Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Some Puzzling Math

But first, a pic of a few of the Platinum Performance mtb racers at Bonelli last Sunday...

And that picture above shows just a small fraction of the SB-area riders who were there. A quick scan of the results shows about 45 local riders (i.e., SB, Goleta, Carp, SY Valley) out of around 400 total participants. That's huge! And really cool too.

So now why is it that the SB turn-out at SoCal road events is so much lower proportionally? A typical one-day road event will see maybe 10-15 SB area riders, at most, even though the event will attract 400-600 riders total. Maybe it's not fair to compare a beautiful venue like Bonelli Park with a typical LA industrial park crit, but what about a race like The Garrett Lemire Memorial Grand Prix? Only an hour away from SB, a very nice course, in a great downtown location. Yet, I'd guess 20-25 locals raced there last year. It was probably the biggest local turnout for a road event other than Mothballs. For reference, there are nearly 150 USCF licensed riders in our area, so we're seeing 10%-20% participation.

I have no idea how many NORBA-licensed riders are in the SB area, but I'd guess fewer than 100. So is it true that more of them race, and more often? Why would that be?


Anonymous said...

The prestige of winning Sunday Worlds is unrivaled within the State.

Anonymous said...

Several possibilities, not that any necessarily apply to the SB group:

1) In our active east coast district, there have historically been a number of USCF licensees who rarely race, for whatever reason. The regulars seem to be a fraction of the total licensee population.

2)Road racing is not as much fun if you can't at least compete for a place. The emphasis is on placing, while "finishing with the field" doesn't generally get you a time or a place. MTB racing provides an opportunity for head-to-head competition, a time, and a place, even at the back of the field.

3) The NORBA licensee population may represent the hard core of offroad racers, implying that that population may participate more. Many races here are non-NORBA, so taking a NORBA license is not required to participate.

4) The perception, if not the reality, is that your risk level while offroad racing is in your hands. And, while the number of offroad falls may be more frequent, the consequences seem to be less severe than with road crashes.

5) Offroad racing for the non-elite seems to require less total immersion than does road racing. I would guess that a number of offroad race participants "train" a fraction of what's customary for road racing. Road racing is hard to face if you haven't done the preparation. In this respect, MTB racing might have more in common with footraces than with road racing.

jen said...

One easy answer: There are almost never two mountain bike races on the calender in a single weekend. So, you won't have people divided between a race in SoCali and one in NorCali. Also, there are fewer races on the calender, so if one pops up, most people will go. Lastly, there aren't specialists among XC racers. Either you race or you don't. It's not like road, where some riders hate crits or don't do hilly races or whathaveyou. The courses vary only by degrees: there's always climbing, always descending, blah, blah.

Disagree actually with the anon above that mountain bike racing is any easier training-wise. I'd rate it about the same, though certainly different. No drafting, altitude, intense sustained effort = not so easy. I dunno, I suck if I don't train :-P

Me, I just like going cool places. With trees.

jen said...

Oops, that was more than one answer.


Marco Fanelli said...

Those all sound like valid reasons to me.

I'm not qualified to comment on the training differences between road and mountain, but I will say that I talked to Johnny O'Mara on Sunday and he said that he's forsaking road now since he's a dad and has limited training time. What he meant was that his skills are adequate to make up for a shortage of training time. Maybe a lot of mtb riders are that way--they developed their skills long ago and now can do races without a whole bunch of training time. dunno... I'm envious of everyone with dirt skills.

Anonymous said...

For me it's just more fun. Much rather be on loamy singletrack or in a doug fir forest, than on asphalt. I've also had enough asphalt under my skin to hold me for a lifetime. I don't know which is tougher but I sure know which is more fun. The numbers may just go to show that when you want to have a good time most will simply grab the mtb.


anony-miss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anony-miss said...

I agree with anonymous that the barrier to entry is greater for road racing. If you're off form, you'll get dropped from the pack. Then you're SOL. Not much fun.
With mountain biking, there is no peleton to get dropped from. You can go out an race yourself back into form and have fun.
Hence mountain bikers may be more likely to go out and race.

Anonymous said...

