by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com
Winter is the time of year my thoughts drift to the beautiful surroundings of warmer climates. Having traveled with my bike a great deal, I can attest to the fact that riding new trails and roads will invigorate your riding. The big issue with traveling elsewhere to bike is finding the good trails, best routes or fun secret spots only the locals know about. That’s why I recommend you enter destination bike races. Not to try and win the race, but for the route.
How can you enter a bike race, but race?
Any competition is not a race if you don’t try hard enough. So ignore your placement in the race results, relax, and think about the event as a well organized ride instead. This mentality works best for long events. For that reason, road circuit races are out of the question, but there are loads of mountain bike, Gravel, and road events that fit the bill.
Why go to a bike race?
The best reason to register for a race but not actually treat it like a race is the convenience. As an example, If you want to schedule an awesome mountain bike vacation on some of the best trails in the world, going to the BC Bike Race would be a good option. By registering, you have access to lodging, food, bike support, rider support and above all else eight preset courses are offered through BC’s best terrain. While you pay for this convenience, the cost is similar to if you were to plan it yourself with a lot less headache. Also, cycling events are family friendly by design, so bring everyone along!
How do I pick
With all these new options available to you, how do you pick your event? My recommendation is to start with location. Pick some areas you want to visit and ride in. Next check local calendars and see if any events will match up. Finally, register for the event of your choice and plan your vacation!
What to expect
What you will experience at these events depends greatly on the type and size of the event. For the sake of this article I will break the event types up into the two most popular categories: mountain bike and gravel bike
Mountain bike races
Mountain bike races are usually really long (like the Circumburke trail challenge in the Kingdom Trails of Vermont or stage races like the Transylvania Epic in Pennsylvania). The long single day races are fun way to test yourself and achieve a one-day goal and are awesome if you have limited time to get away. If time is not as much of an issue, stage races are where it’s at! Stage races are shorter individual rides spread over a series of days. They usually expose you to many different sections of popular trail networks as well as have a great festival atmosphere.
Gravel bike races
The popularity of gravel rides has exploded in the past few years thanks to dedicated people putting on world class events all around the globe. Many of these races started humbly but have grown to mythic stature. Events like Kansas’ Dirty Kanza 200 might be a stretch for most with it’s 200 miles of tire-splitting flint rock. However, for those interested in the adventure of a gravel race with a bit more approachable distance can look at Iowa’s Colesburg Gravelpocalypse with routes as short as 20 miles. Whatever your distance, gravel races are an amazing option with events all around the country.
What to do when you go to “race”
When you sign up for a race, it’s best to come to the event with some fitness and realistic expectations. Plan to take your time and have fun. Most importantly, remember that there are some really fast people out there who are actually racing these events. For that reason wait at the start line when the event goes off. Allow all those looking to compete to get into the race course then head off for your ride. When riding, yield right of way easily to all passing cyclists as some competitive riders may have had to stop to repair mechanicals. Finally, the race is meant to be fun. Feel free to push yourself, but if a section appears to be above your skill level there is no shame in walking it. All in all, enjoy the ride, the atmosphere and allow others to do the same