You’re not bad on a mountain bike, you love being out in the hills and you think you could give adventure racing a crack. But where to start? Luckily we’ve got you covered with our guide to getting started.
Mountain biking skills are important to practice although, if a part to a trail is not within your ability, you can always walk it.
• Build up to cycling constantly for at least 2 hours: (or more if it is a long race). If you don’t get a lot of chance to mountain bike then road biking will do just as well to be fit for the race.
• Ride the Hills: Most adventure races are in hilly areas so flat land riding will not prepare you very well.
• Get a map board: You will need a map board for your bike as stopping to get a map out of your pocket will slow you down as well as be frustrating. A piece of an old estate agent sign (so it doesn’t come apart if it rains), zip ties (to hold it to the handle bars) and rubber bands (to hold the map on the board) is all you need to start with. For a proper board, check out one of our favourites here.
• Practice running off-road and up hill: There will be little road running in a race and AR is almost always hilly!
• You should be able to run for at least 2 hours: (slowly is fine if needed as it will help you navigate and you will save more time by getting the navigation right).
• Get a decent pair of shoes: You will need a decent pair of off road shoes with good grip such as fell running shoes to deal with muddy slopes. Here’s a guide to buying the right pair.
• Use a map: Practice running along footpaths you haven’t run on before with a 1:25000 OS map to practise navigating. This will help you to get used to running with a map for the race as well as introduce you to new runs.
• Get some practice in: Most races use sit on top plastic kayaks. These are extremely simple to paddle and will need only a couple of sessions at your local kayak club to get the hang of it. Sit on top kayaks have an approximate top speed of 4 Mph which is easily achievable.
• Don’t hammer away from the start: Don’t be tempted to try and put too much energy into going faster than this as the extra energy expenditure is not worth the speed increase.
• Practice navigating: Navigation on the water is simple and it is normally a case of counting the bends of a river or spurs in a lake. A simple aid for this is to put 2 rubber bands around your thigh and put the map underneath them so you can see it at all times. Be careful of wind as coming back against the wind is hard work. You need to make sure that you allow for this if your time on the water is limited.
Communication and team management
It is essential that you communicate with your partner about navigation decisions although you need to decide who makes the final decision. The navigator must make it very clear what they are looking for and what kind of distance and time to get there. The second navigator can be monitoring distance and looking for turns so that the navigator can keep his attention on the map and route finding.
There will be all abilities at the races from top level adventure racers to first time racers and are usually very social. Most people will help you out on the course if you need it to navigate. These tips should help you with your expectations for your first race though the best thing you can do is enter one and learn at the races!