Johnny O. can put 5+ min. on anyone downhill. He's fast uphill too. He's way off the bell shape curve as a benchmark rider.

John P.

Anonymous said...

I think it's much easier to hang in a crit if you haven't been training than it is to put up a good time in a MTB race. I think the main reasons for lower participation are...

1. the risk factor

2. Who wants to drive an hour to race for 40 minutes? With MTB races you get more bang for your buck.

3. The attitude. MTB races have an "everyone is welcome" feel. Road races and crits by comparison are more intense and not welcoming to rookies. New riders or first time racers are intimidated by the rules and knowledge of etiquette that is required.

OF course...I like 'em both!


Anonymous said...

You must have a certain level of fitness to hang with the pack on the road. You do not need a certain level of fitness to have fun MTB racing.

TnA said...

Hey Marco,
Here's another data point on road events that's also appropriate to the discussion in your other post concerning TTs.

The first "informal" (i.e. "honor system") local SB TT event of the year had a total of 56 participants on a Monday evening!

I guess the argument can be made that events like these, along with MTB races, and even running events, are geared more towards competition with one's self. In other words, people can take satisfaction in comparing themselves to their own times. Perhaps that's why these types of events tend to have higher participations than a typical road cycling event?

Marco Fanelli said...

Wow! I knew there were a lot of people there but I didn't realize it was that many! I think you (and the earlier commenter) must be right that something about getting self-comparable times and placings helps motivate people to show up.

Btw, if the turn-out at the tt gets much larger, there might be trouble because there are limits to the number of participants in an unpermitted event on public roads. I'm thinking it's about 75 people. There are a few local running races that deal with this limit I think.

BicyclePortland.net said...

Another advantage to racing Merckx style. You can say to the cop, "Race? What race? I'm just riding man".

TnA said...

Next time you're in town, you'll have to go down to the Piru TT. They have an "Eddy Merckx" division just for you.


Or, you could really "man up" and take on this guy in the Fixie division:


BicyclePortland.net said...

He's still cheating by taking off his bottle cage. Thanks for the link though. Now I have an arch nemesis to focus some fury upon.
The team is pretty happy about the Merckx TTT in Georgia. It's quite a pain to lug 8 extra bikes across the continent for a 10 miler. And no Tufo tires like in '05. We should be a shoe-in :)

Greg Knowles said...

Marco, these are all some great comments.

I can only speak for myself, but I certainly feel more welcome and less intimidated at the mountain bike races.

I didn't take up cycling until I was in my mid 30's and some of the roadie drama isn't any fun for me.

Regarding what's easier, I can't think of any mountain bike race I've ever done that was easy.

The better shape you are in just allows you to go faster. All Mountain Bike races hurt.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Matt's, Wheels' and Tom's comments above. MTB is akin to a TT, which is the great equalizer and better enables self-assessment and -esteem (versus finishing mid-pack in a crit, though I acknowledge the counter-arguments there).

But over regular TT, MTB obviously has the added element of racing against a group. And on the multi-lap races like Bonelli where they start the Pros, Experts and stronger riders first, you have the added fun/danger of glomming onto the Pros and Semi-Pros when they pass for as long as you can to follow their lines and try to hang, thereby improving.

Beyond the fitness-check, competition and gaining some additional skills, MTB just reminds me more of the fun I had as a kid riding my bike.


Marco Fanelli said...

Greg said:
> I didn't take up cycling until I
> was in my mid 30's and some of
> the roadie drama isn't any fun
> for me.

but, but, but... it's the road drama that makes great blog fodder!!

...in fact, you should hear what I heard from some C-Ranchers on the way back from Casitas today! Something about Louis and Mitch and vegetable oil...

Greg Knowles said...

LOL Marco!

Marco Fanelli said...

Greg- before I get any hate-mail, just know that it was Mitch who I heard this from. (Of course, I made up the vegetable-oil part...)

Also, I don't really believe there's no drama in the dirt. Why is it called the "B team" again?! All good fun... I hope!

Greg Knowles said...

All good fun is right! I know that is why I ride. Talking trash, suffering on long climbs.... It's all fun, even the blog fodder is great fun! Keep up the good work.