Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Let's go MBO! - But what's it all about?

All the gear...
Mountain Bike Orienteering is exactly what it says on the tin.  It's orienteering, on a MTB.  OK, hopefully you're with me so far... so if you know me, you're probably thinking "how the heck can she fit another hobby in?!" well the answer to that is, easily!  Because MTB Orienteering is really just another bike ride.  A timed one with cool checkpoints to find.  

You might have had experience of orienteering in its 'normal' form at school or possibly had a go at the more recent Geocaching? No? me neither, I hadn't really done any form of orienteering until I tried the OMM bike event last summer.  If you can plot a basic route on an OS map, and recognise landmarks etc. then you are halfway there.   If you're a cartophile like me then this is probably the sport for you (providing you like bikes too, of course!).

The premise of MTB orienteering is this -
  • Enter the event online, then turn up ready for a day ride, 
  • Tell the people at registration your name (no forms to fill in) and receive a "dibber" wristband, 
  • get ready to go with your bike/gear etc. 
  • go to the start area, "Dib" into the start control box with your wristband (there is a marshal to help) and receive a detailed map with the checkpoints on.  
  • You then have a time limit - normally 3 hours for a winter event - in which to find as many checkpoints as possible, get back to the start area and "dib" in to stop the timer. 
  • If you are over on time, you receive penalty deductions from the points you have earned whilst visiting the different checkpoints (these vary in value from 10 - 20 points each).  The later you are, the more points you lose.  

Me "dibbing"!
You then eat cake and drink tea/coffee whilst perusing your printout which shows you how you have done!  And that's it!  The results are usually up on the event webpage the following day.

Obviously there is a lot more to it as far as being good at it goes!  I am very much learning the ropes.  It turns out that you can be quite fit/technically good on the bike but if you don't plan a good route or are over ambitious about the amount of checkpoints to visit you will probably be beaten by a few septuagenarians! but, essentially, anyone can rock up and have a go, and it really is fun, results are irrelevant unless you want to get good at it!

How do I get involved?
Caz dibbing in style!

Firstly, you join the British Mountain Bike Orienteering governing body (the BMBO) as either a full member (for about £6 a year) or as a day rider (which is free but adds a £1 surcharge per event).  You then get a MTB number which you need to register for events.

Then, you find an event  - for example - The Dark and White Events Trailquest series (my local one).  The location of the events are not specified until 1 month before (to stop you from swatting up on the area!), you enter online using your MTB number and that's it, just turn up on the day.
A great pair!

You can enter as a solo or a pair - I recommend doing it as a pair as it's more fun (in my opinion).  It is advisable to choose a partner of similar skill/fitness otherwise you will find one person just feels like they are following their partner around!

What do I need?

Basically, you just need a bike, helmet and some waterproofs! However, the following items will help you on the day - 
  • A map board to attach the map to your bike - these can be homemade or bought, I have one from ebay which cost about £5 and is waterproof.  
  • A highlighter pen - to quickly draw your route onto the map or highlight the checkpoints you aim to get.
  • A rubber band or an accessible pocket to store the "descriptors" which describe where the checkpoints are (these are on an A4 sheet and usually in a plastic wallet)
Gear-wise, I usually carry a backpack containing the following - 
Check out Pearl loaded with mapboard
  • Spare pump, tube and levers
  • First-aid kit (mini)
  • Phone, keys, money (standard!)
  • Waterproof overtrousers (this may not be required but sometimes you are made to carry them)
  • Food, energy gels and water
  • Compass 
You can buy your own dibber, but I usually just rent one for the day (you specify this on your entry - it's about a quid more per event).  The benefit of having your own means you can put it on a retractable keychain thing rather than fiddly wristbands but really, it's fine to just hire one unless you take it up in a big way!

Useful items for after the event include - 
  • Dry clothes to change into/wear over your muddy/wet gear
  • Change of shoes
  • A towel to protect your car seats
  • A binbag to contain your wet/muddy gear!
  • Babywipes for hands/faces!
So basically that's it!  There are other types of orienteering such as running ones where they can be a bit more sneaky with controls - they sometimes make them difficult to find when you get to the specified location, but from my initial experience of an OMM Bike and two Dark and White Events Trailquests, its really more about getting out in the countryside and finding bridleways and tracks which you may never have found and seeing somewhere new.  

It's also a great workout/training as you have the time pressure of getting back, so you ride harder than you would on a normal ride out.

In a nutshell it is well worth having a go at, and I hope this has been useful to anyone thinking of trying this sort of thing or wondering what it's all about!

TLF