What is Cross Country (XC)?

Cross Country (XC) is a very well-known discipline of mountain biking (MTB). This is thought to be one of the most popular discipline within MTB, and it officially became an Olympic sport in 1996. So far, this is the only MTB sport you can practice in the Olympics. Usually competitors have to race through different types of XC trails with various degrees of rough terrain. Bicycle handling skills are key here as you must be able to manoeuvre over rocks, narrow trails, trees, streams, etc.

Difference between XC and trail mountain biking

There seems to be some confusion between Cross Country (XC) and Trail Mountain Biking, especially among beginners. This is mainly because in both XC and Trail Mountain Biking you would use similar bicycles, ride similar trails. Both are also competitive. So where’s the difference? XC tend to focus more on endurance and distance. When riding up or down hill XC riders are more focused on speed as opposed to negotiating their way around complex obstacles and technical challenges (which tends to be the main focus of trails mountain biking).

Racing Disciplines within XC

Most of you will have noticed that within the XC there are at least three main racing disciplines including like XCE (Cross-Country eliminator), XCO (Cross-Country Olympic) or XCM (Cross-Country Marathon).

XCE (Cross-Country eliminator)

Refers to races where the last person that crosses the finishing line is out of the race.

XCO (Cross-Country Olympic)

Riders race around an Olympic circuit of typically between 4-10 Km, and they are required to complete a set of laps. The XCO race is over when the first contestant completes all laps around the track.

XCM (Cross-Country Marathon)

This is thought to be the most popular race among amateur riders as it is open to everyone. The circuit is typically between 60 and 140 Km and the race can last up to 3 hours.

What bike should you use?

Most XC riders tend to start with single suspension (hardtail) XC bikes as these are specifically built for climbing and quick handling. Wheel size is also another feature to watch out for as some of most XC riders would prefer 27.5 and 29 inch wheels. Larger wheels such as these ones carry with it some advantages. These are less loss of momentum less need for suspension.¬† ¬†However, these wheel sizes can pose serious challenges for riders under 5’5″ as it increases bikes’ height and slows down handling. Another disadvantage is that it larger wheels increase bicycle’s weight and decreases acceleration.

Fitness requirements

In terms of fitness, XC requires you to be at your very best. This is because it is quite draining and it tests your levels of endurance to the very limit. It is recommended that you start with small circuits and then build your fitness and endurance over time.

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