The Library of All Knowledge

Race Day Mayhem. (What to do before the start.)

Jumping from playrider to racer can a bit of an intimidating experience. The spectre of competition can make anyone nervious, espeially a first timer. I've been racing for years and I still get butterfiles in my stomach on the start line. But hey there is no need to panic or worry. Just plan and prepare beforhand.

Prepping Your Bike

The main point here is that you need a reliable bike.  Like the motto says "To finish first, first you must finish. Make sure that your bike is in good working order and tuned properly.  My best advice would be to strip the bike down and rebuild while carefully checking all the parts. While you're at it you should redo the top end with new rings (at least) this will provide some more power for the bike. You should keep up with the maintenance so that there is less chance of the bike breaking down on the course. You should also get fairly good at fixing the bike so that you can fix problems out on the course if they arise.

Personally, I modify my bike to survive a crash into a tree (It's more of a question of when not if for me) That means I usually do the following to my bike:

That's pretty much it really. I would leave the engine mods alone until you get good enough to go faster.

Prepping Yourself

This is where I tend to spend more money on at first. To those of you who think that you can get away with a helmet (or nothing at all) I say stay home.  Some of the more advanced riders have a saying "If don't crash twice a lap you're not going fast enough!" Wiping out is very common especially among junior riders.  Most of the spills can be more a nuisance than result in injury if you're wearing the right protective gear.

What you need:

I would search in the bargain bin of your local bike shop.  Last year's styles are cheaper and nobody's really fashion conscious here. (Plus if the color sucks, just cover it with mud.)

Things to do on Race Day

Show up on race day early. Unload and check your bike.  Some race organizers will allow you to preride some of the course.

Sign up. If this is the first time you have been to a PNWMA series race, you should get a PN license, to qualify for series points and awards.  All you have to do is pay $10 to get it. (The $10 is good for the rest of the PN series and provides you with a points and upcoming race mailout 4 times a year, also it pays part of the race insurance available. I don't know the details so ask the organizer what it covers.) This year you'll also need a CMRC competition license for insurance. This is a $60 hit, but it's good for the entire year. Then you shell out for the race and sign up for your class. (Between $30 and $40CDN). The classes are as follows:

The over/under split is at 200 cc's of engine displacement. 200 cc or less = under class. 201 cc and up = over class. The type of engine is not considered. 

If you're just starting out I recommend the junior classes, even if you are an experienced play rider. The length and difficulty of the race for the upper classes may be too much for you.  If you are older you can enter the Veteran or Senior classes. Also there is no lower age limit for racing. There have been 12 and 13 year old riders in the series. The big concern here is to make sure that the rider can handle being out on the course by themselves and the bike is capable of riding through the course.

When you have signed up, you usually get a ticket for a prize draw, a zip tie and a vinyl tag.  Tie the tag where they tell you to, this is for keeping track of your checks.

Go to the rider's meeting (usually 1/2 hour before a race). Save yourself a headache and go ready to race. (Once an organizer started a race right after the meeting.) The organizer will explain some essential matters concerning the race, such as;

Go to the start area. Starts are usually in waves depending on class. They usually are a dead engine, hands on your helmet start, but I have done straddle the front fender while facing the bike or hump the rear fender starts as well. Listen to the race marshal. Also make sure you get a starter's punch as well.

The starts are usually mayhem. Twenty to thirty riders are all gunning for the holeshot. (Holeshot = First lunatic to the first corner.) If you're starting out, don't worry about getting the holeshot. Most of my best races have been where I've come from behind and passed riders one at a time. If the start is dead engine, then I recommend putting the bike in neutral, and your foot on the kick starter. As soon as the race is started, kick the bike over, then you can grab the clutch and drop the bike into first. The straddle the front fender is a real bitch of a start. First when you pull up to the start, make sure there is enough room to swing your leg around. Again keep you bike in neutral and the kickstarter out. Practice really helps.

As soon as the race starts go. If you are starting out I recommend that you ride at you own pace. I wouldn't gun for the holeshot right off the bat. (The crowd at the front takes a little getting used to.) You can't win the race by getting the holeshot but you can sure lose it if you screw up. Keep in mind that crashing is inevitable. Try to let riders who quickly catch up to you pass, they usually are in different classes. (A lot of people will yell "EXPERT!" even though there not. Let them pass. If they're slow, you might catch up to them. If they are an expert then you have just avoided being stuffed into a tree.)

If you are unsure about missing a check, don't worry, watch the crews. If at a road crossing, they are just waving you through, go for it. (Be careful, according to the law, bikes don't have the right of way, that's why there are people at the crossing to stop cars) When they start coming at you, then it's a check.

