While the idea of riding your mountain bike for 24hrs seems ridiculous, when you do it as part of a team in the MONT 24hr, it can be great fun. It might sound daunting to ride for that amount of time considering in a normal 24hr period - you sleep, wake up, breakfast, maybe a quick ride, wash, dress, commute, work, grab lunch, work, commute, eat, chill in front of the TV, then sleep - but if you follow these basic tips, it is completely doable, even for a newbie.
We've put together a little how-to guide for surviving a 24hr mountain bike event. We spoke with Alan from Self Propelled Enterprises, the organiser of the MONT24hr which is on April 2-3. We also got some great advice from Awesome Sock Guy, the sage of mountain bike racing.
For those that don't know the MONT 24hr event is considered the 'Woodstock for mountain bikes'. It's one of Australia's oldest races and attracts as many as 3,000 competitors and a further 4,500 spectators each year. The MONT 24hr is a 'team's only' event ensuring that there is plenty of support for the riders and lots of fun for anyone in attendance. There's live entertainment, kids races, industry exhibitors, bike demos, craft beer, fine food, and of course a MTB race with plenty of flowing single track.
How to Survive and Thrive at a 24hr MTB event
First up, here are a few reasons people enter the MONT 24hr MTB race.
Catching up with mates you haven’t seen all year.
A great excuse to buy new bike bits.
Checking out the latest bikes.
The great mix of all types of riders that compete.
The local derby between friendly teams.
Eating as much food as you want all night long.
Drinking Red Bull and Gu till your head spins.
Wok fried bacon at 6am.
Riding the dawn lap.
The beer at 24hrs and 10 seconds.
Taking the next day off work.
Have a plan
24hrs can seem like a long time, but as part of a four or six person team to share the experience with, time can really fly by.
It may seem like a simple maths equation: Six riders, one hour per lap equals four laps each right? Well, it's not that simple. Having a plan will help you get the best possible result and event experience out of those 24hrs.
Who is going to ride and when? Is your team planning on riding the whole 24hrs? How long will it take for each person to complete a lap? Are people going to do double laps? What will each rider be doing while others are riding? What will we wear? What should we eat? Do you have lights?
You don't want to be waiting in transition after completing your lap for your next rider to show up. Similarly, you don't want to be waiting in transition forever waiting for your slower-than-expected rider to come through. This probably isn't the be all and end all for teams that are there just for fun (which most are), but if you are racing for that metaphorical sheep station, there's no point flogging yourself on the bike only to lose time in transition.
With a plan you will know you know who is riding when, in what order and how long they should take to do a lap. The plan will need to be flexible to account for mechanicals, tantrums, bingles, brain fades and nutritional issues because guaranteed it will happen to someone out on course, it could very well be you or someone on your team.
Comfort over fashion
It doesn't need to be said again, but, 24hrs can feel like a long time! You need to be comfortable on and off the bike, so pack accordingly. Pack more clothes than you think you will need.
For the clothes you are going to cycle in, pack two or three sets of kit with all the extras you will need if the weather turns south. Once the racing gets into the early hours of the morning it will be extremely difficult to dry any of your kit, and the last thing you want to be doing is putting back on moist kit. The MONT 24hr is in Canberra which has a regular daytime temperature of between 7-20°C in Autumn, but it can get down to 1 (or less) overnight.
Knicks are a perfect example. Once your lap is finished you don't want to sit in moist, bacteria invested knicks. You want to get those things off ASAP and hung out to dry. This is where the second pair of knicks comes in handy. You may be tired and your legs fatigued, but at least you'll have nice fresh dry knicks to slip into before you head back out. It's handy to bring an extra pair in case it does rain and you have no way of drying your knicks.
Same goes for a jersey. You could probably get away with wearing one jersey repeatedly throughout the 24hours, but think about how much better it would be to have a fresh jersey on for each lap. Or at least for the all-important night time / early morning laps. If you are planning on wearing the same jersey repeatedly, at least change your base layers. If you have to put on cold, wet base layers, you'll get hyperthermia before you finish your first lap.
Plan for it to be cold, hot, windy, wet - basically have a contingency for any scenario. That means packing gloves, headband, neckerchief, multiple base layers, vest, rain cape, gloves, arm warmers, knee warmers, toe covers, bootie covers, thick socks, basically whatever is going to make you comfortable riding around the clock. Even two pairs of shoes! It might sound excessive, but what if it rains and everything you were riding with is drenched? A dry pair of shoes will feel like heaven.
Nutrition, a license to do whatever?
Nutrition is important and being on the go for 24hrs almost gives you a license to eat whatever you want! Almost...
Planning your nutrition for events like this is all about minimising your percentage of loss and trying to close the gap between what you lose and what you stomach can tolerate. Try to think of your nutritional intake on the day as a combination of the fluid you need to replace, the calories you need to consume and the electrolytes and sodium you have lost. Obviously the more serious you are taking the event, the more you need to consider these variables.
As a minimum you'll need to take on enough calories to get you through the event, plus whatever you need to keep your spirits high and mind clear. It's also best to try and balance out all the sugar you will inevitably consume via gels, energy bars and drinks.
What are you going to do between your riding? Sleep? Sit down? Where are you going to do it? In the car? In a tent? In a marquee?
"It's far more important to have a good campsite than a good bike at these things."
You need to have the off-the-bike stuff as organised as the on-the-bike stuff. A tent, cooking gear, comfortable chair, blow up mattress, sleeping bag, esky, storage, torch and food. And toilet paper! Didn't think of that one did you?!
As well as all the R&R you plan to do between your riding don't forget to join the party and make the most of the unique 24hr experience.
Before you leave the house make sure you conduct a basic bike maintenance to hopefully avoid any issues once you arrive. Best case scenario, you have no mechanic issues and sail through the event with the wind at your back, but as mentioned before, there could well be thousands of other riders sharing the event with you, someone is guaranteed to have some bad luck!
There will be bike shop and mechanics on site, but they will be busy with a continuous stream of mechanical issues so you can't always depend on them. Bring your own tools and supplies to ensure you can fix those minor mechanical issues that typically arise. If you have no idea about servicing and repairing your bike and just want to ride, put someone on your team with sound mechanical skills to help you out.