Racing FAQ

Interested in what MiSCA has to offer but still have some questions. Feed your curiosity. Get familiar with our programs and offerings!

Why would I want to race?
What kind of mountain bike races are there?
Do I need a racing license?
What are the rules during the race?
What should I carry on my bike?
What kind of support is there on the course?
When should I arrive at the race?
Should I pre-ride the course?
When should I pre-ride?
What is cyclocross racing?

Still want more information, contact us at info@micabike.org.

Why would I want to race?

Everyone has their own reasons for racing: speed, camaraderie, competitiveness (with yourself and others), social aspects, spectating, kids races, a point series, pain, challenge, awards, beautiful courses, motivation for training, fitness, etc. The racing experience will inevitably provide memories of accomplishment, whether you won a race or just suffered harder than you thought you ever could just to see that darned finish line.

You’ll have stories of good luck, bad weather, and pain. The challenges you’ll battle on the race course will certainly put perspective on the lesser challenges of your everyday life. Invariably, you’ll find yourself alongside someone who is the same speed as you. You’ll go back and forth during the race, exchanging handshakes or congratulations at the finish.

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What kind of mountain bike races are there?

There are several types of events: time trials, cross-country, point-to-point, and endurance events

In a time trial, racers start one or two at a time at separated intervals (every fifteen seconds, for example). The events are usually 12 to 20 miles for all categories. This race format is preferred on courses that don’t offer much room for passing. Time trials are a good choice for first-time racers as you are primarily competing against the clock. In a time trial, you don’t know how your competition finished until all racers are in from the course and the results are posted.

In the cross-country format, racers are started in waves based on their race category (e.g. Varsity Men). Most cross-country races involve multiple laps. The number of laps is based on the race category (e.g. 4 laps for Varsity, 3 for JV, and 2 for Middle School). When you line up at the start line, your immediate competition is lined up with you. Basically, the first racer across the finish line is the winner. To avoid confusion and congestion on the course, the classes may not race on the course at the same time.
Some cross-country races are point-to-point, which means the start and finish lines are far apart. Endurance events will generally be lap-type events and the winners are the racers that complete the most laps within the allotted time (6 hours, 12 hours or 24 hours).

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Do I need a racing license?

No, a license is not required. For other events, a UCI or USAC license may be required. Check with the promoters of other events for this requirement. For the races that do require licensing, refer to the USA Cycling website for fees and application information.

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What are the rules during the race?

Most Michigan races generally follow the standard USA Cycling rules for mountain bike racing. MiSCA has some unique rules pertaining to its races.  Always refer to the promoter materials for any given event and rules that may be specific to that race.

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What should I carry on my bike?

The answer depends on how much risk your willing to take. If your bike works flawlessly, you may only need water and, depending on the race distance, some form of nutrition. However, if you get a flat tire and don’t have the tools, your race might be over. Most racers carry a spare tube and either a pump or CO2 cartridges. You may want to carry tire levers, though in a pinch, you can use a quick-release handle. A multi-purpose tool can be invaluable, especially if it includes a chain tool. Quick tube patch kits are small and may come in handy for dealing with multiple flats. You don’t want to learn how to use your tools on the racecourse. It’s a good idea to learn how they work in advance rather than fumble with them during a race.

Standard mountain bike racing rules stipulate mountain bike racing is an individual event. While other racers are courteous and will often offer tools and materials to a racer suffering a mechanical issue or flat tire, technically, a mountain bike racer should be self-sufficient. Help is NOT allowed from support crew or spectators.

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What kind of support is there on the course?

Depending on the race, there may be water, sports drink, or food offered. If you’re relying on that support, make sure you know where it is on the course and what will be offered.
Also, you should be cautious when counting on a sports drink you have not tried before. You do not want an upset stomach to ruin your moment of glory.

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When should I arrive at the race?

That varies depending on whether you want to pre-ride the course, if you’re already registered, etc. It’s best to err on the early side and not waste energy racing to get to the starting line.  You’ll want to leave extra time for getting in the park and registering.

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Should I pre-ride the course?

Yes, but only if it’s practical. Pre-riding a course offers numerous advantages, especially if you’ve never ridden it before. It’s always best to know what to expect in advance. You’ll want to know the best lines on the loose climbs and in the more technical areas, where the finish line is as well as the good places for passing. The better you know the course, the better you can gauge where you are and how much effort you can expend to get to the finish. Pre-riding also lets you test your equipment, such as your tire selection, tire pressure, and suspension setup.

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When should I pre-ride?

Often times you can arrive early and pre-ride the course before your race start, however this may be impractical or not-allowed if others are racing before you. This may also be impractical if the course is very difficult or is a point-to-point race. Another option is to pre-ride the course before race day. Most of the multi-lap races held on public land are available for pre-riding. Some of the races on private land may be accessible as well. Typically, courses are not marked until one or two days before the race.

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What is cyclocross racing?

Cyclocross was originally a winter training regimen for European road racers. The short courses, barriers, and group dynamics make cyclocross races exciting to watch. It involves riding laps on short courses which area combination of dirt, pavement, and grass. There are wooden barriers set up throughout the course. These barriers force riders to dismount, carry their bikes, and remount as fast as possible. These barriers were originally added to force the cyclists to run, which helped keep their feet warm. These races are multiple laps and are based on time. Beginners typically race for 45 minutes while others race for an hour. The race promoter rings a bell when there is one lap remaining.

Cyclocross bikes look like road bikes with fatter tires and mountain bike brakes. However, you can certainly do the cyclocross race on a mountain bike (as long as you remove any bar-ends.)

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