Creating a Pre-ride or Pre-race Routine for Mountain Biking.

To make themselves feel comfortable and confident, top competitors in many different sports utilize a personalized pre-race (or pre-game) routine to help them perform at their best. Routines are not the same as rituals, a routine is a structured plan designed to help you reach your optimum performance while a ritual relies on superstition to control your performance (things like not washing your “lucky” socks or stepping on a crack). In other words a routine helps you take control of your performance while rituals assume fate (not you) will control your ride/race.

This was originally written for a downhill mtb team I coached but works equally well for all mountain bike riding and xc racing. A big key goal is to eliminate thoughts that will distract you and put youself in the poper mind state to ride with confidence!

I have added a night before the ride/race routine to eliminate most causes of worry and allow you to get some sleep.

Your pre-race routine should make you comfortable in strange/new surroundings, build your confidence, eliminate stress, and prepare you to do your best. I have listed many common practices to get you started but you must experiment and find out what works best for you. This is another aspect of racing where keeping a journal can really help you find out what works..

Night Before Race (taking care of all these items really helps me sleep!)

1. Equipment

a. inspect and tune bike completely with checklist and put on number plate (how many racers have arrived at a race and realized that their # plate is back in the hotel?!)

b. prepare race clothes, shoes, pads, helmet, goggles, gloves. use a check list.

c. prepare bag to take to the start with you, spare goggles and gloves, mp3 player with charged batteries, food, drink etc. use check list

d. add your own topics

2. Mental

a. Know the course by heart, no missing sections, have a confident plan on how you will ride from top to bottom (worrying about how to handle that “big jump” will keep you up all night).

b. Image race run (at least twice) from standing in line at the start to your feelings of elation after crossing the finish line with a perfect run

c. Remember, only concern yourself with what you control (which basically is your equipment and your riding) worrying about how your competition will ride is a big waste of time because you have no control over their riding

c. add your own preparation (meditation, stretching, yoga, etc.)

Morning of Race

1. Physical

a. shower, stretching

b. what to eat and when to eat it, etc

c. add your own

2. Mental

a. Imaging, stretching, meditation, etc.

b. find out what works for you

At Race Site

1. Physical

a. dressing routine (always dressing in a certain order can be almost like a meditation and make you feel at home even when miles away)

b. warm up

c. practice run (if offered)

d. simple routine, before every ride I tap my chest on my stem a few times and go over my acronym below

e. find out what works for you

2. Mental

a. find out what your racing fears are and how to put them to rest (weeks before race) and put. Many people worry about their competition’s performance , remember only concern yourself with what you control

b. Image race run at least three times (good use of chair lift time)

c. Put yourself in optimum mental state for racing (again find out by experimenting while training) many people make a short list or mantra of why they will perform well, (i.e.. I have trained hard all winter for this, I know the course, I’m fast, I will ride my best etc.) also music is a big help to many racers, make a play list of songs that make you feel good!

d. Create an abbreviation for the things that you need to remember to have a good run and tape it to your stem or bars. Mine is B RAILUM which stands for Breath, Relax, Attitude, Intensity, Look Up, and Moto (Moto was my old expression for elbows up and out). Saying B Railum and then thinking about each component of it really helps me focus.

e. find out what works for you

Use this as a rough outline adding what works and getting rid of what doesn’t through experimentation. A well thought out routine will make you confident at the start while your competition worries about their run and wonders why you are so confident.

7 replies
  1. JT
    JT says:

    Gene, this is awesome stuff. The mental prep is so critical to riding at our best, and having a routine creates a focused space to get in the right mindset before a ride. As an entrepreneur, I ride to stay fit, focused and on top of my game. I’m excited to get into racing and competing, and adding this technique will take even my “tune up” rides to the next level. Thanks for yet another excellent post!

  2. Susie Mitchell
    Susie Mitchell says:

    So impressed to see you are emphasizing guided imagery AKA: image race run as competition prep. I used it in other sports and actually exceeded all my prior performances and my own expectations. This whole outline for pre-race prep is gold. Well done and thanks for sharing!

  3. richard qualls
    richard qualls says:

    i enjoy mountain biking i been riding for years i been learn to ride in sand for years gene you been helping ride up hills now it fun hill climbing thank you richard i hope to hear from you again

  4. Tom Dunford
    Tom Dunford says:

    Hey Dude, thanks so much for this post, really helpful! 1 question though, what would you suggest to eat the night before? Like i know things like burger and chips will slow you down, but im not too sure what the best thing to eat is? Cheers

  5. Tom Dunford
    Tom Dunford says:

    Hey Dude, thanks so much for this post, really helpful! 2 questions though, what would you suggest to eat the night before? Like i know things like burger and chips will slow you down, but im not too sure what the best thing to eat is? And finally, what are your thoughts on energy drinks (i.e. Red bull, monster… Ect) before a race?

    • Gene
      Gene says:

      Hi Tom,

      The post important night for fueling is two nights before you race. So 2 nights before eat healthy and fill up, the night before eat just enough so you have enough enegy fo the race and feel “light”. This takes some experimenting. What you eat should be healthy and full of good protein (fish or lean meats), good carbs (long grain rice) and veggies.

      As for energy drinks do not rely on them for energy and be careful not to drink so much that you are tense. I typically drink half of an 8 ounce ex energy about 45 minutes before my race run. More to help me focus than for energy. Again, experiment and find out what works best for you.


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