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Are you thinking of entering a mountain bike race but are not sure if you are ready or are unsure of what to expect during a race.
This article will provide you with 10 essential tips that should help you to prepare for your first race.
Let me start by saying that everyone who is serious about riding should do at least one race.
Why? It makes you a stronger rider by pushing you in ways that other rides will not.
What should you expect and what should you do to prepare for your first race?
1) Pick a race that is far out enough to allow you time to prepare. - Give yourself a minimum of three months to get ready (See Tip 2 Get Fit)
2) Get Fit -
Establish a Base: Allow a month or two of long rides of 2 or more hours 3 times a week other rides can be recovery rides.
Add Intensity: After you get a base add intervals to build intensity. Two weeks before your race do a practice run at near race pace. The week of the race begin to taper. Decrease ride lengths but still have some short intense efforts to keep legs fresh.
3) Hone your Skills - Practice the skills necessary to confidently ride the race of your choice. Expect to encounter logs, rock gardens, quick transitions, switchbacks, and steep descents.
Work on maintaining speed and flow. Try not to get bogged down in the rough stuff.
4) Make sure your bike is race ready - Ensure that your bike is in proper working order especially shifting (a finicky derailleur can ruin your day), braking, and tires.
Lube your chain and shifter cables. Inflate tires depending on conditions: If hard pack tires can be firmer. If wet or muddy conditions run a little less pressure. Tubeless tires will enable you to run less pressure and still avoid pinch flats.
5) Get the right Gear - Baggy shorts and a loose fitting tee may be okay for a quick trail ride and some beers with your buds but, on race day you will be better off with Lycra shorts (preferably bib shorts) and a form fitting bike shirt with three back pockets and a 3/4 front zipper to keep you cool. You can use a camelback but I would suggest traveling as light as possible an extra five pounds on you back can get pretty heavy after an hour and 1/2 of hard pedaling.
6) Get your race routine ready - Know what you will eat on race day from breakfast to post race. Too much and you will feel sick. Too little and you may bonk. Know what you will eat and drink during the race and pick points on the course where you will eat and drink. Have a post race recovery drink and sandwich waiting as well. Make sure you get your bike ready the night before: Lube the chain and cables, pump your tires, check shock pressure. Then put your pumps, tools, and lube in your car in case you need anything on race day. Lay out your race kit the night before and pack post race clothes as well as something to cleanup with. (I find that wintergreen alcohol a towel and a gallon jug of water will do the trick)
Fill your water bottles the night before. The less you have to worry about on race day the better. By being organized and prepared you will feel more confident and calm on the day of your race.
7) You will need a one day license and money for the entry fee this will run you between 25-40 for both. If you know that you will be doing a series or more than a few races apply for a license at USA Cycling for $60 you can race any Domestic event (race fee not included) and you receive quite a few discounts with USA Cycling affiliate partners as well.
8) Expect race time to be between 45-2 hours in duration depending on your class. The Beginner races are usually around 5-8 miles where sport races are about 10-15 miles.
9) Get to the race venue about an 1-1/2 to 2 hours before. Register online to save some additional time. You will still need to fill out a waiver at the race and you will want to be warmed up before you go off. You should be on the start line with a light sweat but feeling energized. Despite what some people may say do not ride the entire course on a race day. Ride 5-10 minutes of the beginning of the course and the end. This should be enough time to warm-up without fatiguing yourself up and enable you to review your start and finish strategy.
*Note you should ride the race course the week before the race or be familiar with it.
10) A winner never quits and a quitter never wins: Unless you are injured or you bike is broken do not quit. If you are pushing yourself hard you will probably want to quit but, dig deep and finish strong.
11) Don't Take yourself too seriously and remember to have fun it's "only a race".
When your done you should feel good about yourself Congratulations you just competed in your first mountain bike race - Well done.
Warning: Racing may be addictive!
I am about to give you the key to speed. One phrase. Are you ready?
Don't use the brakes.
Don't look so disappointed. What were you expecting, Magic? I don't mean to not use them at all, just use them less.
One of the best ways to improve your riding is to go with someone that is faster than you. Not way faster, so that you get discouraged, but a bit faster, so you really have to work to keep up. Once you've found someone that fits the bill, try following them through some downhill singletrack. Notice how the gap keeps getting bigger? You're not doing much pedaling so it's not likely a strength issue. What could it be? I'll tell you, the faster rider is using their brakes less.
Have you ever been on a ride when, for some reason, you had no brakes, or a lot less than you wanted? Maybe a cable broke or your rims iced up or something. I know it was scary. Careening downhill, unable to slowdown to a comfortable speed, you thought you were going to die. But you survived, and you went down that hill a lot faster than you otherwise would have. If you want to go faster every ride you need to harness a bit of that experience and apply it in a more controlled manner.
