Cross country mountain biking, or XC as it is commonly dubbed, is the most popular form of mountain biking, both racing and in general use. XC bikes make manufacturers big money and are extremely popular amongst customers. It is also a big testing ground for new products, with everything from experimental electronic drivetrains to tyre sealant being prototyped in the 2018 XC World Cup.
But, what is XC, and why is it so popular? To try to explain this, we have compiled a top 5 reasons why XC is the most popular form of mountain biking.
Okay, so this is probably the most important reason.
XC mountain biking is accessible for several reasons. Cost, terrain and location are just a few of the reasons why XC is accessible to any mountain biker.
XC bikes range from under £1000 to way over £5000 so there is something for everyone. My first bike was a £999 XC hardtail and it proved to be an awesome piece of kit, a great starting bike and the bike I did my first race on (which was XC).
XC mountain biking is accessible to the masses because it can be done pretty much anywhere. All you need is a riding route that is typically a 2-mile loop, has hills to climb and descend, has tight single track and wide open fire road.
Wharncliffe, Rother valley and Parkwood springs are just a few places you could hold an XC event close to us in Sheffield, and I’m sure you can think of places near you too.
One of the limiting factors for people taking part in races or buying a mountain bike.
Here is an example based on two events I have raced:
NDH enduro: £40 entry, £20 deposit for the timing chip.
Midlands XC: £13 race entry, £25 British Cycling membership if you don’t have one (one yearly payment)
As you can see XC is a very cost-effective sport to be in, to race most downhill events you need a British Cycling membership, and there will be a few Enduro’s you need it for too. So take the membership away and its £13 a race. You can’t grumble at that.
Sticking with the cost-effective theme. Let’s talk bikes:
My first mountain bike was a brand-new Scott Scale 750 27.5.
This is an XC hardtail complete with 2×10 drive train, fork lockout, fox performance 32 (100mm) travel forks and great climbing geometry.
It was a fantastic bike and the only reason I no longer have it is due to my own stupidity snapping the frame.
The brakes, forks and other components bar the drive train are still on the new frame and the bike rides XC well.
And to top it off: under £1000 for an XC mountain bike.
Yes, you can buy stupidly expensive carbon, kashima forks and droppers if it’s what you want but for under £1000 you can buy a fantastic XC weapon. And, with XC geometry it will climb extremely well.
If you’re getting into mountain biking to get fit or want to see your body change, XC will get you fit. Even with downhillers being far away from the old stereotype they used to be, you would be hard pushed to find any one fitter than the XC top dogs. XC riders are generally light, fit and fast as &%£*.
XC is all about constant effort, never getting off the bike and always working at 100%.
XC training rides are some of the shortest but toughest rides I put into my weekly calendar and generally cover 9-12 miles of constant pedalling from the get go. Never putting a foot down and always on the pedals.
XC races are just the same, constant effort. Never putting a foot down and grafting your socks off until you cross the finish line.
If you wanna get fit, ride XC.
One other reason XC is popular is because of the terrain. You won’t find 17-foot gaps, 8-foot drops or bonkers big step ups on an XC course.
Yes, XC has got more technical as bikes have progressed over the years; it’s tricky and tough to get around an XC course and the top-level riders can seriously descend. But you won’t find terrain on an XC course that will seriously destroy your body or require balls of steel to ride, making it accessible for all ages and skill levels to get into.
It’s also varied, keeping it entertaining and fun to be on – grass climbs, rooty singletrack, smooth flowing sections – it’s all there on an XC event or course.
1: Family friendly
Go to any XC race and you will see swarms of families either riding together, racing together or just enjoying the event and providing support. The events cater for all ages, and they really do accommodate with all the usual spectator favourites like food and coffee, fantastic opportunities for spectators to walk all around the course and see the race from all angles and get photos of their little ones or partners weekend warrior’ing it around a race track.
From junior short courses to veteran short track it’s all here at an XC weekend.
So, if you wanting to get the little one into a sport that’s out of the mainstream, enjoyable and family friendly you can’t go wrong with an XC event, or if your worrying about your partner being bored at a long day racing you can turn up, practice and then finish your race in an hour before going home.
So, there you go, our top 5 reasons we love XC as a form of mountain biking.
Events are held all over the country and there is never one too far away. So, if your thinking about getting involved I would check out this friendly, accommodating and fun style of riding and racing.
Stay tuned to the Dialled page for an upcoming video of what an XC bike is, and how it is unique compared to other disciplines of mountain bike.