Racing Tip 19 – Passing Strategies


Whether you’re chasing a spot on the podium or your goal is to simply finish your first mountain bike race with a smile on your face, you should take a few minutes to plan at least a basic passing strategy ahead of race day.

And the suggestions in this mountain bike racing tip number 19 and the extras in the video will help you do just that.  The few minutes you take to plan your strategy could easily save you that amount of time in the race.

Slow or Fast You Need to Know

And even if you’re a slower mountain bike racer and you think you’ll never need to pass anyone, think again! If you’re a slower rider you’ll often be ‘too-ing’ and ‘fro-ing’ with others at the back of the field, so it’s important to figure out when you should and shouldn’t pass.  Knowing your best options will help you ride smarter, and with more confidence.

And whether you’re fast, slow, or in between, a good passing strategy will help you race more efficiently by maximizing your flow on the bike over a greater percentage of the race course.

Remember, maximizing your momentum on the bike is key to better mountain biking, but…

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Not all Passing Manoeuvres Are Good Ones

Some can be bad decisions that cost you dearly and use up too much of your energy. Other moves can put you under too much pressure from riders behind you (see video), or not work in sync with your mountain biking strengths and abilities.  So…

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Before Your Next Mountain Bike Race

Here are some things you should consider when checking out the scenarios below and in the video to determine your best passing opportunities:

  • Have you trained for these types of bursts?
  • How much of your energy will this use up?
  • Will it actually give you any gain at this point in the race?
  • Is there some more favourable part of the trail coming up that you could save your energy for, and catch that time back then? A favourable up or downhill section perhaps?
  • Have you raced this distance before?
  • Is he/she competing in the same category as you?
  • Is the race a lap course (repeated passing opportunities and recovery sections)?

Above all, determine what your mountain biking strengths are before the race begins. The most successful passing manoeuvres will be the ones you make when you’re using your riding skills an strengths to your advantage, working within your fitness limits, and on favourable sections of the race course.

So let’s look at some pros and cons to see what suits you best…

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Passing Strategies to get You Thinking

(the tips below are exclusive to the website – you’ll find more tips – including one really cheeky tip! – in the video)

The Suck of the Drag - Picture this…a competitor attempts a passing manoevre on you on clear open fireroad.  You don’t want to lose a place in the field, so you challenge her move and pick up speed, too. Now the both of you are in a heavy sprint across the countryside for the next several hundred metres.  A battle of egos perhaps.

Getting sucked into a big sprint or drag race, and in particular – repeated attempts – can often spell disaster for one or both riders. If you’ve got the legs and the time is right, then go for it.  But,

if these types of high energy moves are not your normal game, it may be wiser to save your energy for other parts of the course.

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Super Tip : Out of Sight, Out of Mind – Often if you’re not right on someones tail, they have less of an urge to try and shake you off with repeated sprinting attempts.  So, sometimes it’s wiser to keep behind at a distance of ten to twenty metres, particularly if your legs are tiring.

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Road Rocket – Do you come from a road racing background that has given you strong legs for long open trails, but you lack the technical skills needed to navigate tight singletrack fast?

Then don’t panic in the tight stuff when you’re being overtaken.  Just keep your flow and plan on passing as many other racers as possible when the track opens up again, when you’re back in your comfort zone.

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Passing Wind – It’s good cycling etiquette to do your turn at the front of an mtb peloton, particularly one that’s riding into a heavy headwind along open fireroads. But,

if you haven’t the strength to do your turn up front while maintaining peloton speed, then you’ll only be letting the rest of the bunch down. Staying out of the wind and behind other riders could be the better choice, and you’ll spend 6 – 8% less energy doing so.

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History Repeats – Lap courses are great for executing successful passing moves and for planning your roll and recover spots.

After your first lap you’ll know what’s coming next, and you’ll have a good idea of what parts of the course you’re fast on. So,

…make sure you’re ready to pass whoever you need to before your faster sections, so that you enter those faster parts of the course with as much clear trail ahead of you as possible.

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Plus Two More Super Tips:

Know Thy Course – The better you know the course you’ll be riding, the better you can plan how to spend your energy through the race – check out MTB Racing Tip 16 to find out why knowing the course is such a big advantage

Mountain Bike Racing Etiquette – Get the most out of your mountain bike racing endeavours with the Mountain Bike Racing Etiquette Ten Commandments

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Mountain Bike Racing Tip 18 <<< Muddy Race Ready

Mountain Bike Racing Tip 20 >>> The Race Face