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  1. #1
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    Road vs. Mountain Event Numbers

    Here in Arizona mountain events are crushing road events as far as number of entry/racers are concerned. Some of the possible reasons I can think of are:

    1. General vibe pre/post race is better. Lots of reasons why, but the fact is it's a party like atmosphere.

    2. More a family affair. Lot's more families head out and make a week end of it camping out and chilling with friends.

    3. NICA or National Interscholastic Cycling Association is huge in the high school mountain scene but ZERO road teams that I know of here in AZ.

    4. Mountain has less events. Maybe a couple each month during our cooler months whereas road has about 30 races crammed into a period of January to Mid April. IMO less events equal a bigger draw.

    5. Can't prove this but, it seems like more shops sponsor/back/support mountain teams compared to road.

    6. Lastly, but, most importantly, I think there is a perception that road events are harder which is patently false. I also think there is a perception that road events are less friendly during the race. IMO Most of the people that complain about this one are not competitive and don't get that "I" have no intention of letting you take the wheel I'm sitting on; fighting for position, which is normal, seems "mean" to these people; and god forbid someone yells at someone for doing something stupid (dangerous) that can send many to the hospital. All these things really don't happen at all to the same degree in mountain events and therefore I think there is this false perception mountain is friendlier and less competitive than road. Again, false.

    Interestingly, road events like fondos, endurance oriented gravel events and rides like the BWR are doing really well. So, it must be something to do with the short nature of the events or maybe the lack of atmosphere or maybe even too many categories. People seem to love huge crowds (Tour of Tucson) for example. Each year many come out to that who have never been on a group ride yet they line up with thousands with out thinking about it. These same people would never race a sanctioned race. Most probably have no idea there are road races.

    Are you all seeing the same in sort of participation in your area? Any ideas of how to increase ridership in sanctioned road race events? Any other reasons for the disparity?

    For the record I was hard core mountain only in the late 80's through the early 90's. Took a break until the early 2000's then got bored with it and switched to road in 2005-ish...All opinions welcome.

  2. #2
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    It's probably a little easier to secure a MTB race route than to close roads for road races.

    And the fact that training for road means riding in traffic. I think a lot of people are moving away from road to gravel and MTB for this very reason.

    I got hit by a car a few years ago. After recovering from that, I found it difficult to get interested in road rides. Especially solo training rides.

    Most of my time is spent on gravel theses days ( we have a lot of it where I live). From weekend solo rides to large semi competitive events. The only road riding I do any more is a short section of my work commute. I'd venture to say 85% of my 9000+ miles this year will be on unpaved surfaces (i.e. not amongst the cars). This was closer to 20% a few years ago...

  3. #3
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    I never raced road but I used to race MTB a bit. My mostly uninformed thoughts are;

    - road racing seems WAY more dangerous due to riding in a tight peloton on pavement vs spreading out over a trail.

    - MTB also seems easier to get into for beginners. Just hop on a bike and ride your butt off with no need to understand group riding dynamics and peloton "rules".

    - At least in beginner classes, an MTBer can compensate for a lack of skills or fitness by having an abundance of the other. I'm not sure if that's true for road racing.

    Basically, I think it's a lot more intimidating to enter a road race as a first-timer. And yeah, we MTBers are mostly only in it for the post-ride party anyway.

  4. #4
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    OP, I just reread your post.

    My wife is a competitive 1/2 marathoner - she actually did the Tucson full marathon and a few 1/2s there over the years while visiting her dad. Your item #4 is certainly affecting the running scene. There's been a very noticeable "dilution" of running events in the past 5-8 years as every running store, non-profit, etc., promote races as a means of marketing or fund raising. At $20+ a pop, a runner needs to pick and choose from a long list of events rather than simply entering the handful of local races that used to be available.

  5. #5
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    I've never done an 'event' that required a mountain bike but have done some that are most definitely not 'road' events. Trails, unmaintained gravel and that sort of stuff with a CX bike and big tires is what I mean.

