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alright you roadie geeks, gimme some mtb racing advice(35 posts)

alright you roadie geeks, gimme some mtb racing adviceJS Haiku Shop
Jun 25, 2003 6:30 AM
first one, ever, coming up in a little under 2 weeks.

of course i have ridden the mtb this year. once. and there was some walking involved. every time i get on that contraption i end up on my face.

I considered racing "beginner", but decided against it based on my YTD miles and overall experience on the road, and fair showings in the "C" (lowest class) 'cross races last fall/winter. seems even though i might not finish in the top of that class, it would be unfair to actual beginners for me to ride "beginner".

so i'm racing "sport", and the race covers a ~5-mile semi-technical course, repeated 4 times (~21 miles). it's going to be mostly singletrack with some gravel roads, i think. few short climbs.

last night i hosed off the ol' dirt boat anchor. it's in pretty good shape, but i'm gonna have to replace the brake pads, cables, and the chain. i'll get a couple rides on dirt in the next few days, just for grins before the race.

what advise have you for a first time MTB racer in the sport division?

thanks, yo.

pedal hardColnagoFE
Jun 25, 2003 6:37 AM
if something gets in your way, turn. (with apologies to the movie 'better off dead')
MTB races are not races...they are time trials disguised...eschelon
Jun 25, 2003 6:41 AM
as races. There are no tactics involved. It's simply a mass-start time trial. Drafting is almost non-existent. It's simply a matter of who can ride the fastest and hardest. Sure, You have to have some serious bike handling skills...but what does that have to do with tactical smarts?...nothing. Don't even think of it as a race. Just go there and go all out for as long as you can...just like a road bike time trial.
MTB Race TacticsHillRepeater
Jun 25, 2003 7:15 AM
There are definitley tactics used in MTB racing. True, there's no emphasis on drafting and the team aspect does not come into play, but there is a constant stream of decisions that a good mtb racer must make in order to be competitive. Do you start out fast and try to be in the lead hitting the single track or do you start slower and plan to pass on the climb? Do you go super hard on the climb and recover on the decent, or do you keep some in reserves to drop the hammer once the trail flattens back out. Do you chase the rabbit in front of you or do you think he's going to blow up? Do you take the riskier but faster line, or do you ride conservatively? Pass now or wait? On and on and on...

Calling it a dirt TT sells it short. It's a much more individual sport than road racing, but it does not lack tactics.
Just think of it as a dirty Time Trial.MR_GRUMPY
Jun 25, 2003 6:44 AM
Keep your HR just at LT or just above on the hills.
sorry grumpy, i don't use HRM--JS Haiku Shop
Jun 25, 2003 7:06 AM
i'm guessing at or just above lactate threshold is racing "slightly sub-vomit".
Jun 25, 2003 7:24 AM
Riding at LT is an interesting way to see how people's brains worked 200,000 years ago.
LOL!JS Haiku Shop
Jun 25, 2003 7:32 AM
so is riding for 14 hours.

that's a great comparrison.

Don't fall :-) (nm)PEDDLEFOOT
Jun 25, 2003 6:44 AM
Jun 25, 2003 6:51 AM
MTB racing is all about sprint, recover, sprint, recover, etc. On the singletrack, if you get stuck behind someone with no room to pass, try to get in some extra recovery time.

If there are long flat or uphill sections, as a roadie you will excel there, so make sure you dish out some pain to all the MTB-only guys who passed you in the technical stuff.
sounds like 'cross last yearJS Haiku Shop
Jun 25, 2003 7:14 AM
in last year's 'cross races i used long "straight" sections and pavement to crack the field, that is, after J2 convinced me to leave the mtb at home and bring out the cross-check. after things thinned out a bit, i did just what you suggest--used the narrow stuff or technical sections to recover behind other riders. if it weren't for the running and the vomit, i could have dominated those races.

of course i fully realize racing sport (with & against J2, an experienced, fit, & very technically able mountain bike racer) is futile. then again, i'm working on my "600k stare", and i think it might intimidate him to submission.

if i can't place, maybe i can make a few really "enjoy" their race. either way i plan to have fun and ride hard.
re: alright you roadie geeks, gimme some mtb racing advicedon440
Jun 25, 2003 7:05 AM
if you roll up on something and you actually slow down to think about whether you should ride it or not, just get off and run it. if you are in the middle of deciding, and haven't fully committed to something fairly technical, and you start in anyways, that's when you usually biff it.

