10 reasons you should race your mtb

I should also point out: I SUCK at racing.  I’m a busy guy, I don’t have time to really train, I barely have time to ride every now and again.  I’m distracted in my race focus as I ride road and also SUP and kitesurf. I’m not a naturally-gifted athlete, and I’m carrying an extra 5kg I don’t need.  I’m a slightly better than 70%  racer on a good day.

My HipstaPrint 6


1. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but there are good reasons it sometimes does.

Sure, some races are expensive: I’ve paid as much as £150 for an event registration fee (plus a night in a hotel, gas, food, etc.), but I’ve also paid as little as £5 at a local race I rode.  It’s also important to keep in mind that the expensive races are expensive for a reason (besides just greed – there aren’t many rich MTB race promoters).  Promoters have to buy insurance, swag items, number plates, course marking materials, permits from land owners, and prizes, among many other things.  Most big races are typically manned by volunteers from various local organizations (bike clubs, boy scout troupes, local trail running clubs, etc.), and the promoters make donations back to the those groups as a thank you for their help.


the sweep
Strathpuffer on the non snow and ice side of the hill


2. You can spend all day (or night) enjoying yourself on a bike.

Greg is right that at some races you’re pedaling too hard to look around and enjoy the scenery.  My advice: do an endurance race!  If you’re riding 50+ mile, and you’re like 99% of MTBers, you will not be riding super fast.  Sure, you’re pushing yourself, but if you’re going to survive and make it to the end of race you’ve got to be somewhat conservative, and there’s plenty of time to look around and enjoy where you are.  I’ve even stopped for pictures at races.  I’m nowhere near the front of the group, so why not?

3. You get to ride new places and not worry about navigation.

Exploring is great.  But a lot of times, I just want to ride my bike and shred some singletrack.  Races are a GREAT way to explore trails you’ve never been on without the hassle of stopping to check maps again and again.  Just turn the pedals and enjoy.

Glen finglas 4 More Lads - still no Crawf!

4. You can see tons of new things while preparing for an event.

I like endurance races… have I mentioned that?  Preparing for an endurance race means riding–a lot.  A lot more than you otherwise would.  I don’t know about you, but I can only ride circles around the same trail so many times a month before I need to venture out and try something else.  Also, most of the races I do aren’t local–they’re off somewhere else, which is why I want to go.  It’s really rare that I bother pre-riding a race course, certainly not riding it again and again and again. (i agree ED)


No helmet – rigid days but that handlebar and that hair seriously??


5. Races give you a guided tour of awesome trails.

Most of the races I’ve been to go out of their way to route the event over some of the best trails in the area.  Avoiding technical areas? Some do maybe, but lots of races use those technical areas as the focal point of the route–it’s why you’re there.  Hundreds of people haven’t flocked to Scotland mid winter to do a 24hr ride for over a decade because of the doubletrack sections –they go for ice over rock garden at the top. If you want to ride your bike all day on fun and/or challenging terrain, there’s plenty of opportunity to do so.


6. You don’t have to be as self reliant.

Self reliance is great, and I’m a big proponent of it.  I carry the tools and supplies to fix almost anything on my bike on pretty much every ride.  Even road rides, I’ve got a pump, a minitool, and a few spare tubes.  But it’s also really nice to ditch some of that stuff and ride all day without carrying the extra crap.  When I go to races, I make sure my bike is in tip-top shape, and since there are aid stations every so often, I’m able to carry less, and I can send supplies ahead to the stations to refuel/top off supplies along the way.  Where else can you ride 65 miles and not have to carry a massive hydration pack? I do always carry the essentials, though (spare tube, multitool, power links, and derailleur hanger all fit in a small saddle bag, and a pump in a jersey pocket). Even if the aid stations are only 10 miles apart, I don’t want to have to walk for miles in bike shoes.

7. Grass Roots Good Times.

Greg’s point about over commercialization is valid to an extent, but at the same time it’s silly to complain about pros decked out in matching kits head to toe when A) they’re paid to do so, and B) plenty of weekend warriors spend their own money do exactly the same thing.  Most MTB races I’ve been to, including the big ones, are super laid back events where everyone is there to have a good time.  Sure, there might be some sponsor logos on the finish line banner and whatnot, but who cares? Those companies probably donated that stuff.

ruthin 03.JPG

8. The time constraints.

Honestly, I don’t have a major counterpoint to this. Races are (sometimes) big events with (sometimes) lots of people–there has to be a schedule, and if you’re participating, you have to adhere to it.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t still explore the town.  I’ve explored towns I would have never been to had it not been for attending a MTB race–ate at great restaurants, explored nearby trails the day before the race, and checked out some cool bike shops.