Moving out of our comfort zone can make us apprehensive. To try to calm the fears of your rational mind have your irrational mind tell it this: Speed is our friend; Speed brings stability; Stability is good. The wheels underneath do more than just hold us up. They also act as gyroscopes, like those spinny things you may have played with as a kid. They're also the things that keep spacecraft stable in the vacuum of space. The faster a gyroscope spins, the more rigidity it has. This means the faster your wheels are turning the more they will fight to stay upright and pointed straight ahead, just what we want. Now you know why sometimes when you get anxious and slow down you biff, but if you stay fast and ride it out you make out okay and look like a hero.
The hard part is knowing how fast is really too fast and when to say whoa. You can set yourself up with an exercise to explore these limits. Find a section of downhill singletrack steep enough that you won't have to pedal much and fast enough that you definitely have to brake for the corners. (Keep IMBA happy and make sure you won't encounter any hikers or horses on the way down). Make your first run at your normal blistering speed. Try to note where you apply the brakes for each corner. On the next run, each time you reach for the brakes fight the impulse for one second. Remember that every bit of speed that you can carry through the turn is speed you don't have to gain back on the next straight. And that's energy in the bank, my friend, better than money. A little bit saved every corner can really add up over the course of a trail.
In all your subsequent training runs try to brake just a tick later than the time before. It is super important to ensure that you are only using one or two fingers on your brakes - no three, four or five fingers - what are you holding on with? Although some might suggest that a tip to avoid the temptation to brake too early or when you really don't need to is to ride with all eight fingers wrapped around the bars. I personnally subscribe to the theory that you should always be brake ready including uphill climbs.
The key to pushing the envelope is to do it gradually, in small increments. Riding a downhill with your front brake disconnected may make teach you how to go really fast. More likely, it'll teach you just how brittle collarbones really are. Even though improvements may seem small one corner at a time, it will add up and it will make a difference. You worked way too hard for that speed to just turn it into heat for no good reason.
Good luck and stay safe!
Thanks to Dirtworld.com Staff for more tips and biking information visit them at www.dirtworld.com
BettyGoHard is well into our biking season and it has been so much fun to be out with the ladies. It is amazing to see the improvements of the groups from week one to week four. The biggest improvement that I see is the increase in confidence in themselves and their new found skills that the girls get with each new achievement. Mountain biking is as much about keeping the mind quiet as it is about negotiating the trail skillfully. You can have all the skills but if you keep telling yourself that you can’t do it you probably won’t.
I once read that our brain cannot distinguish between the messages that it receives from you (the owner of the brain) and someone else, which is why affirmations and mantras are so effective. I have borrowed my favorite climbing mantra from Thomas the tank engine ‘I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can, I am, I am – yeeha!! I made it. I have found focusing the brain on the task at hand with a mantra – ‘look, lean, exit’ or focus on your body position; tighten the abs, lift your hips, cowboy legs, look ahead etc.
There are many different skills to mountain biking and the ones that we have been working on a lot have been bike body separation, climbing and switchbacks. So over the next few weeks I thought I would share a few thoughts on these skills. Let’s start with climbing:
Don't be in a hurry. When starting a climb, settle down and relax, breathe deeply, get into a rhythm and focus on the trail ahead and your line. Do not try to keep up with other riders. You have your own climbing pace, don’t try and compete just stick to it and you will make it. Don't be looking way up ahead and thinking "yikes!" and "aargh!" Getting flustered or panicky is counterproductive: it wastes energy and induces negative physiological reactions. Stay in the moment. Look around and enjoy the view. Smile. You will get up there and beyond, one pedal stroke at a time. You will find that as the minutes pass, you will feel better and stronger, as your system adapts to the effort.
Think about your gears and change them whenever you need to, just remember if you are going uphill don’t crank on them or you could break something. Don't spin madly in a tiny gear and go nowhere fast--you'll just tire yourself out in short order. Use a ratio that gives some resistance.
Scan your body frequently to ensure correct position as we get tired we tend to slump, just keep adjusting. Don't tense your upper body; keep your shoulders down, elbows bent and in, head up and looking ahead, picking your line. Your upper body should be straight and quiet; only your legs should be moving. Ensure that you have even weight over the front and back of the bike; if you find that the front wheel is lifting think about bringing your chest to your handlebars but remember to keep your bum back on the seat to keep the weight on the rear tire or you will find it spinning. Another common issue is the front wheel moving from side to side, keep it solid by tightening your core and looking up.
Dismounting. Sometimes the slope gets too steep or we don’t quite make it around the switchback – it happens and its ok but we do need to ensure that we can dismount safely. This will enable you to try things safely without the risk of going backwards downhill upside down.
The technique: while going uphill grab both brakes and put your inside foot on the ground leaving the outside foot on the pedal forming a tripod. From here either bring your outside leg over the bike or take the pedal to the top of the stroke and try to restart – always holding both brakes. Use the same technique when going downhill.