    The reason I do these events and never road events is: I can look at a map and call a few buddies and put together whatever road ride I want anytime very easily. I can also find places to get water, food, ect no problem on any road ride. A ride being an event or organized does absolutely nothing for me. Even far away from home where I don't know the roads, with google maps and other tools I don't need anyone to plan anything for me.

    But I don't stand a change in heck of coming up with a great route that consists of un-named unmarked trails, road that are not longer roads and stuff like that on my own other than right near home where I can learn though lots of trial and error. Also, I don't want to carry food and water enough to accommodate for not passing a store in 5 hours (this never happens on the road even in the most remote areas I've ridden road) so a food stop in the middle of nowhere is pretty sweet and worth an entry fee.

    In summary. There is nothing about any road event I know about that I feel the the need to pay for or go by their schedule not mine. There is a value-added to non-road rides that I am willing to pay for and schedule around.

    edit: so after not having read the other responses, you're not asking about races right? Just events aka organized rides? If you mean races than nevermind my answer.
    Last edited by Jay Strongbow; 2 Weeks Ago at 12:20 PM.

  6. #6
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    I'm a long-time mountain biker, infrequent road racer. I think there some realities and some attitudinal elements at play...

    Realities:
    - Organizing a mtb race is exponentially easier
    - MTB racing may require more technical skills... but road racing is much more dangerous

    Attitudinal:
    - Road racing seems geared to experienced road racers. This can make getting into road racing more intimidating - since, other than the Categories, there's little recognition that the beginners are beginners. Putting 40 Cat-5s (many of whom could be first-timers) in a pack and saying "GO!" usually nets some sketchy situations, at best... and a bunch of crashes, at worst.

    I don't know what the solution to ^that^ is. And, I'm sure a lot you will think "tough ****. Then don't race." And that's fair. But, this is a bit of the rising tide lifts all boats thing. The more riders become racers - at all ages - the better racing is for all categories. Purses are bigger, races are better run (when budgets are higher), there are more races...

    There are several guys in my club in their 40s and 50s who are damn fast - hang with the 24++ mph group rides, who have roughly the same response when asked about racing "**** that! I like my skin/bike just the way it is"

  7. #7
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    Been mtb racing for 20+ years, cyclocross racing for 15 years, and was active in road racing for 10 years or so but have sort of faded away from it, and even dabbled a bit in racing on the velodrome. I love the variety and the different challenges.

    Definitely agree that people view road racing as more dangerous and more serious, whereas mtb racing is more laid back. Road racing seems to be viewed as more expensive too, with licensing, race fees, and investment in more high-end equipment adding more overhead. Also, road racing is a very unique experience if you can stay with the pack, but when you get dropped it quickly becomes no more fun at all. MTB and cyclocross are still fun if you're not in the pack, and still provide the challenge of the course and conditions.

    There are general impressions and stereotypes that the roadie crowd is different than the mtb crowd that are mostly untrue. But still I've found it difficult to convince my mtb friends to join in on the road racing experience, and vice-versa. There aren't that many people like me that crossover to the different disciplines, and that is a shame.

    In my area the mtb scene is pretty strong and has recently been bolstered by high-school mtb organized racing. It also helps quite a bit that we also have some really good support for local mtb trail developement and maintenance.

    In contrast the road scene seems to struggle in growing in any significant way for many years, which is too bad because road racing is a tremendously unique and rewarding experience because of the mental and physical "game" that is unlike any other racing experience. Road racing has a learning curve of riding in a pack that seems to intimidate many people though.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    edit: so after not having read the other responses, you're not asking about races right? Just events aka organized rides? If you mean races than nevermind my answer.
    In general I'm intrigued why road race (crit, road, stage/omniums, ITT's) entry numbers are lower than both mountain bike races and events and road events such as fondos and tours.

  9. #9
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    =OldZaskar;5208281
    - Road racing seems geared to experienced road racers. This can make getting into road racing more intimidating - since, other than the Categories, there's little recognition that the beginners are beginners. Putting 40 Cat-5s (many of whom could be first-timers) in a pack and saying "GO!" usually nets some sketchy situations, at best... and a bunch of crashes, at worst.

