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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Observations on MTB Endurance Racing (Events)

(long.......I apologize that I cannot be more succinct.)

Mountain biking is a relatively new sport and our races and racing organization are still working to reach to the level that is seen in road cycling. Note the recent declining trend in NORBA pro races, while the road US Pro Tour grows - with just this week the announcement of the Tour of Missouri. MTB Endurance racing in particular is even more on the frontier, but yet we have been able to develop some interesting, and challenging events. I am very thankful for that.
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I've been involved in both road cycling endurance events and also mountain bike endurance events and I thought I would share some observations and perhaps encourage a discussion on the current state of affairs in what is the preferred passion for many in this here forum - endurance mountain bike racing.
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First off, I much prefer 100-mile (I call them dirty centuries) mountain bike races. I liken these to Double Centuries (200-mile - reference www.caltriplecrown.com ) road events, which I also really enjoy. I've done 12-hr, but never a 24-hr. MTB event, and I should note that yes, indeed there are 12 and 24 hour road events too (reference www.tt24tt.com ). So I think there are a lot of similarities between the road and mountain endurance events, and therefore a comparison is natural.
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I would also like to spend a few minutes on the concept of race-vs-ride - because I'm sure someone will fire off some sort of reply to my post if I don't. A lot of the road endurance events are not races in the definition used by any governing cycling body. A few are timed events, a few are not. Most do not have the multi-age group/categories for placement that we see in racing However, you are sadly mistaken if you do not believe the Double Centuries (for example) are not "races" (read the history of The Grand Tour and it covers this issue quite well), as quite a few people shoot not only for their own best recorded time, but the best time over all. The point being is that some people show up riding a DC just like a race - I think Tinkers results at any Planet Ultra event will clearly demonstrate this - while others are just there to finish.
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A lot of the Double Centuries events have 19hr time limits and "early" starts as well as mass starts - or even some just have no mass start but rather use an open window to have people check in and go. The mountain bike endurance races, as we know have the mass starts, and in the case of Dirty Centuries go with shorter time limits, usually 12-hours or close to it. I contend that this encourages racers to attend the MTB races, but limits the chances for "endurance riders" to participate.

I've seen older, overweight, less fit riders use all of their 19-hours to finish a Double Century, but we just do not see these types in the 100-mile MTB Endurance Races. We do however, see this in the 12/24 type races. There are quite a few lesser fit riders out in the MTB horizon that could complete a Leadville (for example) in an expanded time frame I believe. If you don't believe me, please attend a double century and you will be amazed at the people that complete these. It is quite extraordinary to see some of these people complete their goal of just finishing the darn thing!
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Why should most of us care about this? Well it would expand the field, and perhaps result in lower prices for the races. (Aha! Now you know the point of this) There currently exists a significant discrepancy in pricing between the dirt and pave events. Any Planet Ultra (www.planetultra.com ) event is around $75 and they come with 5 or 6 aid stations stocked with food and even Hammer Products. A similar MTB 100-mile race will cost 3 to 4 times that price - but yet the organization is very much the same. The Texas Time Trials 12 and 24-hr. events will cost a solo road racer between $90 to $120, and again the MTB races will cost 3-4 times more than that as well. Given that all of these races cover a lot of terrain, both require permits and work with government officials, insurance (would not the insurance cost be higher for a road event, given the vehicle risk?), and staffing, I am curious as to why there is such a large difference in price?
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The 12/24 road vs. 12/24 dirt comparison to me seems the most similar. Closed loop routes with some level of course officials and medical/EMT/police staff staff. Is there really a factor of 3 to 4 in the cost of running such an event between road and dirt?
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If you are a racer promoter reading this, please note that I am not trying to accuse anyone of being greedy. I am very thankful that there are MTB race promoters willing to take these challenges on, and hopefully others will not post replies accusing the MTB promoters of that - obviously the market dictates the price. Clearly a function of business and they have a right to make a profit and be rewarded for their risk! However, as in any system of checks-and-balances, the comparison between road and dirt prices for these events is a valid question that should be asked.
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I have more observations and comparisons to make, but I'll limit it to just the two topics discussed here, which I believe are inter-related. The MTB Endurance events tend to focus on racers (and most of us up till now have had no qualms about that), but by doing so the fields are smaller. Inclusion of lesser fit riders with longer time limits might perhaps expand the fields and perhaps allow for reductions in prices. In addition, there already exists a large discrepancy in pricing between the road and dirt endurance events and I think this is an appropriate place to begin a discussion on why perhaps it is that way.
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In a way it's a Catch-22: smaller fields mean higher prices, higher prices mean smaller fields.
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So I'll close and throw it out to the forum. I'm sure we will get some great responses, and hopefully we will not see a large volume of the negative ones. Or perhaps I'm just the only one who thinks this way, and I just blathered on to no one else other than myself......... :)
 

