Preparing for a 24 Hour MTB Race (Part II)


This is part II of an article on prepping for a 24 hour mountain bike race (here’s part I in case you missed it). Whether you’re part of a team or riding solo, these tips will help you focus on the ride so you can enjoy your race!

Bike preparation
What to have on the bike
Riding clothes and accessories
What should be in that hydration pack

Base camp
Personal preparation

Base Camp

Your temporary home for the 24 hour race has to provide you and your team with a comfortable place to relax between stints on the course. Base camp should have all the food, shelter, and equipment your team will need to finish the event no matter what the conditions. To be successful you need to bring more than you think you need and for some, this can make or break their event.

picture-311 Get a tent that is larger than you would think you need – I tend to use a tent that will house 6 people. A good tent will keep everything inside dry so make sure you tent has adequate waterproofing and a solid base tarp to sit on. Don’t just lay your tent on the ground – set it on a tarp that will not allow water to seep in from below. Pitch your tent so that the winds of that day are not blowing into the door, but rather away from it. A sleeping bag and some kind of foam or air mattress is a must to ensure you stay well rested.

Another key item is a large cooler to hold all your food for the race. Bring a water container that can hold all your drinking water and keep it separate from any other sources of water that you would use (cleaning water, for example). I also recommend bringing a portable wood or gas stove; either way make sure you have enough fuel to warm up food and drinks during the race. For a gas stove you will probably need 3 to 4 small canisters of fuel – and don’t forget the matches!

picture-312A portable generator will allow you to power various items such as battery chargers, air pumps, and fixed lights for working on bikes at night. Some riders bring electric kettles which can be useful for quickly heating water for cooking or just coffee.

You will more than likely need to repair your bike at some point during a 24 hour race so tools are a must. This is where you will want to bring everything plus the kitchen sink. Imagine what the fellas bring during a NASCAR race and you’ll have an idea of what tools and spares you will need. When I do events like these, I bring spares of nearly everything. I typically bring a complete driveline with front derailleur, rear derailleur, chains pre cut to correct length, derailleur hangers, pre-cut cable sets, and a rear shifter pod. I also bring two extra sets of wheels with different tires – one aggressive set for muddy conditions and another fast rolling set. Bring several extra spare tubes as well as replacement brake pads. For tools I bring my main bike tool box and bike stand. (see my previous post on bike tools).

Here is a list with options for your base camp:

  • Tent bigger that you would think you need OR an RV (Ohh yeah!)
  • Spare pegs and rope (just in case of high winds)
  • Sleeping bag, pillow, and air mattress OR sleeping bunk in Winnebago
  • Stove, grill, OR gas stove (foldable/ portable)
  • Frying pan, 5L pot, sauce pan (not shown)
  • Cooking utensils (big fork, cooking spoon, tongs. Don’t forget personal utensils: fork, spoon, knife)
  • Fuel for stove or grill (not shown)
  • First aid kit (make sure it includes polysporin, benadryl, afterbite, alcohol pads and antiseptic)
  • Cooler – the larger the better or two smaller ones (one for fresh fruits and drinks, the other for meats and dairy)
  • Food for your event (not shown)
  • Drinks (not shown)
  • Fresh water in collapsible 25L containers
  • A tarp or two (not shown)

For tools and spares:


  • 2 large plastic tote boxes ( clear see through labeled with contents)
  • Tool box which must contain at least allen keys 2- 10mm, cable cutter, cone wrenches 12-19mm, hammer, spoke wrenches, phillips and slotted screw driver, chain whip, chain pin tool, bottom bracket tool (for your bike), pedal wrench, torque wrench and sockets, and shock pump
  • Floor pump
  • Repair stand
  • 2 spare wheel sets (inflated and complete with tires, tube, and rear cassette). Have one pair set up for mud.
  • 1 complete cable set (pre-cut and ready to install)
  • Front and rear derailleur (cable stops already set)
  • 2 rear derailleur hangers
  • 2 or 3 sets of brake pads (use sintered pads, organics tend to wear out too quickly when wet)
  • 4 tubes or more (I keep mine in a zip lock bag with baby powder)
  • Lubricants and cleaners (chain lube, grease, WD-40, bike wash), brushes and picks (for getting the crud out)


Here you have to be smart because it’s too easy to pack junk high in sugars and empty carbs. Fortunately there are plenty of food choices to satisfy even the hungriest racers.

