Mountain bike stage races can be demanding on the bike, body, and wallet, but undoubtedly worth the cost for the experience available, event depending I suppose! Having multiple days of being concerned with nothing other than riding your bike and eating good food is priceless in the chaotic and busy world that we find ourselves in.
The upcoming sani2c events, just nine weeks away, are prime examples of this blissful escape. 3 days of mountain biking through beautiful regions of Kwa-Zulu Natal, a route that incorporates plenty of purpose built single track and is aimed at maximising fun rather than suffering! If you’re at all familiar with the event you will know that the hospitality is warm and welcoming with plenty of delicious food, great facilities, chill zones, comfy mattresses, and recovery support.
When it comes to the time on the bike, the fitter you are the more fun you’ll have and although the single track is not the most technical you will benefit from working on some basic bike handling skills, which can be in surprising deficit at many of these stage race events. So with 9 weeks to go to the 2022 KAP sani2c Race and Adventure, how do you prepare well?
Let’s start with the bike. Most people will have the bike they’ll be riding in their garage by now (and hopefully riding it a few times per week). If your bike hasn’t seen fresh grease and a set of Allen keys in a while make sure to get it in for a service in the next couple of weeks and again before your stage race. This will help to identify any minor issues before they become major issues and keep everything that is in good condition working smoothly. Services can be costly but the more regular they are the less likely a major mechanical will be.
There could be a few individuals looking to acquire a new steed before the 2022 event and it would be better to do so sooner rather than later, giving you time to get familiar with the bike and make any adjustments necessary. If you are in the market for a new bike and are looking for some direction have a look at this video.
The majority of riders at a South African stage race will be on some sort of a marathon / cross country bike. Newer bikes likely being full suspension with 100 to 120 mm of suspension travel and the older bikes being hardtails or having 100mm of suspension travel. These bikes will suit just fine to the riding demands of the sani2c and similar events. They are efficient pedallers, generally quite light which helps on the climbs, and have have fast rolling tires.
There are a host of small adjustments and purchases that can be made to improve your bike’s performance and your experience at a stage race featuring plenty of single track. We will go into more detail on bike setup in the weeks to come but for the moment I’ll touch on some top line points to think about.
Tires have a profound impact on bicycle performance. Tubeless tires are more puncture resistant, and offer a lower rolling resistance. They are a no-brainer for a stage race if your rims are compatible. Lower profile tread will be faster rolling which is good for marathon style events but can cost you traction. Something slightly more aggressively treaded is usually best on the front and lower profile better for the rear. 2.2-2.4 inch wide tires allow for lower pressures to be run, increasing traction and improving rolling resistance. You won’t want to use those if you have rims narrower than 25mm though and be sure your frame has sufficient clearance for that width if you are upgrading.
On the contact point front, be sure that you are finding your saddle and grips comfortable on longer rides of 2 -3 hours +. If not, then there will definitely be something out there that works for you and you’ll have to do some looking around and trying out. Pedals aren’t something that get changed much but if you are wanting to move to cleats before the race, the sooner the better!
We will cover cockpit changes and saddle adjustments in the weeks to come but if you are feeling that your riding position is uncomfortable, best to talk to your local bike shop about a proper bike setup.
Next thing to think about in preparing for your upcoming stage race is your bike handling skills! So often overlooked with the riding culture in South Africa championing ‘training’ over ‘practice’. Having good bike handling skills allows you to conserve energy, ride safer, and descend faster (if you would like to!). Some of the essentials are balance skills such as track-standing, and proper cornering techniques. For some tips with working on these skills, have a look here. There will be a few advanced skill videos and articles coming out in the next few weeks looking at good braking and descending techniques, riding unsupported corners, climbing and more! Stay in the loop.
When preparing for a stage race, training is probably the most highly prioritised piece of the puzzle. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the value of a healthy level of fitness when there are 3 days of 80+km of riding to deal with! You’ll want to be getting in as much bike time as you can in these last months and not avoiding the hills. If you’re looking for a detailed training plan, this is where it is at. Increasing your torque output can be very beneficial on steeper climbs and single track riding, this involves riding at a lower cadence with resistance (such as when climbing). It is worth speaking with an expert, such as those of the team at Absolute Motion, if you really want to get into this and maximise your outcomes.
A powerful machine is useless without decent fuel. Getting your nutrition sorted should be high on your priority list pre-event. Understanding how your body uses carbs and fats will help you better feed yourself for the effort. When it comes to nutrition on the bike, take the time now to find a nutrition mix that works for you. That goes for the liquids and solids you’ll need to stay fuelled. There is a very helpful page of nutrition guidelines on the sani2c website from NutriHealth that you can read here. Don’t over complicate it. Find a mix that its effective and repeatable for your training and event days.
All of this pre-event preparation is ultimately to ensure maximum enjoyment at the event! If you’ve got your training done, fuelled your body well, upped your skill level, and taken good care of your bike you’ll be on for a winner! At the end of the day, the reason we ride our bikes and participate at these events is to enjoy ourselves and experience the break from crazy day-to-day life. Take the time needed to prepare well, get your out-of-office reply setup (and resist the temptation to check those emails!), and settle into 3 day of superb riding, great people and fantastic food. Don’t rush the ride when you’re out there. 4 hours of joy is better than 3 and a half hours of pain right? Soak in the sights and sounds, chat to your mates (old and new) who are riding alongside you, and revel in the world class single tracks that you came for!
Keep an ear out for more across our channels in the next few weeks to help you prepare well for your next stage race!