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Interesting thoughts Matt. I have no experience in long road events so these issues have never occured to me. But, off the top of my head, here are a few things to consider:

- Hundies (dirty centuries) are expensive, well at least if you don't count the ones in NM :) I don't think you can enter any hundie in our neck of the wood for under $150. There are several 24 hour events that are less than the hundies!

- Long MTB events are difficult, moreso than the road. Put a triple on a road bike and you can climb trees when bonked. Off-road it's a different story. The E100, for example, requires riders to start in the dark and many still finish in the dark - and they are fit riders doing so! Granted the E100 is hard as nails, but I'd have to ask if you really want to widen the hundy crowd any more. Also...it's really really hard to foresee a promoter lowering rates as a result of increased registration.

- There are plenty of inexpensive endurance racing options for MTBers. All those dirt road slogs in the midwest are under $50 I think (Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas). The MC brand of racing - the purest of all - are free. GDR, GLR, KTR. With some scouting, vision, and nads one could design their own route and go bust out a solo TT. Your own NM dirty century series is free. 24 hour races like OP, Steamboat, Chamberlain ranch (to name but a few) are under $150 for solos.

I guess it really depends on what you are after. Is it the challenge, the competition, or a well organized and looked after event? I'm willing to shed some $$ for the last two, although some of the strongest competition I faced this year came in the freebies.
 

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Another factor - payouts

Another factor to consider is that most 24 hour races have large payours, while non-race events don't have any. Take the Granny Gear events, for example. Big Bear paid out $800 + for first prize, and I'm sure Moab paid out multiple times that. Worlds paid what, $2400 for first place? That money has to come from somewhere.
 

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Scale

The most I've ever paid for a dirt event was $130. That's the most; usually it's only two digits. Maybe I don't get out enough I'd guess the average price difference between dirt and pavement is more like 1.5x, not 3x. Just a rough guess.

Regardless, you're right that dirt cost more. I have always attributed the higher cost of dirt events to simple economies of scale. You know: the more riders you have the lower the expense-per-rider is to the organizer. I don't know if that's the reason, but it seems plausible enough given that some significant fraction of the costs paid by the organizer are fixed (do not increase with the rider count).

These comments add nothing to the value of this thread so I'll put a merciful end to them now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Team Green Steve said:
Another factor to consider is that most 24 hour races have large payours, while non-race events don't have any. Take the Granny Gear events, for example. Big Bear paid out $800 + for first prize, and I'm sure Moab paid out multiple times that. Worlds paid what, $2400 for first place? That money has to come from somewhere.
Good point. Interestingly enough I was at a MTB pre-race meeting earlier this year and witnessed someone ask the promoter why the cash prizes were not high enough! Needless to say not everyone in the room agreed with the questioner, as it was easy enough to figure out where the additional money would come from.

Personally I'd like to see a lot of that disappear. I'm more for the masses than for the individual in this regard. The Double Centuries that I've done were indeed on a shoe string and without the any sort of prize and also the schwag (belt buckle, shirt, jersey, etc) that are common in the MTB events.

But then again, I would have to actually buy shirts if I didn't get them from the races.....
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
hairball_dh said:
Interesting thoughts Matt. I have no experience in long road events so these issues have never occured to me. But, off the top of my head, here are a few things to consider:

- Hundies (dirty centuries) are expensive, well at least if you don't count the ones in NM :) I don't think you can enter any hundie in our neck of the wood for under $150. There are several 24 hour events that are less than the hundies!

- Long MTB events are difficult, moreso than the road.

although some of the strongest competition I faced this year came in the freebies.
Good points amigo. Colorado dirty centuries are quite expensive and the largest of them all brings in ~$200k in revenue just from event fees! Throw in the fact that they string it out over 3 days and the impact to the local economy is huge. Great for the locals!

