Getting Started In MTB Racing

     Bogus Bomber Race 2001

Having spent A LOT of years in racing, primarily downhill as far as in the mountain bike world, I get asked quite a lot how to get started in racing, how to get sponsors, where to race, the equipment needed, that sort of thing. Here I cover the things you will want to do in order to get started off on the right foot.

The first thing is to ride. Ride that bike just as much as you can. Ride in every terrain and trail type that you can because no two race courses are the same. When you are done riding, ride some more.If you are looking at a 15 mile XC race, make sure that you can physically ride 15 miles off road and in various terrain. If you are looking at downhill racing like what I did, make sure you can physacally do a 3 to 12 minute “sprint” down the mountain.

You will need to get a racing license. A 1 day beginner class license can normally be bought at most events to see how you like racing and the racing scene in general. If you are racing more than 1 or 2 events a season or if you are going up in classes, you will want to get the season license at USA Cycling. You can find all of the rules and information on classes etc here too.

Since you are reading this to see how to get started in racing, you will need to start in the beginner classes for your age group. It does not matter how good a rider you are, riding is just not the same as racing and starting in a higher class will make you a danger to your self and to the others in the class you entered. Pay your dues, work your way up from the beginners. The sanctioning body when I was racing was NORBA and they had a great system for this. 5 top 5 finishes in 1 season got you moved up for the following season in any class through semi pro where 3 top 3 finishes got you into pro class. The courses get harder with each class as well, so it’s best to do it right and earn your way up.

Get in the gym for strength training. From beginner class all the way up, your competition will be in the gym training, and so once you’ve tried a couple races and have decided that this is what you want to do, you will need to be doing the same. Depending on how serious you take the racing, you will be looking at 2 to 3 days a week in the gym doing strength training and 3 to 4 days a week doing cardio on your bike. If the weather is nasty, get that bike time in on the stationary bike in the gym. In fact, what are you doing sitting down reading this? Shouldn’t you be on your bike or at the gym? Training should start a month or 2 before the season starts, depending on what level you are racing at and how serious you are taking it. At this point you will want to be looking at what you eat as well. Good nutrition plays a huge role in this. Jerry at Iron Built Sports Nutrition is the expert on this, and especially on sports nutrition suppliments. You can see my basic gym schedule HERE 

 Getting sponsors is a big thing in racing and there is a right way and a wrong way to try going about this. The first thing is that you will not be getting paid to ride at first, and for most people, you will not ever get paid to ride. Don’t ask for money, especially at first. The potential sponsors will only take this as an insult and pass you over entirely. At first in the beginner classes, you will be looking at local shop sponsors. They will have a jersey for you that you may or may not have to pay for depending on the shop’s particular program. That shop will give you support in the form of discounted parts and labor, and in helping to make certain that your bike is ready for race day. That is where you start. You will want to go to your regular local shop that normally do business with before the season starts and talk with them about riding on their team. That is your absolute best bet for getting sponsored. They will have the local race schedules and know where to get signed up etc. I do have the race schedules all HERE as well.

From there, you will be looking at bike related companies starting you out with most likely discounted parts and sometimes free. More often than not the parts will be just discounted. This is good for you in that racing is expensive and it saves you money and also normally gets you into better quality parts on your budget. The way you get these sponsors is to have already raced AT LEAST an entire season and to send them a race resume in October. They will already have their teams selected by the holidays, so you need to get your resume in their hands before that but not so early that they forget about you. October is the sweet spot. Keep the resume short, a page is all you really want. Tell them that you are racing in {XXX} class in the {XXX} series(es) and that you {XXX} goal for the season, and that you’d love to use their {XXX} parts to help accomplish these goals. Be certain to let them know how much fun you are having in racing and representing your sponsors as MTB racing is a family friendly sport and that is how these companies want to be represented. You will also want to put in EVERY single race result from the previous season, the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is important as it shows character. Pictures are a great thing to put in as well.

Now to keep those sponsors you will want to stay in contact with them through out the season, plug them on social media, thank them when you get on the podium or get lucky enough to be interviewed at the races, list them on your race entry forms as there will be announcers at most racers naming off racers and their sponsors as they start and or finish the races, and absolutely let those sponsors know how you did at EACH race or event and about how much fun you are having representing them. Jerry Vanderpool at Hippie Tech Suspension is the absolute king of this. He is ALWAYS on Facebook letting the public know who sponsored him or kept him on their team, what fork or shock he’s testing on what bike, what gear he’s been sponsored with, the works. He always has good positive posts about how much fun he’s having racing, testing parts, repairing suspension parts, and the like. We could all learn a great deal from how Jerry does this. Props to Jerry for doing it absolutely right!!!

The things to avoid are acting like the arrogant biker or racer. No one likes these guys, not even the other arrogant bikers. This is a family friendly sport and we have to remember that. Don’t be wearing your race gear and doing the bump and pass move on your local trails at race speed. Acting like an ass here is a great way to get trails shut down and to lose sponsorships.

This should all get you off on the right foot. From there just ride that bike, train hard, race hard, and most importantly, HAVE FUN. See you on the podium.

Mt Hood State Games 2003