I love to race. It was tough at the beginning because I tried to beat other people. Once I realized that I couldn’t go any faster than I was able, it began to make a little more sense. If you are new to racing, you may find this “10 Things That Will Make You A Better Mountain Bike Racer” helpful.
- 1) Practice fixing a flat – You won’t need to do it very often, but when you do, you’ll be glad you know how. The best practice is to switch your tires – move your front tire to the back wheel and you’re back tire to the front wheel or buy a different set of tires and switch them on. Make sure you have plastic tire irons and new tubes. When you practice be sure you run your fingers along the inside of the tire to check for protrusions that would have caused a real flat. Try to make it an automatic process because when it happens during a race, don’t assume that you’ll be able to think clearly because your heart rate will be elevated. Considering hydrating during this time.
- 2) Train all types of terrain – hills, rocks, single / double track, if you’ll be riding it race day, make sure you know how to ride it.
- 3) Dedicate training time to hill climbing – probably the biggest bang for your training buck right here. If your races are 60 minutes, train hill climbing for 60 minutes once a week. Find a hill and just ride up and down focusing on seated spinning and standing climb. Mix it up because you’ll be using both during any race. Hills end 50 meters AFTER they level off so continue climbing effort until you find your top speed and then recover.
- 4) Learn how to identify when your thinking abilities are being impaired by the intensity of your work. Racing effectively and safely demands that you keep your wits about you. There are countless studies demonstrating the relationship between elevated heart rate and cognitive impairments. Rates of between 160-170 are associated with tunnel vision, impaired judgment, and an inability to think logically and rationally. You need to learn how to avoid this, or at least, gain the ability to remain aware that your thinking is impaired. What seems like a good pass at 165 may actually have been a concussions.
For race day:
- 5) Make sure your cables will make it through the race. Losing rear derailer function or rear breaks makes for a tough race. Cables wear out, change them before they break. Change damaged cable housing while your at it.
- 6) Make sure your gears are tuned up. “Grind it till your find it” is what happens race day. I know this because I only see broken chains on race day. Bring it to the shop if you don’t know how to do it yourself. You want crisp and precise gear changes. You need it to stay in gear until you change it.
- 7) Race with an empty stomach or one containing liquid only. Until you find what works for you, try not to over eat. I need to avoid fat as much as possible because it takes me longer to digest it. I eat mostly low GI carbs and whey protein powder before races. These things clear my stomach quickly and if I need to get sick, they come up pretty effortlessly and without that burning acid.
- 8) Be well hydrated but freshly peed right before the race begins.
During the race:
- 9) Try to keep your heart rate in an effective range. Everyone has a sweet spot, a level of exertion that is their best. Try to find this as early in the race as you can and hold it. Your goal is to be close to spend at the end. A heart rate monitor will be very helpful to you here.
- 10) Assume that all of the other racers have tunnel vision from an elevated heart rate. State your intentions of other riders and, if they won’t call you round to pass, don’t yell back at them when they call you on your aggressive riding. They are tired and not thinking clearly so if you scared them, they are going to call you an a-hole. Most people will do what you tell them because they don’t want you behind them. If you hear a rider approaching you and you want them to pass, tell them when and point to the opening you are giving them. If someone lets you by, say thank you.