Today, mountain bike racing has evolved to include many different styles, both recognized and not recognized by the UCI. Thinking of signing up for a mountain bike race yourself, but confused by the variety of options out there? You aren’t the only one. Find out which style of mountain biking best suits you before you register for a race.
Here are some of the most popular types of mountain bike racing defined:
Cross-Country- Starting en masse, cross-country racers will pedal over various terrain—singletrack, double track, fire roads, etc.—on hardtail or full suspension mountain bikes. Depending on the class in which they race, riders may complete multiple laps before they cross the finish line.
Short Track- Short track is a very short cross country mountain bike race similar to a criterium, where racers ride several laps on a couple-minute race course. The event is typically fast and exciting for both participators and spectators alike.
Super D- Best described as a downhill cross country race, Super D is a mix between the two disciplines and is held on the type of downhill trails one would find on a cross-country course. However, atypical of a downhill race, Super D riders will encounter short uphill sections that require significant pedaling. Consequently, all-mountain/trail bikes are the bike of choice for most Super D riders.
Downhill- Downhill racers start at intervals, similar to a time trial. The racer with the shortest time wins. Downhill races are held on courses that are steep and technical, which leads to higher-speed racing. Racers wear full-faced helmets, full-body armor and compete on specific bikes equipped with long travel suspension and powerful brakes.
Four cross– As the name implies, this type of racing has four riders competing together on the same course. Racers leave from a starting gate and fighting for the best line is allowed. The first one across the finish line wins, therefore pushing and bumping is common. Four cross is similar to and inspired by both BMX racing and Dual-Slalom racing.
BMX- A sprint-type of race, BMX racing takes place on a manmade off-road race track that incorporates jumps, rollers and banked corners. Up to eight racers line up at a starting gate and compete at the same time on BMX-specific bikes, which are made for quick-handling. At the 2008 Summer Olympics, BMX racing became a medal sport under the UCI (International Cycling Union).