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Types of MTB Races: What’s the difference

Types of MTB Races: What’s the difference
MTB Races

Mountain biking is fast becoming one of the most popular sports and leisure activities of the masses. It’s easy to do as a total beginner, however there are many different types of MTB races. You’d certainly be forgiven for confusing a few of them.

We’ve explained the main types below with a link to some awesome events to put on your calendar.


Enduro racing is when you’re a solo rider or part of a team. The aim is to ascend a hill and descend it in the quickest possible time. Firstly, going up isn’t timed, although you do have a limit on how long you can take to get to the next point. Taking too long will add penalties to your overall time. Secondly, going down is timed and can be a slope that takes anywhere from two to twenty minutes. Finally, this is done over a few loops and completed in laps over a period of one to up to four days. The rider or team with the least overall clocked time wins.


This is a lap race that usually takes up to two hours. Riders are released in a group and the first to complete the laps wins.


The same concept as XCO except the race takes place over a longer circuit, anywhere between 30 and 120 kms.


The same as XCO and XCM except the circuit is much shorter, usually two to ten kilometers.


As the name suggests, it’s a race with different stages. Stage races are held in the same way that mountain bikers typically train out in the wild. Riders are sent out from a central location every day to complete a course through forests single tracks and roads. These races are held over a few days, sometimes even up to 26 days. Consequently, no two days are the same and solo riders or teams clock their time daily, with the overall shortest time being the winner.

MTB Races
Mountain biking is fun

Different race types can be included in a stage race, such as:


Starting at one point and ending at another. The fastest time wins. Riders are released in a group and the circuit is usually shorter than a marathon.


Takes place during a Cross Country Stage Race where riders race against a clock.


Consists of teams that have members of different skill levels, ages, and genders. They compete in a relay in the order that they choose as a team.


Riders race downhill on a track up to 3500m long. There is a time limit of five minutes


Riders are released in groups of four to complete a technical downhill track in under 60 seconds.

These are only a few of the multitude of races and events that fall under the MTB umbrella. Have a look here and here for more.

The Sabie Xperience can be classified as a multi-day Cross Country Stage Race with distances ranging from 120km to 165km spread over three-days. There is a single starting and ending point with riders covering amazing scenic single tracks through forests and scaling sections of the Drakensberg Mountain range. In addition riders can enter in teams of two or as a solo rider.

Stage races like the Sabie Xperience are famous for their sense of fun and camaraderie, riders are encouraged to bring their spouse and children to enjoy live entertainment, craft stalls, kiddies’ rides, and small-town hospitality.

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