As an opening blog post Dirt have asked me to write about what I know best: Mates racing. I’ve been organising, running and racing mates’ races for years so I can hopefully give you my angle on why, what, how, where, and who.
The first one I organised was inspired by spending a weekend away with a bunch of mates at an Enduro race and loving the camaraderie, competition and banter then ensued. We rode together all day, sectioned tricky bits and then took each other apart beer by beer throughout the evening. The next day of racing was almost incidental, we did what did but it was the results that counted. But not our overall standing, just how we compared to our mates and who had the bragging rights. On returning to Sheffield I wanted that to continue but I didn’t want to have to travel all over the country to do it. So we had the Blacka Bashup on a misty Saturday in November, 10 of us turned up and we’ve been hooked every since.
What started out as DH racing soon became dual racing and then the flood gates opened. If you’ve ever perused the pages of ThisISheffield you’ll have seen some of the ideas that were dreamt up over a cold pint. MegaDeath Mass start DH, XC Crits, hill climbs, time trials, pump track laps, Enduros, Triathlons, Olympics. Basically anything you can put a clock on, you can race. The key we’ve always found though it making it fun. Even a gruelling XC race can be fun if you make everyone dress in the most ridiculous lycra they own.
There’s only two things you really need, a stop watch and a voice. The stop watch is obvious and a bit of paper is also essential but your voice is the most important. Be brave and stick your head up above others, tell them you’re organising a race and on the day, shout louder than everyone else to tell them what it is they’re supposed to be doing. It’s like herding cats and there will always a raft of stupid questions but your patience will be rewarded with big grins and hopefully a pat on the back. The other critical thing is mates, and not just to race, they’re great to help you setup and to time if you want to have a go too.
This can be a tricky one. As a mates race, you’re unlikely to have insurance, permissions or a dedicated race track. But that’s really the point; I often use the jumpers for goal posts analogy, it’s like a kick about in the park. You’re not profiting from the event, you’re not advertising it, and you’re just having a laugh with some mates and a stop watch. But you’ve got to be sensible, realistic and accountable. They’re your mates so they’re not going to sue you if they hurt themselves… are they?
The answer is you. You should race. You should organise a race. It in no way detracts from riding your bike and having fun, in fact it adds to it. Even if you’ve never done it before you should have a go. If you’ve done it lots of times before you should think of a new way to do it.
The mates races I have organised have brought me a lot of joy and I hope to many others. It has also brought me many new friends and opportunities. I really can’t recommend it enough.