How to prep for your first big MTB event

The no-stress way to make sure you get the most out of your day

This is a sponsored article in association with the British Heart Foundation


Throughout the year the British Heart Foundation runs mass-participation MTB events, such as the London to Brighton Off-Road Bike Ride. They aim to get a large number of riders, of all abilities, together to undertake a challenging course and to raise funds for charity in the process.

Although designed to provide a tough challenge, they’re all about providing a fun and sociable event. One that motivates and encourages riders to push themselves, but to achieve their own personal goal rather than racing against others.

They’re a great introduction to the world of events, without the stress and tension you might get with a race. So they’re perfect for less experienced mountain bikers, but also offer enough of a challenge for more experienced riders.

These types of events can help encourage you to attempt something you might otherwise avoid, taking advantage of the help and support the organisers provide, and also the support, motivation and camaraderie from other riders. They inspire and motivate the participants to achieve, but are also great for increasing awareness of the sport and inspiring new and young people into riding.

Finding an event and signing up is simple enough (check out for some good ones), and the fun really starts when you get out on the bike, start some light training and raise some sponsorship money – the entry fee usually only covers the costs of running the event.

Get prepped for success

What often puts people off entering bigger events is the fear of getting bogged down in rigorous training plans. You don’t have to put in much effort to get prepped for an event and make the most of your first time taking part. Follow these simple tips to get you started.

  • Once you’ve submitted an entry, if you haven’t already, start riding your bike as soon as you can.
  • Keep riding as often as you can, but go for consistency – so smaller regular rides, rather than bigger infrequent ones. Try to have a structured training week, but use it as a guide and motivator, not a rule book.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of resting and stretching. Include some core work, such as ‘the plank’, which will pay dividends on long rides especially. Do other activities as well, such as swimming or running. This helps keep things fresh and improves all-round fitness.
  • Try some training rides with the exact kit and foods you’ll be riding with at the event, so you’ll know how it’s going to feel on race day.
  • Midweek rides should be ridden at a ‘hard, but comfortable’ pace, with bigger, harder rides saved for the weekends.
  • Consider including ‘Fasted rides’, which are undertaken at a moderate intensity for 90+ minutes in the morning, before eating any breakfast, just consuming water. Do these once a week or fortnight to help increase fat metabolism, enabling you to burn fat to release energy when carbohydrate stores are limited, such as on a big bike ride.
Taking part in an event gives you the chance to explore new trails
Taking part in an event gives you the chance to explore new trails
Russell Burton

Know your route

It’s pretty likely you’ll be riding new and unknown territory at an event, so a little bit of homework means you can turn up properly equipped for the ride ahead.

This means choosing the right type of bike (if you have a choice), which tyres are best for the terrain and what clothing’s most suitable for the conditions. A full-suspension enduro bike with big chunky tyres may be comfortable but a hardtail with low-profile tyres will be easier and faster to ride on the flat and uphills.

Many people fear the climbs, but often it’s long flat sections – which require a long, constant effort – that can be a mountain biker’s Achilles heel. You don’t need to ride the exact same trails, but training on similar gradients and terrain will provide you with a physical advantage, as well as a psychological one, come the day of the event.

The hidden benefits

The great thing about riding your mountain bike regularly is that it’s a fun way to stay fit and healthy. Rather than being too focused on specific goals and regimes, you’re concentrating on having a good time, without even thinking about the fact that you’re getting fitter, healthier and stronger. You’re also speeding up your metabolism and helping weight control.

There are a number of significant other health advantages, too, such as strengthening your bones and your heart, improving circulation, reducing the risk of some cancers and type 2 diabetes, and improving your mental health and mood.

Plus, taking part in an event gives you the chance to explore new trails and parts of the country, and meet other like-minded people, either in training or at the challenge itself, who’ll provide additional inspiration, motivation and friendships which may last beyond the event too.

BHF events

Fancy giving one a go? Here are a few of the BHF’s most popular events:

  • Willen Lake, Milton Keynes: 50 miles or 50km – 8 July
  • South Downs Way: 100 miles – 15 July
  • South East Coast, Martello Fields, Seaford: 35 or 40 miles – 13 August
  • London to Brighton Off-road: 75 miles – 23 September
  • London to Paris Off-road: Summer 2018

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