Are you thinking about participating in a 12–24 hour bike race? Here are 12 tips I wish I knew when I did my first race and insight I’ve gained along the way.
1.) Be Cool.
Even if you are the fastest rider on the course, safety and the opportunity for each rider to do their best should be among the top goals. Let riders know when you want to pass them; help inexperienced racers be safe as they allow you by. If you are slower don’t assume that your fastest pace is near what others can do. Communicate that you hear the rider behind you and that you will get out of the way.
2.) Don’t try anything new.
The day of the race is not the time to try cayenne pepper based anti-cramping formulas, or s-works super light race tires. Stick with what you know and what you have been training with.
3.) Fuel early, fuel often.
You don’t want to force food or water but you need to make sure you are eating and drinking. Try to average around 300 calories an hour. Real food is great, but avoid 1.fatty, high fiber foods, and heavy amounts of straight sugar (gels), See No. 2. Caffeine can provide a great boost, but can also tire your heart out and it will lose its effectiveness if you use it throughout the race. Ingest your caffeine at your normal time, and then near the end of the race.
4.) Plan your breaks.
As the event progresses you might not be on operating on all cylinders mentally, so have a plan of what you are going to eat, drink, and what your going to do for your bike maintenance (lube your chain, check your tires….)
5.) Change your shorts and clean your under carriage.
If you want to grow a garden in your shorts then by all means stay in the same chamois for the whole race. Bring some baby wipes and use them. Rotate your shorts every lap (not solo), or intermittently as you can given your short collection.
6.) Go slower than you think you need to go.
It’s a long race and you are way better off realizing you have more in the tank and taking it up a notch during the second half of the race (this rarely happens), then getting half way there and totally falling apart (this happens frequently).
7.) Conserve your energy.
The fastest four-man teams can do all their laps at top speed; most teams cannot. You are way better off focusing on riding smooth, gearing down on steep climbs, and accelerating slowly out of corners.
8.) If you are not sure you can ride a technical section, walk.
A good way to end your adventure prematurely is to push your technical limits when you are already pressed to your physical limits. Pre-ride the course, know what you can and should do. If you are climbing at the same pace you’d be better off walking, see No. 7.
No matter who you are these events test your resolve. Make a commitment to your teammates to finish. There will be time for beer later. If you are a solo rider, read tips No.1-8 again and let your supporters know that you are there to finish.
10.) Be prepared.
Lay out your clothes (put sets of clothes in separate big zip lock bags) food, maintenance supplies, etc. in advance. Make sure your bike has been serviced and is ready to rock.
11.) For teams straight rotation is the fastest and the smartest approach.
Don’t consider changing your lap rotation because you need rest. This is akin to picking the least drunk guy to drive you home. If you are getting tired, doing two laps in a row will only make things worse. If someone is ill or injured that is different story (have a plan for that as well). Don’t be surprised if the fastest teams start throwing out their fastest rider into a quicker rotation; don’t get sucked in.
12.) Stay calm in your own mind and expectations.
Participating and completing a 12 or 24 hour is a major accomplishment. Sharing it with friends and the wonderful community that surrounds mountain biking makes it a very special and addicting experience.
Jay English Is an owner of , and a Level 2 USA cycling coach. He has numerous podiums in 12- and 24-hour races, and he has coached athletes who run the gamut from recreational racers to top-level race podium finishers.
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