Once you've prepared yourself and your bike to race and you've picked a race or two to enter, it's best to pre-ride the course. Usually, you should do this a couple days before the event when there's no pressure and when others aren't racing on the course (as is the case on race day). Note the tough sections such as hills and obstacles on a mountain-bike singletrack. On off-road loops, you might want to ride sections a few times to get a feel for them. Just do this a few days before the race and ride easy to save energy for the big day. Pre-riding also gives you a chance to gauge the fitness and skill you’ll need to finish the race. If you can't pre-ride, talk to fellow riders who've raced the event and ask about the length, duration and unique characteristics of the course. Knowing what a course is going to throw your way will give you confidence and piece of mind prior to the start.