Mental Biking
April 18, 2011 5:40 PM   Subscribe

Tips on getting mentally prepared for my first mountain bike race.

For the past year I have been mountain biking and for the last 5 months I've been training for a beginner mountain bike race (12 miles or so).

I have a few people that have helped me going race-pace over a 22 mile technical course and I take spinning - I try to do both of these once a week.

So I feel confident in my mtb skills - at least for the physical side of things. However mentally I'm not so confident. I've had friends tell me what race etiquette is but I'm unsure how to mentally prepare and work through a race (and I know the psychology of a race has a lot to do with it).

Can anyone explain to me some of the things I should do before hand, what to expect while riding and how to bring it all in towards the finish line in hopes to possibly place (or, at most, not come in last).


FWIW: I ride a Trek Ex Cal Hardtail 29er and I could qualify for clydesdale class if I ate heavy the night before.
posted by Hands of Manos to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "Beginner race" means you want to stay as far away as possible from other riders who may not handle their bikes very well in close quarters, which can end your race right quick. Whether you do this by leading is up to you. :)
posted by rhizome at 6:50 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just ride? I never worried about anything when racing. Just get out there. Don't go like hell to start. Start off slower than you think you should until you know your limits, you'll bonk if you don't. Enjoy the race. After a few miles you'll get a feel for who is about your speed, and you'll see people slowing down fast, they took off way too fast and didn't pace themselves. Pick someone that you can just barely see, try to catch them before the end. Don't get hurt, don't get a flat. This is your first race, don't expect too much, just go out to learn.
posted by Blake at 7:16 PM on April 18, 2011

Best answer: I haven't raced since before shocks came into vogue but a few generic competition tips:

-Train hard leading up to the race but back off the last few days and let your muscles completely recover and get oodles of sleep.

-If you can ride the course ahead of time do so and make mental notes of where you want to push the pace and tricky spots that might cause a crash.

-Start hydrating the night before, stay away from diuretics and carbonated drinks.

-Tune your bike up in advance, set your tire pressure according to the terrain: more pressure for hard-pack less for traction in the soft stuff.

-Find out what time you are racing and try to sync your internal clock ahead of time so that you will be at peak performance at this time. You want to be well awake, food digested, bowels emptied. If you are a caffeine user you don't want to be in the "coming down" phase.

-Be sure to have beer on hand for after, makes a great recovery drink!

-Get a copy of The Rider by Tim Krabbe for inspiration. Ok, now I'm really reaching. Have fun, be safe!

Like Rhizome said, in the beginner class your main tactic should be to avoid entanglements.
posted by Manjusri at 7:17 PM on April 18, 2011

I don't have any beginner specific advice, and am going to assume everyone in your race can competently handle their bike. It is going to depend a lot on the course: how much single track, and how much distance you have between the start and the first single track to get sorted out. As your buddies probably told you, the etiquette is to let faster riders by; the rider in back will say something like, "on your left" and expect you to squeeze over when you can and let them by. Not a problem if there are two riders, if you are stuck in a "conga line" of half a dozen riders, everyone is trying to get to the front and it can take a while to sort out. Also, if the course is technical (to the point where people are dabbing or totally coming out of their pedals), then being in one of these clumps of racers means that everyone ends up coming out of their pedals. Because of all of this, my first piece of advice would be to be aggressive at the start, know where the single track starts, and try to be at or near the front when that happens.

Once you are into the course, my other piece of advice would be to always try and accelerate (e.g. pedal hard) out of each and every technical sections. Every time you have to stand up for a drop or a turn and bleed off a little speed, you've got a chance to push hard once you get back in the saddle and try to regain a little of that speed. The point here is that you can only go as fast as your skill/nerve allows on the technical parts, but there is a lot of trail linking those where the speed limit is your lungs, not the trail. Make sure you are taking advantage of all of those sections. I know this sounds all really obvious ("pedal fast!"), but I find it mentally and physically exhausting to shift up and hammer out of every turn, especially at the end of a race.

Third piece of advice, and this is a style thing, because I'm a better climber than descender. It is usually easier to follow someone else's line than to choose your own lines. If I end up behind another rider who seems well matched, I'll sit back off their wheel (like 10 or 15 feet back) and follow their lines through a downhill/fast section and use that as a little break until we get to a place where I can easily pass (for me, anything uphill).

Good luck with your race!
posted by kovacs at 7:21 PM on April 18, 2011

Not sure what exactly you are feeling mentally un-confident about given the amount of preparation you have done. Im assuming its just the matter of not knowing what you are up against as far as competitors go.. J

Biggest thing is try not to over think it. If it were me I would be reminding myself constantly that this is just for fun, and hopefully everyone else (at least in the lower classes) will be approaching it the same way.

Keep in mind that at the start you will be incredibly pumped up with adrenaline and wanting to ride like a bat outa hell. Try to remember to loosen up from time to time so you dont burn out or ride too far past your ability and make a mistake. White knuckles are a quick way to kill your endurance and finesse.
posted by Esefa at 7:21 PM on April 18, 2011

The only mountain bike racees I've been in were endurance race, so it's probably a bit different. My approach was to focus on the riding. I made a serious effort to not start out too fast and also tried to challenge myself on the technical stuff. Somehow the race excitement seemed to make it so that my technical skill went up a bit and I was able to push through things that I hadn't been able to at other times.
posted by lab.beetle at 7:57 PM on April 18, 2011

don't overthink this. get up on that bike, get up on that line, and RIP THAT SHIT UP!!
posted by Mach5 at 8:31 PM on April 18, 2011

Don't go so fast that you burn out, and enjoy the ride. The less you worry about other riders or making it to the finish line the more likely it is that you'll ride well, miss the potholes, and get in the zone. Also, don't drink too much ahead of time.

I raced my first (and last) race in the desert near Phoenix, AZ. I was in 2nd grade at the time, traveling to a cycling trade show with my dad. I was having a good time and boy did I get in the zone, but I still finished dead last behind all the other kids. And you know what? I didn't care in the least because I just rode my bicycle (cue Queen jokes).

Good luck!
posted by willhopkins at 8:36 PM on April 18, 2011

Response by poster: thanks for all the responses!
posted by Hands of Manos at 9:14 PM on April 18, 2011

Best answer: Here's where you're likely to get jammed up:

If you've never been in a race (I'm assuming XC with lots of single track up and down the steep parts?) you're probably used to being out with two or three of your friends on similar terrain. In a novice race things slow up quick when one guy spins out and loses traction up a steep part and clips out. Instead of becoming part of the unexpected logjam, look for an opportunity to dismount and carry your bike CX style around the 3 or 4 guys caught up trying to figure out how to continue up the trail. Just run up through the leaves around those 3 guys and pick 3 places, even if you have to run to the top of the hill to remount.
posted by Rafaelloello at 10:01 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Rafaelloello - fantastic! I'm a climber, not a fan of descending (but I can). I ride with a group of people but generally at casual pace. It's only been recent I've done race pace (and I generally try to hold it for 1.5 hours - if possible).

but that info is great! thanks! I would totally run my bike up
posted by Hands of Manos at 10:07 PM on April 18, 2011

« Older Something other than tubular bells plz   |   Am I working legally? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.