Get Into Downhill and 4-Cross
Many riders who enjoy the thrill of technically challenging Mountain Biking turn to Downhill and 4-Cross. If you find you're naturally quick through technical terrain and you enjoy learning about the limits of handling off-road, then these may be the disciplines for you. But don't just think that good skill levels will suffice: although the races are short, they require high levels of fitness and strength.
Downhill and 4-Cross riders often get into the sport via completely different routes to Cross-Country riders. Many of them come from the "street" end of trials riding, BMX and dirt jumping. There is also a considerable cross-over from BMX racing and, interestingly, from off-road motorcycling disciplines such as Trials and Moto-Cross.
Downhill - Where to Begin
Wherever you're coming from, if you fancy a crack at Downhill, you can’t beat going to watch regional and national events for getting a feel for the sport. Some courses, such as the the ones at Fort William and Innerleithen in the borders, are open to the public at times. There's also a growing number of organised "uplift" days, where, for a fee, you can practice on a full-blown Downhill course with transport to the top of the hill and event insurance thrown in. These events are a great stepping stone to competition proper. Check out the events calendar for details of events.
Please check with the landowner before using any courses where there is no formal organisation: the sport has lost many facilities over the years through thoughtless misuse. For the beginner, local events on shorter and less challenging courses are available in some areas. Find one you are comfortable with to start your racing career.
4-Cross - Where to Begin
There is considerable cross-over in skills between BMX and 4-Cross: many of the skills are similar, so a trip to check out your local BMX club is a good idea if 4-Cross appeals to you. Some BMX events even have classes for 4-Cross bikes.
Downhill and 4-Cross events usually have several classes catering for a range of abilities and age groups. Look out for Novice categories – there are also often categories for younger riders. A British Cycling membership and Licence are usually needed for regional and national events. In return, British Cycling ensures that appropriate insurance is in place when you race and that organisers take their responsibilities seriously.
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 You become more successful, you will progress through Senior and Expert categories and the very best riders join the “Elite” category. 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.