For quick eats you can portion food packages in advance that you can warm up or eat cold. If you’re into camp cooking, bring raw foods and cook them at your base camp. If you’re crazy enough to be on your own or have just a few people with you, camp cooking may not be the way to go. But even solo riders should bring fruits which are nature’s energy foods!

As far as specific food recommendations, think of foods that can be digested with relative ease and foods that will not offend your stomach. Also consider your meal timing. For example: eating fruits after another food may give you gas and an upset stomach. On the topic of fruits, below is a list of fruits that will help you during your event, but remember to eat these on an empty stomach or before other foods.

Good fruits to consider:

KIWI: Tiny but mighty. This is a good source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin E & fiber. The kiwi’s vitamin C content is twice that of an orange.

APPLE: An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Although an apple has low vitamin C content, it has antioxidants & flavonoids which enhances the activity of vitamin C.

STRAWBERRY: Protective fruit. Strawberries have the highest total antioxidant power among major fruits. Plus they’re delicious and refreshing.

ORANGE: Sweetest medicine. Eating 2 to 4 oranges a day may help keep colds away and lower cholesterol.

WATERMELON: Coolest thirst quencher. Composed of 92% water, it is also packed with a giant dose of glutathione, which helps boost the immune system.

GUAVA & PAPAYA: Top awards for vitamin C. Guava is also rich in fiber, which helps prevent constipation. Papaya is rich in carotene which is good for your eyes and night vision.

As far as supplemental energy, find yourself an energy bar that is low in complex sugars and that you know isn’t disgusting. I found that Nature Harvest bars work great as well as Clif bars. Of course these bars work for me but you’ll want to experiment for yourself. Trail mix is a good choice too – dried fruits and nuts plus chocolate (if you’re so inclined).

For base camp I tend to bring a stack of prepared burgers or simply chicken breasts that have been butterfly cut and marinated in a honey garlic sauce that will cook quickly over the grill. I also bring some prepared potato or pasta salad that will keep well in the cooler. For a nutritious cold dish I premix canned chickpeas, tuna, low fat sour cream, mayo, some crushed peanuts and spices, chopped onion, and a touch of hot sauce for flavor. This makes a delicious, high protein meal without any need for a stove! Fresh condiments such as tomato, lettuce and onions or some cheese work as well for your burgers and chicken. I also bring breakfast items like English muffins, eggs, bacon and cheese… sounds like a McMuffin but we’re talking home made here (hungry yet?). Warm food is a great pick-me-up when you’re waking up in the cold. It’s easy to make as well.

Personal Preparation

So now you have all your gear and base camp set up. You’ve gathered wood, set up the tent, and laid out a killer work space. But you’re outta breath already! Uh oh.

Preparing your body for a 24 hour race should take place well in advance (preferably before you set up base camp 🙂 ). Before you sign up for a 24 hour race, consider how you’ll be racing. Will this be a corporate event where you’re riding 1 or 2 laps or are you going to be in a 4 person team where you will be expected to do more than 4 laps that day? Or are you crazy enough to do the entire event by yourself? Whatever you plan on doing, the first thing to find out is how long a lap is. Once you know the distance then you have a training target. From there you can build a training plan.

For the 24 Hour Summer Solstice I planned for a 4 man team. Each lap was 17Km or 12 Miles, and from previous results and looking at the score boards it usually took 48min for a lap. So seeing that 48 min is roughly 0.8 hours we can figure out how many laps will be done in 24 hours which comes out to 30. Now for the total distance you (or your team) will have to travel 360 miles. If you have a 4 man team that means each person will travel 90 miles each.

For training, I usually try to build up my rides to race distance +10%. So I end up making my rides 14 miles long and try and get in two or three laps a day at my local trails. I do that to slowly build up leg strength and endurance. There really is no substitute for putting miles on the trails.

Of course building the miles and endurance is important but you also need to build the machine (your body). Changing habits can really help here: getting extra rest and cutting out junk food may be tough but it’s part of training. The night before long rides, try to eat extra carbs (pasta!).

In terms of a specific training diet, you should really consult a professional before making big changes. Everyone is different and although I could tell you what I eat, our bodies will not react the same.

Give yourself at least 2 months of prep time to gradually increase your saddle time. An event like a 24 hour race isn’t an overnight success story – it takes time and lots of patience to get your heart, lungs, and legs up to par.

If your 24 hour goal is to have fun, take my advice on the equipment side of this article and you will be prepared and comfortable for the event. If you want to win, start training with your team now so you can dominate this fall!