MTB Racing – innovate or die

Posted: March 15, 2011 in 2011, General
Tags: , , , ,

I have been kicking around the block for more years than I care to remember and I have done a fair bit of racing but, some years ago, I lost my ‘mojo’. Racing became a big turn off, whether it be on road bikes or on mountain bikes.

To an extent, racing on the road was always going to be restricted but as I saw it , and fervently hoped I would be vindicated, that mountain biking was going to be different…innovative, exciting, cutting edge and all that. At first it was, but that is mainly because I was new to the sport. Then it began to get dull. As Suffolk is not liberally sprinkled with hills or natural challenges, most of the local riding, and therefore racing, tends to be of the XC variety. Oooh, very exciting until you look at what we are actually doing – riding round in muddy circles as fast as we can. Sometimes the circles are quite big, sometimes they are quite small, sometimes they last for two hours and sometimes they last for twenty four. Riders are categorised by age and there’s a certain amount of self seeding involved when you get the chance to be a ‘fun’ or ‘sport’ rider. To be honest, there’s not a lot of innovation there.

I can only think of two races that have really tried to break the mould – the Singletrack Classic Weekender which mixes XC, trials and DH and the (now defunct) Slick and Knobbly – brainchild of Barry Denny at West Suffolk Wheelers which covered time trial, road race and mtb race over a weekend. Both had a discipline bias but they were different. I think other races had/have informal attempts at multi event meets but why not do something else (formally) for a change? By all means have your bog standard XC race but why not mix it up with a time trial (along a singletrack/fireroad/singletrack section, why not change categories so you can ride in weight classes as they do in the States (to give the fat boys a chance), how about building in a trials event , ‘special stages’ or similar, anything to introduce some variety? Fiddling about with the same format is dull, a bit like having the same thing for lunch each and every day. Race organisers take a lot by way of entry fees, why not pressure them to use their imaginations for once and give the punter something different?

Discussion would be welcome but there again, you may all have been conned into thinking the existing formats are the only ones available (I hope not!)

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