Tips for 24 Hour Races From Chipps
Chipps, the editor of Singletrack magazine has done something like 30, 24 hour races over the years, so we’ve asked him to give us some preparation and packing tips for anyone who’s not raced one before.
Rider preparation: I’m assuming that you’re not going headlong into 24 hour solo racing, so I’ll suggest things for first time team racers. You’re going to be racing in a team of four, five or more, so don’t get too daunted by the prospect. At most, you’re going to be riding your bike for six hours over two days. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
In the months up to the event, you need to make sure you’re getting out and riding regularly. If your aim is just to finish, then just make sure you’re getting out for a few hours a week on the bike. Include some night riding too, as riding at night is a whole new world of fun and you need to make sure you’re happy with riding through the trees at night. You also need to have an idea about how long your lights will last, as nobody likes to make that long, dark walk when their lights have failed five minutes into a lap.
And talking of equipment, make sure you’re going to be riding a bike you’re completely happy with. A 24 hour race isn’t a place to try out new, untested gear, or clothing, or food. Keep it simple and make any dramatic changes (new forks, gears or nutrition) well before the event and make sure you know it works.
So, you’ve ridden your bike regularly, including a few back to back rides (either morning and evening, or two days in a row) just to make sure you’re good for riding when you’re a bit stiff and tired. That’s about it really. If you get the chance to go riding with your team mates before the event, do it. Use this as a chance to work out how the event will pan out for you. You need to make sure that you all have the same goal in mind. If you’re out just to finish, then make sure that nobody is harbouring secret podium desires. If most of you want to go flat out, then make sure that you’re all focussed on that goal. 4am on Sunday isn’t a great time to discover that one of your team doesn’t want his beauty sleep disturbed…
Start writing lists now of things you think you might need – and add to them as you remember more. Write a separate list for camping, riding, food and bike hardware stuff as they all have separate needs. Remember you’ll mostly be hanging out for a weekend of camping with a little bike riding thrown in, so be prepared for all weathers.
Camping: As well as a tent, mat and sleeping bag, make sure you have plenty of clothes for hanging around in. Imagine a worst-case of it raining a lot and ask if you have enough warm, dry gear for that. Equally, if it’s boiling hot, you’ll need gear to match. Remember you’ll be waiting for team mates to come in in the middle of the night, when it’s always going to be a bit chilly. Take a big, warm jacket to wait in and give it to the incoming rider to take back to camp for you.
Food can be anything you fancy really. There’ll be a lot of food stalls open through the night, but only you know what you might fancy to eat first thing, or last thing at night. Constant snacking, on this occasion, is perfectly fine. If you’re there on the Friday night, make sure you can whip up a pre-race feast for the team and helpers. Once the race starts, you’ll see a lot less of each other so enjoy the moment.
Bikes: We’ve mentioned that you need a reliable bike, that you know works well, some tried and tested lights and perhaps tyres for different conditions if you have them. It’s always better to bring more than you think you’ll need. Make sure you have a pump and tubes, a tool and any other spares to fix your bike when out on a lap. As the race gets under way, fit your lights before it gets dark. Sort any mechanical issues as soon as you get back from your lap rather than waiting until five minutes before you’re out again. You get the idea…
Riding clothes: I never tire of saying “Take ALL of your cycling clothes to a 24 hour race”. It might be that you do six laps in the rain, in which case, having six changes of clothing will really help (nobody likes putting wet shorts back on). Even if you don’t have that much gear, take all your socks, a couple of pairs of gloves. Spare shoes if you have them and enough different jersey sleeve lengths to suit any temperature. Arrange bags so you don’t have to think at 2am. Have a supermarket bag of socks, one of shorts, one of tops – and a giant bin bag for used kit. This helps control some of the chaos. You really won’t have the energy to keep things super tidy otherwise.
There. You’re nearly ready already.
Remember to enjoy your race. And remember to make sure that everyone’s on time at the changeover area to meet the next rider. There’s nothing worse than slogging round a lap to find your team mates aren’t there because they’re still getting ready, or still in bed! Make sure you take a moment to stop and look at the campsite from around the race course and take in the view. It’s like the Glastonbury of mountain biking, so you might as well appreciate that you’re there eh?
See you on the start line!