reason I am (love of riding) at a cost I love(free).
Yeah, fast descending is definitely something many XC riders overlook and the guys who are making the podium are usually great at climbing AND descending. A dropper seat post can help #1 that you mentioned and most riders can fix #2 by taking a weekend skills clinic and doing some simple drills throughout the year. I’m definitely one of those guys who is getting passed on the descents. 🙂
I’ve experiended the same at XC race: good climber doesn’t always descending well and vice versa. In my understanding Enduro should combine good climbing and descending abilities. In Wisconsin’s defense I’ll say that riding in Levis Mounds, for example, ain’t easier then many West Coast trails. Climbs are steep, sandy and technical.
I can see another reason for XC guys being slower on downhill: bike setup. Steep geometry and high seat make it difficult to go fast. Wheels and tires are lightweight flimsy but fast rolling, not made for charging downhills like on a trail bike. If I was racing I’d think twice about charging at full speed on downhill and wrecking my bike before finish line.
Whit that said I wish one day I can climb like those racers and flying downhill like a pro. 🙂 For now I just riding for fun and for free
I’m not a weight weenie, and I value strength over weight. I try to find tires that are strong and fast rolling. I race for fun, so I really don’t care about weight (unless the product is ridiculously heavy, which with today’s technology is hard to find). For anything besides XC I don’t think about rolling resistance either.
I’ve seen xc racers lose the race when their thin super-lite tire fails on them in a decent.
A good example of being good at climbing and descending is Nino Schurter. He just won the xc world championship. His main rival was Julian Absalon, who is a great climber, but not as good descending as Nino. Absalon would close the distance on the climbs, but then on the last lap, Nino tore it up on the downhill and also being a good climber, won the championship.