Mountain bike orienteering (MTBO)

Mountain bikers looking to add a mental challenge to their rides should check out mountain bike orienteering, a sport that is popular in the UK and Australia. I just came across some info about an upcoming event and I found out there’s even a national governing body for mountain bike orienteering in the United Kingdom.

So here’s how it works (at least my understanding). Riders are given a simplified trail map at the beginning of the race showing various checkpoints around the course and each rider must check in at the designated locations in a specific order. Races are typically held on trail networks such that riders can choose from different routes to get to their next checkpoint. Maps show things like distances, terrain, and difficulty ratings so riders can choose the best way to go. Maybe one route is short but it’s hike-a-bike; another route may be a fast fire road but it takes a less direct route.

Racers attach special map holders to their handlebars so they can study the map as they cruise around the course and most also use a compass. Some of the mountain bike orienteering events sound pretty high tech with checkpoint computers that automatically record when you arrive (kinda like the chips used in big mountain bike and running races).

All this reminds me of an idea I had back when I first discovered geocaching. I really wanted to find a way to combine mountain biking with geocaching but none of the ideas I came up with were too exciting. MTBO, on the other hand, sounds like a great way to add some adventure and exploration that is missing from most mountain bike competitions. Anyone know if these events are held in the US?

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