But you know, I'd like the option of doing more of these over the course of a year, and thats sort of the point here. In California alone they offer 18 Double Centeuries in a Calender year - and they don't have any in the months of Nov, Dec, Jan, and July! I'd rather see more skeleton/scaled back events rather than fewer, grandiose ones.

Also my experience is that the road doubles are just every bit as tough as the dirt hundies. I climbed all of Columbine @ Pb on my MTB, but Decker and Potrero Roads at Mulholland made me walk my road bike on pavement (although your triple idea would have really, really helped there!).

MC style/grass roots events are great! :thumbsup: Yep, we put on 4 in NM this year and have one more coming up. But unofficial grassroots is still a step below the local club events that roadies have put on for years. Note that MTB clubs spend their time building trails, whereas Road clubs spend their time putting on events. Therefore they can add a level of sophistication to the "local" races, and for us it's just easier to say "meet here and race/ride on your own."
 

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Check out the laramie Enduro - it's cheap, longish (111k), super well run, and still manages to make a donation to the Red Cross Every year. If there were more races like this one within striking distance of home, I'd do them.

(The Dakota 5-0 is similar too, although getting shorter still.)
 

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races etc

I'll just add a couple of observations from my own experience, with little or maybe a lot of relevance to the very interesting discussion here.

1) Entry fee is often a small fraction of the cost of doing a race.
2) Money is often no factor at all in choosing races. When can I get time off, and when can I afford to walk around comatose for 3 days after the race? Those often dictate which events I pick.
3) I can physically only do so many 12's & 24's a year, assuming I want a decent performance. Yeah I could run myself into the ground doing 5 24 s a year but why bother? A good friend and quite experienced athlete told me a solo 24 MTB race left him more wasted than the Furnace Creek 508.

I think an interesting benchmark is Ironman - they routinely sell out events 12 months in advance with 2,000 spots at almost $500 a pop :eekster:

Cheers,
 

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Timo said:
Good point. Interestingly enough I was at a MTB pre-race meeting earlier this year and witnessed someone ask the promoter why the cash prizes were not high enough! Needless to say not everyone in the room agreed with the questioner, as it was easy enough to figure out where the additional money would come from.
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Yea, I wasn't there but read Harlan Price's report. Ouch. That was a most "unusual" way to handle the issue...
Timo said:
Personally I'd like to see a lot of that disappear. I'm more for the masses than for the individual in this regard. The Double Centuries that I've done were indeed on a shoe string and without the any sort of prize and also the schwag (belt buckle, shirt, jersey, etc) that are common in the MTB events.
Payouts - that's an interesting aspect in your discussion. Some promoters want top riders at their event. Those riders tend to be motivated by $$ cause to be a top rider takes a lot more than talent. It takes a big financial investment, on somebody's part anyway. Having a very competitive field certainly adds to the excitement of the event. However...this ain't a spectator sport.

Here's a tangential question: how do you think having big names at an event affects it? My guess is that it doesn't make a hill of beans for the average joe...
 

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One difference that springs immediately to my mind is that on a road ride I can pass pretty much anywhere, but put one slower rider in front on singletrack and everyone behind is impacted. I don't mind walking, but I don't like doing it on an easy section just because someone ahead is inexperienced.

I think one reason the Ouachita Challenge has a "tour" one day and a race the next is to separate the folks who want to hammer from the folks who are just out to ride. It also lets them double their entry numbers, which is also a good thing. Maybe a better model than just increasing the size of one day events?
 

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Timo said:
I contend that this encourages racers to attend the MTB races, but limits the chances for "endurance riders" to participate.
Right. So? They are races after all. If someone wants to race, they race. If they can't make the time limit, they either take steps to get faster or they do endurance rides by themselves or with a group of likeminded friends. There are far more people doing this than there are 'racers'.

There are quite a few lesser fit riders out in the MTB horizon that could complete a Leadville (for example) in an expanded time frame I believe.
So you're suggesting that we should basically dumb down the 100-milers even further (and make them less safe because there will be even more people crammed onto the same trails) just to save a few bucks?

I don't see how that's a good idea. Convince me.

Why should most of us care about this? Well it would expand the field, and perhaps result in lower prices for the races.
It would expand the field at the slow end, but wouldn't add anything to the level of competition at the sharp end.