you should, and i would, highly recommend preriding the course, that way you can make all your decisions then, whether to ride or run, all that stuff. when the race starts, you just have to worry about going fast.

have fun, oh, and i just remembered my biggest problem in my first race. chainsuck. since this was the first time i'd experienced chainsuck, i couldn't really tell what was going wrong with my drivetrain during the race, except that it would lock up while pedaling forward. i got out of the granny ring and rode the middle ring for the rest of the race, and the chainsuck went away. you'll probably only have to worry about chainsuck if it is a muddy race course.

also, you have some etiquette type stuff, but most of that is common sense, as far as letting some of the expert riders who may be passing you by, etc. you can probably get some good feedback from
thanks don--JS Haiku Shop
Jun 25, 2003 7:23 AM
there's no little chainring stuff on this course. thanks for the heads-up; i'm pretty uptight about making sure my stuff is ready to go and i'm carrying what i need. will triple-check with pre-rides and a good, intense shake-down.

your first paragraph i think has been my problem in the past--not committing to it, but riding anyhow. i learned (again back to 'cross) last fall/winter about walking and running obstacles instead of riding them, and it's made a big difference.

i'll pre-ride a few times before race day, then again on race day. they won't (can't) mark the course until the day of the event.

thanks again!

As one who's never racedSpecialTater
Jun 25, 2003 7:09 AM
mtb or road, I think I can offer the best advice here. ;)

I know the dirt you are racing. Keep your eyes on the trail and not on the bikini-clad "podium" girls.
girls in bikinis? i'm done-for before the race even starts! nmJS Haiku Shop
Jun 25, 2003 7:29 AM
It's hard to race with a wooden leg. Pun intended. nmJuanmoretime
Jun 25, 2003 9:49 AM
some advice ...Geardaddy
Jun 25, 2003 7:15 AM
MTB racing strategy is pretty much a) get out in front, b) stay out in front, c) and dig, dig, dig. Yep, sort of like a time trial. Here are some tips from my experience.

1) Have your equipment prepared: Have different sets of wheels/tires or the time to change them before the race. Having the right tires for dry/muddy conditions can make a big difference. Also, run your tires at a pretty high PSI, as this will help prevent the dreaded pinch flats, which is definitely a worthwhile trade-off to any traction advantage you might get from running lower tire pressure.

2) Get a good warm up before the race: 21 miles is relatively short. This race will be over before you know it. The first 1/3 of the race will be the hardest, so be reved-up at the start.

3) Pre-ride the course: This is probably less of an issue if you're doing laps, but this can be a definite advantage. It's good to know exactly where to pace yourself vs. go aneroebic, as well as know where the good passing spots are.

4) Pass whenever you can: You want clear air. It's easy to get complacent a stay behind someone. Don't. Other riders are just obstacles. Try to avoid singletrack traffic jams by staying out in front.
thanks. i'm doing this one old skool, though...JS Haiku Shop
Jun 25, 2003 7:28 AM

1) as a true road geek, i only have the 300-pound mountain bike and one set of wheels. i will keep the tires at max psi, though. i'm a big boy and am more likely to pinch flat than others.

2) will do. i expect the first couple laps will be pretty intense, then once everybody settles in, who knows.

3) will do. plan to pre-ride several times over the next few days, then again on race day.

4) will do. i'm not a very technical rider, but i think low-IQ and sheer meanness will help me here.


breath & drink oftenmarcoxxx
Jun 25, 2003 7:25 AM
i have done several mtn races. i suggest only one strategy: go from the start and until the end as hard and fast as possible!

carrying your favorite energy food and drink always gave me needed energy.
thanks, will do! (nm)JS Haiku Shop
Jun 25, 2003 8:18 AM
strategy: get out in front early. go fast. [o]_rt_
Jun 25, 2003 7:30 AM
well, that's my strategy, anyway. ;-) you can read for yourself how well it worked for me last weekend:

if you're replacing cables etc make sure you get 2-3 rides on it before the race. nothing worse than cable stretch in the middle of a race.

if you had decided to race beginner you wouldn't be the only one sandbagging! however, sport may be a little less hairy in terms of consistent skill level across riders. seriously, my general race strategy is: get out in front as early as possible, go hard & put as much distance between myself & the rest of the field as i can.

good luck


ps - an example of how my strategy really did work for me:
thanks--JS Haiku Shop
Jun 25, 2003 8:11 AM
great advice, and good reads.

hope you realize your talent for writing.

