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Thread: XC Racing Tips

  1. #1
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    XC Racing Tips

    My son has taken up HS Mountain Biking and really loves it. Now he wants to try some of the local races in the off-season and I am thinking of joining him.

    Probably 3 hour races on 8+ mile XC trail loop. Nothing to technical from what I can tell.

    Any tips for starting racing after 50? I have never done it before. My thought was to get 2 laps in while my son does 3-4. Climbing is just the death of me.

    Also, I am in the need for a new bike, would you go XC Bike? or trail?

    IE Trek Top Fuel or EX? I tend to stay on the ground now as a preference.

    This would be in GA.

  2. #2
    Anytime. Anywhere.
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    I have never been to Georgia, and personally would not enter a xc race Generally I suggest buying a bike that will help improve your weak points, while still being suitable for the majority of your riding. I don't want to break it to you, but at 50, it is unlikely that you will be picked up by a pro team. Maybe something that is a bit slacker, but pedals well. The Top Fuel has a 70 head angle, which is pretty steep, even for a xc race bike.
    I got some bad ideas in my head.

  3. #3
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    Top Fuel with a 120mm 34. And a dropper. Still a sub-25lb bike you can take everywhere but the gnarliest of trails or jump lines.

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    Death from Below.

  4. #4
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    I wouldn't get a XC Race bike unless you are dedicated to racing.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ddoh View Post
    I wouldn't get a XC Race bike unless you are dedicated to racing.
    There's nothing inherently wrong with a short travel bike. It won't handicap a skilled rider.

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    Death from Below.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    There's nothing inherently wrong with a short travel bike. It won't handicap a skilled rider.

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    I agree. My primary bike is Niner Air Nine. however for more fun in more situations, I suggest more squish and gentler geometry. Easier overall on older bodies.

  7. #7
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    + 1 on an XC FS with a Dropper...great starter bike that will take the edge off and still keep you on your toes with learning the ropes (much like what a hard tail would do..only softer)
    MyRides - Santa Cruz Tallboy CC, Van Dessel Ramble tamble SS, Look 986 1x10,

  8. #8
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    I'm in Georgia and have a little racing experience. I ride short travel XC bikes, a 2014 Santa Cruz Superlight 29er and a 2006 Jamis Dragon 26er, though I raced a first gen Superlight.

    I would say the trails around metro Atlanta are pure XC and short travel is fine (my Dragon is only 80). But it wouldn't hurt to do some test rides to see what you prefer.

    As you probably know, the trails are very twisty and tight so passing and being passed can be a bit of an issue. I raced in the first duathlon at Rope Mill. I also raced in it this year, but just doing the running leg. They seemed to have done a better job spreading out the waves this year then they did when I raced the whole thing. But obviously you have to be prepared for the passing; people don't slow down to let each other by as much as they do when casual riding, you need to be prepared to take some alternate lines that you might not normally take. But most of the racers aren't super serious and are just out for a good time. I would give some thought as to are you wanting to be competitive or just have a good time and buy a bike that best meets that desire.
    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    Remember, there's always quilting and knitting if pedalling becomes too tough.

  9. #9
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    For most, I'd recommend just going and doing it with whatever you have, seeing how it is, then figuring out how you want to proceed.
    Do the math.

  10. #10
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    If you're just racing for fun, and want a bike that is good for everything I wouldn't buy an XC race bike. Look into bikes like the Santa Cruz Tallboy, Ibis Ripley, Pivot 429 trail, etc. Basically shorter travel 29ers in the trail category. These bikes are super efficient on the way up, and are confidence inspiring on the way down. If you get into going to the North Georgia mountains (which you totally should) they will be a blast. The Fuel EX also falls into this category, but is a bit more bike than the others i mentioned.

  11. #11
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    Since you're a newbie to racing, I think your best bet is to get out there and enjoy it. See if you can hit those 2 laps adequately. There's plenty of info out there about beginning the racing scene as well as improving your fitness at our age (50's).
    Stick around if you're housebroken...

  12. #12
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    +1 on FS with a dropper. Having one is great for all sorts of riding, training and for XC racing. I used to have HT and a FS 140mm and switched to FS XC rig + FS Enduro rig - I find it to be a more versatile setup for the type of riding I do. I have been racing road, CX and track + some XC within last 6 or 7 years and am shifting to race more XC and especially marathon XC in 2018 (the year I turn 50). For me the concept of racing is not just to race but to try to be better every time I do it and to continue feeding the passion through a variety of races, venues, people, ... Good luck with the plan - it might be a beginning of a huge love affair.

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    I am getting back into racing after a couple years away. Getting back into racing form is probably the most challenging aspect.

    Go out and enjoy it for what it is. Push for modest goals. We are mature enough to savor it for what we love.

