Not into those super-serious, everyone-in-Lycra competitive events? That’s OK. There are other reasons to consider rolling onto a starting line.
We know that skin tight suits, starting line jitters, and mid-race gels aren’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you should write off the idea of doing a mountain bike race. Races can be much more about pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and being part of the community than they are about winning and losing. Plus, there’s a race out there for every type, whether you’re into flowy cross-country trails or enduro races. USA Cycling has some tips on signing up for your first race, which starts with identifying the type of race you want to do, making sure you have the right gear, and finding the right race for you. And if you want to rock that race-ready kit, we make those now, too.
Need a reason to sign up for a mountain bike race? We have a few.
Explore a New Zone
Most of us ride the same damn trails every time we get out on our bikes. Which is fine, but there’s something fun and exciting about discovering trails you haven’t ridden before. Signing up for a mountain bike race will get you into a whole new world of trails—make a road trip out of it or pick a destination you’ve always wanted to go to (Bentonville? Oakridge? Kingdom Trails?). TrailForks has a list of upcoming events and BikeReg is a good place to start, too.
Push Yourself to Ride Harder
Unless you’re exceptionally self-disciplined, chances are signing up for a race will get you to go a little farther or a little faster than you’d do on your own. Sign up for that 60-mile race and your weekend rides will get a touch longer. Come up with your own training plan (or don’t, that’s on you) or if you need help, find an online program or hire a coach who will create a custom training plan for you. MTB Coach or Mountain Fit can help.
Make New Friends
You know that guy you just rode 30 miles alongside on race day? Looks like you’re the same pace, so maybe that’s a new riding buddy. Or maybe in training, you join up with a local riding group—IMBA has a good network of local groups or ask at your local bike shop if they organize group rides. The point is: Signing up for a race forces you to ride with other people, and that can be good for all of us.
Support a Good Cause
A lot of trail races raise funds for local organizations that contribute to trail building, environmental protection, and other causes. The Lost & Found Gravel Festival in California, for example, raises funds for the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, or the 65-mile off-road Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Bike Ride raises funds for children’s charities in northern Arizona. If you do Colorado’s legendary Leadville Trail 100, you can add a charity contribution to your race entry.
Not all races need to be hyper serious. Some are basically costume parties on bikes, followed by a BBQ (see: Park City’s Tour des Suds or Arapahoe Basin’s Reverse Enduro). Flylow athlete Dillon Osleger wrote a great list of mountain bike races for people who don’t like mountain bikes races, which includes fun-centric events and festivals.
Feel Accomplished Afterward
Yup, this is really why we race. That feeling afterward when the hard thing is done and you get to jump in a lake, drink a cold beverage, eat some good food, hang out with friends, and sleep well that night, knowing you’re tougher than you gave yourself credit for.