With the progression of mountain biking over the past decade, many disciplines of racing and riding have emerged. While time on the bike is always fun, pushing strength and endurance isn't just limited to marathon and cross country riding. There's more to single-track life than you think, and equally (if not more) challenging to your fitness level and most certainly your technical abilities. If you're a trill seeker, adventurer and someone that loves a challenge, then you should read on... Maybe the less timid trail riding, enduro or downhill trails might just be what you've been after to spice up your riding.
S O W H A T E X A C T L Y A R E S O M E O F T H E D I F F E R E N T C O M P E T I T I V E
D I S C I P L I N E S O F M O U N T A I N B I K I N G ? W E E X P L O R E 3 M O D A L I T I E S T H A T A R E C U R R E N T L Y R I S I N G I N P O P U L A R I T Y .
The basic definition for this style of racing is a mountain bike race where the downhills are timed but not the uphills. The downhills are referred to as stages, and a race typically consists of 3-5 stages in a day, up to 8-9stages over 2 days.Winning times are calculated only on the downhill race total. The uphill 'transfers' between the stages do not count towards the overall timing. Having said that, riders are given abroad time frame to finish the entire race which consists of both up and downhill.
The enduro terrain contains more technical sections to navigate than your average marathon or cross country race, all done at much higher speed – since you have gravity and bike style in your favour. Typically consisting of gnarly rock gardens, windy trails with berms, drops and jumps,the enduro rider requires a certain skill-set and confidence to deal with this technical terrain. Thankfully, pretty much everything comes with a B-line (except many of those darn rock gardens) so even entry-level riders can cut their teeth on this.
Bike: Full suspension,something with enough travel to soak up the terrain. Typically starting at 140mm of travel on front/rear is advised. Wider tyres with lots of grip to handle aggressive terrain, this is after all the contact point between your bike and the ground. Wide handlebars to give you more responsive steering.Kit: Protective gear includes body padding (knees,elbows) and for most; full-face helmets and goggles.
It's exactly that, racing downhill. Riders are timed from the top to bottom and the measure is how well they navigate everything between the top and bottom of the run. Featuring steep terrain coupled with speed, jumps, drops, rocks and roots, downhill is definitely the pinnacle of MTB racing.
Not for the fainthearted or anyone suffering from vertigo. A typical downhill race run ranges from 1-3km long. While you might think it's easy since no pedalling is involved, it's time to adjust your outlook. DH is extremely technical,and requires full body strength combined with good fitness levels. (Racing at pace, heart rates are right up over 85% of threshold for the entire sprint down the mountain). Average track top-speeds from competitive female riders are up to 60km/h, and that's over rocks and jumps,and gradients the average person would generally struggle walking down.
Bikes: These bikes are tougher and heavier, boasting around 200m of travel on both front and rear suspension. The geometry of the bike setup is also more slack, and even wider handlebars are used for more responsive steering. Tyres are wide,tough, heavy and extra grippy for more traction.Tyre selection also varies based on race-day weather and track conditions.Kit:Protection is key. Full-face helmets and protective eyewear, long-sleeves, and all the padding; knees,elbows, shins, body armour(chest/back/shoulders), and for some a neck or backbrace.
Here enters the most common discipline of mountain biking. Competitive International XCO comprises of more technical terrain than what we often associate with the popular marathon MTB races in South Africa. It's not jeep track and long windy roads, but rather laps on a short track of a mixed technical terrain with varying gradients (and here you do pedal uphill).
That said, unless you're planning on attending an international event,generally most of the“cross country” races presented in SA are actually marathon races,and relatively tame in comparison, unless they are true XCO events.
Relatively easy-to-enter this discipline, all you require is a bike and helmet coupled with loads of enthusiasm and a relatively good level of fitness.
Bikes: Both hard tail and full suspension bikes are used in cross country, average width handlebars and the general setup associated with mountain biking.
WRITTEN BY: TANJA SCHMITZ @life_as_tanja PHOTO CREDIT TO: CORY SCHMITZ & MICHAEL ALLEN