Are You Ready For Some Texas Mountain Bike Racing?
So you’ve been riding your MTB and completely thrashing some singletrack. You just feel good on the bike and have been riding a lot. Like, a-lot a-lot, A-LOT. I don’t know about you, but when I’m consistent about riding my bike and really pushing the tempo I get an itch… A really bad itch.
Not like a poison ivy itch, although that does happen occasionally. This is the itch to get out there and prove myself among my fellow brethren. I need to race. I need to compete. I need to bang some handlebars and ride totally out of my gord. THIS IS… Texas Mountain Bike Racing!
Racing mountain bikes is pretty much freaking awesome. You and 25 or so of your like minded buddies get out on the trail and ride like your britches are on fire. It’s no longer you against the watch, it’s you against the other guys. But, how exactly do you start racing?
How To Start Racing Mountain Bikes In Texas
The desire is there, so now lets figure out just where this journey starts.
Most people will start their first race after a friend or riding buddy convinces them to check it out. But what if you’re buddy is a jerk and keeps all the good races to themselves? Here’s the solution.
First stop is your local mountain bike club page. These clubs and organizations have races pretty frequently.
Here in Dallas Fort Worth we have at least 1 race pretty much every month that is hosted by DORBA, otherwise known as the Dallas Off Road Bicycle Association. These races vary from short quick races that last about 45 minutes tops, to a series of nothing but 4 or 6 hour races.
You can also check out this list of most of the Texas mountain bike clubs. Stop by your club and take a look at what they have going on, you may be surprised to find a forum of incredibly active and passionate mountain bikers to ride with.
After you’ve looked into your local Texas mountain bike club you can also browse the event listings on the MountainBikeTX website. But, the best place to look is the mecca of Texas mountain bike racing, TMBRA!
Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association
TMBRA is where all the serious racing goes on, this is the statewide program that covers all things Texas mountain bike racing. Wherever you may be located in Texas you are sure to find a mountain bike race not too far away.
These races will typically be a part of a series that traverses the state and lets you explore some new trails you probably haven’t ridden. That’s always a fun thing to do.
Which Category Do I Race?
This is a very frequent question and one that I had as a beginner racer as well. How do you know which category to enter into when you decide you want to race?
Generally, Texas mountain bike races have 3 categories. Cat 1, Cat 2 and Cat 3. If you are just beginning and this is your first race, start at Cat 3. This is the beginner stage and if you do well you can always move up to the longer Cat 2 races.
Cat 1 is the pro & semi-pro division. Otherwise known as those skinny guys that never eat enchiladas and ride 40 miles before breakfast. Meh to them, I like my enchiladas.
(A quick note, racing Cat 1 doesn’t require you to not eat enchiladas, in fact I think most of those guys would encourage it. That was just a joke.)
Get your feet wet in Cat 3 races and then once you feel like your ready to move up to Cat 2 you definitely can.
How To Prepare For A Mountain Bike Race
Once you have a race you want to do picked out, you just need to get yourself signed up and make sure you are prepared.
I’m going to assume you can follow the step by step guides to getting signed up for these races. If you have any trouble, tell me. Seriously. Go to the Texas Mountain Bike Trails Facebook page and tell me you’re having trouble. I’ll join you on skype and I will literally help you get signed up.
So since the sign up part is that easy, lets skip ahead…
Preparation For A Mountain Bike Race
In its most basic form, this comes down to 2 things.
1) Make sure you can do the distance
Really. This may sound totally basic and ridiculous, but I have seen plenty of people try it out not even being able to ride a full 7 miles and then be so upset they never race again when they don’t finish.
2) Make sure you can do the distance HARD
This is the one that gets most people. Sure you can do 7 miles, maybe you can even do 20 miles. But how fast are you moving? This is a Texas mountain bike race you just entered. There are no cupcakes or easy races. You race them 100% pedal to the metal and don’t look back. Otherwise you will be in last place.
If you can’t ride a course at 100% top speed for at least 3/4th of the course, then you may want to hold off just slightly. And this is for a reason. The reason is “The Sandbagger”. This is the guy that should be racing at a much higher level (Cat 1 or 2) but chooses to take it easy in the beginners race (Cat 3). And trust me these guys are out there.
So now you have most of the basics, but what do you do different for a race than a ride?
Racing Is Like A Box of Matches
As hard as you may be pushing for your typical training rides, you will be pushing harder in the mountain bike race. You’re heart rate is likely to be pounding out of your chest as you suck in oxygen. Your legs will burn, and your mind will tell you to quit. Just ignore it and keep going.
Racing is all about knowing when to make your big efforts and when to conserve some energy. The best way I have heard it described is to think about it like your energy is a box of matches. Each match represents a big effort or spending a lot of energy. You only have so many matches to burn before your body can’t push anymore. So you have to choose when and where you burn these matches. Do you burn them at the beginning, or save them for the end? Do you push as hard as you can up the hill, or coast and fly through the flat sections? Every race is unique and different, and each race will require a different strategy with where you want to burn those matches.
#1 Mountain Bike Racing Tip
Pre-ride the course. There is nothing quite as helpful as having an overall knowledge of the course. Well aside from just being in terrific shape. Being able to pre-ride the course you are going to race on will help you decide where and when you want to burn those matches and make your big efforts. So if you’re looking for that little edge just before the race this is it. The better you know the course the better you can perform.
This isn’t a complete reference to Texas mountain bike racing by any means, in fact it’s lacking in pretty much everything. This is just the start to an ongoing conversation. Be sure to stop by the Texas Mountain Bike Trails Facebook page to join in with our community.
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