We have come up with a unique way of getting everyone taking part in a mountain biking race to compete on an equal basis. We achieved this by looking at the various factors that influence a rider’s performance on the bike, and how these factors will determine the differences in the performances of various riders or athletes. The four factors that we taken into consideration are age, gender, body weight, and mountain biking experience.
Each of these are explained a little more detail in the following paragraphs:
- Age. Generally, the older we get, the more power we lose, our muscles get weaker, our maximum heart rates drop, our reflexes get slower, we tend to have increased body fat %, etc. The more we train however, the more we slow down the rate of this deterioration. During the time when we are 23 years to 30 years old, we have the capacity to perform at the best level that our bodies will be able to do over our expected life time (we have to train to get that peak performance, of course). Under the age of 23 our bodies are under development and we are not yet able to produce the maximum performance we will eventually be capable of.
- Gender. Generally, men are stronger than women, and can generate more power. Men generally also have more technical skills than women.
- Body weight or body mass index. People who are overweight (i.e. they weigh too much relative to how tall they are ) will find the going tougher on a bike compared to people who are not overweight, especially going uphill. On flat courses, however, rider weight plays a lesser role, therefore body mass index (B.M.I) together with the total vertical ascent of a race course is taken into account when bringing the BMI factor into the handicap equation. Added to this is the weight of the athlete’s equipment. Some of us are fortunate enough to afford very light bikes and equipment, therefore the handicap formula helps those who are overweight and who have heavy bikes to compete on an even footing with people who are not overweight.
- Mountain biking experience. People with a couple of years’ mountain biking experience are generally faster around a course (especially when it gets technical) than new mountain bikers. The more we ride, the more we develop our ability to keep the bike upright (with ourselves on top of it!) through a course, and our confidence levels increase. We all know that confidence on a MTB is critical in achieving a competitive race time. As we get the mountain biking years on our odometer, we also develop the muscle groups and co-ordination that enable us to control and maneuver the bike through technical terrain.
- Actual performance: After Race 1 (and sometimes before Race 1), we have data on the actual performance of each rider, i.e how fit and capable he/she really is. This enables us to add the 5th factor to the handicap, namely the PERFORMANCE FACTOR. This factor is calculated and re-applied to round off the handicap of each rider after every race. The rider’s nett time is compared with the field’s average nett time, and the factor is calculated to bring his/her nett time in close proximity (+5% to -5%) of the mean nett time.