Mountain Bike Racer  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotProfessional mountain bike racers compete in races at the national and international level. There are different types of mountain bike racing events:

  • Cross-country
  • Endurance -- events lasting longer than two hours
  • Downhill
  • Dual-slalom -- head-to-head competition on short hill poles
  • Observed trials -- trick riding

dotRacers do more than just compete, however. Like all professional athletes, they train to prepare themselves for events.

To build endurance, many mountain bike racers run and train on the road -- not just on the trail. They often reserve the trails for perfecting their technical skills.

dotMost mountain bike racers ride independently. The majority of pros, however, race on professional teams supported by sponsors.

Those racers who work for sponsors also do marketing and promotional events. Some, whose sponsors usually can't afford to pay high salaries, work in bike shops as salespeople and mechanics. Others get involved in research and development, testing out new bikes and equipment.

Sponsored pro racers work wherever the team takes them -- to promotional events and to mountain bike competitions around the world.

dotMountain bike racers strive to place in the top rankings of the racing circuit. When you've won enough events and the rankings are publicized, you may be approached by a team or a company that has already established a team.

Associations only consider those mountain bikers who can make a living by riding for their sponsor as truly professional.

"I make a comfortable living racing bikes," says pro mountain bike racer Nat Ross. But he has backup plans too. "Racing bikes is an amazing job, but it doesn't last forever. Every year, I work on setting my self up after I retire. I will continue to work in the industry as a product developer/tester, coach, and commentator."

dotThe physical demands are another difficult part of the sport. A high level of fitness and a flair for endurance sports are necessary for success.

"The hardest part of my job is managing to physically endure the schedule I have. You don't always feel like it, but you've got to get out there and train. The time zone changes, the long plane flights and the travelling don't help either," says pro mountain biker Leslie Tomlinson.

dotYou must be fearless. There's a fair amount of physical risk involved in the sport. Yet some mountain bike racers say that injuries can be avoided with good judgment and a little common sense.

"You always have the option of getting off your bike. It's an assessment that you make. You should know your limits. When it's your job, you have less of a tendency to go to the limits if it's going to involve a crash that will put you out for the season," Tomlinson says.

At a Glance

Compete in extreme terrain

  • Interest in this sport is growing steadily
  • There are teams all over the U.S.
  • It takes years of practice and training to excel