Where are all the XC racers???
I did some serious racing back in high school and college; road, track MTB - if it had 2 wheels I tried racing it. Skip forward 20+ years and I decided to jump back into mountain bike racing.
Looking at the race schedules, this should be a perfect time to jump back into racing. There are plenty of races listed in Nor Cal. Heck, the CCCX series is less than an hour from my home, the courses aren't too difficult and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.
Only one problem - where the heck are all the racers???
The 1st round had some decent numbers, but attendance has dwindled from there. The turn out for round 7 last Sunday was...well pathetic is the only word I can think of. At a quick glance my class (Cat 3 45-54) was one of the bigger classes with a monster turn out of 9 riders. We might see 1 or 2 new racers a round, but it's almost always the same core group.
The ladies classes are even worse - my girlfriend has raced 2 of the rounds as the only rider in her class. Racing by yourself isn't much fun and a 1st place participation trophy is more insulting than it is rewarding.
Looking at the results from some of the other local races isn't much better. How many people race the Lake Sonoma series? I'd love a mid-week race like the Folsom series, but I'm stuck in the Southbay.
So what's the deal? New riders scared off by sandbaggers in the beginner classes (one of my pet peeves)? Too many competing races series' drawing from the same rider pool? Am I just missing the more popular and better attended races?
I spent the last 10 years racing motorcycles and getting used to having 400+ riders on the course for bigger events like the VCGP. Rolling around a course alone isn't exactly the motivation I need to keep pushing.
??? Probably just out riding instead.
Wait whuuut, who did he tell you that!?!?....
Come up to Annadel in August for the Bike Monkey race. 700 people in a mass start. 30 miles and there is somebody on your elbow pretty much the whole time. You don't want to miss it.
I think that the CCCX series has too many races this year (10) to entice people to keep coming back. It's also pretty much the same course, either Toro park or Fort Ord. I think the turn-out would be higher if there were only 6 races in the series, and more variation in the location, such as only 2 in Fort Ord, 2 in Toro Park and 2 elsewhere (Santa Teresa or Henry Coe?). Another consideration for the organizers is to let people pay for the entire series up front at a discount to give them an incentive to attend all six races.
If you want to have a lot of competitors in your race, you can always go to the Sea Otter Classic, Napa Valley Dirt Classic or Downieville XC.
Also known as Menso's dad.
I can only speak for myself based on my own experience, but here are some answers:
1) It's hard for me to justify driving nearly 3 hrs (roundtrip) to race a 1-1.5 hr CCCX race (as a Cat 3). The 9 AM start time doesn't help either. If there was a race series that was more local to the San Jose/South Bay, I'd be more inclined to make it a regular thing. Note that there have been several attempts in recent years (SB Racing, SVEndurance, etc.) to do something like that but the turnouts were considerably worse than CCCX.
2) Check out a race put on by Bike Monkey (e.g. Annadel, Boggs, etc.) - they appear to be very popular.
3) For motivation, join Strava and try not to kill yourself or anyone else in the process
4) Your sandbagger comment is an interesting one... what exactly is a Cat 3 beginner anyway? In your own words you "did some serious racing" in the past - I probably wouldn't want to race against you as a Cat 3 beginner myself.
I wonder if the demographic of mountain bikers in 1993 was a bit different than now. The motivation for mtb was deeply personal and not a result of marketing and mainstreaming. Thekinds of guys who rode were very different than today.
Back then we started at 7 AM and rode till noon. It was hard to get a group going before 11 in the AM and then the single guys were either racing or they just wanted to diddle around and drink beer all day.
Jobs, families and such for those in the 30-50 year range. Maybe those guys just did their racing, had enough, and decided to do something else on a bike. I know lots of riders who have plaques and trophies in the shed just like me. I used my last competitive juices to train racers and that got old. Racing? Done that.
There's still racing out there. Check out Downieville Classic in August - will not dissappoint.
Prairie City Race Series here in Folsom had great turnout this year. That's a bit to drive for you.
Racing demographics are interesting - the young classes are pretty sparse but the High School races have a huge turnout.
I'm back into racing after a 10 year hiatus and it's a blast. More fun than when I did it years ago even.
Agree not having anything in the southbay really sux. Also, i am at that age where i really need to focus on my career and make something out of my degree. With kids is even harder.
