Want to up your mountain bike game? Race to ride!

Have you ever raced or does it scare you? Consider racing just to ride as your goal! You’ll challenge yourself, your skills and your fitness. Where else but a race can you enjoy following a stranger who’s just a little bit faster than you or share your secrets with someone a little slower? You’ll discover new trails and meet new riding buddies. You’ll try features you might not otherwise, and ride in weather you certainly wouldn’t ride in otherwise.

When I started riding, my closest friends were more interested in road riding. I had one or two mountain biking friends, but I felt embarrassed to ride with them as they were so fast.

So I signed up for my first cross-country mountain bike race. I went alone. It sounded like a fun excuse to go ride in a place I’ve never visited. To get there I drove to the middle of nowhere through ice and snow, turned right, and then drove another 30 miles.

I found a lot of comfort out on the course. In a race all the turns are marked, so I wouldn’t get lost. Unless somebody messes with the signs… and that’s another story for a different day…

And I enjoyed having lots of people around because I wasn’t alone even when no one was riding my pace or right with me. I was nervous, but I figured if I made it to the start line on time, I’d have a fun day, no matter what. I even had to look up old race photos to figure out where the number plate went.

I’m used to riding in forests, so rolling grassland was a fun change. I crossed scary traverses littered with rocks and steep sections. Creeks, narrow bridges and more challenged my skills. I followed the course, gratefully acknowledging each arrow sign. I finished in 65 degrees and sunshine, a warm smile on my face, wiping off a completely different type of dirt than what I was used to.

The rest of that season I raced 8 different places in my own state. And the following year I couldn’t find the scary sections. The courses didn’t change but my riding did. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of dirt so close to home.

Before racing, I would not have experienced so many new and different types of trails. Now, I’ll happily detour for a ride when I’m on my way to someplace else. Now I enter races in different disciplines to challenge my skills… Enduro, downhill, next up is more slope style and dual slalom.

I gladly pay entry fees when part of the money goes back into the trail system or other good causes, and I seek out races with that goal. Riding is all about learning, new experiences and sharing the love of the sport with others. That’s why I race to ride!

Have you tried racing? Share your thoughts!

Photo credits: Zazoosh, Mudslinger Events, and Colin Meagher.

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