Looking for a new riding challenge this year? Check out the best US MTB events and races for 2023

Mountain bike riders at the Leadville 100
(Image credit: Leadville 100)

Considering taking your mountain biking up a level this year? Thinking about trying racing or exploring some of the more extreme parts of the USA or just getting more involved with the mountain biking community? We've found some of the best MTB festivals, racing, and events for the coming year. 

There's a huge choice from fun weekend festivals, to fully supported events and races that are totally remote and self-sufficient. Make your choice and get your best mountain bike ready for your own biking adventure in 2023.

Incredible mountain views at the Leadville 100 mountain bike race

Leadville features over 3,400m of climbing (Image credit: Leadville 100)

The Leadville 100

The daddy of all mountain bike events, The Leadville Trail 100 MTB is the toughest, best-attended, and most well-known marathon event in mountain bike racing. First run in 1994 just gaining an entry to this race is now almost as hard as racing it, with a host of various options available to grab an elusive spot that includes a separate Leadville qualifying series of races, a lottery draw, and riding for a charity. 

The start of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race

Racing starts and finishes in downtown Leadville (Image credit: Leadville 100)

If you're lucky enough to claim an entry and make it to the start line, Leadville is an out-and-back course of around 100 miles, starting and finishing in downtown Leadville. Featuring five monster climbs and a total elevation gain of 3,400m, you'll need your best climbing legs. The largest climb and the halfway point is the Columbine Mine climb with a whopping 910m of elevation.

Find out more details, the entry rules, and maybe be lucky enough to secure a place, if you dare at The Leadville 100.

Race Cascadia dirt cup enduro mtb event race number

Cascadia Dirt Cup is seen as the Pacific Northwest's best enduro mountain bike event (Image credit: Race Cascadia)

Cascadia Dirt Cup

Race Cascadia has been producing enduro mountain bike events since 2012. Its signature series, the Cascadia Dirt Cup, is the Pacific Northwest's premier enduro mountain bike race series. 

The Cascadia Dirt Cup is considered to be the region’s premiere enduro mountain biking racing series. It’s seen as not only a racing event but also a symbol of the Pacific Northwest mountain biking scene and its community. The 2023 series features six rounds across the region and the stand-alone summer classic team enduro event.

Mountain bike rider kicking up dust at the Cascadia Dirt Cup

Classic enduro racing to be had at the Cascadia Dirt Cup (Image credit: Race Cascadia)

Cascadia makes the racing series available at all levels of riding and donates proceeds to local trail builders. In addition to funding, they contribute more than 1000 hours to work on trails with the help of the Work-Eat-Shred programs. It's an epic MTB racing series that supports a massive cause as well. 

For more info on the Cascadia Dirt cup or to register, visit Race Cascadia.

Rider in the snow at the Iditarod mountain bike race

Fat bikes are required for this winter Alaskan monster (Image credit: ITI)

Iditarod Trail Invitational 1000

Racing a mountain bike self-supported in freezing temperatures in remote and inhospitable wintery conditions may not seem particularly attractive to most, but if it does appeal then this is the race for you. The Iditarod Invitational takes place over 1,000km of Alaskan wilderness in around 30 frozen days and nights and is a test of resilience as much as a race to the finish. 

The Iditarod Trail Invitational has built its reputation on notoriously inhospitable conditions and minimal outside support. To even gain a place you must have completed the shorter ITI 350 race and demonstrate a mastery of winter survival skills, navigation, and self-reliance for the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness you will experience.

The northern lights in Alaska at an Iditarod check point

The Aurora Borealis  (Image credit: IDT)

Participants must carry all the supplies they need, but they can stop at remote villages on the route and use supplies that they've forwarded to the villages before the race. Despite the extremities of this Alaskan monster, Iditarod is incredibly popular with limited places available. The 2023 race already has a waiting list open with more information available at Iditarod Trail Invitational.

View of the Sea Otter mountain bike festival main arena

The Sea Otter Classic main arena (Image credit: Sea Otter Classic)

The Sea Otter Classic

After the frozen wilderness of Alaska, we head to the warmer climate of Monterey, California and the Sea Otter Classic.

The SOC is the world's premier mountain bike festival, a four-day, family-friendly extravaganza, a packed weekend for both spectators and riders with challenging and exciting events including flat-out racing across all disciplines. 

You can sign up for a whole host of events including cross-country, dual slalom, downhill mountain biking, and enduro racing. If racing isn't your thing there are plenty of riding options including the chance to ride the iconic Laguna Seca Raceway, traverse the beautiful rolling hills of Fort Ord National Monument or take in the gorgeous coastal views along the Pacific Ocean. 

Mountain bikers racing at the Sea Otter Classic

There are plenty racing options at the Sea Otter Classic festival (Image credit: Sea Otter Classic)

Children ages twelve and under get a free Festival Pass and there are plenty of special events and entertainment just for them. For non-riders the Sea Otter Expo is the hub of the event, with several hundred exhibitors displaying new gear, offering product samples, free bike demos, and exciting stunt shows. Professional riders are also there to share their techniques and sign autographs.

The SOC has something for everyone and for more info or to purchase weekend passes check out the Sea Otter Classic.

Whiskey Off-Road mountain bike event

Whiskey Off-Road offers some super challenging riding (Image credit: Whiskey Off-Road)

The Whiskey Off-Road

The Whiskey Off-Road is a good vibes mountain bike event based in Prescott, County Yavapai, Arizona. The 2023 edition is part of the Epic Rides Series circuit and offers three routes 80, 48, and 24 km.

The riding starts on Prescott’s historical (and lively) Whiskey Row famous for its large number of saloons at one point numbering a staggering forty establishments. If you manage to avoid the distractions of Whiskey Row you'll soon start climbing and there's plenty of it with more than 2,000m on the 80 km route. Most of the riding takes place in the beautiful Prescott National Forest, which has some of the area’s most exhilarating and challenging pieces of singletrack riding, including the new Spence Basin trail network.

Whiskey Off-Road winner crossing the line

Whiskey Off-Road attracts top professional riders (Image credit: Whiskey Off-Road)

Attracting world champion pro racers to beginner riders, the weekend is neatly divided with Saturday for the amateur riders and Sunday for the pro racers. Plus, Friday’s downtown fat tire crit is a sight to behold. With good food, plenty of bars and live music a good time is guaranteed. Register at Whiskey Off Road.

Paul Brett
Staff writer

Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.

Current rides: Marin Alpine Trail 2, Ribble 725, Cube Stereo 160

Height: 175cm