Surviving an Epic Unsupported Ride, Race or Training Session. Part 1
Whether you’re planning an epic all day mountain bike ride, a solo race or just a 1 hour road training session you shouldn’t leave the house without the right preparation. Over the past few years I’ve raced as a privateer on the mountain bike circuit, often racing long marathon races solo with no support, this setup requires a different preparation. Whether it's pouring with rain, you're heading into the high mountains, you've got a crazy training workout to complete, you're attempting your first century ride or you're tackling a new race this series will help you reach the finish line safe and happy. Part 1 of this series covers what spares and tools you should carry.
Consider the weather before heading out. Layering is the best way to get a usable combination of clothing. A base layer, a jersey, a gilet or lightweight jacket is a good start. Arm warm warmers or legs warmers offer options. Winter thermal bibshort could be an idea if the ground is wet or temperatures are dropping. If you layer up you have the options to remove or add layers as the ride warms up, if layers are thin they should roll up into a jersey pocket with minimal effort. At both Andalucia Bike Race in Spain and Pretorian Race in Portugal you would have expected sunny warm days but this year we raced through torrential storms which results in flooding and changed race routes. By layering up I was able to keep both warm and dry(ish) through the mountains. It's surprising how quickly your body will quickly get angry and shutdown if it gets too cold.
A lightweight micro pump could be enough to get you out of trouble. In combination with a couple of CO2’s, a sturdy tyre lever, a tubeless repair worm, a tube (I normally road bike with 2 tubes), some patches you should be able to fix any puncture. I have had one instance this year where I was forced to ride about 20km home on the rim after using up all my co2’s and my spare tube had a hole in it, not a situation you want to find yourself in.
I’d recommend carrying a compact multitool which includes a chain tool. You’d look pretty stupid if you had a small crash and twisted your handlebars and couldn’t twist them back. Always carry a spare chain link to connect a broken chain, you’ll never be able to make a reusable chain if you push out a chain pin and push it back in.
I try to carry as many spares as possible attached to the bike. A MT Zoom Handy Strap holds a tube to the frame, a mini pump goes in my back pocket, everything else fits in a small Lezyne saddle bag.
Think about how long you’re likely to be on the bike, how much fuel do you need? How warm is it and what electrolytes do you need? An OTE gel or bar and a banana will get you a long way and won’t use up much space in your jersey pocket till you get hungry. It’s worth having 2 bottle cages on the bike, you might be able to fit 2 litres of water in those bottles which could last you 3 or more hours, if you’re riding in the countryside with no fill up stops or racing a marathon with no support this is a good solution without resorting to a hydration backpack. I’ve never liked the feel of wearing a heavy backpack so try to avoid it as much as possible unless I’m doing a 2 day trip. If you’re doing a race without support find out what’s provided in the feed zones, events like Rothaus Bike Giro and Engadin Bike Giro hand up water bottles with energy drink in the feed zones which is the ideal scenario if you’re going for a decent race result. Other races hand up cups of water, a slurp of this might keep you going a little longer but you’ll have to stop at some point. Most race have neutral feeds with drink and food. If the race website doesn’t have any information on feed zones just send the organiser an email.
Setup Google or Apple Pay on your phone, it’s the easiest way to pay for items when you get stuck out on a ride and you don’t need to worry every 5 minutes about losing your credit card. Always good having the funds for a nice ice cream or coffee at the end of an epic ride. A phone payment could also get you home on the train or bus if you really have an issue. In Europe it's worth carrying a bit of cash, not everywhere accepts phone electronic payments or card yet. Wouldn't want to miss out on that lunchtime cake during our Costa Blanca Training Camp.
With a little preparation you can be pretty self-sufficient for your next big ride or race. Following these simple steps will keep your ride fun and keep you safe.
Part 2 of the series will look at equipment and bike part choices for epic unsupported rides or races.