Really Fun or Fun for All Riders?

Published 2012-06-13

I wrote this letter apropos of a discussion on the OBRA mailing list about the kind of scary rate of injury at the PIR Short Track MTB races this year:

I’m one of the riders Chris was talking about below. I probably cracked my sternum on my stem (hurts to laugh...), otherwise just bumps and scrapes. I got off lucky, a few inches to either side and I’d be out for the season with a busted collarbone. I rode MTB through the 90s and today race ’cross. I might not be fast but I can usually pick a line, and I know how to crash. Oh do I know how. Just to lay out my “qualifications,” so to speak.


I’m of the opinion that the course is what it is, especially on dirt. If there are hazardous spots they up the fun and increase the challenge. Maybe I’m in the old school that’s kind of anti-flow and pro-whatever-nature-puts-in-front-of-your-wheels. Chaos takes thinking and skills and if a bump takes me down the problem isn’t the bump. Crashing is part of racing and cracked sternums are badges of honor.


STMTB at PIR is kind of stereotyped as Fun For the Whole Family, Beginners Welcome, Crossies Too, and Any Old Bike Will Work. If the course routinely sends people to ER that’s probably an inaccurate stereotype. Also witness the size of the Men’s 19+ Cat 3 field. For a 40+ racer who is too out of shape to swing with the Cat-2s — if I’m finishing mid-pack Cat-3 then I’m definitely in the right category — this puts me racing against college kids who are also “beginners,” although it means something very different for them. And then in the last couple of laps I live in terror of running clean over a Junior. Other events of this size might start splitting the biggest field, like adding Cat-3 35+ or Novice (maybe a novice race instead of the clinic?). I don’t know what to do about fields overlapping. But I bet the scheduling pressures are pretty intense already.

In conclusion.

The problem isn’t the course, it’s the perception of the race, and maybe secondarily mixing riders of wildly different abilities. 1-2 ER-grade injuries a week is a Really Fun Race but it’s not a Fun For All Riders race.