What does it take to produce a user experience that tests a mountain bike riders brains and brawn?
The first step you need to consider are the core elements involved in the creation of your mountain bike race.
They include a bit of creativity, basic event management skills, some planning, a few supplies, a map, and permission of the property owner.
None of these core elements are difficult to learn, buy, or manage by themselves, but to forget or overlook any one element will make your event difficult to pull off.
However, it is that bit of creativity part that can trip you up. Why, you ask? Because, your event needs a name, and not some bland moniker like:
[State, City, or Park Name] + MTB + [Adjective/Noun]
Example: Virginia MTB Challenge or Washington MTB Classic
Yes, the “Enter Park Name Here” event names are functional, but you have to admit, they’re kind of boring.
If you want skilled AND curious mountain bike riders to show up, you’re going to need to capture their attention with something with a little more flash.
Worse yet, these kind of functional names do not have a creative well to pull from.
There is no imagery in these types of names to base any unique branding off of.
This is why most race’s default to clipart style line drawing of the state their race is in, any kind of knobby wheel circle, the tread of a shoe, a compass, or the popular bike chain link.
But if you find a unique name, one that can inspire some level of imagination, the creative well to pull from will give you plenty of options to build off of.
Here are two examples of how this process can work.
The Tomahawk Tumble
One of my very first mountain biking races was called the “Tomahawk Tumble”.
I would like to say I played off the Native-American heritage of the venue and its rich history to create this name. But the truth is that my son came up with it.
A time before the event he and his friends were in that very same park, only rather than riding mountain bikes, they were throwing tomahawks at trees.
Oh, teenagers! Anyway, one of the tomahawks missed its mark and went down an embankment.
Without hesitation, my son and his friends went after it, only when they slid halfway down the embankment, they misjudged the grade, and tumbled all the way to the bottom.
But luck was on their side because at the bottom was a wonderful ditch full of mud to break their fall.
At the time when he came home, covered head-to-toe in the mud with his good jeans on, it wasn’t all that funny.
But now we all have a good laugh over the whole incident based on what came next.
So what does this have to do with naming my event?
Well, as I was struggling to come up with a name, my son asked me what I was working on.
When I told him he blurted out, “Ah! That’s where we and that tomahawk both tumbled down the hill!”
And just like that, the name “Tomahawk Tumble” was birthed into existence.
From that name alone, I was able to tie in the park’s Native American heritage.
Just so happens that it had some that I could use.
The name also gave me some imagery to work with too.
Using just the idea of tomahawks, I found a stock illustration of a pair of crossed tomahawks.
When I combined the interesting name with the imagery, I suddenly had an event worth remembering.
You need to name YOUR race with the same enthusiasm by making its name something that riders will remember.
Some often ask how much does a name really matter when it comes to an event.
From what I know, I think it matters as much as the location of your venue.
My first race had maybe 40 riders show up on race day.
That may not have been a large turnout for some, but for my first race, having 40 riders show up was a success!
From those 40 riders, I have several tell me they had a great day, posted photos on Facebook, and bragged to their friends about missing this race.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, until a few months after the race.
People I didn’t even know where asking me about the NEXT Tomahawk Tumble — by name! Just the name itself — a name that was unlike any other race name anywhere in my area — had enough word of mouth to carry that race into year two.
Then something really strange happened.
Riders started asking me at other events when the “TT” or “T2” was coming back. TT or T2? What the heck just happened?
Well, according to my kids, when something is really cool, it often gets abbreviated into “texting” lingo, or some kind of shorthand.
Now, how cool is that!
From Tomahawk Tumble to T2 in just a year with triple the turnout in year two.
Now that’s the power of a good name.
The Wolf Bouncer
Another race name that worked out well was an event I called the Wolf Bouncer All Mountain.
It was a collegiate mountain biking race that included five events over two days of racing.
When you think of a name like “Wolf Bouncer”, the first thoughts that come to mind are a giant wolf that kicks people out of bars.
But in this case, it was not a wolf, but a deer, that became the center of our event.
Like most good names, the name Wolf Bouncer came from a bad encounter I had with a 6-point buck one year while out riding.
Unlike some parks, the local trails where I was planning my event was protected enough to have a herd of deer calls it home.
Most deer scatter when you ride up on them or ignore you while they eat along the side of the trail.
Unfortunately, on this one ride, a 6-point buck decided that I “shall not pass” as I rode up to him.
He snorted and stomped his foot like a mad bull, but refused to move aside.
And at one point, I thought he might actually charge me.
Not wanting to get the business end of a mad deer, I politely backed up and took an alternate trail.
Surprisingly, I found out from my fellow riders that I was not the only rider to get “bounced” from that park.
And when someone joked, “and that’s why there are no wolves here anymore,” the name was born: Wolf Bouncer!
After that, it only took a few searches on a stock media site to find an image of a body-built deer to complete the picture.
Now the Wolf Bouncer is in its third year (as of 2016) with riders asking if they can get the race logo on a t-shirt this year.
Again, it is the power of a good name that makes your customers come back to you wanting more.
The power of a good name
You may find that a good race name that draws people in might not come to you right away.
Sometimes you need to just give it a “BLAND RACE X” name so that you can get on with your planning.
However, If you keep your ears open, you will find that once you get into event planning, the cool names come to you organically — out of the blue.
Often it’s in ways you didn’t expect, so always be on the lookout for a good story, a weird experience, or something that just sounds good to say out loud.
Chances are it will be a lot easier to remember than 90% of the other events out there.
And now you know.