    I don't know what the solution to ^that^ is. And, I'm sure a lot you will think "tough ****. Then don't race." And that's fair. But, this is a bit of the rising tide lifts all boats thing. The more riders become racers - at all ages - the better racing is for all categories. Purses are bigger, races are better run (when budgets are higher), there are more races...
    Good points. Socal is doing a better job at beginner clinics and mentored cat 5 races. Not here in AZ though. It's every man for himself and I fully get that if you're not a competitive person or someone who has been an athlete their entire life this would be intimidating. So yeah, finding ways to make it less intimidating to enter...I like it!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by GearDaddy View Post
    Been mtb racing for 20+ years, cyclocross racing for 15 years, and was active in road racing for 10 years or so but have sort of faded away from it, and even dabbled a bit in racing on the velodrome. I love the variety and the different challenges.

    Definitely agree that people view road racing as more dangerous and more serious, whereas mtb racing is more laid back. Road racing seems to be viewed as more expensive too, with licensing, race fees, and investment in more high-end equipment adding more overhead. Also, road racing is a very unique experience if you can stay with the pack, but when you get dropped it quickly becomes no more fun at all. MTB and cyclocross are still fun if you're not in the pack, and still provide the challenge of the course and conditions.

    There are general impressions and stereotypes that the roadie crowd is different than the mtb crowd that are mostly untrue. But still I've found it difficult to convince my mtb friends to join in on the road racing experience, and vice-versa. There aren't that many people like me that crossover to the different disciplines, and that is a shame.

    In my area the mtb scene is pretty strong and has recently been bolstered by high-school mtb organized racing. It also helps quite a bit that we also have some really good support for local mtb trail developement and maintenance.

    In contrast the road scene seems to struggle in growing in any significant way for many years, which is too bad because road racing is a tremendously unique and rewarding experience because of the mental and physical "game" that is unlike any other racing experience. Road racing has a learning curve of riding in a pack that seems to intimidate many people though.
    My thoughts exactly...your point about that unique experience about being able to hang in the group or getting dropped is spot on. I think that is a big part of why people perceive road racing as more competitive than mountain. I've always believed it's not. It's just that when you get dropped in a mountain bike race it's not so dramatic.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodys737 View Post
    In general I'm intrigued why road race (crit, road, stage/omniums, ITT's) entry numbers are lower than both mountain bike races and events and road events such as fondos and tours.
    I see. I don't know anything about Mountain Bike races but for crits and regular road races vs fondos and tours I think a big factor is probably just a much larger group of potential participants. While there are some road racers who feel they are too cool for fondos pretty much everyone who owns a bike would be a potential participant. But guys and gals who might not want competition, or only want to be challenged against themselves, would have on interest in a crit.

    The reason I do so few crits and regular road races is that when faces with the choice between driving xx miles in my car to get there and paying $xx for maybe 30 or less miles of actual riding vs riding all day doing what I want I generally choose the latter. I guess more time on the bike is more valuable than competition to me.
    There are so few stage races and long one-day races available to schmucks like me that I'm not factoring those into those comments.

  12. #12
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    Might just be me but here in MA road races seem more common. I don't race personally but I ride with guys that do and there seems to be plenty of road races. I don't hear so much about mtb races. I know of a few but nowhere near as many, but again, might just be that I don't ride that often with mountain bikers to hear of these events.

  13. #13
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    I love both! I started in MTB, but now race both equally throughout the season. I think the stereotypes are somewhat true.

    First road race, a guy a few places up gets squirrely and goes down without time for me to react. Over the bars with bad road rash and dropped from the peloton about 1/2 way through the race.

    Second road race, same thing happens with a guy going down and I get taken out. Less road rash this time. Make it to the TT. A guy has his RV parked (lengthwise) in 5 parking spots in the shade. I park in the ONLY shade spot left, the spot in front of his RV. He proceeds to come over and start *****ing me out about how I've blocked him in. I try to explain that I'm racing in 10 minutes and will likely be gone before he could even get his RV ready to pull out. He threatens to punch me. I tell him to go ahead and try. I also state that if he does, I'll call the cops and that wouldn't be a great example for all his junior racers watching us argue. He calls me a Cat 5 loser and suggests that is why I took the parking spot.

