2013 EB sea otter XC zazoosh_990194248-medjpegHave you ever raced or does it scare you? Consider racing just to ride as your goal! You’ll challenge yourself, your skills and your fitness. Where else but a race can you enjoy following a stranger who’s just a little bit faster than you or share your secrets with someone a little slower? You’ll discover new trails and meet new riding buddies. You’ll try features you might not otherwise, and ride in weather you certainly wouldn’t ride in otherwise.

When I started riding, my closest friends were more interested in road riding. I had one or two mountain biking friends, but I felt embarrassed to ride with them as they were so fast.

So I signed up for my first cross-country mountain bike race. I went alone. It sounded like a fun excuse to go ride in a place I’ve never visited. To get there I drove to the middle of nowhere through ice and snow, turned right, and then drove another 30 miles.

Mudslinger 2013-croppedI found a lot of comfort out on the course. In a race all the turns are marked, so I wouldn’t get lost. Unless somebody messes with the signs… and that’s another story for a different day…

And I enjoyed having lots of people around because I wasn’t alone even when no one was riding my pace or right with me. I was nervous, but I figured if I made it to the start line on time, I’d have a fun day, no matter what. I even had to look up old race photos to figure out where the number plate went.

I’m used to riding in forests, so rolling grassland was a fun change. I crossed scary traverses littered with rocks and steep sections. Creeks, narrow bridges and more challenged my skills. I followed the course, gratefully acknowledging each arrow sign. I finished in 65 degrees and sunshine, a warm smile on my face, wiping off a completely different type of dirt than what I was used to.

The rest of that season I raced 8 different places in my own state. And the following year I couldn’t find the scary sections. The courses didn’t change but my riding did. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of dirt so close to home.2015 sturdy dirty Stage 4 roots

Before racing, I would not have experienced so many new and different types of trails. Now, I’ll happily detour for a ride when I’m on my way to someplace else. Now I enter races in different disciplines to challenge my skills… Enduro, downhill, next up is more slope style and dual slalom.

I gladly pay entry fees when part of the money goes back into the trail system or other good causes, and I seek out races with that goal. Riding is all about learning, new experiences and sharing the love of the sport with others. That’s why I race to ride!

Have you tried racing? Share your thoughts!

Photo credits: Zazoosh, Mudslinger Events, and Colin Meagher.