24 Hour Mountain Bike Racing :: Preparation and How To

The transition tent at nightMy ear plugs aren’t working. Can I push them farther in my ear? Will they get stuck? They’ll send me to the ER. I don’t want to ride in an ambulance. Why can’t I fall  asleep. I’m tired. I wish they’d turn the music off.  Oh no, already! My tent shake wake up call. It’s my turn to ride. Why am I here? I love racing. I can’t believe I signed up for this again. I’m so excited to be here. I’m cold. I am alive. My light isn’t fully charged and it’s my turn to ride a lap. What if it runs out? Can I conserve during the climbs? I can ride in the dark. I really hope I don’t have a flat tire. Should I lube my chain? Eat? Wait, what did I do with my water bottle? Should I wear my jacket? Vest? Both? I run to the transition tent to await my teammate. Gosh it’s crowded in here for 3am. I can’t see. Ooh an empty chair, I think I’ll sit. Where is he? How long has it been? Am I hungry? Should I take off my down jacket? Where is he? Boom! Transition done and quickly. I didn’t even say hi or ask how it went. I’m the worst teammate. Run. Pedal. Breathe. I feel great! I was born to ride a mountain bike. The stars, the sound of my tires on desert sand. The stream of lights ahead of me. I am in heaven. This is why I am here. The energy pushes me forward. Cowbells in the night. LeMans style startWhat is a 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race? Back in the early 1990s, a man named Laird Knight started Granny Gear, an endurance mountain bike racing production company. The first 24 hour races mimicked the 24 Hours of LeMans car race. The bike races started in the same way– with a run to your bike before going full bore into the first lap. After the LeMans style start, racers ride on a designated course in laps for 24 hours. Teams switch riders each lap inside of a transition tent. Some riders race solo, and others on teams of 2 up to 10 people. Most 24 Hour races begin Saturday noon and end at noon on Sunday. During the 24 hours, racers must ride in the dark, sleep in suboptimal conditions, and despite their exhaustion– perhaps an upset stomach, potential dehydration and minor injuries such as scratches and cactus spines– continue to the finish. The team with the most laps in 24 hours wins. Why Race a 24 Hour Race? You may wonder why anyone would wish to race for 24 hours. I often ask myself this question, and hard, as I am driving to the venue. It’s fun in a twisted way. But it is fun. You make new friends, build camaraderie with not only your team but other riders, you get to see amazing scenery and you can say you raced a mountain bike for 24 hours. It’s a fantastic outdoor experience. While some take the race seriously, the rest are simply out to have a good time mountain biking. There are 24 Hour National Championships, but these are sparsely attended compared to the unsanctioned 24 Hour races– because most people who go to 24 Hour Races do it for the experience. A 24 Hour Race is an event you will never forget. The 10 Steps to Becoming Addicted to 24 Hour Mountain Bike Racing 1. Find a race. I recommend 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo in Arizona, produced by Epic Rides. However, there are 24 Hour Races all over the World. 2. Choose a category. Will you ride solo? Duo? 4 person or 5? Solo means you and only you will ride for 24 hours. Duo is 2 person. Duo is the most competitive class. 4 person teams can be casual, but the most casual team is the 5 person. While the top teams are gunning for the win, most 5 person teams are relaxed and fun. 3. Set the tone for your team. If you want to win, make that clear. If you want to have a beer between laps, make that clear (if you are age, of course). 4. Pick your team. With mission statement in hand, choose the team that will help you reach your goal of winning or drinking more beer. Your team will also run more smoothly if you have a few extra hands on hand. A chef, a soigneur, a mechanic, your own rock band playing your theme song. 5.  Train. Train as you would for a cross country race. You need to have speed. The laps are typically fairly short, and at times around one hour. You need to train for that one hour effort (check lap times of the chosen race to determine how long you will be on the bike for a lap). In order to get the repeatability, I like to do a week or two of two-a-days. If you have questions or need a plan, I am a coach and I can help. 6. Dial in your lighting. Find a good light. Then have a secondary light. Then have a back up light. As well you will need an emergency light. I’ve been racing 24 Hour Races for over 10 years, and I have almost always had a light failure, or at least had to help someone else who had a light failure. I’ve been using NiteRider since I’ve had my first light. I like to run dual lights. One on the handlebar and one on my helmet. My back up and emergency lights stay in my back pockets. 7. Ride at night. Riding at night is not difficult, it’s just easier in a race if you’ve practiced. Practice riding with your exact lighting set up, and practice riding on dim settings so you know what it will be like if you need to conserve. Night riding is fun! Beware of freakouts when riding at night alone. It happens. 8. Set up camp. Arrive at race venue early. Fridays are the best days so you can choose the optimal spot for sleeping, close enough to the exchange tent and in a good position to leave on Sunday. In that order. 9. Pre-ride course. For serious racers, you need to ride at race pace so you know the course. For the casual riders, ride the course so you know it. Know where you can pass and will be passed and be aware of alternate lines. Remember, there will be a high volume of riders on the trails, so knowing the trail is the best way to avoid bad situations. 10. Race Day! Relax, focus, have fun! Now you know how to get into 24 Hour Mountain Bike Racing. We’ll have more tips and reports from the 2014 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo over the next few weeks, so stay tuned to mtbchick.com! I will be racing for Skratch Labs Bacon Power team! (See here for the 2013 24 HOP) ~namaste mtbchick

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