I used to train close to 200 miles a week in high school. These days my rides are two miles straight up, get it done quick so i can address other things that need addressing
Is funny it is always the old guy that has the nice bike but hardly rides it. The young kids wish they have better rides but end up riding their huffy to death
Ha - I wish I was fast enough to be considered a sandbagger. 20 years worth of wear and tear + way too many injuries = constantly pulling up the rear of the cat 3 class. Maybe a different matter if I was road racing or hitting up the velodrome, but MTB racing has changed dramatically.
A sand bagger to me is someone who consistently wins or podiums in a skills class and refuses to move up. I've seen it in every form of racing and never understood the drive to win a meaningless trophy. I've always been a fan of mandatory pointing out in skills based racing. Make a ceremony out of it and bump them up a class. Keeps the beginner classes free for new riders to get their feet wet.
Originally Posted by burndtjamb
Some of the old guys are bloody fast. Check the cat 3 results from any of the CCCX rounds - the 45-54 men are consistently among the fastest overall.
Originally Posted by Loll
I'd of thought that the 30-50 class would be among the smallest given family and job requirements - but the turnout at the races say otherwise. Maybe its more of a generation thing?
Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike
After retiring from as a Professional Motorcycle racer at the end of 2007 I've raced random races over the past few years based on friend pressuring me to come out. I'd show up to one or two races a year and get turned off by the stronger less skilled riders sprinting down the fire roads only to hold me up in the fun sections of the course. It didn't help that I was on a AM bike racing expert open with only running as my base of training. I've always been a fast(skill-wise) mtber but my local trails suck so I don't ride much and thus I was always a little weak. I guess I could have dropped to sport class but then I'd have been the ultimate sandbagger and that's never my style. So up through 2013 when someone would ask me if I want to go to a XC race, I'd have flashbacks of being pissed off because I was stuck behind some guy on a descent who couldn't get off his brakes. I know exact case is probably a bit rare but it's the reason you would see me at one or two race at the start of a season then never again. It was no ones fault, just my poor expectations and demeanor I guess.
Fast forward to 2014 and I've built a dedicated XC race rig in the form of a carbon Single Speed. I still get bent when stuck behind slower riders on the fun descents since I'm no slower on this bike vs my older AM bike but......I'm much stronger(physically) as a cyclist then I ever was. This means I can work through the pack faster and get held up less on fun parts of the course. I was skeptical entering the TBF races earlier this year thinking it would be the whole sour experience all over again but surprisingly I had much more fun then in the past. Those first couple races was all it took to get me hooked and all I want to do I race every day against faster riders.
As for your comment of lack of diversity in race venues. Well each and every person has themselves to blame for nor making the drive to distant races to explore new areas. Yeah I get that gas is expensive, that's why I got a motorcycle that gets 55mpg and mounted the mtb to it. That's why I do everything in my power to carpool with friends to any race any time.
Races start to early well as someone who wake up a 3:30 every morning for work your 9am and my 11am races start to damn late but hey we take what we can get.
So in 2014 alone I've done
3-TBF XC races
6-CCCx XC races
3-Boggs (8hr solo,HC,SD)
2-Temecula 12hr solos
1-national 100 miler
1-Mesa Verde 12hr solo
8-Prairie City series race
that's 27 races so far this year in three different states so I think most people just need to change their expectations or perspective a bit in order to have more fun. Because if your not having fun then what's the point in coming back.
As a side note I still don't train for any of my races, I hardly even ride my bike unless I'm racing it but I've still managed to go from mid expert class to front local Pro class just by racing all the time instead of training. I guess you could look at it as me paying for a personal trainer week in and week out but its just my addiction.
Next year when I get a bike worthy of this, I doubt I'll have much drive to race XC
Originally Posted by ryanxj
I signed up and paid to race PC this year then promptly broke myself and couldn't race a damned race. Still took the kid out for the kid races and she had fun... Look forward to 40-49 beginner next year
My neighbor normally races that series but I think a growing family cancelled it for him this year. Life happens...
