At the opposite end of the cycling spectrum to the hairy, lairy freerider is the cross-country racer. These guys are a clean-cut bunch, in bed by 9pm and up and out on the bike by 6am. The only time this routine is broken is for the treat of a 24-hour endurance race, where they’ll spend an enjoyable weekend burying themselves clocking up as many laps of flat, muddy singletrack as they can.


The Look

Think of a T. Rex, that’s the look you’re going for – an enormous hill-crushing set of thighs and the weight-saving torso and arms of a 10-year-old child! It’s not a physique that’s going to come easily though – it’ll take hundreds of miles in the saddle and a diet consisting solely of energy gels before you’ve wasted away sufficiently. Make sure to get rid of any leg hair, before donning the tightest most colourful Lycra you can lay hands on. Where you stop shaving is up to you.

A tyrannosaurus rex standing in a field
This is the ideal body torso dimensions you're looking for as an XC whippet. No need for the big snarling teeth and jaws though.

The bike

Everything must be made of carbon fibre – you’d even have carbon fibre tyres if they made them. You’re going to have to sacrifice any handling agility the bike might have in order to make it go up hills faster. Nearly slick tyres are the order of the day, along with narrow bars run as low as you can get them. The size of your front chainring indicates how much suffering you can take and therefore equates to how much of a badass you are. You’re aiming for 36-tooth minimum.


Invest in a heart-rate monitor and make sure you’re maxing it out all the time. You should be feeling like your legs are on fire and you’re about to faint. Do this for as many miles as you can and soon you’ll be ready for the punishment of racing. If you’re male, it might be a good idea to freeze some sperm now, because after hundreds of hours getting bounced around on that unpadded carbon perch, getting it up will be a thing of the past.

A cannister of frozen horse sperm
It's wise to take precautions and freeze sperm now before all that time in the saddle stops you recreating once and for all.


Trails that are enjoyed by other mountain bikers aren’t going to be any fun for you. As soon as the gradient gets steep, your metre-long carbon seatpost will start poking you in the bum, telling you to stop. On descents you’ve got two options – try to stay aboard the bucking bronco, or dismount, with your pride dented but your skin intact. Even then, if it’s muddy you’re not safe from embarrassment, as your super-stiff-soled SPDs are going to make your running descent look something like a drunk cat on ice skates.

More like this
A man trying to stay on a bucking bronco
The downhills might end up being ridden something akin to this. Fair play if you pull it off though!

The lifestyle

The majority of cross-country riders work as engineers. A strict routine of riding leaves little time for social activity, save for the occasional visit to the pub for a single post-ride pint. The dress code is functional – a baselayer, windproof softshell and pair of SPD shoes. The ‘banter’ will likely revolve around technical innovations, gear ratios, training and cadence. It’s likely the party will break up early, as conversion wears thin and the assembled riders feel the need to return home for a recovery protein shake and foam roller session.

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