Approaching 40 and wanting to race XC

I’m not entire sure I know how to start this blog/statement of intent, which is pretty apt considering its purpose. I suppose an introduction is the best and most obvious place to finally get these wheels in motion – pun intended.

My name’s Andy, I’m an XC MTB fan who is hovering perilously close to his 40th birthday. A family man with bills to pay, kids to nurture into a viable retirement plan and a family orientated sports utility vehicle to obsessively clean [actually, that’s a fib. The outside currently looks like it’s been the victim of a fairly intense and prolonged seagull bombing raid and the inside resembles that of your standard rent-a-skip]. Throw in a beer, cake and biscuit fuelled midriff that is beginning to clamber for freedom over the belt of my ever expanding waistline and you may start to build a familiar picture. I suppose what I’m trying to say, in a meandering kinda round-about way, is that I’m pretty much normal. An average Joe who is approaching midlife armed with a 9-5 job, a slightly high cholesterol level and a draw full of underused lycra!

I’m the perennial ‘gonna, shoulda, coulda’ and fully paid up member of the last minute excuses club; starter of much, finisher of not a lot…. but I’m about to change all that!

Here’s the plan…

I want to race! I want to train hard, learn new skills and stick myself onto a XC MTB start line, but how do I start? What kit do I need? Where should I race? Is it expensive? What category should I enter? Is my current bike up to the job? Do I need a Race Licence? Is my body up to it? How do I begin to train? What is a training plan? Do I need to have great bike skills? Should I shave my legs? Will I make a prat of myself? Did I leave the oven on? So many questions, and hopefully, over time, they’ll be questions we’ll be able to answer together.

Now I’m not a complete newbie to the sport, but my XC racing experience is only that of a fan and pushy parent. I’ve never had to pin a number on myself (and there’s another; how do you pin a number on correctly and how do you attach a number to a bike?), so over the next few months I’m making it my pre 40th year mission to finally race, and along the way answer a few niggling questions newbie riders may want to know but are possibly a little too nervous to ask – and to also attempt to disprove a few XC related myths I’ve heard along the way.

I also want to try and answer another couple of those nagging questions that I’ve had floating around: Do you need to spend a fortune on top end, lightweight carbon kit or will a sub £1000 bike bought on the cyclescheme keep you in the mix? And at what point do you need to consider coaching? In a nutshell, can you race competitively on a very tight budget?

After each update I’ll be asking for your input. A chance for you to either added extra questions to the project or for you to answer up and help out as we (myself and UKXCNews) build a library of questions and answers that will hopefully serve new racers well over the coming years.

First Steps

For me, the mission has already begun. I’ve this week started a very simple training schedule that I’ll turn into a proper training plan over the next couple of weeks. So stay tuned for the next update where we’ll look at taking the first steps and constructing your first training plan.

If you want to follow my progress away from the blog, then feel free to catch me on the old social media:

Twitter: @AndyMawer

Instagram: @andy_xcmtb


Happy pedalling folks and I’ll see you on the start line very soon!!

3 thoughts on “Approaching 40 and wanting to race XC”

  1. Hi Andy

    This looks interesting. I’m too a family man with job and child trying to be competitive at xc. In my opinion you don’t need top of the range gear to race. Get stuck in and don’t be put off by the posers . Nothing more satisfying than making the ones who look the part suffer

  2. Andy,

    Nice post that and welcome to the world of old but not that old racing. I’m the same as you, busy job, kids, 3 of the little blighters with the eldest being 5 and all of them boys!

    Trying to juggle everything and still maintain a decent amount of riding is hard but do-able, especailly when your commute is 45 miles each way along the M6 so doing it by bike is a tad on the tricky / illegal / dangerous side.

    Don’t worry about what you’re riding so long as you enjoy riding it, there are some rather nice (almost) £1000 XC bikes kicking about that you can get on the B2W too, that’s how I got my first proper XC race bike. Tyres make more of a difference that anything if I’m honest.

  3. Do it! Really. Just enter a local XC MTB race (or series) and get stuck in.

    I was 44 a week before I entered my first race, and about a stone and a half heavier (and BMI of 29) than I am now. That first race was hell, too, due to weather… …and it was probably not the best experience to start with.

    I rode a six-year-old GT Avalanche 3.0 too. A £300 basic hard-tail with coil sprung forks. It had seen some miles by then, but stood up OK to the test on the day. I didn’t even come in last. I managed two laps, in 2 hours, 56 minutes, and 51 seconds for a result of 61st from 76 “2 Hour Veteran” riders in my class.

    Fast forward from that “I just want to race the once, to say I’ve done it” and now I aim to do a three race winter series and a one-off spring race each year. I managed two thirds of the Merida Brass Monkeys series this winter just gone, and managed the Battle On The Beach at Pembrey too. I saw a significant improvement in my times at BOTB over last year’s event, so even if I’m still not troubling the top half of the leaderboard, at least I’m improving myself and more importantly is masses of fun.

    I’d say “get amongst it” and get yourself entered. There are non-competitive MTBXC events too, if you need a gentler introduction to massed start stuff. Ifyou ride the trails now, you almost certainly have enough kit of sufficient quality to get round a MTB race. Fill your pockets with whatever gels/cereal bars you normally use, drink plenty, and warm up before the starting gun, and you’ll do OK. I found that the hardest part of all was stopping the excuses and actually committing myself to buy my entry. Once that was done, it became a case of sorting through my gear, getting the bike up to scratch, and getting myself out of bed on race day. I’m not a naturally “organised” person, but setting up a routine takes the pressure off, and you can enjoy the racing.

    One vital thing though. Chain “quick” links!!! I very nearly suffered a DNF at my first Pembrey BOTB. Not great when you’ve paid for a weekend’s camping and driven 250 miles (plus 250 to get home) to get yourself on the startline, only to have a chain snap on lap 2 and find you’ve no tools to open it, nor the spare links to repair it. I managed a bodge. I’d have been better off with spares, tools, and the knowledge to use them confidently.

    Oh, and what Steve Bowman said ^^^ about tyres. If you’ve got a bike improvement budget, get some decent tyres on it. And fresh brake pads. The rest of the bits? Just make sure they’re serviceable and they should be OK…

    Enter. Shred yourself. Enjoy!

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