So, you want to race in the TransRockies Challenge this year? Here are some tips to get your bike ready.
First, congratulations on even thinking about doing a race like this. It is long, hard, and involves a lot of suffering. If you are racing it, you suffer for going that hard, and if you are riding it, you suffer for riding that long each day. Top racers will ride the same distance in ½ the time of the end of the pack, but everyone that crosses the the finish line on day 7, rode the same rocks, roots, and mileage. This information is for most of the riders in the event. (the middle and back third of the pack). If you think you might be in the front, you will not be, and if you know you can be in the front, you might be. If you are racing this event, odds are you know what to expect, and need and we wish you the best of luck.
A race like the Transrockies will... put both you and your bike through what most riders will do in a whole season, so don't be surprised when you start to wear out parts. Also, you will be tired, and tired riders will make mistakes. A wrong shift here, a bad line thru the rocks there, and laying the bike down at a checkpoint and bending the rear derailer hanger...
Most riders on a 7 day race will need to have new parts installed. New rear derailer cable and housing, new disc brake pads, and a new chain is about the minimum that you will wear thru. This is assuming that your bike came into the race just tuned, with newish parts, and that the weather stays nice. We have seen brand new, high end brake pads get worn out in 2 days in the rain and mud, so don't be surprised when new parts wear out fast. Also, in a race with long days, you might not have “this should last one more ride” option. 100Km, 8 hours, and rain/mud will wear out parts VERY fast and make the bike unrideable. If you are not sure if it will last, it won't, and replace it now.
Now, don't panic, “The Bike Shop” will be at the race with a 5 ton van full of bike parts available every night. They carry most parts, for most high end bikes, and sell them for MSRP. Also, the mechanics are set up every day, and work very late, until all the bikes are done. Yes, this CAN involve no sleep (2009) for a few nights in a row, but we will get it done. If you want to bring your own parts, and tools that is great too. The wash stands can be used for repairs after all the bikes are cleaned. We can install your own parts, or the bike shop's, and we bring some stuff with us too. They might not have the very old style, or the prototype next years parts, but most parts, from most large companies are avail.
What to bring with you from home? Well, if you want, nothing. Again we have just about everything in stock, and the extra airline baggage costs might not be worth it. If you are bringing some parts, a starting point is a second set of tires (one dry to start, and a back up mud) 2* brake pads, 1 * chains and some dry lube. If you want to bring more parts, then a second chain, cassette, 3 new chain rings, derailer hangers, 4 total brake pads, extra cleats, 2 sets of precut, or full length cable and housing for both front and rear derailer, grips, rear derailer, and a bottom bracket. Yes this is a long list, but we have seen bikes go thru this list and more in a race, but don't worry, we have all this in stock as you wear it out.
What should you bring on the bike with you? If you are racing this event, you know what the minimal amount you can get away with. If you are riding this event, then between you and your partner, bring with you daily. a few chain links and quick links rear derailer hanger lube a few tubes, even if you are using tubeless tires, and a patch kit too. Spare cleat with bolts. For tools, a chainbreak, 2-8mm allen keys, tire levers, multi tool, pump (yes, even if you have CO2) zip ties, small container of misc bolts, nuts, washers. Pain meds, whistle, gel, food are nice too.
Now for the pre-game show. You have been training your body hard for this race, and getting lots of miles on your bike. What to do just before the race? NOTHING!! Don't change anything right before the race. However, a week or so before, while you are tapering, and wondering how you are going to fit everything into the duffel bags that they give you, start checking over your bike.
First, replace the tires, with something for dry conditions. While you are at it, check the hubs for wear or looseness. Check that wheels are true, and the spokes are still holding tension. Also, check that they freehub is spinning smoothly. (they a habit of getting gummed up in a dusty race). For tires, a light 2.0ish XC tire is great. I like tubeless as it eliminates the chance of a pinch flat, and is lighter, but you still need to carry a tube if you tear a sidewall. Carry 2 tubes + patch kit too
Now with the cranks removed, check the bottom bracket. Make sure it spins well, and no grinding, or looseness. Again, replace it now, as it is not going to get any better. For the newer external type BB's, enduro makes a great replacement bearing (you re-use the old cups), and they seem to last longer, and spin better. While the cranks are off the bike, check the rings for wear, bends, or missing teeth. Again, replace what is worn out. For the chain: you ARE going to wear it out in the race, so put a new one on now. If the used one still has 50% wear keep it for later. If it is 75% worn, just throw it away. If you are replacing the chain, and 2 or more chain rings, just replace them all, and get a new cassette as well. If you hunt around, you can find deals on whole new cranks, BB, and rings for about the price of rings only. This is a good time to upgrade to the external BB system as well. I'm a big fan of the quick links (come with Sram's chains) and work on just about all brands of chains. Make sure that all your parts are for the same speed. 10 speed cassette, will NOT work well with a 9 speed shifter, and chain.
Brakes? Just put new pads in now. Keep the old ones with you for the race, and start with new pads. Both front and rear. You might need to do this again thru the race if it gets wet but on an average race one set will be fine. If you have not bled your brakes in 2000km, or 12 months do that too. New pads and a fresh bleed make a bike feel so much nicer.
Check for wear and tear on the grips and saddle. Replace before you arrive, and you should be fine. Also, we might not have the exact shape of grip or saddle at the race, so if you are picky, bring it with you. Lots of racers are going with some form of padded, Ergo type grip. They just gives you more contact, and hand positions, but again, try this out before the race to see if you like them. They also are mostly lock-on style, so they won't slip around after you have been in 3 days of wet weather, and some have integrated bar ends too. Good upgrade for enduro racing.
Put in new cable and housing for the shifters in right now. Nothing is cheaper, and makes the shifting feel better then this. I'm a fan of the full length cable and housing, as there are less points of entry for mud and dust, so they tend to last longer. You can attach the housing to the frame with zip ties, and add a bit of frame protector too. Bring a second section of cable and housing for later in the race too. If this is all precut, it is fast to install even if you are really tired. Mechanics can do all this for you too.
When was the last time your fork was worked on? Again, if it's been more than 2000km or 12 months, get it all done. New seals, new oil, etc. While you have the fork off, check the headset bearings. Any grinding? Replace or re-lube them. Odds are we will not have just the sealed bearings at the race, but we can replace the whole thing, or just re-pack the loose bearings as needed. For the shock, check that all the pivot bolts are tight, and that it still holds air well.
Well that is about it, have fun, best of luck, and enjoy the ride....
By Dave Williams.
Email Dave at email@example.com