Posted August 18, 2005
So you wanna race 4X?
Some of you are thinking, "4X racing looks fun. I think I'll give it a try." Here's what you should know:
Courses resemble downhill BMX tracks. They include rollers, jumps, banked turns and sometimes flat turns. Some courses are tiny and herky-jerky; others are immense and flowy. Because of the amount of dirt required to make big, wide jumps and berms, 4X courses require tons of money, manpower and/or time to build correctly.
Fork: Most riders run a 4-inch fork and about a 68-degree head angle. In general a slack angle like that feels stable at speed. Bottom brackets tend to be low -- around 12.5 inches. For smooth courses stiffen your suspension. Run a short stem and rise bars, and lower your seat as far as possible. Don't sweat your head angle and BB height -- just ride your bike.
Tires and wheels: On hardpack courses you can run semislick or low-knob tires such as Maxxis Larsens and WTB Nano Raptors. In most situations you're better off with a medium-knobbed tire like a Maxxis Minion, Maxxis High Roller, WTB Mutano Raptor or WTB Moto Raptor. They let you carry more speed through flat turns. Sweet compromise: a knobby on the front and a semislick on the rear. If you're hard on wheels, run light DH or moderate freeride rims like Mavic 883s or Sun Singletracks. If you're smooth and you want ultimate speed, run light XC wheels. But know this: Light wheels have a way of punishing mistakes.
Drivetrain: The hot tip is a smallish single front ring (32-34t) and a chain guide, with a road cassette (11-23t). This combo lets you stay in the middle of your cogset (you'll only need a few gears), and it provides gradual shifts, to keep you in your powerband. For beginners, make sure you have a chain guide, but go ahead and run everything else stock. Full pros sometimes run 8-speeds because the chains are stronger (really). Many top pros change their chains every race -- because they make so much power. Eric Carter has actually complained that flat starts cause him to break chains.
In order of importance:
Work on your sprints. 4X races last a maximum of 40 seconds. Sprint and sprint and sprint some more so you can stay strong through the rounds.
Work on jumping. You should be able to handle every jump on the race track without worrying about it. Remember the training bubble -- practice big jumps so you can race better on small jumps.
Work on passing and protecting your line. Here's where typical mountain bikers get shelled. We're so used to following people we never pass, and we're so focused on the main line we forget three people are looking for ways to pass us. Here are the two basic passes:
At the race
Qualify: You'll get one run by yourself against the clock. Take the fastest possible line.
Race: Start as fast as you can. If you're ahead, protect your line. If you're behind, try to pass. You are not alone; three racers are trying to beat you. Keep thinking, never follow and never give up!
For more details on 4X preparation and tactics, check out Brian Lopes' and my book, Mastering Mountain Bike Skills.
Fight terrorism: spend money!
Lee Likes Ads
Gamut USA's light, simple chainguides suit every mountain biking discipline. What's guiding you?
Online store specializing in freeride, downhill and dirt jumping. Now featuring Addict Cycles.
Home Email Lee
© 2005 Lee Likes Bikes LLC. All rights reserved.