Mountain Bike Race: 5 Helpful Tips
Gearing up for a big mountain bike race? There’s a lot you need to know (and do) before you show off your skills on the trail.
The number of Americans taking their bikes off-road increased substantially over the past 15 years, so don’t be surprised if you see some fresh faces on the course. But mountain biking is inherently more challenging than biking on paved roads. It didn’t become a sport until the late 1960s and early 1970s when a group of teenagers known as the Larkspur Canyon Gang rode their vintage single-speed balloon tire bikes through Baltimore Canyon in Larkspur, California, and has since become a spectacle that’s popular with all age groups.
You can find a number of mountain bike racing events all over the country, including those for teens, beginners and adults. To enter, you will need access to a quality off-road bicycle, the right safety gear and an appetite for adventure.
Use these tips to prepare for your next mountain bike race so you don’t get left in the dust.
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Par for the Course
Every mountain bike course presents its own challenges. The environment can change on a dime based on the weather and time of year. Spend some time reviewing the course either on foot or on bike in the lead up to the race – even if you have traversed the course before. Get a feel for the turns, terrain and the total length of the course to see how it will feel to ride on the day of the event.
Measure the angle of the turns to plan your approach. The sharper the angle, the more you will need to reduce your speed. You will also need to turn wide without falling out of bounds.
Adjust the tire pressure based on the firmness of the ground. If you’re riding on loose debris, such as sand, rocks, mud or clay, lower the tire pressure to increase traction.
You shouldn’t run into any surprises when the big day arrives. Have the course mapped out in your head to prepare for every twist and turn. Inspect and upgrade your biking gear if needed to avoid running into any issues on the big day.
Maximize Your Pre-Race Routine
Your pre-race routine can have a big impact on your overall performance. It’s best to get a full eight hours of sleep the night before. You should also drink lots of water from the moment you wake up and eat a full meal at least two hours before the race – even if you’re not hungry. Stick to lean protein, vegetables and whole grain carbohydrates to keep your strength up. Adding a bit of fat in the form of an egg or yogurt will help delay digestion so you will still have energy in the tank several hours later.
Adjust your habits as you continue practicing to see how your choices affect your performance on the trail. You should have everything down to an exact science by the time of the race.
Prepare for the Worst
The best racers leave nothing to chance. Make sure you have everything you need to compete to the best of your abilities on the day of the race. You’ll need to wear a helmet with goggles to protect your eyes from the dirt and mud, a sleek bodysuit that covers your arms and legs, proper biking shoes and gloves. Check the fit of your gear before riding. Nothing should be too snug or too loose to keep these items securely in place.
Consider adding cooling inserts or accessories to your outfit when riding in hot weather. Bring along rain gear, a compass, first aid equipment and maintenance essentials just in case you need to tune up your bike before the race.
Your gear can also help you stay connected to your coach, trainer or fellow racers. Use a bike helmet with Bluetooth to talk hands-free to your companions during the race. It will connect automatically when in range, so you can keep the conversation going without resetting the device. Get tips and advice in real-time while racing to put all your training to good use.
The moments leading up to the race tend to be the most important. Plan to arrive at least an hour early in case you run into traffic. This gives you plenty of time to look over your gear and make any last-minute adjustments to your bike. You shouldn’t feel rushed or anxious during this time. Find a way to relax your mind by listening to music or meditating before they blow the whistle.
Create a Pre-Race Checklist
Add everything you need to do before the race to a compact checklist that you can keep on your person so you don’t forget to do something important. Cross off each item as you go to make sure you are ready to go when the time arrives.
Everyone’s pre-race routine is different. Regardless of how you like to prepare, make sure you are in the right state of mind, have the right equipment and are in the right physical condition to ride.