10 Tips to Survive a 24-Hour Mountain Bike Race

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When a friend asked me to join her 24 Hours of Moab team I unwittingly agreed. She had done the race previously and promised to show me the ropes, however, a week before the race, she called from California to say she wouldn't make it back to Utah in time. Although we found a replacement for her, we were still a group of strangers that knew nothing about 24-hour mountain bike racing.

Our team, Tyrone and the Destroyers, included Scott—a competitive rider, John—a laid back bike tech, Billy—a hyper-active smoker, Simone—an Italian chef, and me—the rookie racer left in charge when our fearless leader bailed. It was a shaky start but we finished the race. The entire team had a lot of fun, but there were a few things we could have done better. Here are 10 tips that will ensure you don't make the same mistakes we did.

Tip 1: Get to Know Your Teammates

Our last-minute replacement was Simone. None of us knew what he looked like so at 8 p.m. the night before the race we wandered around the campground looking for a 6-foot Italian man with a heavy accent.

Posting notes to each other on the campground bulletin board helped, but I suggest getting to know your teammates prior to the race. A team ride would be ideal so you can test out team dynamics and build camaraderie, but at least meet for coffee so you recognize each other on race day.

Tip 2: Communicate Your Expectations

Billy loved to party. When he wasn't riding—and sometimes when he was—he had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Scott was a serious biker but quickly realized it would be more fruitful to set personal goals than team goals.

If you are out to kick butt, try to find a team that has the same goals. If you just want to have a good time, make sure your teammates know that too.

Tip 3: Bring Your Own Lights

It sounds logical but when I asked about lights, I was told the race provided rentals. They didn't. Luckily I had borrowed a light and two batteries from a friend. That light turned out to be the only one our team had. In transition we had to transfer the light between bikes which added time to our laps. It worked out pretty well until Simone crashed. He flew over the handlebars and the bike followed crushing the clamp that secured the light.

I was the lucky one that had to ride after Simone. Every time I hit a rut—and in mountain biking there are a lot of ruts—my beam of light shot straight up into the air. I spent my entire night lap with one hand on the brake and the other on the light. By the time I made it to transition, the team had jerry rigged a new clamp.

Bike lights have come a long way. It works best if everyone brings their own lighting system. You won't have to worry about a) using one you are not familiar with or b) having one of your teammates wreck it before you get the chance to use it.

Tip 4: Communicate During the Race

This is one thing we almost did right: We had walkie talkies so we could communicate problems out on the course. When Simone crashed he was able to warn us about the broken light. Through his thick Italian accent, however, we couldn't understand what he was saying.