    Okay, sometimes letting the 30ish rider kmow that he was passed by someone that is the age of his parents

  14. #14
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    Okay, sometimes letting the 30ish rider kmow that he was passed by someone that is the age of his parents[/QUOTE]

    Or Grandparents

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    I did the same thing this year. Never really rode a mountain bike much and never raced. My son started his freshman season in Feb/2017. After a few high school races I decided to start riding then started doing some XC races with my son. A few things I learned. 1) It takes a lot of riding before you start feeling comfortable riding and racing. I was racing dirt bike (motorcycles) cross country up to Feb/2017 so I was very comfortable with racing, dirt, speed but bikes are different. (I missed the motor!)
    2) You can race any kind of mountain bike but for me I wanted a light XC bike so I went with the Trek Top fuel 9.9. They only thing I didn't do which I should have was put a dropper post. I am getting one now. My son races a hard tail. 3) It look me awhile to learn clip-less. (Hit the ground many times) 4) I would recommend a skills training session for you and your son. (we went to Ninja) (Front lift, rear lift, cornering, manual, track stand) 5) Once we did a few races I learned how poor my conditioning was. I had to push a few times in races. (first race I wanted to quit after the first lap but I finished) 6) Get a Garmin with a heart rate monitor. Learn how to train with it. Also it was helpful to have it link into Strava. I could see my time for various ride segments over. It's helpful to know that I am improving on climbs, etc. As you get more into and improve your techniques and conditioning you will start seeing it in your results on Strava. I don't worry so much about people's times, just mine compared to previous rides. 7) We have lots of elevation where we live so at times it's nice to ride the road for longer, flat rides. So we have added cyclocross bikes in August. We have raced some cyclocross this fall. We noticed some of the top high school mountain bike racers are also doing cyclocross.
    8) You might be able to become one of the coaches for your son's team. Our team has over 30 racers so they need many ride coaches. Starting in January I will be a ride coach for the high school team. 9) Enjoy the experience. Please let me know if I can help with more information.

  16. #16
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    Lots of good advice here, def +3 for the XX duallly with a dropper - not uncommon for an XC course to put something in that needs a dropper for most riders (or otherwise a very slow section)

    For training, getting fit by riding with your son is probably a winner. Riding so hard to keep up that you feel sick is a good yardstick for someone who is gaining fitness - riders who never get out of d grade seem to never hurt themselves (exercise wise) . People who keep up no matter what and look like they are going to die at the top of the hill, end up getting heaps fitter.

    Sounds terrible, but its way more fun when you are fitterebcause you can make boring track into fun fast track.

    Personally, after reading all the stories on here I got myself an exercise stress test done and a colour Doppler cardio echo done around 48

    Oh and Duallys are great because you can sit for lots of the time



    All written by someone who is no longer fit......

  17. #17
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    Your fitness is what I'd work on. Hating climbing may be a symptom of lacking fitness. If you have a road bike they are very good for this. Maybe some time on an indoor trainer over the winter, if you can set it up. Focus on skills, being smooth and fun on mtb rides.
    I'd consider doing a beginner or first timer's race as opposed to racing with the aging experts in a master's race. It will be more fun and you'll learn more.

  18. #18
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    There's nothing inherently wrong with a short travel bike. It won't handicap a skilled rider.
    An XC bike isn't just a short travel trail bike, its an XC bike... and whereas Nino Shurter is pretty handy a dedicated hardcore XC bike is not much (as) fun out of its element in my experience.

    I have a Giant Advanced XtC I barely ride (I just keep taking my FS trail bike as I have more fun and my joints take less of a beating) ... though a younger friend keeps encouraging me to do a few races. I worry about my fitness (long story but I was ill 7 yrs ago)but to be fair I more or less keep up on the climbs when we have informal races (and he's the younger side of 50 and races regularly and I'm riding a heavy trail bike so I might not be so bad as I think.) I'd be kidding myself to say I actually keep up but I'm not that far off...

  19. #19
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    I'm into my 8th year of coaching/riding with the HS team.

    I think its very powerful for the coach to do some racing in the off season, both personally and for the message it sends to the kids. Lots more respect for your coaching when they see you going out and suffering once in a while.

    I have both a HT and FS. I've found that particularly on longer races I'm faster on the FS. When I ride the HT, I get strava PRs on the short climb segments. On the FS I get PRs on the longer loops. Also, the HT will leave me sore on training rides, which lengthens my recovery and ultimately results in less effective training. At this point my HT is just a back-up for when my FS is down and I use it as a mule for the trainer. I really like the trail FS bikes, as they typically have a lot of safety built into the handling. The additional performance you get from a FS XC bike is not usually worth the extra risk of a crash when you're old and it takes a long time to recover. The older I get the more I appreciate a more docile handling bike that will keep you upright when you over commit in challenging terrain.

    Can't say enough about the Wahoo Kickr/TrainerRoad combo. It will really help your fitness and is very conservative with your time. My son has been training on it for the last 6 months and will be going into his varsity year with better form and fitness then ever...by a mile. Trying to figure out how to deploy this with the team.

    You might want to also read Joe Friel's "Fast over 50" Lots of good tips on training for the elderly.

  20. #20
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    Take this as your opportunity to get fit, - while enjoying an activity with your kid.

    You can still get very good gains in fitness, and upcoming races can be a great motivator to get out and ride when you'd rather sit home.
    You will probably be surprised at how much better you will be at climbing after just a couple of months of consistent riding (with climbs of course).
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

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