10 Thoughts from My First Mountain Bike Race

I’ve been a serious mountain biker for a little more than 6 years now. I enjoy exploring new trails, traveling the country, and pushing myself and my bike to the limit. I always try to improve my times and my technical handling skills… but somehow this continual progression has not led me to the competitive realm of mountain bike racing.

Until now.

The Baker’s Dozen 13-hour endurance race this past weekend was the first time I had ever raced my mountain bike competitively. As a serious rider just getting into the racing scene, I thought I’d write up a few random thoughts I had during my first competition (in no specific order):

  1. Passing isn’t that difficult. I was surprised to find that passing and being passed on the singletrack wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it’d be. In fact, with an endurance race format such as this, there was very little passing taking place in general.
  2. You can be competitive without being a jerk. We had some stiff competition with the other teams, but it was easy to be competitive and still joke and laugh at the same time.
  3. The right equipment can make your life easier and make you a faster racer, but it is not essential. Riding with the right gear and a lightweight bike was a definite bonus, and I could easily feel the advantages of having certain pieces of high-quality equipment. However, there were many people out on the course with whatever gear they could find… and I think everyone had a great time anyway! The guy who took second place in the solo class rode with flat pedals, shin guards, and a downhill jersey and downhill shorts.
  4. Quitting shouldn’t be an option. There were quite a few teams that quit well before the end of the race. What’s the point in coming out if you aren’t going to put your all into it? A direct corollary of this truth: “Just because you’ve raced before doesn’t mean you’re hardcore.”
  5. Only ride one lap at a time. As trek7k mentioned in his race report, riding one lap at a time is definitely the way to go in a team race. Even some of the two-man teams were switching off every lap.
  6. It’s more fun on a team (misery loves company). Having teammates to cheer you on really bolsters your resolve. Also, hanging out at the pit all day and talking about mountain biking with whichever teammate wasn’t on the bike was just a ton of fun. It’s nice to take a break from the computer, from work and real-life, and just think about riding bikes all day.
  7. Small roots can take their toll after 4 hours of riding. During our pre-ride I noticed that the course was pretty bumpy, and I correctly predicted that riding lap after lap on a hardtail would take its toll. Long story short: it did.
  8. Small amounts of time add up quickly. We were only an average of one or two minutes per lap behind the first place team in our category, but it quickly added up to a 44 minute deficit by the end of the race.
  9. Racing is fun. What’s more fun than getting to hang out with like-minded folks and spending all day riding mountain bikes and eating great food?
  10. Endurance racers do it better. After experiencing an endurance race, a regular 10-20 mile cross-country race seems like it would just be anticlimactic. Training for weeks or months beforehand, only to spend an hour or two on the bike? Eh, I’ll pass. Getting to hang out and ride all day from dawn until well after dusk was a lengthy, all-encompassing experience.

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What thoughts do you have about mountain bike racing?

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