Jun 25, 2003 8:22 AM
race reports are far more fun to write than scientific manuscripts!!

it's a dirt time trial, sort ofTime Trial dot org
Jun 25, 2003 7:36 AM
it is a time trial on the dirt, in a way, but instead of gaining benefit of drafting you actually do not want to follow another rider except to suck wheel of a faster rider up a hill - following his pace.
You're asking for advice...HERE???biknben
Jun 25, 2003 7:50 AM
If you're just entering with a "Why not" attitude then go with Esch's advice and treat it like a time trial.

Give the MTB racers some credit though. For the serious racers it's far more than a "mass start time trial". There are stategies involved and there is cooperation / colussion amongst team members.

In a typical event you will have a mass start in an open area. The group will charge into a fire road or wide trail and hit a climb. This will cause a "thinning of the heard". This is followed by some singletrack. The immediate goal is to get to the singletrack with the leaders. The further back you are, the greater the likelyhood of getting caught up in a mishap. It's similar to a crit in that the guys in front can cruise through turns while everyone behind has to slow down. Except, on the trail, there is less/no room to go around. The rubber band gets stretched but never retracts. The riders just keep spreading out.

Once beyond this, guys will continue to go like crazy until they can't go any more. The gaps between riders will spread out and it will become a race of attrition.

Some guys will get ahead of themselves early. They end up blowing up and tossing their cookies (rookie move). Some of the better guys may get caught with their pants down early and make up time once everyone spreads out.

Do not get comfortable behind slower riders. It may feel right (esp. coming from road experience) to draft them or rest behind them but they are slowing you down. If you catch someone, pass them immediately. You are obviously faster then them. They will eventually make a mistake and screw you up.

If you are passed, grab that wheel and hold it as long as you can. Let them show you the prefered line on the trail. Based on how they handle it, you can follow them or take a different line.

Other things to consider:
The course is a little short. There may be a lot of traffic. The sport often immediately follow the experts. You may catch slower riders and women. Be polite but stern about passing. I often will let someone know I'm coming up on them. When I'm ready to go by I choose a side, tell the rider ahead which side I'm going, and go. If someone catches you ask them to let you know when they want to go around. Don't be distracted by them if they don't want to pass.
wow, lots of great, specific advice!JS Haiku Shop
Jun 25, 2003 8:15 AM
sounds like it's coming from lots of experience. that gives us all the right to look down upon and snob at you, as road bike purists. just kidding.

your response is awesome--a look into racing from "behind the lines". several heads-up that i'd never have considered. thanks for the good words!

Mtn races NOT TTs??MShaw
Jun 25, 2003 9:54 AM
Every time I hear someone say that mtn races aren't off-road TTs, I have to chuckle. The above description is that of what? an off-road TT! Go hard, go harder, you against the course, individual effort, etc.

I've ridden a few mtn races way back when. I figured out that I can't uphill TT, so I concentrated on being a track/crit racer instead.

The one thing I remember about racing mtn races is that you need to go your own pace. If try and go faster, you'll end up blowing sky high and going even slower.

Yeah...and a RR is just a group ride with a sprint finish!!!biknben
Jun 25, 2003 10:47 AM
Every time I hear someone belittle something they don't understand, I have to chuckle.

Get a few more races under your belt and you may begin to understand. There's nothing wrong with treating a MTB race as a TT. You just won't be very competative, that's all.
Beer. [nm]Gadfly
Jun 25, 2003 7:53 AM
All I can say is Ouch Ouch Ouchabicirider
Jun 25, 2003 8:24 AM
Well for the last few days been riding single track in am on my short road ride days then Road ride in P.M. Well today off to single track still kinda muddy all kinds of logs ruts you name it so I'm getting a little cocky (guess its old age) coming barreling down a hill then have to jump over a log starting uphill so what happens my front wheel gets caught in a rut as I'm jumping log next thing I'm crashing down on my whole right side bad thing its not the ground I'm crashing onto a small fallen tree. ouch ouch ouch. My hole right side feels like every rib is broken I tell you I guess my advise don't get too cocky and be a smart A**S like this stupid fool did now I'm going to pay, but hey it was fun.

Be Safe Out On The Roads!!!!!!!
Ray Still
Mooresville, NC
A few things for your first raceStraightblock
Jun 25, 2003 8:32 AM
From my one attempt at dirt racing:

Make sure your bike will shift into the granny gear.

Don't sweat it if it looks like everyone's bike is better than yours.

Carry enough to at least fix a flat on the course.

Don't fall too often or too hard.

Have fun.