I had to relocate after the economy dived in 2008. I had to move to my cabin in Arnold which my full time residence. you couldn't even give me free rent to move back to the city. it is a changed placed, some say for the better I only use it for business and when I am home its like I am on vacation. you can have the city. I have not raced since because I am so sick of driving. Can't justify for a $100+ day gas/entry just to race around a circuit in Folsom or Monterey. The promoters are doing their best. There are some great grass root races going on but have not had a chance to do. My favorite races include grass roots underground, bike monkey and big foot. Favorite race courses include Humbug, Weaverville, Whiskeytown, old school cx races at SCCX @ the lumber mill and ranch off Swanton road, dfl races, grasshopper, anything bike monkey, Gianni West Pole Cross Series and some selected Velo Promo road races from the 90's. It comes down to courses for me and the last really cool race I missed appeared to be the Lost & Found. I like the murphy mack stuff but driving to Fort Bragg after a minimum 60 hour week, these days I would rather catch up on sleep and ride Bear Valley, Pinecrest or anything else with an hour. It is hard to justify racing these days and the guys who travel state wide and across state to race amaze me. More props to them.
My only hope for racing since 2008 were the cross races in Livermore, really liked those but those are gone too.
Same goes for us East Bay dwellers: Folsom & Ord/Toro are both a hair over 100mi each way. I signed up for the Folsom Breakout 3 race series a few years ago, and made it to the first one. It was fun, but I'd forgotten how far Folsom was from home and bailed on the next two events.
Originally Posted by Loll
Props to Carlos and Bike Monkey: Been to Boggs 8-hour the last 4 (or 5?) years now - each have been sold out well in advance. The experience is a quality one even for us slow pokes. They do a consistently great job organizing this event, and so my ears are perked up for otehr BM events now; The Annadel race is still on my radar - wedding obligations have so far kept me from taking a crack at it. Hopefully this year.
I have a soft spot for the Cool Race too (put on by Auburn Bike Works) as it was my first official race experience (hard to forget 6" of snow!). It's a bit of a haul, but the energy is always positive and the course is always fun. The weather and conditions are always... interesting.
As for a race series, it'd need to take place within 100mi round trip for me to even consider it. Otherwise, as others have said, life gets in the way.
Enduro: Sounds great, but one would need even more coin and free time for these events, as they're spread out much further than are the XC races, no? This brand of racing isn't in my near future.
 Oh yeah: They're all on Strava now.
I think there are a few good reasons: I'm an east coast transplant and been riding for 20 years.
1. Races are far in comparison to back east. This takes up time and resources (gas is no longer $1 a gallon). I bet if the Peninsula had a 4 race series it would do very well.
2. So many more disciplines. Maybe too many as I think what some of what you are see in his dilution.
3. The guys racing in the early 90's now have jobs, family and most importantly MONEY!
We can ride in circles or go on trips! This year is BC Bike Race for me. Two years ago it was St. George/Hurricane/North Rim. I think this is the reason why you see Sea Otter/Downiville with large turn outs. These are destination races. A real reason to go other than just racing. Races like Sea Otter are events you can take the whole family to.
This goes back to #2, but also guys tend to move from XC to endurance as the years go on. Its hard to stay in XC shape, and much easier to do endurance events. The scene is usually more relaxed and the races become events. Multi day camping, bring the family, kids races and usually so much more. Easy to make a little weekend get away for the family.
4. This is a really competitive area! I mean super competitive. I do think there is an intimidation factor. How many per race? Probably not many, but I bet it stops a bunch of beginners from showing up.
I'm sure there are a bunch of other reasons, like poorly run races, bad promoters, poor marketing. Heck I've been here 4 years now and just learned about the CCCX races 2 weeks ago. I don't race anymore, but I keep my eye open for events to do.
First year I was here I did SoNoMas. Great race, good turn out and well run, but not a destination race by any means. I haven't been back as there was nothing that jumped out at me as a must do.
The biggest thing for me is the venue. If I'm going to drop a hundred bucks or more on a race weekend it has to be somewhere special and rad like Ashland or Downieville...not Fort Ord. Also, if you have a crew of strong riders on your regular rides most of the time it will break out into a race anyway.
Interesting take about the 30 to 50 crowd is that they tend to represent the largest fields..
Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike
How many people solely have XC bikes these days? In the late 80's/early 90's almost every mtb was essentially the same geometry which was suitable and geared toward XC racing. Now there's like 15 different sub-categories of bikes and I would guess the majority of avid riders are less likely to ride a truly XC bike for fun. I've got one mtb and it's a 35lb, 6+ inch travel bike on 2.5 tires. My options are pay $70+/- to go get smoked by a bunch of guys on 22lb. hardtails at Ft. Ord or ride way better trails in the SC Mountains for free.
Where are all the XC racers???
Also, a simple thing overlooked here - Sunday happened to be Father's Day.
Half the planet is deep into bloody tribal mayhem. We’re just riding bikes (and drinking beer) here.
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