Mountain Bike Trailer Park: Six Reasons to Race Local

Words and Photos Uncle Dan

I have previously professed my love of travel races (You can read about that here). There’s a lot to like: the road trip, the new trails, the new places to eat and ride, and hotel swimming pools. And Ohio’s a good launching place for travel races. There are a ton of places to ride within six hours of where I live:

And even more places to ride within eight hours:

But my local race series holds a certain sentimental place in my heart, like remembering my first crush, or the first time I had a Texas Straw Hat on my chili (speaking of – did you know that you can put the tortilla chips right on top of the chili!)

There’s more to it than just sentimentality though. The more I thought about it, the more reasons I came up with for racing local. So, I made a list, in no particular order.

Local races are a gateway drug: Like most racers, I got my first taste at low-key, small-scale, local event. Like a pot dealer in high school, local races reel you in with a soft-sell – a “fun” race (“it will make you feel good”) with your riding buddies (“all your friends are doing it. For many of us, that first taste was all it took, and we were hooked.

Youth involvement: Back in my day (oh my god, I am old), my mom used to throw me out of the house with the instruction to “come back before dark.” Nowadays, such behavior will have the neighbors calling the County on you. Let’s face it, today’s kids are being raised by helicopter parents (yeah, us). So, if we want kids outdoors and exercising, we have to provide structured options, like local races.

Plus, local races are more affordable. When I started racing, I was much more likely to throw down $25 to ride with some buddies at a local trail, than to drive for a day or so, and get a hotel room, to line up against 400 jocks in lycra. Same goes double for families, whose kids may be donning a bike kit one weekend, and a ball glove the next. Keeping involvement affordable ensures youth participation. And without the next generation of riders, the sport will die (duh).

Local races are local: That is to say, they are not far away, which means less drive time, less time away from family responsibilities, and no hotel stays. You can race in the morning, then go grocery shopping in the afternoon. What’s not to like? Plus, these are your trails, you ride them after work and you may have even had a hand in building them.

Ever heard the term “local legend”? That comes from racing locally. And to hell with your Strava time on this course. We will see who’s the best on a Saturday when we start at the same time, under the same conditions. Bragging rights at their finest.

And, being local, most local races are put on by local organizations, whether race teams or trail builders. So, the money goes back into local cycling. For instance, my race team and COMBO (the local trail builders) are co-sponsoring a kids race and six-hour adult race. Proceeds will be split, half in support of a local kids’ mountain biking program and the other half going back to the COMBO to build and maintain more local trails. Sweet!

Make an enemy: Seriously. Every racer has one, even if they keep it secret. But when you line up on race day, there’s always that one person that you’re hoping to beat more than anyone else at the race. Man, it feels good to beat them. And when you don’t it’s fuel for the fire.

Some enemies are actually enemies. Others are friends, at least until the announcer says “go.” Then, that enemy is the reason you push hard to stay in front or even harder to catch up. You can’t let him beat you! In fact, I never work harder at a race than when I’m trying to keep my enemy behind me.

At a local series, chances are, you’ll make an enemy or two. And you will see them often. Enjoy!

Make friends: Some of the best people I know, I met from mountain biking. The local culture here in Ohio is so supportive and welcoming that you will make friends almost immediately at every race. These friends become riding buddies, teammates, mentors, and real-world allies as the years roll by.

Plus, when you travel for national races, it’s super fun to find that group of locals to cheer for and swap stories with.

Local sponsors and local teams: Unless you’re an elite racer, chances are you are racing for a local shop team or club. Great! That means that your local shop likes to support, and is willing to lend their name (and usually time and resources), to get people on their bikes competitively. They’ll probably even give you a little discount on product (although they can barely afford to do so).

My team has a great set of sponsors who are generally interested in cycling, fitness, and the outdoors, and they are willing to kick in a little product, or coin, or both, to support our squad.

And guess what? For the most part, they are all LOCAL. I mean, really local, like the place where I take my bike to be fixed after I mess it up myself (sorry Russ) Wheelie Fun Bikeshop, the place where I herniate myself trying to deadlift, Grandview Pro Fitness, the place where I drink (a lot of) beer, North High Brewing, and so on.

And what do those sponsors get in exchange for their support? Damned little, if you ask me, but at the least, they get their logo on our kit and a little publicity through social media. The biggest benefit is probably the word of mouth that goes along with being positive members of the community. But, none of that does any good for them when I’m racing seven states away. I mean, it’s nice to get the logo out in the world, but no one’s driving from North Carolina to buy an RV in Ohio, no matter how strongly I recommend the dealership.

So, support those who support you – get out and race locally!

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