Finish. Don't worry about placing. There are probably a lot of guys sandbagging in Sport that should be Expert. Enjoy it if you beat some of them.

Drink beer(s) afterward.
no problem, here's what you do:dante
Jun 25, 2003 10:15 AM
ride the course a BUNCH the day before, walk it once, and see where the sketchy lines are, talk to others to see how they're doing it, and watch some people hit the really hard stuff to see alternatives.

then the day of the race, relax, and when the guy says go pedal for all it's worth, while at the same time feeling the flow and try not to crash. Then about 4 or 5 min. later you're at the bottom listening for your time...

Hmmmm? Oh, CROSS COUNTRY mtb, my mistake, I've only done downhill... :-D

lots of good advice, being at the front at the beginning is good, passing on singletrack is HARD. Make your time up on the climbs and the flats, and try to hold on for the downhills. Good luck, it can't be *that* hard (coming from someone who's races never lasted more than 5 min).

advice from an ex-mtbergreg n
Jun 25, 2003 10:23 AM
When you boil down a mt. bike race to its core, it is a time trial. Within this time trial, you use your strengths, i.e. climbing, technical handling, etc. to your advantage. If you're fortunate enough to ride within a pack, make sure the pack is not slowing you down. And on the flip side, make sure you're not pulling guys along who aren't going to work.

In a sport race, it's important to get out front and be one of the first into the singletrack. Guys blow up early in a sport race, and if you're too far back, you use more energy going around blown riders than you think. Not to mention getting held up when it's too tight to pass. Also, if there's open, flat doubletrack, use your road riding power to your advantage. Many sport riders don't have the power to maintain high speed in the open areas and they tend to use the open areas to recover. Which is opposite of what you should really do. Speed is limited in singletrack, so that is actually where you can recover. Climbs and open flats are where you need to put the hammer down.

Don't be surprised if you get dropped in the singletrack from guys who you know aren't as strong as you. Riding singletrack efficiently is a definite skill. Last year when I was still doing a few Expert mt. bike races for fun and training, I just wasn't sharp technically anymore and the singletrack is where I'd lose time.

Aside from a few probable sandbaggers who should be racing Expert, I'm sure you'll do fine on fitnese alone.
thanks everyone. rode last night (mtb). few observations:JS Haiku Shop
Jun 26, 2003 6:22 AM
went out with tha guys last night and rode the trail upon which this race is soon to be held. it's changed into a totally different trail since last i rode it (last summer). not just routine trail evolution, but the IMBA trail care crew has been through town, and active mtb locals have worked to re-route and maintain the site. what started as a glorified cow path is now a world-class mtb trail. though there are no log crossings or substantial shelves, there are plenty of roots & some rock gardens, and the amount of climbing has easily doubled. it's a mostly flat (no mountains) course which favors tight technical riding 50% and and speed 50%.

i'm on the downswing of "peak". seems i rode my tail off over the winter to be ready for the brevet season. started brevets with a 140-miler in feb, 186 in march, 250 in april, and 250 in may, and now i'm riding like garbage. without regard to 2-3 days off the bike at a time, riding every other day and skipping days for recovery, plenty of sleep, and occasional training sessions, the form is slow to return. adding to poor form, i have never been comfy on dirt. i'm planning to ride sport in this race, but last night was getting dropped on flats/speed sections by beginner-level riders (tho with more dirt experience). however, i'm strong on hills and sections that require big torque, and seem to be riding the technical stuff a little better this year (credit to fixie riding and low IQ, and to J2 coaching and subsequent ridicule, LOL).

i'll be wearing out the trail over the next week. to be honest with myself, though, i suspect a fun and painful race, but DFL or close to it in sport class, if the competition is worth its classification. it will be yet another learning opportunity, and character builder, and i am looking forward to the experience.

thanks for your advice and words.

if nasty mud, run through it....scrublover
Jun 26, 2003 10:08 PM
as people in front will go down/slip/slide and you'll have to get around anyhow. if it's nasty enough mud, running through is faster anyhow, and you preserve your brakes/drivetrain rather than gunking it up possibly causing problems later on in the race.

if it's a short, steep climb you get to, just stay in your middle/big and grind up it. the guys who shift down will slow down and you'll pass. once you're past and on the backside, you get a bit of recovery. i raced my singlespeed mtb all but one race last year, and passed *a lot* on the climbs.

warm socks. if it's a wet course, and your feet are cold and wet, it gets very miserable to keep doing more laps. oh wait, your a crosser, you know all about wet and cold feet!

anjoy and kick some @ss!