How To

    Enduring a 24-hour Mountain Bike Race

    Be ready for all sorts of terrain in a 24-hour mountain bike race.

    It’s time to rock around the clock.

    Part serious endurance racing and part party, 24-hour mountain bike races take knobby, tired cyclists over a landscape of varying terrain as the sun shines and moon glows.

    And as the rain pours or the dry ground sizzles from heat.

    Whether riding it solo or part of a multi-person team, 24-hour races are challenges not only on the course, but off it as well. Looking to survive one? Consider these suggestions.

    Have common expectations

    If you are riding as a team, know who they are. I knew I was on the right team during one 24-hour race when one member suggested we all have grass skirt-wearing dolls duct-taped to our handlebars. During the Le Mans-style start where riders run to their bicycles, our guy did it wearing a sumo wrestling suit. I wore a reflective vest with words on the back encouraging other riders to pass me. We had fun and even won our category, which may or may not have had other entrants.

    Eat food

    As if by nature, riders pack nutrition bars, energy gel, and what not to power them along the trails. That’s all good, but during the weekend be sure have real food and meals as a way to chill. Teams can arrange pre-cooked meals beforehand to help share the load. But there are other ways. I remember one time a bicycle club with several teams had a chef come in and cook meals for them. Getting a seat at their table may be tough, though.

    Having your own lighting system can prevent a wealth of problems.

    Having your own lighting system can prevent a wealth of problems.


    Staying properly hydrated for the duration makes for a happy cyclist. Of course, adult beverages will abound. Beer and mountain biking have a happy relationship, especially when the suds follow the ride. Be responsible.

    Become a night rider

    Riding at night is freaky. So be sure to try it out before the race. The thin beam from the light does illuminate the course right in front of you, but there’s way more going on. The light can make for some spooky shadows. Then there are those sounds like blowing wind that makes the trees creak. And if the moon’s aglow, wow. Howl at it.

    Bring your own lighting system

    Many riders share or borrow. That’s cool for some. But by having your own, you know if the the batteries are good and how long the charge will work. Of course, by forgetting this is it may be a way out of being a night rider if that’s your intent.

    Stay in touch

    Walkie talkies, cell phone, texting, whatever works for you. This way teammates will know if someone crashes while on course or if there is some sort of mechanical problem. Plus, it’s a good way to alert teammates about friendly pods of tenting riders sharing tales round the fire.

    Try one of these

    If you want to ride around the base of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, try the beach party themed 24 Hours of Great Glen August 10-11. There’s no shortage of coffee in Bend, Oregon to fuel riders in the Oregon 24 July 27-28 in the Deschutes National Forest. The festive townie-loaded 24 Hours in the Sage takes to the high desert of the Hartman Rocks Recreation Area outside Gunnison, Colorado August 24-25.

    Images courtesy Great Glen Trails

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