    My first MTB race experience. Took off on the trails, had a blast! Came up on slower racers. They were very polite and let me come by. When I finished the race, someone from the local team gave me a beer. We all hung out and had a great time.

    The above two experiences were how I was introduced to each discipline. They may not reflect how other experienced it, but it says something about why there are stereotypes. I love bike racing regardless. I'm a Cat 3 road and Cat 1 MTB racer. I will likely have to upgrade to Cat 2 road after this coming year. So, I definitely don't have bad feelings about road racing.


    My personal belief is that both MTB XC racing and Road racing (RR, TT, Crit) are suffering from competition of Gravel racing, Endurance MTB racing, and Fondos, because these are inherently different types of racing.

    When you race road or XC, you get your butt handed to you (until you can get fast enough to compete). Fondos, Gravel racing, and Endurance MTB racing have capitalized on the "compete against yourself" philosophy. It doesn't matter if you finished 99th out of 100. Did you beat your time from last year? Yes, Fantastic!!! Come back next year and see if you can beat your time from this year. Most of these races don't really emphasize the race and results, they emphasize your time and the after party. That is what people want.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by taodemon View Post
    Might just be me but here in MA road races seem more common. I don't race personally but I ride with guys that do and there seems to be plenty of road races. I don't hear so much about mtb races. I know of a few but nowhere near as many, but again, might just be that I don't ride that often with mountain bikers to hear of these events.
    I'm also in MA and was thinking the same thing. But also true with me is I don't run in Mtn Bike circles so wouldn't know about them.

    CX is a different story. Probably definitely more road races still because the season is much longer but CX races are exploding in numbers is my perception. Many more gravel/trail type rides too.

    For what it's worth nearly all my road buddies who race road also ride mountain but don't race mountain. I don't know if that's due to desire or availability but I'm pretty sure it's availability.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodys737 View Post
    In general I'm intrigued why road race (crit, road, stage/omniums, ITT's) entry numbers are lower than both mountain bike races and events and road events such as fondos and tours.
    I think the biggest thing is that road racing is a bigger commitment in different ways. You pay for a racing license (which isn't cheap), invest in good equipment (because you need it to have good results), and need to be well prepared to compete (because it's not fun and downright demoralizing if you get dropped). There's also that danger factor (which I think is overstated).

    In contrast other types of events you can just show up, do your best, and still have fun and have a good sense of satisfaction in your hard work, regardless if you had a good result or not.

    Another thing is that many people can get a sort of road race kind of experience out of their lively group ride, where they don't have to pay for a license and a race fee and their result is not published (i.e. it isn't broadcast/recorded that they got their butts handed to them). IMO, these group rides that are sort of like races are NOT actually like toeing the line in a real race. IMO, the only way that you can truly test your abilities is through real races, and that was an incentive for me to participate.

    So, to get involved with road racing you need to really want the competition, you need a pretty thick skin to deal with the consequences, and you need the time and resources (e.g. "race what you can replace!") to be prepared enough to make it worth your while.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    I'm also in MA and was thinking the same thing. But also true with me is I don't run in Mtn Bike circles so wouldn't know about them.

    CX is a different story. Probably definitely more road races still because the season is much longer but CX races are exploding in numbers is my perception. Many more gravel/trail type rides too.

    For what it's worth nearly all my road buddies who race road also ride mountain but don't race mountain. I don't know if that's due to desire or availability but I'm pretty sure it's availability.
    Yes, CX seems pretty big up here too. Most of the guys that I know that race on the road do CX at the end of the season too. Some of the roadies I ride with also ride mtbs, and I have a mtb that didn't see much use this past year, but I never hear any of them talking about mtb races. I know there is the VT50, some race in rutland in the treasure valley area as well. I know there are others but it doesn't seem to be anywhere near as many as the road events.

    I think part of it might also have to do with terrain/trails for riding in the area. Arizona probably has better stuff than what we have here. I personally don't find roots and rock gardens that interesting to ride through though my knowledge of local trails is limited.

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