What is XC racing?

In Cross-Country racing, riders start together (massed start) and compete on a marked lap very much like cyclocross. Under 12’s tackle a different course to the older children and adults with multiple laps of a short circuit.

The courses for U12’s tend to be all on grass but can have some low level technical features with climbing, descending, single-track and tight turns, mud or other difficult terrain.

Youth and adult courses are typically 3 – 6 Kilometres and are usually a combination of grass, fire road and single track. They are often on bespoke race day courses but would be graded blue/red in difficulty.

Some XC events will incorporate a mix of racing in that they will have short crits over a small course with a fast pace of racing. There are also MTB time trials. The U12 races are all well supported and organised and an easy introduction to racing in general.

How long are the races?

XC races for under 12’s are around 15-20mins and under 16’s around 30 – 60 minutes dependant on category.

What sort of bike can be used?

A standard mountain bike with front suspension can be used for either although a full suspension bike in downhill is advantageous. XC bikes tend to have only front suspension and are light. For safety you must ensure that you have got bar plugs in.

Clothing and equipment?

Normal cycling gear is fine for XC, just be mindful of light colours as it can be muddy!.

Do I need a license?

No. You can race the U12 races or any of the other categories without a full licence. If riding in Juvenile or Youth you can enter with a day licence.

Most regular riders own a license because they compete in other cycling disciplines which require one. You can become a member of British Cycling and get a race license for free (Membership is £9 for under 12s or £15 for under 16s). (See British Cycling website )

Entering a race

There are loads of XC races around in Scotland. Many adult events often have Junior and kids races too.

Have a look at the Scottish Cross Country website for starters

You can also search on the British Cycling website.

Most races allow you to turn up and register on the day (a few need you to pre-register via the British Cycling web-site). But it’s a good idea to enter beforehand to help the organiser plan the day and cut down the hassle at sign on.

Age categories

Races are split into different age groups

U12’s – usually split into 3 categories with races of different lengths on the smaller version of the course.

Juvenile – they must be at least 12 or in their 13th or 14th year.

Youth – they must be in their 15th or 16th year.

Junior – they must be in their 17th or 18th year.

On the day

Pack a race bag with helmet, shoes, gloves, appropriate kit, snacks, drink, licence, tools, spare inner tubes. Have a change of warm clothing for after the race and if it’s cold keep your joints covered.

A towel might be a good idea to sit on if you’re wet


Arrive about an hour before your race starts so you have time to sign on, warm up, practice on the course and get to the start line


When you arrive at the venue you need to go to the registration tent and sign your rider in (they may ask you to leave your rider’s race licence if you have one, which you need to collect after the race.)


In the U12 races you’ll get a number plate to cable tie to the front of your bike. In all the other races you’ll also get a timing chip which you fit to the down tube at the bottom bracket.

Get to the start with plenty of time.

• If it’s cold wear a jacket until the last few minutes or even during the race

•Listen to the Commissaire’s instructions also listen out for other riders who may be faster and looking to pass

•Enjoy the race

After the race

• Warm down

• Recover from your race with a snack and a drink, there’s usually catering at races with hot chocolate and soup etc.

• Return your number – this is very important

• Pick up your license(if you handed one in)

• Cheer on your team mates if you are staying to watch

Hang round for the podium and awards as their are often spot prizes!

• Thank the organiser

• Don’t leave anything behind

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