Last Updated on October 31, 2023
Mountain bike racing might sound easy because all you have to do is just go as fast as you can on your bike and hope that you won’t crash.
Well, that’s how races work. But there’s more to that than just plain speed. You have to consider many things if you want to have fun, be safe, and eventually win.
In this article, we are going to talk all about mtb racing strategies so you can make the most out of them, and in the process, grow both as an athlete and as a person in general.
Note that there’s more to racing than just speed and bikes.
The first thing you have to do is to focus on your fitness. Don’t expect that you can win a race if you aren’t physically fit.
And by physical fitness, we mean that you should have the right weight, proper muscle mass, and overall flexibility.
Maintain regular exercise, eat healthy foods, and be conscious about your weight so that you won’t have a hard time pedaling your bike at high speeds for long durations.
Another very important strategy you need to take note of is learning how to track-read. It is the term used for practicing riding on the race track.
You are literally reading the tracks and making yourself more accustomed and comfortable with the track or trail you’ll be racing on. This is very important so you’ll know what to expect.
Will there be a sharp turn after that huge tree? Will there be a surprise jump after the berm? Or do you need to gain enough speed and momentum to clear a huge ten-foot drop?
You can answer all these questions accurately if you do track read before a race. Track reads are done a few days before the race or even a day before race day.
If you don’t go through this, you’ll be racing blind and you’ll have a very huge disadvantage because you’re not used to the racecourse.
You might think that an XC race or XC MTB racing is all about going full blast when pedaling your bike and exerting as much effort in sprinting uphills or shredding downhill sections.
Although you do these things every once in a while, you don’t need to do them all the time. Instead, you also need to learn how to conserve energy, so you don’t end up exhausted and gasping for air even if you’re just a few meters from the starting line.
Don’t go all out throughout the entire race. For example, in enduro races, you just have to pedal as hard as you can when the race begins on the start line and start to build up your race pace from there.
And when you’ve already gained enough momentum, just let gravity do the rest and pull you down to gain speed. What you need to do instead is to time the shifting right, balance your cornering skills, and maneuver technical sections with ease.
Climb steep uphills
Climbing steep uphills is an effective way to build the needed cardiovascular and muscular endurance for the race.
You need to regularly climb uphill at least a month before the race. Do this at regular intervals, such as once or twice a week, or much better if it’s three times a week.
It will also help if you ride in lower gears as you are climbing so that you will exert more effort in climbing. You will then find it very easy to pedal hard on race day because you’re used to exerting as much effort as you can on your practice climbs.
Time multiple laps
Another effective strategy for your race practice is to time your runs. Do this by recording how long it takes you to reach the finish line from your starting point. You can use your phone or watch to time yourself.
Once you’re done with your first lap, you can then repeat the process and do your best to beat your previous time. Your goal here is to always beat your own record so that you’ll go faster every time you go through a lap.
But don’t push yourself too hard that you go beyond your comfort zone because you might end up crashing on the ground and suffering an injury even before you started racing.
Enter the right category
You need to choose your category when joining a race. Although the category classifications vary, the usual highest option is the elite category. This is where professional racers join.
There is also a novice category where other riders with an intermediate skill level can join. Aside from that, you can also join age brackets if you want to ensure that you’re competing against mountain bikers that are near the same age as you.
Ensure you are running with tubeless tires, as this reduces the chances of getting flats and punctures.
What’s nice about tubeless tires is that they have a semi-liquid sealant that immediately seals any punctures on your tires in just a few milliseconds or, at most, two to three seconds.
This comes in handy because you no longer have to worry about stopping your run as you’re racing just to change tires or inflate it, whether it be a cross-country race or enduro race.
Overall bike check
Let your trusted local bike shop mechanic do an overall check on your mountain bike. Ensure its suspension has the proper sag and settings, all the bolts are correctly threaded, and the brakes function well. Also, your bike measurements should be up to your standards so your ride will be the least of your worries come race time.
Your bike is the core of your race, along with yourself, so make sure that all these are in pristine condition, especially since you’ve trained hard on your bike.
Strategizing for your upcoming mountain biking race is not really that hard. You just need to make sure that you are physically fit and that your bike is in the best possible shape.
Learn how to weigh out the risks so you can end the race in one piece. And most importantly, don’t get too stressed up with your race. What’s important is that you competed, maintained a healthy body, and had fun with this enjoyable experience.