Pay attention to the A/B Splits. Sometimes intermediate and expert riders get and extra section and an extra check for completing a much harder section.

After a preset time or distance, the race is over.  The checkers will usually tell you.  Surrender your tag and relax. If you breakdown in the woods and decide to quit, hand in your tag anyway so the organizers don't send a rescue party. Unless you intimately know the riding area, stay on the trail. After the race the results are usually posted an hour after the last rider has been accounted for. The results are usually posted on a board for 1/2 hour. If you see a problem with your score, talk to the score keeper within that 1/2 hour.

Class Structure

Long / Short course refers to the difficulty of the race. Some races put in a more difficult section for long course riders. Other races make the course the same for all riders but long course rider just has to ride for a longer time period. Some classes may change race length at the consensus of the riders involved.

Long course riders:

Short Course riders: Over/Under depends upon the cubic centimeters (cc's) of your engine. 200 cc's and under = under class. 201 cc's and over = over class

PNWMA Scoring System

Position  Points Position Points
1st 30 11th 10
2nd 25 12th 9
3rd 21 13th 8
4th 18 14th 7
5th 16 15th 6
6th 15 16th 5
7th 14 17th 4
8th 13 18th 3
9th 12 19th 2
10th 11 20th and over 1

21 or worse = 1 point
Good samaritan or work points = the average of points collected over the season

The points for the off-road series are then tallied at the end of the year and the best races are counted towards the series totals

A riders best scores of the series are totaled for Series Awards.

Masters - best 12
Experts - best 9
Intermediates - best 8
Veterans - best 8
Seniors - best 8
Super Seniors - best 8
Juniors - best 7
Women - best 7

Types of Races

What's a Hare Scramble?

No it doesn't involve rabbits and blenders.  It's a type of race usually done on short loops (12 to 15 km) through the woods. Basically it is the person who completes the most laps in the shortest amount of time is the winner. You usually get a preset time from the start (1 1/2 to 2 hrs for the juniors and Vet B's to 2 1/2 to 3 hrs for everybody else) You ride as much laps as you can until the time expires.  As soon as you cross the finish after the time is up, your race is over.  If you cross the line before the time is up; they punch your card and send you out for another lap. The scoring is simple.  The scorekeeper counts the amount of punches you have. Then he or she sorts the ones with the similar amount of punches by the time that they finished in. The ones that finished the soonest, win.

What's a Cross Country?

It's basically one long loop of the countryside. (70 to 80 km)  There are checkpoints in the woods. The organizers do provide a gas check for most bikes. Also the organizers usually have a midpoint section where they will pull you out of the race if you arrive after a certain time. This is to avoid forcing you to spend a ridiciously long time on the course.

What's an Enduro?

An enduro is a test of riding skill. They are usually held in the States since a lot of manpower is needed to run them. Basicaly in a nutshell, you are given a loop to ride, that has to be ridden in a precise amount of time. The loop is broken up into sections. Each section has it's own time to run. Riders are penalized one point for every second later or early. Also some sections are known as special test, where the fastest time is the key. Any rider after the fastest time gets penalized 1 point for every second late. The rider with the fewest points wins.

I crash too much. Is there an easy race I can go to?

Care to define easy? Answering this question can be loads of fun. What the hell is easy? I consider a logging road easy. A Master will call climbing a vertical rockface with wet moss easy. The answer to this question is in yourself. It's called skill. The more skilled you become as a rider the easier things will get. I have play ridden at every area in the Fraser Valley, I have yet to find something that is unrideable. However come raceday, things get harder since you are going faster and there are more riders on the trails. An easy trail gets difficult when you can't see due to the roost from the bike in front and you can't take the line you want due to a rider trying to nudge past you. I will freely admit that this isn't easy.

If you're new to racing and are having trouble, you should think about a few things. Is this sport for you? Off-road racing is physically and mentally demanding. It's all about finding your limits and pushing them, sometimes you will push too far and crap happens. Think about what you are doing. As a beginner you should be riding to the best of your abilities, not on the ragged edge of control, you should ride for yourself. You should not get "pushed", if this happens, just pull over and let the rider pass. There is no shame in that. All we race for is a plastic trophy and bragging rights. The beginner class is where new riders should learn the skills it takes to race, but it's up to you to learn them. If you want easy then sign up for a poker run or dual sport ride.

Also a lot of club's don't have a huge pool of manpower. Often a new trail is cut so that it is passable to bikes. Then bikes are ridden through to break in the trail and to open it up. That has been the job of all the racers in the race. One race can help the trail as much as a full year of trail work.

Contents Copyright (C) Michael Fodor 2012.