9. Meet lots of people!

Okay, if you want solitude (and we all do at times), a race is not the place for that.  But at the same time, races present the chance to meet a lot of really cool people.  I’ve shaken hands and chatted with a spanish elite rider sleeping in his belingo van and driven up to do a marathon race in Scotland because the ‘weather is worse’ .  I’ve met people in person I’ve chatted with on forums before.  I’ve seen with my own eyes people do things on bikes I wouldn’t have thought possible. (not just the accidents)


selkirk SPLASH crop
Scotland + SUN – seriously?


10. You’ll realize you suck, and will then get much better.

A few years ago I raced and when I pulled into the first feed station at mile 15 one of the volunteers announced, “In case anyone is wondering, the leaders are about 30 minutes ahead of you.”  WHAT?!?! I didn’t even know I’d been riding for 30 minutes already–it was hard to believe the leaders could be so far ahead already.  It took me a little over 7 hours to cover the 75ish-mile course with over 2300m of climbing–the winner finished in just over 4.5 hours. And once when I raced the 60km course the winner on the 85km course overtook me 10km from the finish.

Attending a race–especially one with pro riders in attendance–you’re guaranteed to get a HUGE slice of humble pie.  For one thing, I routinely get bested by guys several decades older than me.  I want to be those guys when I grow up–it’s motivating to keep at it, keep pushing, keep trying to improve.  Not only that, but having a big event on the calendar is a great motivator to ride as much as possible.  You will get fitter.  You will become a better bike handler.  Youwill get faster.

You might still suck when compared to the guys who get paid to ride, but you’re better than before, and you’ll always know there’s lots of room for improvement.

ruthin 09


Racing is awesome.  It provides an opportunity to ride somewhere you might not get to otherwise, you get support so you don’t have to carry gallons of water and lots of food all day, and it’s a GREAT way to challenge and push yourself.  You’ll learn things out on the course that will help you in all aspects of life–not just riding.  Endurance racing in particular is a great for mental toughness training.  Plus, convince some friends to race with you and you have a fun weekend away with your buddies.

That said, racing should absolutely not be the only reason you ride–if it is, it will take the fun out of mountain biking.  But racing is a great way to compliment and improve your mountain biking life, and add some variety.

Fatbiking ….. Is not allowed (not my view)

So whilst I have just embraced fatbiking and love it’s simplicity and back to basics and its greatness in all terrain I saw this over at single tracks and though it was pretty funny …..

The general public, for the most part, doesn’t truly comprehend our obsession in mountain biking. And who can blame them? What doesn’t sound foolish about spending more on a bike than a nice used automobile, only to throw both you and the thousands of dollars in self-propelled, high-end tech down a rocky mountain? Stepping back and looking through the eyes of others makes you realize how foolish it all can seem. But there are those amongst us that take this foolishness to a whole new level by participating in the delusional subcatagory of fat biking.

Here at Singletracks, the fat biking phenomenon is in a full blown outbreak amongst the writing staff, quite like this season’s flu virus. It’s even spreading to the children of all things. The children!! I will admit that a fair number of our writing staff live in regions of the country where numerous feet of snow falls every year, thus making fat bikes an attractive proposition. Consequently, the views shared here are my own, and definitely do not reflect that of the writing staff at Singletracks.com.

Not once while riding on a gorgeous summer day have I thought to myself, “If only I could suffer more by riding through snow in sub-zero temperatures, battling frostbite and terrain simultaneously.” There are numerous activities I can enjoy during the winter time that don’t require biking in the snow: drinking hot cocoa, sitting in front of a fire, watching football, even shopping for next year’s mountain bike. Sure, I occasionally participate in winter-related activities such as skiing. However, I tend to contain my outdoor winter activities to those that offer lodges with hot meals and alcoholic beverages within mere minutes of participating in said activities. Fat biking provides you with none of these niceties. Nay, necessities.