As to the prices, 98%+ of the racers I know have $4000 race bikes, training bikes, road bikes, commuter bikes, cyclocross bikes, nice homes, new cars, etc... Money is not the issue.

My $.02 is that we need longer, more difficult, more challenging races to give people who've "been there and done that" with the 100-mile and 24-hour thing something to graduate to. It's happening, slowly, and one of the results is that some of the prices have come down as the 100/24 promoters realize that they no longer have a corner on the market.

But that's just the way I see it.

Anyone else?

MC
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
hairball_dh said:
Here's a tangential question: how do you think having big names at an event affects it? My guess is that it doesn't make a hill of beans for the average joe...
And the use of the phrase "big names" is relative (with all due respect). I can't imagine anyone signing up for an endurance event just to be around some level of celebrity...

Nope, these events are about personal strength and tests of well......endurance. Where that level is for everyone is quite different, but I'm more excited to see the mother of 4 complete her first hundie than I am for the overall.
 

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In light of this thread, and some of your responses, why did you choose the Breck 100 ($185) over the CB100, with plans to make the same choice next year? The CB 100 is a free, grassroots, self-supported race.

Both races have big names, both have fast riders. Both have excellent venues with world class courses at high altitudes.
 

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Timo said:
And the use of the phrase "big names" is relative (with all due respect). I can't imagine anyone signing up for an endurance event just to be around some level of celebrity...

Nope, these events are about personal strength and tests of well......endurance. Where that level is for everyone is quite different, but I'm more excited to see the mother of 4 complete her first hundie than I am for the overall.
OK, sure...that's an obvious point I alluded to. Promoters, however (and to be clear, you are hoping to influence promoters here, not riders) actively pursue the best in the sport for their events. Why? It's all about publicity from the promoters POV. More press (cyclingnews, velonews or whatever) draws more attention, which in turn makes the event more attractive from a riders perspective (at the very least it gets it on the radar screen), which helps to grow an event.

I'm no historian, but I bet Dave Wiens dropping the hammer on Leadville year after year has done a lot for the event, even if only a handful of riders each year think they've got a shot.

I think what you are really asking is this: why are there no MTB equivalents of double centuries? And to answer...mountain bikers in general, especially enduro nuts, are more self-reliant and less gregarious than their roadie cousins. Big group rides off-road have zero appeal to me - unless it's a race. Pin a number on and it changes everything. Take the number off and I'm going solo.

There is a frontier out there you have yet to experience. Put May 4 on your calendar, read up on the Kokopelli trail, do your planning and scheming and give the KTR high priority come spring. It is quite liberating to be self-reliant over that distance. The entrance fee is just right, the consequences are real, the payoff is enormous. That's livin'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
mikesee said:
Right. So? They are races after all. If someone wants to race, they race. If they can't make the time limit, they either take steps to get faster or they do endurance rides by themselves or with a group of likeminded friends. There are far more people doing this than there are 'racers'.
Perhaps you missed my point that the longer time limits in the road events open the fields up to more people...which in turn allows them to get better, faster, and brings more people into the field. At the other end of that as well is the rider whose times are getting slower by the year - the Arnie Palmers. I know of a an awesome senior citizen who missed the time cut at Leadville this year by a few minutes. He's a multi time finisher, but age (or illness) catches up with all of us. Yeah these last few years he's had a "new" goal - not to miss the time cut!! But what I saw in the road events was a whole collection of people like this - very vibrant seniors and some completing doubles into their eighties!

I dunno maybe my argument has now become irrelevant.

mikesee said:
So you're suggesting that we should basically dumb down the 100-milers even further (and make them less safe because there will be even more people crammed onto the same trails) just to save a few bucks?
Ok thats not what I suggested. How do longer time limits crowd courses on hundies (a few of which that would just like to attract 100 people!!!)? How does that make it unsafe?

And with all due respect Mike - the phrase "dumb it down" could be interpreted as insulting - but it's the internet so I'm sure you didn't mean it that way. Give credit to the entry level riders for giving it their all and shooting for their first endurance event. I think we all should be try to be ambassadors to the sport and encourage more people to participate. The road events are doing this...why not endurance MTB?

Regarding the more challenging event argument: Yes I agree there is quite a future for that. Thanks to you, the MTB endurance sport has an optional path for more of the endurance survival tests rather than the clinical NASCAR type approach that a lot of the 24 events are like. Nothing is wrong with either- different strokes for different folks, eh?

