The first 24-hour race in the UK took place way back in 1998. Since then, the idea of racing around the clock has firmly embedded itself in the UK mountain bike psyche, with thousands of people having taken part in many of the events that have sprung up in the past decade.
For some, taking part in a team isn’t challenge enough. Many have sought the ultimate challenge, to race for 24-hours solo, non-stop. We’ve seen solo categories at the various 24-hour events become fuller with each passing year, and the level of racing intensify as many riders have sought to focus on this particular category of racing.
In 2010, this interest in pushing the human body through 24-hours has culminated with the launch of the inaugural UK Solo MTB Championships, being held in Newcastleton, Scotland on 22/23 May.
It’s sparked the interest of the country’s leading 24-hour racers, with many of the regular names due to attend, which should make for some close and exciting racing at the sharp end of the race. At the other end of the racing however, I’ll be making up the numbers as I’ve let myself be talked into taking part!
With just one failed 24-hour race attempt under my belt (a miserably wet Clic24 in which I only lasted the first 12-hours before the lure of the tent was too much); I thought I’d nag some of the top racers taking part in the 24 Hours of Exposure for some expert advice.
So, here’s the first installment of top tips:
Don’t go to hard too early. It’s too easy to get excited in the early laps and expend too much energy. Although it is best to go slightly harder on the first lap to clear traffic and bottlenecks but don’t dig too deep. I always try to ride one gear easier than I feel I should be on the climbs to keep the legs fresh. The time to really push the pace is in the last 4-hours of the race, it doesn’t matter if you blow then!
Keep eating. This is probably the most important tip. Keep the food going in all the time. I favour gels and energy drinks as the main fuel source and supplement them with energy bars, rice pudding, sweets etc. Basically things which are easy to digest and taste good. Don’t go eating something fatty such as a burger or chocolate during the race as this just blocks your stomach and you will get a real low energy patch. Just remember that you can’t run your car with no fuel and your body is no different.
Have fun. Make sure you enjoy the ride. 24hours is a long time to be miserable so make every effort to have fun. Joke with riders, enjoy the single track, sing to your self, anything to keep your mind in a positive state. Just keep telling yourself how good it is to be riding your bike. Endurance races are won with the head!
Exposure/KCNC/Skins/Mt Zoom Zoom
Gels and bars are alright, but you’ll feel sick at some point and won’t want to eat anything, so bring your favourite food so at least you’ve got something with energy you’ll eat. Remember if you’re not feeling sick you’re not trying hard enough, and if your favourite food is curry and beer, save it for the end!
Beware of the 4am blues, if you get to daylight you’ve made it – music can help here, as can a donut and some jelly babies.
Bike setup, try and sort this out on a couple of massive training rides before the race: back and knee; a few millimeters either way on the seatpost can cause backache or knee problems, even wearing an extra pair of shorts can cause a problem. For sore hands wear two pairs of gloves and sore feet: congratulations you’re pedaling hard enough. Try a thinner pair of socks, your feet have probably expanded and are wet.
The pain is only temporary, and you’ll probably become addicted.
Get at least one big 8-12 hour ride in before the race, figure out what’s hurting and figure out how to stop it. In a 4-6 hour ride it’ll probably not reveal itself.
It’s worth having a protein drink now and again. Bulls blood blended with garlic, beetroot and watercress works for me.
Ride your own race. Don’t get caught up by the pace of others.
Invest in good lighting, the night can be very long if you can’t see where you’re going.
Embrace the feeling of extreme fatigue and nausea. It is your friend.
A very simple, but effective one, as passed on to me by the very experienced and accomplished Jenn Hopkins of the KMP – fresh gloves. These for when it all gets cold and miserable, this little luxury really cheers me up just before sunrise when it’s really cold and the tiredness kicks in.
I really struggle with nausea, which is quite common on the longer events from talking to people, what with constantly eating and asking one’s stomach to keep churning away. Chicken sandwiches, with real slices of chicken, not processed meat, are a great but bland item that goes down under any circumstance.
At one point it will feel horrible, and hard, and generally a bit sad. Remember, it’s meant to be hard, this is why we all do it, this moment is the real test, and the rest is fun. Eat more, slow down, drink more recover a little and keep moving. On my last “bad” lap I took two bottles and an extra bar, some sweets and it all got devoured and then I was fine. You CAN do it, just let your body recover a little and push on. The smile will come back before you know it.
Saddlebag preparation. This is a long ride, in fact it’s several long rides back to back without any bike maintenance, things go wrong. I always have: tube, tyre levers, mini pump, patches, CO2, mech hangar, brake pads, multi-tool, including chain tool, quick link for chain and tiny pliers for everything else.
This should enable you to get around to your pit if anything more major is required. Giving up 5mins for a trailside repair is fine, losing a few minutes to carry 200g extra (or less than an apple) is no issue, but a 45min walk with a bike on your back is less fun and way more demoralising.
If you’re lucky enough to have support, this is your most important asset. 24-solo is the ultimate team sport; you’re just the guy sitting on the bike doing the pedalling.
Don’t forget to oil your chain a few times; this is several long rides back to back don’t forget.
Tune in tomorrow for part two…