While New Mexico does receive snow in the winter, there are numerous trails near the Albuquerque metro area that stay dry enough that a fat bike is not needed. So in that regard, my take on fat biking is admittedly biased. However, I know there are many of our readers who reside in snow-filled terrain, yet still abhor the idea of riding in snow. It is for you that I have decided to write my anti-fat biking manifesto:

1. Biking in temperatures below freezing is permissible but not encouraged.

Mountain biking in the negative temperature range is absolutely banned. Our very distant relatives, homo erectus and the neanderthals, worked very hard to “invent” fire to combat the freezing cold. Additionally, a great deal of research and effort went into developing the modern heating system for personal home use. Honor their efforts by sitting in your heated home, sipping hot cocoa that was warmed in the microwave or on your electric/gas stove, while sitting in front of a fire.

Mountain biking should be a anjoyment of the great outdoors, not a battle of wills against mother nature. Photo by: Greg Heil

Mountain biking should be an enjoyment of the great outdoors, not a battle of wills against mother nature. Rider: Greg. Photo: Delphinide

2. No man, woman, or child should have to fear the loss of digits due to mountain biking.

These types of medical maladies should only be encountered while summiting Mount Everest. And since Mount Everest does not have mountain biking trails, we have no need to attempt such feats on our mountain bikes in the winter.

3. Tires wider than 4 inches are to be ridden on the beach.

Let’s all be honest with ourselves for a minute. The ultra fat tires were first developed for beach cruisers (as a past resident of Florida, I am clearly an expert on the history of bikes on beaches). How these made the leap from a sunny paradise to the frigid tundras, we may never truly know. However, the natural habitat of fat bikes is along the coastline. Fat bikes found further inland, on snow-plagued terrain, should be considered an invasive species and dealt with appropriately.

4. While mountain biking, you should never be mistaken for the abominable snowman.

Being mistakenly identified as a creature from folklore commonly occurs while fat biking in the winter due to the 12 or more layers that is required to be worn in order to stay warm. It’s how ancient folklore is perpetuated in the modern era. And as more mountain bikers take to fat biking, the more often people will report false sightings of the abominable snowman. This will prevent the masses from accepting real photos published in the next issue of the National Enquirer.

It does not get much better than this on a fat bike. Photo: courtesy Curt Gowdy SP

It’s imperative not to wear all white while fat biking in the snow so as not to be confused with the Abominable Snowman. Photo: courtesy Curt Gowdy SP

5. Mountain biking was invented in the mountains of California, where the weather is constantly sunny and 70 degrees.

Ok, so it may not be sunny and 70 in the mountains year-round, but you get my drift. While not all of us have the luxury of residing in the human-infested state of California, we should all strive to mountain bike in the true spirit of the sport: biking only when the weather is gorgeous. For some, this may only occur for one month of the year, while for others this may be year-round. But that’s why we as humans invented cars and airplanes, so we can transport ourselves and bikes to warmer climates.

In all honesty, I don’t fat bike because I hate the cold. Plain and simple. So to you fat bikers, hats off. You are truly some of the most hardcore, passionate riders amongst us. Thanks also for pushing the industry to develop better cold weather gear so I can stay toasty warm on my rides when the temperature dips to 50.

Why less women cycle.

Think this could apply to Brits nearly as much as the US as families live in a ‘daily mail’ fear culture at the best of times ……

Amsterdam cyclist  ©Richard Crawford
Amsterdam cyclist
©Richard Crawford

According to the UCLA report, women with children make twice as many child– serving trips and nearly twice as many grocery trips as their male spouses. Even when women earn more, are better educated, and work more hours than their male partners, they still make 1.5 times as many child-serving trips and 1.4 times as many grocery trips. These findings reflect the fact that in most US families women still shoulder the responsibility for caring for the household, and that responsibility is hard to manage on a bike.

Dutch women can use bikes to get around because they are less pressed for time than American women, in three fundamental ways. First, thanks to family-friendly labour policies like flexitime and paternity leave, Dutch families divide childcare responsibilities much more evenly than American families. Second, work weeks in the Netherlands are shorter. One in three Dutch men and most Dutch women work part-time, and workers of either gender work fewer hours than Americans.

