“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a bike and that’s pretty close.” - Unknown Fellow Bike Enthusiast.
Here’s where I share everything I know (Part 1) about mountain biking for Spring Challenge. I’m certainly no expert but hopefully I can help shed light on some common questions and mysteries!
Type of Bike?
I’m a big believer in making do with what you’ve got - whether it’s full suspension or hard tail, carbon or alloy frame, new or old. Especially when you’re just starting out it’s probably your fitness, confidence and skill level that is more important than what bike you ride. As you get into training over winter and more regular riding you’ll start to get a good idea of whether what you already have is suitable or not. If you do want to buy new or upgrade there are so many factors that come into play - budget, type of riding, how often you ride, and of course how much you want it. I covered this in more detail in Gear for Spring Challenge.
Bike Maintenance & Repair?
Bike maintenance for me is an area where I sort of know what I need to do, but actually doing it is a habit I’m yet to get into. Often after a long ride or a tough race the last thing I want to do is spend time tending to my bike, but it does need some TLC. Generally, I try to keep it clean (a quick wash and wipe down if it’s covered in mud), keep the chain clean and lubed, and get it serviced semi-regularly at the local bike shop.
In terms of bike repair, the 2 key skills, guaranteed to save your bacon one day, are to be able to fix a puncture and a broken chain.
Liv Cycling has a superb online resource for all things bike repair and maintenance www.liv-cycling.com/bike_diy. There are videos and articles on all the important things like how to clean your bike, how to do a safety check, how to fix a flat tyre and broken chain, to things I didn’t know I needed to know like ‘How to Carry a Yoga Mat on a Bike’! It’s all easy to understand with step by step guides and clear explanations. I’m not affiliated with Liv in any way - I still love my Norco - but it’s a great resource and they have a massive library of helpful info!
Book your bike in early (like now!) for a pre-event service a few weeks before the event to reduce the likelihood of any mechanical problems on race day.
Mountain bike stage | Spring Challenge Geraldine 2017
Riding Skills for Spring Challenge?
A question I’m often asked is how technical is the 9 hour riding compared to the 3 and 6 hour riding. Apart from the longer distance and riding time, in my experience the difference has been in the ascent - the 9 hour normally has a good monster of a hill thrown in somewhere. And the 6 hour course often has some decent climbs too.
The riding is generally on gravel roads, 4WD and farm tracks, and sometimes singletrack if that’s something the host town offers. The 4WD tracks are usually rideable - you’ll just need to be confident picking a good line up (or down) steep sections, avoiding ruts, rocks and slippery bits. The singletrack is normally hardpacked trail that’s “flowy” and enjoyable to ride. However, weather conditions (ie. rain) can change the “rideability” of a course - anyone who rode the Goldfields Track later in the day at Spring Challenge Golden Bay will know what I’m talking about! It can be on and off the bike a lot, walking through creeks or muddy sections - so working on your dismount and remount technique might come in handy!
Stream crossings on the Dusky Trail near Twizel.
Based on the 4 Spring Challenge events (both 6 and 9 hour) I’ve done here’s what I’d recommend practising:
Green and blue (easy to intermediate) singletrack trails.
4WD and farm tracks, uphill and downhill.
Bike pushing - find the way that is most comfortable to push or even carry your bike. If you wear bike specific shoes, see how your feet handle walking in these shoes!
If you come from a true mountain biking background then you won’t have any problems with the Spring Challenge riding! But if your skills could do with some work (like me!) then again Liv Cycling have a great online resource for MTB skills, check it out here www.liv-cycling.com/mountain-bike-skills.
Happy riding and adventuring!
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