24 hour solos are all about preparation. I know that now – hindsight is a wonderful thing. Having completed my first single-handed 24, I’ve learned a few important things.
Possibly chief amongst them is that if you’re going to go to the trouble of showing up with a comprehensively-equipped camper van and thus having access to luxuries like cooking facilities, a fridge, heater and hot and cold running water, then locking yourself out of it the night before the event is, at best, going to make you look slightly foolish. Under other circumstances, parking up with one of the windows not quite shut properly may be ill-advised, but on this occasion it was something of a life-saver.
Familiarity with your equipment is useful, too. If you’re going to be riding for a day and a night you need to be confident in your gear. Riding a completely untried bike isn’t likely to be a brilliant idea. What that makes taking along two completely untried bikes, one of which was still just a load of bits in boxes two days previously, is anybody’s guess. I seemed to get away with that one, though.
You’ll also want to think about things like food and clothing. Take it from me, you might think that you need to bring every bit of clothing you possess, but be realistic about how often you need a clean pair of shorts. To actually get through everything I took I’d need to have been taking a change of kit out on the course to climb into halfway around each lap and would have spent more time changing than riding. Less is more.
And food? You may have calculated that you need the equivalent of 190 bananas to keep going for 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to actually take 190 bananas. Even 30 is pushing it a bit. OK, a lot.
Then there’s the fundamental matter of the choice of event. You want a dry one, really. A nice, fast, easy-rolling course on firm trails with nothing more than the odd bit of dust to worry about. Conditions, in other words, much like those found at every single on of the CLIC24 charity bikeathons held thus far.
But in meteorology as in investments, past performance is no guarantee of future success. And so it proved at this year’s CLIC, with weather that shifted from sunshine with heavy showers, through a period of relative dryness overnight and concluding with persistent rain. That in itself wouldn’t have been a huge problem, but it had rained a lot in the week running up to the event and several bits of the course were really quite tacky. Getting stuck driving in to the camping field was probably a bad sign…
Leaning towards the grim the conditions may have been, but everyone was in the same boat (possibly a more appropriate mode of transport under the circumstances) and the relaxed atmosphere for which CLIC24 has become renowned remained present and correct. So relaxed, in fact, that the course got suspiciously quiet in the early hours of the morning.
The whisker-under-ten-mile course remained fun throughout, with the possible exception of a couple of increasingly-boggy stretches. But it’s all in the mind – ride with gusto, immerse yourself in the trail (literally in this case) and there’s a certain perverse pleasure in even the mankiest bit of track.
There was certainly a sense of achievement at the end. I’d had a tentative aim of 15 laps but only managed 12 in the end. Obviously that’s entirely down to the slow conditions and nothing to do with just being slow, or indeed carelessly falling asleep for four hours. Still, at least I wasn’t on the bike at the time. My initial disappointment turned to satisfaction when I discovered that only four soloists had actually covered more distance. A couple of them covered a lot more – CLIC24 isn’t a race, so there are no winners, but Dave Powell was the solo rider who rode the most laps with an impressive, not to say alarming, 19.
And inevitably, having said I’d only ever do one 24 hour solo, I’m now sorely tempted to do another. After all, it’d be a shame not to learn from all these mistakes…
When Mike told me he was going to ride CLIC24 solo, I thought, “Why not?” Doing one had been on my list of ‘must do events’ for way too long anyway, and the chilled-out, non-competitive CLIC24 seemed the perfect event to pop my cherry.
And despite the conditions, despite only achieving half my goal of 200 miles and despite the hammering my body took, I can safely say I enjoyed the weekend. It was all very well organised, I loved the laid-back vibe and the smallness of the event makes an agreeable contrast with the bigger 24 hour events.
You’d think that the constant rain would make everybody miserable, and most sane people would have packed up and hit the road a long time ago. But no, even emerging from my tent into a grey and damp early Sunday morning, everybody was still in good spirits. It’s a reminder of just how easily British MTBers take
dreadful conditions in their stride, and always with a smile on their faces.
The organiser speaksNeil Wilkins is the man behind CLIC24
We had riders from all over the UK braving conditions resembling mid-winter rather than late spring. Their efforts will have helped us exceed the target of £40,000 sponsorship for children’s leukaemia charity CLIC Sargent and I’d like to thank each and every rider and their support teams and families for
continuing to fight on despite the appalling weather.
CLIC24 has now raised in excess of £150,000 for CLIC Sargent and is becoming a firm favourite in the 24hour mountain bike calendar.
Dave and I used bikes from Whyte, Endorfin, Scapin and Cannondale, energy products from Torq (Mike) and SiS (Dave) and lights from NiteRider (Mike) and Lumicycle (Dave). Thanks to everyone who helped us out, and even bigger thanks to everyone who stumped up sponsorship cash – several hundred quid has found its way to CLIC Sargent.