Lastly, Dutch parents do much less chauffeuring of children and elderly family members than American parents. Neighbourhood schools and high-quality bike infrastructure in the Netherlands make it easy for Dutch kids to walk or bike to school, unlike their counterparts in America, where rates of bicycling and walking to school have been declining for decades. Dutch elderly are also much more independently mobile than their American counterparts.

If American cities hope to improve mobility by ushering in a European-style bike renaissance, improving bike infrastructure and promoting cycling will be necessary, but it probably will not be enough. The lack of women on bikes is a symptom of much deeper societal differences that, sooner or later, American urban planners will need to confront. Here are three policy changes that could help shift the culture.

First, reduce the burden of housework — and its associated trips — on women. Family-friendly policies such as paid paternity leave make it possible for men to help at home, and they set the pattern for the rest of parenthood.

Second, step back from our “always-there” work culture, and also pay workers a living wage. Reducing total work hours and encouraging more flexible schedules for men and women alike could free up the time necessary to get around by bike. And imagine what a game-changer it would be if low-income women could work one decently paid job rather than two or three, or if high-income women weren’t expected to be at the office 60-plus hours a week.

Finally, design communities that everyone — children, parents and grandparents alike — can navigate safely without a car. Local schools, safe streets and easily accessible activities help encourage independent mobility, and reduce the expectation that women need to serve as family chauffeurs.

Amsterdam cyclist  ©Richard Crawford ©Richard Crawford[/caption]

Admittedly, these ideas have far-reaching implications and require serious value shifts, but there’s no reason that bicycle advocates and planners shouldn’t be part of that discussion.

To build sustainable transportation networks that work for everyone, policymakers will need to go beyond what they see on the street itself. They’ll have to look into the Dutch home where a husband is changing a diaper on paternity leave; into the Dutch workplace where a mom on a flexible schedule can leave before the sun goes down; and into Dutch schools where children receive universal education about how to ride a bike to school, freeing up their parents to ride to work.

The thing about Strava

I am finding myself checking it too much but this article sums it up much better …..


So, if you know me, you’ll know that mountain biking is a big part of my life. I’ve been riding mountain bikes for almost 20 years and I’m just a teensy bit obsessed. I ride whenever I can, I subscribe to several mountain biking magazines, I spend too much money on my bike and gear, I bore my wife with headcam video of my rides, I train in the gym to be stronger on the bike, and I think about it a lot when I’m not doing it. In other words, it’s quite important to me.

The other day, I showed one of these headcam videos to a very good friend of mine (who’s not sporty). He was genuinely confused as to why I bother – to his mind it was dangerous and somewhat pointless. He asked me why I ride; the answer was complex. I ride for a lot of reasons, nearly all of them intrinsic (as in the motivations are all intrinsic), including fulfilling a desire for challenge, matching challenge with skill, mastering a complex skill, being in nature, interacting with friends, and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

But more important than any of those things is the fact that mountain biking forces me into the moment in a way that very few other things can. I need to explain this a bit more. I struggle to be in the moment. My head is often miles away, in the future, or abstracting about something. It’s an effort to bring it back, and one of the reasons I meditate regularly. Mountain biking brings me into the moment in a very real and visceral way – if I’m not concentrating, I’m falling off (which hurts), but more than that, there’s no room when I’m riding for anything but the trail and my relationship to it, through my bike. It contracts the world down to a single experience, and I love it (Csikszentmihalyi describes this feeling as flow).

Because of these intrinsic motives, for me, mountain biking has always been about the internal experience. I’ve deliberately avoided using a trip-computer, a stopwatch, or even a watch when I ride, because I’ve never been interested in knowing how far I’ve gone or for how long, or how fast; the experience was enough. A satisfying ride was one where I was present and riding well (by my own standards).

Despite my misgivings, a while back I started using Strava on my rides. For those of you who’ve been living under rocks and haven’t heard of it, Strava is a novel concept that uses a GPS device to track you when you ride (or run, or do anything else outside). At the end of the ride you can upload your info to Strava and (here’s the cool part), it recognises which tracks you’ve ridden (or you can create new ones) and automatically calculates your time on that track. That in itself is good, but it also automatically rates your performance against your previous times, and against all the other people who have ridden that track (for a premium fee you can even rate yourself against others by age group or weight category). I got very excited about Strava when I first started using it – I even got a plug-in device (birthday present from my wife) that makes the GPS on my iPhone more accurate.