Wow, thansk for the reply and comments.
 

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My 2¢

What I go looking for in events....
1. Good bang for the buck!
2. A course that makes me give a thumbs up when I am done :thumbsup:
3. Different. Make the event different than what's already out there.
4. Make it hard! Make people work to finish!
5. Respect the people who register for your event, and volunteer.
6. Pay out is not important to me, so not a deciding factor.

I am sure I will have more to post at a later date.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
sportsman said:
In light of this thread, and some of your responses, why did you choose the Breck 100 ($185) over the CB100, with plans to make the same choice next year? The CB 100 is a free, grassroots, self-supported race.

Both races have big names, both have fast riders. Both have excellent venues with world class courses at high altitudes.
Hey Scott, in a perfect world they won't be on the same weekend next year.

I support both and would live to ride in both. I do prefer Breckenridge and I thought Thane put on one hell of an event.

I've put on a few grass roots events myself like you have.....they are great fun and the price is right. But I can always roll out of bed one morning and just say the hell with it (which I contend I will do some day anyway!). Because of this, there is a need for organization in the sport. Maybe that is what I am now arguing......
 

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Timo said:
Perhaps you missed my point that the longer time limits in the road events open the fields up to more people...which in turn allows them to get better, faster, and brings more people into the field.
I think I got exactly that point. I just don't see why/how more = better.

Ok thats not what I suggested. How do longer time limits crowd courses on hundies (a few of which that would just like to attract 100 people!!!)? How does that make it unsafe?
You're asking for time limits to be lengthened so that more people will enter, in hopes that attracting more people will drive down entry fees. More people on the same course = less space for each person. Some (read: "many") of these folks will be OCD types that, despite the fact that they'll be hard pressed to beat your extended time cut, will line up at the front of the pack to save that extra .065 seconds. And in so doing they'll not only displace some of the truly fast that stand a chance of winning, but they'll be getting in the way the first few miles and possibly causing accidents/pileups as a result of their inexperience in true race situations. It happens at every race already. Increasing time cuts to bring in more slow people (who else will an increased time cut attract?) will only exacerbate it.

And with all due respect Mike - the phrase "dumb it down" could be interpreted as insulting - but it's the internet so I'm sure you didn't mean it that way. Give credit to the entry level riders for giving it their all and shooting for their first endurance event. I think we all should be try to be ambassadors to the sport and encourage more people to participate. The road events are doing this...why not endurance MTB?
The phrase is what it is. If you choose to be insulted by it, well...?

You've indicated that you want to fill the field with more people to drop entry fees. You've indicated that your means for achieving this is by extending time cuts to draw more of the slow end of the peloton. You'll get more people, sure, but not necessarily qualified people. So aid stations will get hit harder, volunteers (and more of them) will be asked to do more, and for longer, EMS will have more issues to deal with, etc... All in all, I see race costs increasing as a result.

I call that dumbing it down. What would you call it?

I think that more competition is good. But simply more pack fodder? How is that good?

Nothing is wrong with either- different strokes for different folks, eh?
Sure.

MC
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
hairball_dh said:
I think what you are really asking is this: why are there no MTB equivalents of double centuries? And to answer...mountain bikers in general, especially enduro nuts, are more self-reliant and less gregarious than their roadie cousins. Big group rides off-road have zero appeal to me - unless it's a race. Pin a number on and it changes everything. Take the number off and I'm going solo.

There is a frontier out there you have yet to experience. Put May 4 on your calendar, read up on the Kokopelli trail, do your planning and scheming and give the KTR high priority come spring. It is quite liberating to be self-reliant over that distance. The entrance fee is just right, the consequences are real, the payoff is enormous. That's livin'.
Yeah maybe you figured out what my observations were really about. It would nice to have more local endurance events, that don't take on so much importance and planning as the "big" ones do. Perhaps the folks in the midwest and east are ahead of the us out here in the west with all of the 6-hr and 12-hr options. I agree....I don't want to be the group leader on big group rides anymore. Been there done that.

Regarding the frontier challenges.... I think Scott can back me up on some of the primitive routes I've led the NM Endurance Series on.:D But yeah, the Koko interests me. I just have never been there and haven't yet found the desire to study maps and plan for this one. Hell I already do THAT around these parts!
 
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