There's nothing quite like screaming down a singletrack on a crisp fall day—bright red and orange leaves crunching beneath your tires as you cut through the cool autumn air. Now picture riding with dozens of your closest friends or, better yet, a horde of fellow mountain bike racing fanatics.
Mountain bike racing is a "social event in which you'll meet a lot of other fun people who also like to ride bikes," says Nina Baum, a professional rider for more than10 years. It's also a "great opportunity to test yourself and find out what your strengths and weaknesses are."
Even if you don't want to race, the experience will introduce an entirely new set of cycling skills that will make those refreshing fall rides all the more enjoyable. Here's what you need to know to go from weekend rides to races.
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When Baum decided to start racing, she bought a book and coached herself through the first season. "Once the racing started I saw huge improvements," Baum said. But by the end of the season her early success did a U-turn. Overtraining and time-management proved to be more difficult than she'd first realized.
Instead of repeating her mistakes, Baum hired a coach for her second season of racing to develop a better plan.
"It gave me an objective outsider with whom I could discuss the intricacies of racing and training," says Baum, who recently placed tenth at the Mountain Bike XC (cross-country) Nationals event in Sun Valley, Idaho. "My learning curve steepened exponentially with the kind of input I was able to get. I'd highly recommend a coach for anyone looking to take their racing to the next level."