And then I realised that, without me being aware of it, my mind had been hacked.

OK, so I’m getting to the point… Here’s the problem: over the first few months, I started using Strava more and more (not just for mountain biking, but for running and in the gym with a heart-rate monitor). I’d get back from a ride and immediately look over my Strava runs to see if I’d improved my time on a given run. Worse, I started pushing myself harder and faster on the trails, not to challenge myself or immerse myself, or to increase my skills for their own sake, but to beat my Strava time. This came to a head late last year. I went riding with a good friend, and both of us felt we were riding really well. When I got back to the car I found that the Strava app had crashed about a quarter of the way into the ride (before any of the descents). I did not react well.

There it was – I was really upset – so much so that I kept getting repeating, intrusive thoughts about it. It took me a couple of days to get over it. My ride had been ruined.

And then I realised that, without me being aware of it, my mind had been hacked.

What had gone wrong? How had I gone from purely intrinsic motives, eschewing any type of extrinsic feedback, to being almost completely reliant on an external device for my mountain biking satisfaction? The answer is relatively simple and more than a little bit disturbing, because it has ramifications for me and for pretty much everyone else, far beyond mountain biking. By using Strava I had been creating a neurological reward loop based on our inbuilt desires for tribal ranking and approval. We’re competitive because we’re hardwired to be – through most of our evolution our survival (i.e., our ability to pass on our genes) has been largely dependent on our ability to attract a mate, the odds of which, in turn, were enhanced by our standing within our tribe. By getting immediate feedback regarding my standing within a group that I relate to (i.e., other mountain bikers) that (very primitive) part of my brain was getting excited about its status, especially when I moved up the ranks by riding faster. This was all happening subconsciously, but the feedback loop I’d created was making it seem more and more important, and overriding my original motives. I certainly don’t want to breed with mountain bikers, but my dumb-ass brain gets rewarded for behaviour that increases my potential standing within a group, even if it’s purely imaginary. Worst of all, I’d actually started to put myself at risk, by pushing myself to go faster for reasons that I didn’t have any real control over.

Worst of all, I’d actually started to put myself at risk, by pushing myself to go faster for reasons that I didn’t have any real control over.

The reason this realisation scares me so much is that something I really love was co-opted by a primitive part of my brain, because I used a piece of technology. Don’t get me wrong, I love tech, and there are a lot of awesome ways it can enhance us as human beings, but it’s also really easy to set up tech that hacks our really primitive functions. This is, no doubt, why Strava is so successful. There’s another popular piece of technology that does exactly the same thing – you might have heard of it, it’s called Facebook. Why do we use it? Mostly because it hacks straight past our conscious mind and into our primitive social-ranking system. Every time we get a new Facebook ‘friend’ that system is rewarded, every time we write a post and someone ‘likes’ it, we get rewarded (etc.). At a most basic level, Facebook makes us think we’re going to get laid. Have a think about this next time you get that almost overwhelming desire to check your Facebook newsfeed.

But Facebook is just one example of how technology can hack our most primitive systems, making us behave in ways that are counterproductive (or contrary to what’s important to us as evolved humans). The phone in your pocket probably does the same thing (and it’s got Facebook on it – yes, it does, doesn’t it…). If we’re not careful, we become slaves to our machines, pressing buttons for a neurochemical reward that make us feel good, instead of using that technology to enhance our lives.

So do I still use Strava? I’d really like to say no – that I went back to riding without any sort of recording device to get back to the pure internal experience. But, yes, I still keep using it. I’ve realised that I do enjoy a little extrinsic feedback (and, yes, I realise that’s because of everything I’ve written today), but I’m going to try an experiment: I’m going to try and use Strava as another piece of information, rather than my main source of feedback. I’m going to try and be mindful of my own intrinsic motives and subjective state when I ride, and use Strava as a way of reminiscing afterwards. I think the trick is to be aware of what’s going on so that you can make conscious choices regarding your behaviour (this is probably the trick to being a modern human being).

I’ll let you know how it turns out, and I’d love to hear what you guys think…

Riding with Flow: http://flowmountainbike.com/features/training-your-brain-part-3-riding-with-flow/

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams is a registered psychologist and director of Eclectic Consulting Ltd. He divides his time between mountain biking and working