I’m sitting at the start line amongst a sea of hundreds of other jittery racers, bikes are revving and my heart is pounding so hard I think it might actually jump out this time! Then the thoughts flood in...
- How did I end up here?
- Am I crazy?
- What is everyone else going through in this moment?
- Are they hitting a max heart rate too?
Wait... think positive! I got this! Ride smooth. Smooth is fast. Relax. This is for FUN. Breathe. Just breathe. (And then maybe say a little prayer of sorts!)
The flag drops, bike starts and GO TIME! Adrenaline takes over.
Stay smooth, stay on the gas, keep it clean and breathe. This is my mantra, when I remember.
How to Prepare for Your First Dirt Bike Race
Have you ever considered racing but thought you aren't fast enough, you don't know the "rules," it takes too much time, how do I prep or what is the best race to start out with?
Racing can be extremely intimidating just to sign up for, let alone to prep for! Whether it is MX or off-road, there is a lot that goes into race prep mentally and physically outside of bike prep. There are a lot of unknowns for people who have never raced, or someone who has raced one discipline and wants to try another.
So, where do you start?
Likely, you have a preferred type of riding, off-road or motocross. In the off-road world there are several types of races available. Grand Prix, Harescramble, Enduro, ISDE Enduro, Cross Country, Hare and Hound, Sprint Enduro, Endurocross and Extreme Enduro. This gives loads of options to try and find what type of racing you’d prefer. In Motocross (MX), there are different styles as well, but typically Supercross and Arenacross are reserved for the pros.
The easiest way to try a race is to ask a friend who races or has raced in the past if they will go to the race with you. You can then pick their brain about bike prep and race nutrition tips. When race day comes, then you have someone who can show you the ropes! Don't have anyone like this? That's ok too! Most race promoters have a Facebook page. If you go to their Facebook page and make a post, surely there will be someone who will gladly help. This is particularly nice for when you pull into the pits before the race. Then you have someone to find and park with, even if you don't know them! Although their race prep may be more dialed in, even for the experienced racer showing up to a new venue, trying a different discipline or traveling solo can be intimidating!
By reaching out and asking for help, you will meet people, learn various ways of how people prep, and gain experience which will help you become more comfortable and confident each time you consider signing up for a race! It does get easier and you will build a community of people along the way who will welcome you each and every time you show up!
What are the benefits of racing? Other than experiencing competition as an adult, off road and motocross racing have benefits far beyond what I can fit into this blog!
1. You become a better rider
In a race, racers typically push beyond their normal pace, "race pace," and try things you may never have imagined you would before! With race pace there is an intensity that is shared between all the riders on the course, whether its your first race or you're a pro! We all have a common bond, shared experiences and memories, strengthening friendships on and off the bike.
2. Set Goals
Racing helps set goals! Fitness, nutrition and endurance are all parts of training to race! This of course doesn't mean that if you sign up for a race that you have to ride 7 days a week and hit the gym everyday. Racing may help you to motivate to make small changes that will increase your performance on the bike. For some, signing up for a race is what motivates them to hit the gym and get serious. You can make it what you want, in the end you are racing your own race!
3. Bike prep
Race prep generally takes more time and attention than a typical ride. The basics of making sure bolts are tight, brakes work, the throttle is smooth, filters are clean and tires are fresh are just a short list of things to consider. These are all things that should be noticed anyways, so what you may learn from race prep will actually keep your bike running better, longer.
4. Train harder
Seat time works. The more seat time you have the more comfortable on the bike you will be. Period.
Racing is certainly different than a trail ride or a practice day at the MX track! While the length and intensity is hard to mimic on casual rides, there are ways to get there. One way is to find a friend to ride with and challenge each other not to stop for a certain amount of time. You can continue to add length to your trail rides or sign up for back to back motos at the track, pushing through some discomfort. Discomfort seems to be the biggest thing a lot of riders deal with in any type of racing, arm pump being the most common along with mindset.
Pushing through discomfort, going faster and riding harder takes a lot of self talk and good mindset. Like physical training, the mindset can use practice too! It's not easy to just go out and flip the switch into the racer mindset. There are also a lot of great podcasts available from a variety of athletic backgrounds that can help with improving your mindset.
6. Ride more
More seat time, means more riding! Who doesn't want to ride more?!
7. Build community
The riding and racing community is unlike any other (I may be biased)! Through riding and racing you will meet like-minded people around the world to share experiences with! As adults, it seems more challenging to find people who have similar interests. Dirt biking is like being a kid again and getting to play with your friends. Take advantage of just that!
Whether it’s your first race or 100th race, signing up may be the hardest part! It's the commitment to all the things before you show up. Regardless of experience, lining up on the start line will bring you unexpected knowledge that you cannot find anywhere else on Earth!
In honor of International Women's Ride Day, I would like to encourage more women to sign up for a race this year! You may surprise yourself and get hooked!
About Kalyn: She has been riding and racing for 11 years. 5 years ago, Kalyn started Dirtastic with a vision to build a stronger community for female riders. That vision has since grown, now hosting several Skills Sessions and all female riding events on the West Coast with a team of 14 Dirtastic USMCA dirt bike coaches. Kalyn was a Toyota #Makeup2mud athlete in 2019. Kalyn strives to cultivate a platform where women build each other up, gaining confidence in themselves on and off the bike!