20 June 2023

What is Mountain Biking?

Showcasing some of the finest landscapes Scotland has to offer, riders will be giving it their all for a Rainbow Jersey. Welcome to Mountain Biking!

Also known as MTB, this is one of cycling’s most epic and exciting disciplines.

Scotland’s mountains, Munros, and some seriously steep hills host a series of white-knuckle tests of raw speed, technical skill and courage.

So get ready for some insane climbs and even more insane drops as riders go to war with gravity… and win.

The Only Way Is Down

Mountain Bike Downhill is deceptively simple as an event: you start at the top and the fastest to the bottom wins.

The reality is extremely different - every single rock between those two points has the potential to end a run. And there are a lot of rocks.

Did we mention all the other gnarly terrain? That too.

Navigating that is tough enough, but navigating at speeds of up to 80km/h, with a sweaty full-face helmet on, the world watching and medals on the line - that’s what makes Downhill so awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

While rider safety is always obviously paramount, spare a thought for their aluminium and carbon fibre friends - the bikes themselves take an absolute battering on a Downhill run. 

And you’ll quickly see why the oversized (and outrageously expensive) suspension set-ups are so important. Another cool equipment note is that the saddles aren’t for sitting. Instead, riders use their thighs to influence the leaning direction of the bike as they take on hairpin bends.

One of the best bits is the finish line, where the crowd gathers to go crazy when they welcome successful riders back home as heroes.

Cross-Country Chaos

There are four different types of XC events - which we’ll get into - but one thing they all share is a full on elbow-to-elbow bike brawl at the start line as a crowd of riders compete for pole position. 

The other thing they have in common is mud, as the bikes tear up hilly, grassy and gravelly terrain to no end other than everyone being extremely muddy!

That mayhem puts a massive importance on technical know-how (both of the course and your bike’s limits) and being able to repair in the field. Expect punctures aplenty.

Cross-country (XCO)

Riders race to complete a set number of laps as quickly as they can. But if they go full gas too soon, they’ll burn out before the finish. Races last for over an hour, so endurance, stamina and mental fortitude will be required.

Cross-country Short track (XCC)

Compared to the gruelling XCO distance, the 1 to 1.5km laps of XCC make for fast, furious and afterburners-always-on races. Riders have to strike the balance between skill and speed, testing the limits of their legs for an intense 20 minutes.

Cross-country Team Relay (XCR)

Teams of six must play to their strengths if they want to navigate their way through the mud to medals, where strategy matters just as much as speed. Riders take it in turns to complete laps, sharing the burden of the demanding course.

Electric Mountain Bike (E-MTB)

These riders race a similar course to the XCO, but with one big difference: these are part battery-powered bikes. So with that in mind, there will be some additional technical sections that make use of this extra pedal-assisted juice.

Top speeds are capped at 25km/h and racers must finish on the same bike and battery they started with.

Tom Pidcock in Team GB kit cycling on a MTB course
Tom Pidcock could represent Britain in both Road and MTB events in August

Marathon Effort

Chewing through 100km of road, gravel, punishing climbs and long descents would be bad enough without the unsafe levels of lactic acid, but MTB XC Marathoners know they just have to endure every mile of it to win it.

In that sense, strong legs and lungs will only take you so far. Only the riders with inhuman determination and unbreakable will will be in with a shot at cycling immortality. There is no better stage for heroism.

One of the weirdest things about watching these men and women go through the pain chamber is the stunning contrast to their breath-taking surroundings. You see the hell of the marathon on their faces and the sheer beauty of Scotland in its heavenly landscape all at once.

One's To Watch
Evie Richards in GB kit cycling past a crowd

🇬🇧 Evie Richards (XC)

This young British star staked her claim as part of elite MTB royalty in 2021 with a dominant win in the XC World Champs in Italy. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind - especially her rivals - that she’ll arrive in form in Glentress.

Nino Schurter close up in Swiss National Mountain Bike Kit - cycling back a camera

🇨🇭 Nino Schurter (XC)

The definition of greatness, Nino won ten world champs between 2009 - 2022 and eight world cups between 2010 - 2022. When you add a gold, silver and bronze medal at various Olympics to that astonishing CV, Nino has nothing left to prove. But that won’t stop him.

Loic Bruni cycling down a mountain with a view of the Alps in the background

🇫🇷 Loïc Bruni (DH)

The clue’s in the nickname: Superbruni is a five time world champion who’s following in the tyretracks of his dad, Jean-Pierre, who is another legend of the discipline. Loïc won on his home mountain in 2022, and he’ll be defending that title at Fort William with his trademark fearlessness.

Rachel Atherton in a UCI Rainbow Jersey with her arms in the air celebrating

🇬🇧 Rachel Atherton (DH)

A six time world champ, Rachel’s storming her way through a comeback tour after taking a career break following injury and then the birth of her daughter. She’s recently been called “the fastest mum in the world” after her recent world cup win, and we’ve got no doubt she’ll be faster again in Fort Wiliam.

Don’t Miss Out!

What happens all the way down the 2.8 km long, 550m drop course at Fort William is not to be missed. Be part of the cauldron of noise.

And why stop there? Take in everything Cross-Country in the gorgeous Glentress Forest.