The Mpora Guide to Mountain Bike Racing (For First Timers)

10 Mistakes That Every Racer Makes When They're Starting Out

Luca Shaw Leogang Downhill Mountain Biking World Cup 2014
You’ll have enough to concentrate on with the riding at your first race – don’t make easy mistakes! Photo: Laurence Crossman-Ems

Before we start, don’t take this the wrong way. You might think this article is pointing the finger at newbs, but it’s not.

Most of the mistakes listed here are things I’ve done myself, or have seen other people doing. Yep, from nervous poo nightmares to humiliating crashes, there are riders out there who’ve done it all before.

“From nervous poo nightmares to humiliating crashes, there are riders out there who’ve done it all before.”

So think of this list as a template for what not to do at your first mountain bike race. Which (for most people) is an incredibly nerve-wracking experience!

1) Don’t miss your start time

This might seem obvious but it’s a classic. I forget how many times I have arrived at the top of the hill to either hear my race number called immediately or for the start marshal to look at me with sheer disdain when I ask if my number has been called yet.

Mountain Biking Mass Start
Mass starts – like the ones in Cross Country races – are harder to miss. But people still manage it!

Both are immensely stressful experiences, and both will give you no time to calm yourself before starting your first ever timed race run.

At most regional downhill races, you will simply be slotted in at the next available opportunity, at national or international races, you will simply not be allowed to race.

Enduro races usually have a very relaxed format and only have cut-off times for certain stages, while the national events will see you not able to race of be hit with a time penalty.

Cross Country races are more straightforward. Just line up with everyone else and get the hammer down when everyone else does.

2) Don’t forget your front wheel

Or anything else important for that matter. Having made your way two hours to the race venue after a 6am start to realise your front wheel, armour or helmet is still on the drive is a day-wrecker.

Forget your gloves at a UK Gravity Enduro and you won’t be allowed to race, most downhill races insist on them as well.

“Forget your gloves at a UK Gravity Enduro and you won’t be allowed to race.”

Unsurprisingly a lack of helmet will bring your day to a very abrupt end, just like a lack of front wheel.

This is where races and their competitors are shown in their true light. Grovel to the guy on the PA system and if he/she is a legend, then they will make a call to see if anyone has a spare you can borrow.

Should a knight in shining armour appear with exactly what you need, make sure to buy them lots of alcohol to say thank you. As long as you haven’t forgotten your wallet of course…

3) Don’t stand in the wrong cue for registration

Here’s a handy tip for not wasting a lot of your own precious time. At most races, the long line of sweaty men queuing impatiently at the registration tent will likely be in the Senior category.

First mountain bike race tips
Some queues are so big they can be seen from space. Photo: Laurence Crossman-Ems

The 19-29 age category is always the longest and a meek first-timer will usually be most British and simply join the back of the queue.

If you’re one of the lucky ones to fall outside this age range, then getting your number board should be a simple process. Juvenile and Grand Vets never have to wait in queues for sign-on.

Make sure to keep your eyes open and read the signs on the desks that indicate your race category. Getting in the right queue leaves you more time to do other things, like the next two points…

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