The Single Track Pass
To Pass or Be Passed in Single Track
Passing and being passed in Single Track is a crucial Mountain Bike Racing skill. It’s a skill that should be learned same as hopping over a root, climbing up a boulder, and powering though a rock garden. Same as hitting your front tire against obstacles, passing can be an annoyance at first. Once you learn the skill of passing / being passed, your rides will be smoother and your races faster.
I started years ago as a Category 3 Racer and moved my way up the ranks through Category 2 and have been racing in Category 1 for a number of years. I’ve had to learn how to be passed and pass at every level. There are a few specific strategies based on the category for successful passes but the constant across all categories is: COMMUNICATION
WHEN YOU ARE THE PASSER
Passing correctly is one of the challenges of racing and is a skill that must be learned. When you are riding on single track there will be times when you may not have the option to pass someone until there is a trail opening. The majority of the time there will be opportunities to pass while in the single track, you just need to know how to do it.
It is the responsibility of any approaching racer to make their presence known, and to announce their intentions.
- Rider up
- On you left
- On your right
- Looking for a chance to pass
- Can I pass on your left?
- When you get a chance
Overtaking Those from an Earlier Wave
- Let me know where there is a good spot to pass
- I see a slight opening, please stay your line and I’ll get around on your left really quick
- Chasing the leader, could I get by on your left right here really fast
- Being chased hard, could I get by on your right just after this tree
- Every second counts for me, could you help me out by just slowing up for a second while I speed past on the left
- Leader coming up fast
Passing an Experienced Rider
Often times the person you are passing is skilled. They can see the passing opportunities that you might not. Have them call out the strategy for the best passing opportunity.
- Ready for a pass, let me know where you want me to go
- Let me know best way to get by
- You think this is a good line for me to take to you right real fast?
- You let me know where there is a safe spot for me to pass
Passing a Less Experienced Rider
When coming up on an inexperienced rider you should try to “direct the pass.”
- Could I pass when it’s safe
- No Need to pull off, I see an opening, I’ll take the outside lane up this switchback if you take the inside
- Stay on your bike, keep pedaling, I’ll find a good spot
- Keep pedaling, just try to pull over to the right side of the trail up here and I’ll get by quickly on the left
- I’ll slide by when you feel it’s safe
- Keep pushing, there is a clearing just ahead
Passing Racer you are Racing Against
In the event two riders during a race are vying for position, the lead rider does not have to yield to the challenging rider. However, the rider must hold their line and is not allowed to interfere with another rider’s progress. You will have to work harder to make a strong move to get by. Typically will have to be more aggressive and/or power through some of the less favorable terrain to get by. I’ve passed through the roughage many of times. You can also work to “sell the pass.”
- If they are getting dropped by the leader and you need to get around:
- Let me by and I’ll try to bridge this gap
- Let me pull you around for a bit
- I see an opportunity right here, I’m taking it, on your left
When Racer Speeds Up
Sometimes when I catch a rider and they pick up the pace, I’ll sit in and let them pull me around. Often I’ve worked really hard to get to a person and I’m not quite ready to pass yet. Other times the increased pace isn’t enough and I’ll demand the pass. If you are faster than the guy in front, prove it. Use your skill and power to motor past quickly while making it as smooth and seamless as possible.
- Not looking to pass right now, your speed is perfect
- If you keep this pace I’ll sit in for a bit
- If you think you’re not going to be able to hold this pace, yes please let me by
- Ok, It’s time, see that opening, I’m going to go around you right there
When You are Not Alone
I try to be respectful of the person/s that are trailing me by letting the racer we are overtaking that there are more than one of us. I will give them more advanced noticed so they can look to find a good place for 2+ to pass. If you are 2nd, 3rd in line, make sure to also let the person you are passing that there is, "one more." If there is a train and you are at the end of it, you might be able to squeeze by with the rest but be ready to have to wait for the next opportunity to prevent running the person you are passing into a tree.
- 2 Of us
- 2 Back
- 2 When you have the chance
WHEN YOU ARE BEING PASSED
Even at the Category 1 level, I still spend plenty of time getting passed. I try to get the person around me as quick as I possibly can. It makes both of our races faster!
When you are being Lapped
It shouldn’t matter where you are, please move out of the way. At this point it’s not about when it’s convenient for you. It’s about getting out of the way immediately and as safely as possible to get the leaders by. They are typically nearing the end of their race and every second counts.
When Being Overtaken by Later Wave
The slower rider should yield the trail to the passer, stay to the right most of the time. Try to stay your line or pull to the right to give just enough space on the left of the trail for the passer to get by. I will communicate just as much with the passer as they communicate with me. If I don’t hear initial communication being made from the passer I will make it. I feel it’s part of my responsibility to work together with the passer to get them by as quickly, safely and smoothly as possible.
- Looking to pass?
- Let me know when you are ready to pass
- Need a pass?
- I’ll let you pass as soon as I can
- Ok, I’ll pull to the right up here and you go left
- I’ll take the inside line on this switch back, you take the outside
- Go left right NOW, NOW NOW GO GO
- Take the left, take that line, GO GO NOW
- I’m going to speed up as there is a clearing just ahead
- Make friends out there, we are all in this together
- Friends will be more favorable to helping you by quickly
- Be polite even while exhausted
- A safe pass = good mojo
- Be careful
- Be polite
- Be playful
- Beer at the finish if you let me by
- Burger at the finish if you can stick with me
- Always say THANK YOU for the pass
- Words of encouragement:
- Great Pass
- Go get em
- Smooth Pass
- Looking strong
- Keep it up
- You are crushing it
- Try to stay with me
- You got this
- Keep pushing