Mountain biking has come a long way from pushing an old bicycle through the mud in the woods. There can be some confusion about what can be mountain biking. We can turn on the television and expect to see people riding through the woods, but all we see are people riding on dirt hills. Let’s look at the growing world of mountain biking through its races.
Mounting biking has evolved into various disciplines. The article, What is Mountain Biking? published in USA Cycling covers the sport from a competitor’s viewpoint, but it also helps to clarify to a casual audience what we should expect to see when we hear someone talking about riding a mountain bike.
It’s an in-depth look at what’s involved in mountain biking as a competitive sport. In doing so, we gain insight into what types of challenges a rider may face and what skills they need to overcome those challenges.
Mountain bike races are narrowed down into various disciplines that allow the rider to showcase their strengths. Each of these formats is unique and has its own following and competitive events that are recognized by USA Cycling. The two broad categories of racing are Cross Country and Downhill. It’s noted that the only discipline currently recognized by the International Olympic Committee is Cross Country Mountain Biking.
Cross Country Mountain Biking
Cross Country Mountain Biking requires the skills seen in other disciplines and is the longest-tenured mountain bike competition. There are several competitions held that are internationally recognized by the UCI and also by USA Cycling.
Ultra-Endurance mountain bike races are at least sixty-four miles long and can last from twelve to twenty-four hours. These can be solo events or participants can take part in team relays. While the article mentions the top championships in the discipline, these races can often be recognized by the name of the town hosting the event, such as the famous Leadville Trail 100 MTB in Colorado, USA.
The article then discusses races known as gravity races. Cross-country races showcase various terrains. Downhill mountain bike races are essentially downhill time trials. The winner is the one that reaches the bottom of the hill fastest.
Enduro races are timed stage races. Many people view this as a fun group ride because of the way the transfer between stages takes place. You may have to walk uphill together or even take a ski lift to the next downhill. Fun aside, these races are technically challenging.
Dual slalom mountain bike races are categorized as downhill races. This is a one-to-one competition as racers start together and navigate a series of hills on an identical course. The competitor with the lowest total time after two runs moves on. It’s no longer on the World Championship race card, but USA Cycling still puts it on its Downhill race calendar.
Four-Cross racing is the successor to dual slalom racing. It has many of the same challenges as dual slalom, but the races are four-person competitions with the top two winners moving up to the next bracket. This creates more interest than the double runs of dual slalom.
Observed Trials challenge you to navigate through a course without allowing your feet to touch the ground. This is all about balance and reading the terrain. The competitor who touches the ground the least is declared the winner.
You can learn more about mountain bike racing by finding a local bike shop and getting together with local riders. Mountain bike riders are friendly and they love to encourage new participants in their sport. Chances are good they’ll encourage you to get out and ride the trails with them, and that’s the best way to learn.