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Dummies guide to Cross Country Mountain Biking (XC)


What is Cross Country Mountain Biking?

Cross country mountain biking (also referred to as XC) is perhaps the purest and most popular form of off road cycling. This form of cycling is done across a wide array of surfaces and can be picked up straight away by anyone with a mountain bike regardless of age or experience. Cross country is also the only mountain bike discipline that is an Olympic event and tests a cyclist’s speed, endurance, handling and climbing skills.

There can be great variety in the types and distances of XC events with riders generally having to complete a certain number of laps of a circuit. The races usually take between one and one and a half hours to complete. In the Irish national cross country series here are four different adult categories so that participants can compete with other riders of their level. Naturally the riders in the beginner category have to complete fewer laps than those in the higher categories. XC racing is defined by its terrain and riders’ skills are tested as there a number of bumps and jumps to negotiate in any XC race.

The flexibility in cross country racing means that you can gradually start to test yourself over longer and longer distances as you improve, with both new and old racers able find events that reflect their ability. Cross country races are held all year round and are fairly common throughout Ireland.

What equipment do I need?

The bikes used today cross country racing tend to be full suspension bikes that are lightweight and efficient. However, don’t worry if you do not have the highest spec bike whatever mountain bike that is lying in your shed will likely do just fine for a first timer. If you are planning on buying a new bike, they will be plenty of cheap options available in your local bike shop.

Of course a helmet will also be compulsory as it is when riding any type of bike. You may also require cycling shoes if your bike’s pedals need them, however a normal pair of runners will be fine on flat pedals. The clothing you wear should also be weather suitable as you may face tough condition. It is also recommended that you bring some food and drink as if you are riding for over an hour you will need energy and to keep hydrated.

How and where can I get involved?

A list of XC events and series as well the format of these competitions can be found here on Cycling Ireland’s off road website. To find your nearest club that caters for cross country racing use the club locater on the Cycling Ireland website. Many of these clubs host their own cross country leagues or have league competitions with other clubs which can provide good training and experience for novices.

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