The helmet light is good for twisty terrain because it tracks your eyesight no matter which way your head turns, while the handlebar unit extends a cone of light straight ahead of your front wheel, ideal on straight-a-ways and hills. Keeping lights charged is key, especially on two- or three-man teams where each rider has lots of time in the dark.
Check with the race organizer for the brand of lighting sponsor; some provide quick-charging at the events. Otherwise, bring additional batteries or a generator. Organizers of the Adrenalin series recommend that solo riders bring up to 11 hours of lighting capacity, two-man team members have five hours each, four-man teams three hours, five-man teams 2.5 hours and corporate teams 1.5 to three hours each.
Man cannot live on energy bars and gels alone. After a few hours, your body craves real carbs and protein—pasta, meat, beans, fruit, Pringles, Spam or whatever turns you on. For easy digestion that doesn't stress your body, eat small portions. Hot soup at night is a welcome treat. Tip: Bring mom.
Don't be fooled by overcast skies. Hydrate a lot with more than water. The long hours and multiple hard laps drain your water tank and electrolyte levels. Gatorade works.
Depends on your team's category. The four- and five-man categories allow three- to six-hour breaks in between laps, allowing a few winks at night. Strategies: Designate one person to wake up the next rider. Also, some teams double up on laps to give their teammate more sleep time.
Remember, a 24-hour race is riding and camping. Along with spare tires, tubes, bike parts and even spare bikes, bring a decent tent, sleeping bags and cooking gear.
Roy M. Wallack, a Los Angeles Times fitness columnist and contributor of cyling and adventure stories to many magazines, is the co-author of the best-selling Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100, in which the above story also appears. Check it out, buy a signed personalized copy, and view a wild, 10-minute slide show of Wallack's 30 years of world-wide cycling adventures at www.BikeforLifebook.com.
Dirt Rag is an independent magazine with an open-forum format that allows readers and writers alike to participate in cycling culture while staying true to grassroots, independent coverage of what really matters to mountain bikers. For another look at endurance mountain bike racing, check out the Active Blog post: You've got 24 hours to race.