All Mountain Biking involves a mixture of fitness and machine control. Getting started is often simply a case of getting a basic mountain bike (a simple Cross-Country hardtail is ideal) and going out and exploring the local countryside. Bicycles can legally use bridleways and Britain has a superb network of these - learn to read a map and get out and enjoy yourself.

Riding competently off-road is a skill which develops through experience and practice. The very best riders can perform apparent miracles, but every cyclist can master the basics and enjoy the challenge of riding away from roads.

One of the best ways to learn off-road skills is by watching other riders. Riding in a group also has added safety benefits. It therefore makes sense to join a club. Visit Scottish Cycling’s Club Finder to find your local club.

The pleasure of riding in a traffic-free environment cannot be understated. Mountain Biking also puts you closely in touch with nature and the landscape and every ride has the potential to become a mini adventure. However, for some, the ultimate test is to start racing.

Thinking About Racing?

Beginners usually find their feet in one of the numerous Cross-Country events which are run at club level all round the country. Cross-Country is a natural starting point for all Mountain Bike racing as it is generally less technically challenging than Downhill or 4-Cross and a relatively inexpensive bike will suffice whilst you learn the ropes.

Cross-Country events usually have several races catering for a range of abilities and age groups and are an ideal environment in which to learn the bike handling and tactical skills necessary to succeed. Look out for Fun categories - there are also often categories for younger riders and age related categories for over-thirties. A British Cycling membership and Licence are usually needed for regional and national events.

If you are under sixteen, the category system ensures that you compete against others of a similar age. Adult categorisation is based more on ability. As they become more successful, riders progress through Sport, Senior and Expert categories and the very best become "Elite" category riders. There are also a range of categories for older riders, based on age.

Progression through the adult categories is through a national ranking system, administered by British Cycling, which rewards successful riders with points based on the length and difficulty of an event. Before you start racing, familiarise yourself with the rules of the sport, which include this system.

Don't forget that, during the autumn and winter months, Cyclo-Cross events are usually open to mountain bikes, are cheap to enter (no licence required) and offer the chance to hone racing skills on non-technical courses.

Mountain Bike Category System Explained

What AGE category do I race in?

All categories in MTB racing are age based until you get to the age of 19. To work out which category you belong in, see the table below. As an example, if you are 14 now, but have a birthday later in the year, then you are classed as a 15 year old and would race in the Youth category:
U12 Downhill – Riders taking part in Short Course or Mini Downhill events can compete in their 10th, 11th and 12th year.

Juvenile - To qualify for the Juvenile category, a rider must be in their 13th or 14th year. Youth - Riders in their 15th and 16th yearsJunior - Riders in their 17th and 18th years

Senior / Expert / Elite - When a rider reaches his or her 19th year then the Senior or Sport category is the appropriate aged based category. See below for how riders can attain Expert or Elite status.

Master - for riders aged 30 to 39. In Downhill Senior riders will default to Master on reaching their 30th year. In Cross Country, Sport riders will continue to be classified as Sport unless they elect to ride in the Masters category. This change was introduced for 2011 in recognition of the high standard of competition in XC Masters racing, to allow an extra category option for those in this age group.

Veteran - for riders aged 40 to 49.Grand Veteran - for riders aged over 50 (DH and female XC) or aged 50 to 59 (male XC).Super Veteran - for male XC riders aged over 60

How do I qualify to a higher ABILITY category?

Qualification from Senior/Sport/Junior to Expert or Expert to Elite is gained through your "End of Year" ranking points.

Female, Cross-Country and Downhill.

These riders should apply directly to British Cycling if a category change is required.

Male Downhill

Elite: The top 40 ranked riders will remain Elite. Elite riders ranked outside of the top 40 will retain their status and any other eligible rider can gain Elite status if two World Cup finals have been achieved in one season. The top 10 Expert riders will be promoted to Elite. The 1st placed Junior rider will be promoted to Elite (British Cycling reserve the right to move more than 1 rider up on merit). Dispensation will only be considered for riders who have been injured for a minimum 8 week period during the months from April to September. A letter from a GP or specialist must be provided.

Expert: Any Elite riders ranked below 40, Expert riders ranked 11-80, Top 25 ranked Senior riders, Top 25 ranked Junior riders (only if 2nd year Juniors), 1st placed Veteran & top 3 Masters (optional, but Vets and Masters riding out of Cat will be offered Expert). Dispensation will only be considered for riders who have been injured for a minimum 8 week period during the months from April to September. A letter from a GP or Specialist must be provided.

Senior: Juniors moving up an age group, but outside the top 25, Entry level riders of senior category age, Riders ranked outside the top 80 Experts, Non licensed riders of Senior category age

Male Cross-Country


Top 50 Elite Ranked riders stay elite

Top 5 Experts are promoted to elite

Top 2 Juniors are promoted to elite, or top 5 dependent upon age & ability


Elite riders ranked below 50

Expert riders outside the top 5 remain expert.

Junior category riders ranked 3-5 are promoted, dependent upon age & ability.

Sport category riders ranked in the top 15

Master category rider ranked in the top 3

BC will consider applications for upgrade from riders who fall just outside these thresholds.

Male & Female Four-Cross


Riders must remain within the top 20 NPS standings

1st place Junior rider. Optional and dependent upon age

Top 3 Senior NPS standings

The winner of a 2008 Senior NPS event


Elite riders ranked outside the top 20

Junior riders moving up to Senior

Master age riders wishing to progress to Elite

What is Scottish Cycling / British Cycling membership and why should you buy it?

A guide to what Scottish Cycling brings to mountain biking in Scotland is available here -

British Cycling membership provides support and benefits to all level of cyclists, however you ride. Members of British Cycling enjoy discounts from top cycle retailers plus legal support and insurance. By joining British Cycling, you are actively supporting all the work we do, helping us to invest in cycling facilities across the UK, supporting the future of on and off road cycling through our work with the Forestry Commission and Central Government plus govern the development of cycle sport in the UK, right up to elite level.

Race Licences Explained

Full Race Licence

If you are planning on taking part in a competitive bike race, there is a good chance that you will need to add on a Full Race Licence while purchasing your Membership, particularly if you are going to be doing road or track racing. You will also need a Full Race Licence to earn points in any National or Regional rankings.

As a general rule, the higher the standard of race, the more likely it is that you will need to buy a Full Race Licence with your membership. To find out more download our Guide to Eligibilities.

Provisional Race Licence

A Provisional Race Licence comes free with all Race Gold, Race Silver and Race Bronze memberships and is enough to get you into most BMX, Cyclo Cross, Cycle Speedway and MTB races. To be sure, check with the event organiser beforehand (Please note: If you race on a provisional licence you will not be eligible for any licence points). If you are a Ride member you won't be riding competitively right now, so your membership does not include any type of Race Licence.

Full Race Licence Prices 2012

Purchase can be made online in addition to the purchase of a Race Silver or Race Gold membership. To add a Race Licence to an existing membership call the membership team on 0161 274 2010.

Licence Age Category (2011)

Price of Full Race Licence
UCI Registered Team Rider £74.00
Senior: (18+) £32.00
Junior (16-18) £13.00
Youth (12-15) Free
Under 12 Free
Note: Race Licences are half price from July 1st annually

Racing rules

Events in Scotland are run in accordance with the Scottish Cycling Technical Regulations – copy of which is available on the SC website – a hard copy is available on request. The race officials also refer to the BC technical regulations and the link to these is attached.