Cross country mountain bike racing

Cross country mountain bike racing

Cross country (XC) involves racing your mountain bike over a set course against other riders. Depending on your ability, and the category you ride in you will race over a set number of laps for perhaps anything from 20 minutes for a fun race to over two hours for elite events.

 Cross country racing is the most popular side of the competitive mountain biking, and it is now an Olympic discipline. Most courses are a combination of climbs, descents and flats. The surfaces are also likely to change from race to race and over the length of the course, from mud to sand to hard trails.

XC races are 'mass start' but riders are divided into age and ability categories. Each category is also divided into men and women. The standard splits are:


If you have the equipment to ride off road, then you have the equipment to race XC. The only requirements are a reliable bike and a helmet.
  • Youth, under 16 years
  • Junior, under 19 years
  • Senior, 19 to 29 years
  • Master, 30 to 39 years
  • Veteran, 40 + years

There are a number of different types of XC races:
  • Mid week races, local evening competition
  • Local races
  • One off races, such as the Cheddar Challenge
  • Race series
  • Regional series
  • National series
To find out the details of venue, race times, entry fees and the organisers details you can go to a number of places: Event listings on TOD or other internet site, magazines often have a calendar of events, local clubs and bike shops will know of events, or visit British Cycling Federation.

The BCF is the governing body of mountain biking in the UK. They run a National Series and individual race organisers can also register their events with the BCF. If a race is BCF registered it should be of a certain [high] standard. To ride in a BCF sanctioned event you will need to have a BCF racing license holder, however you can purchase a day license when you register. 

The BCF is the governing body of mountain biking in the UK

Once you have found a race you can pre-enter (usually two weeks in advance) or enter on the line. If you enter on the line there is the possibility that the race may be full, however this is unlikely. There will be separate races through out the day, so make sure you know your start time and arrive in plenty of time to sign on.

Specific equipment

If you have the equipment to ride off road, then you have the equipment to race XC. The only requirements are a reliable bike and well-fitting helmet. Ensure that your bike is safe and reliable as when you race it will take a hammering. You are likely to need to drink in your race, you will not have time to stop, so you must do this on the move. Fit a good bottle cage on your bike and get a couple of water bottles. Good investments are gloves, shorts and shoes.

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