soggy bottom final
Getting started in XC racing is really easy (pic © Simon Kirk)

Getting into mountain bike XC racing is extremely accessible and one of the easiest ways to dabble in the world of mountain bike racing. All you need is a working mountain bike, a helmet, a dollop of fitness and you’re a race number away from lining up for your first race.

XC mountain biking is perhaps the most popular discipline of the sport, with the first World Championship event taking place way back in 1990. Since then XC racing has continued to grow, with it being the only Olympic MTB sport. It’s surprisingly easy to make the leap from causal XC rider to XC racer, and race series are held all over the UK.

At races you'll find all abilities catered for, from the ultra-serious lyrca-clad Elites to the just-having-a-good-time Fun riders, and everything in between. If you’re just starting out you’ll find categories such as Beginners, Novice, or Fun perfect for first timers. Racing at this level will usually be just a couple of laps around a short circuit (usually 6-9km), and will most likely be less than an hour of riding.

As your fitness grows and you gain more experience, you can begin to move up the categories where you can expect to race more laps against a larger and more competitive field of riders. There will also be categories for younger and older riders alike, so the whole family can compete if they wish. As an added bonus, XC racing is one of the few sports where you can find yourself racing at the same time, on the same course, as national and Olympic contenders.

Racing XC races hones your fitness, with strength required to get up the hills and short bursts of acceleration to get over technical sections good for your aerobic system. It also develops your handling skills as well, with darting between trees on narrow singletrack, dodging rocks and dicing with other racers all adding to the challenge.

XC racers are held throughout the year, with many organisers hosting separate winter, spring and summer race series. There are plenty of local races, and many organisers run midweek evening races too. Find out what races are happening in your area in the Bikemagic Events Calendar.