Is racing and mountain biking the same thing?

I just got back from the US Nationals this weekend where I got to see Aaron Gwin defend his title in the Pro DH race. Two years racing and two national titles…not bad for the kid that is definitely the future of US DH racing.

I also saw my original pro client, Rich “Big House” Houseman, come back and get 2nd in the pro Mountain Cross final. Rich hasn’t raced much since his little girl was born (I know how that can change your priorities!) but he did pull of the move of the night in the semis. He washed out in a corner with Ross Milan hot on his tail, got a foot down to keep himself upright and miraculously got back on track while keeping Ross from passing. Words can not describe how bad ass that move was and I have to think it felt good to knock his former Yeti teammate out of the finals.

Racing at that level is great to watch but it got me thinking about something that has crossed my mind once or twice…is mountain biking and racing the same thing?

For example, when you have a section on an XC course where it is faster to get off and run than it is to pick your way through it and there is no penalty for dismounting, is that really mountain biking?

Or when you have a kid who has gotten directly into DH racing and has no ability to pedal a bike up anything or navigate a trail without at least 7 inches of suspension, is that really mountain biking?

Or when you have a guy who comes from a BMX background and can rip a BMX inspired mountain cross track but can’t do as well on a rough mountain bike inspired course or even get out and ride a trail, is that really mountain biking?

Don’t get me wrong…as a former track athlete I know the thrill of lining up against other people to see who is the best man, or woman, on that day. I just think that there is a bit of a disconnect between the “soul food” that I feel mountain biking gives us and the racing mindset that some riders have all the time.

I don’t really know that I have a point with this post, just some thoughts I’ve had. I’d be interested to to hear your thoughts on it…

-James Wilson-

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  1. Joe says:

    Hey James.. couldn’t agree more. Mountain biking for me is a sense of adventure. Winding around a single track high on the ridge, solo.. when the sun is setting is something to behold 🙂 The successful mountain biker, IMO, is the one that knows “why” he/she is mountain biking and stays true to those principles… instead of following the herd.

    Great site and excellent articles.. keep up the good work !

    Reply • July 20 at 7:58 pm
  2. mihai says:

    Ive been doing some 2 day XC track and for a good period of time i had to dismount and got me thinking about what you say here. Dismounting the bike gave me some time to check out the landscape, a thing which racing does not allow you to do, and what good is to go to mountain for biking if you dont take some time to actually see it. Pushing the pedals can be done at home also.

    I actually had all sort of activities with the bike on the mountain like: pedaling uphill, pushing the bike, carrying the bike on my back on very steep slop, carry my bike on my back through a river for 500m, some downhill.

    Reply • July 21 at 12:26 am
  3. Lucas says:

    I think racing is a great part of Mountain Biking but not the only thing that’s great in it. For example the adventurous feeling you get in some regions while riding your bike in the middle of nowhere or the heroic feeling when you clear a section you were never able to ride before, even if it would have been faster to walk.

    And if you take a look at some top athletes in DH, they’re just one with their bikes and are capable of a lot more than just racing on long travel. In their training they go on pump tracks, dirt bikes, do long rides on xc bikes and even if it’s just training, I don’t think they could do it without feeling the “spirit” of it.

    Reply • July 21 at 6:03 am
  4. me says:

    One thing to think about is that Mountain Biking means different things to different people. What works for one as their “soul food”, might be a bit to spicy for the other and vise versa… Now I don’t think a kid that rolls around town and only rides DJ’s and skate park is a mountain biker. But if they are in the mountains, on or off the bike, racing or not, then I think it’s mountain biking.

    Reply • July 22 at 9:50 am
  5. Fabricio says:

    Hi friends… I think that the essence of all the riding is “Fun”… if you have fun going fast in downhill race, fun in a 4X track, fun in a XC course, fun in a 24hr race or fun in a long riding journey, the difference is “Cero”…. the difference between racing and not racing is how much you can turn your stress in more fun. All we know when you are under racing you push your limits and many times we did things that we tough impossibles in a normal riding day, so the next day after the race, or even just after arriving to the finish line, you can see all the people smiling and commenting all the things done and never tried…. that’s real fun.


    Reply • July 22 at 11:44 am
  6. The Real Rob says:

    After years of being one of those DH-only riders, I’ve discovered that XC and triathlon racing is something I really like. It’s a lot of fun, and forces you to develop new skills. Long live new skills.

    Reply • July 23 at 5:30 pm
  7. Ole says:

    You need a rigid SS man 🙂

    Reply • September 16 at 11:48 pm
  8. Flatlander says:

    THANK YOU for your writing! For so long now, I’ve struggled with the assumption that if I’m “into” riding, then I must be into racing. I find those who devote a large portion of their lives to riding are of the race persuasion.

    I consider myself competitive, but feel I’ve come full circle on the race thing (been/done that…). I feel this race crazed majority really only represents a small facet of the “true” rider cross section. Often, they’re doing it for the wrong reasons (glam, matching spandex, identity, bling bike, rep & hierarchy).

    Here’s a 2010 toast to the MTB event: Festivals, symposia, gatherings, rides, shows, trail building sessions, tours, epics, and yes, races.

    Reply • January 7 at 6:13 pm

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