MBO - Your first Event Guide
Read the event leaflet from cover to cover. If you pre-enter an event (i.e. you enter by post before the day of the event) then photocopy the entry form printed on the event leaflet. Don't cut the event leaflet - it gives you a Grid Reference (GR) for the event centre. BMBO is working towards on-line entry but you should still down-load a hard copy of the event details.
It is always considered unsporting to ride within an event area on the day before the event. This is when the event organisers will be putting out control points and there may be potential for the pre-rider to gain an advantage.
The MBO national season runs from late February to early November but some local events run throughout the winter as well. You should be able to ride in potentially difficult conditions virtually non stop for a period of up to 5 hours. Self reliance is essential for the solo rider.
Age is unimportant. Some of the most successful MBO riders are vets (40+) or supervets (50+).
The conditions that competitors are likely to experience during a season of MBO include muddy horse churned bridle paths, sandy tracks, forest trails, rooty single-track, ploughed fields (farmers not respecting RoW's), tarmac, snow, rain, heat, dust (even in the UK), searing climbs and white knuckle descents. You will also find easy fire trails, swooping downhills and plain tarmac sections. The pessimist would say that if an MBO isn't cold and wet then it's too hot and there are too many nettles.
You should have a good knowledge of the average speeds that you can expect to maintain over a variety of ground conditions. This requires a depth of off-road cycling experience which can only be gained from many hours of riding over differing terrain. The proficient MBO competitor knows her/his own abilities. S/He is able to gauge from the course map the potential demands of various route options and is able to relate the two in order to decide a viable route.
You should become proficient at map reading. You will have a problem if you are used to rotating the map to maintain a personal perspective of left and right. It's hard to cycle with a map in your hand although one competitor is (in)famous for always doing so. He uses his thumb to indicate his current position. That probably counts as 'cunning biking'.
Many MBO events are five hour events with some competitors covering up to 100 km in that time. MBOs are self evidently endurance events where general fitness, and in particular cardio-vascular endurance, is a crucial element. Most leading MBO competitors develop a specific training regime in order to maintain their performance at the highest levels. This document will not attempt to address the subject of sport fitness but the aspiring competitor would do well to consider this dimension of MBO sooner rather than later.
Teams must train together in order that they are able to get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses.
There is no better way to gain this experience than by riding events but not putting yourself under any pressure.
A competition bike doesn't have to be state-of-the-art but better components accept more hammer. Weight is an important factor in an endurance event and most MBO competitors are conscious of this fact. You will see all grades of bike on an MBO, but a flashy bike won't ensure a win.
Your bike must be well maintained and prepared so that it is less likely to let you down.
Your bike must be legal and roadworthy
Good tyres and tubes are essential. Check for thorns in your tyres before the event - from the inside as well. Knowledge of the suitability of different tyres for different conditions is an advantage as well as a pocket deep enough to be able to afford and use them. For events in all but the muddiest of conditions semi-slick or light knobbly tyres are fine.
All cables should move freely and be in sound condition.
The drive train, the brake mechanisms, the gear changers and mechs should be well lubed.
Crank bolts and headset should be regularly checked and correctly adjusted.
Wheels and wheel bearings should be in good condition. Check the profile and thickness of your rims braking surface. This does wear out and can cause the rim to split explosively. If that happens at speed . . .
Check the brakes and carry spare brake pads. Wet Gritstone slurry eats brake pad material (and rims) at a frightening rate and half-worn pads may let you down part way through a wet day in the Dark Peak. Of course, if you've got disc brakes . . .
Bike equipment preparation
Most leading competitors use some kind of Map Board which keeps the map visible at all times. This is much more convenient than carrying the map stuck into a back pocket or in a pouch slung around the neck. A simple map board can be made using a piece of hardboard or Perspex and fitted to bars/stem using a few 20mm central heating pipe clips. The board may be covered with a clear plastic bag for water resistance.
Computer set in km's. Remember the map squares are in km. If you have a spare front wheel you'll need a second spoke-mounted magnet to trigger the computer.
Two inner tubes (it's quicker to replace a tube rather than repair a puncture).
Puncture outfit. You may run out of tubes.
Consider something like 'Slime' in your tubes, or the use of 'puncture resistant' (heavy) inner tubes. They may save you a puncture and a stop.
Tool kit, which includes tyre levers, a chain tool, a penknife and puncture repair kit for the day when the tubes run out. Some people swear by the self adhesive type of inner tube patch. The rest of us are well advised to count the number of patches they carry and to check the viscosity of the liquid in their tube of rubber solution from time to time. Most modern bikes can be stripped down with surprisingly few tools. A multitool like a Cooltool will probably meet most needs. Take only what you need in order to be able to fix your own bike (teams must remember to check both bikes if they are going to carry only one set of tools). Some people also take zip ties, a spoke key and a few spare spokes taped to a frame member but, if you have checked and maintained your bike adequately, this is probably overkill.
A pump, or a gas cartridge system and a pump. One competitor recently took two CO2 cartridges and no pump to a thorny Kentish event. His third puncture proved problematic.
Perform all repairs as if you were out in the field and in competition. How long does it take you to change a tube? How many strokes of your mini pump does it take to get your 2.1" tyres up to pressure? And how many for the 1.5" tyres? How long to fix a snapped chain or to change brake pads? Trueing a wheel is beyond me (I know the theory). I've not yet met anybody who has had to do so in the heat of competition but, one day . . .
Crud guards or similar, front and rear. It's no joke riding with a wet backside or with mud inside your glasses for 5 hours.
Water bottles or Camelback.
Bum bag, saddle bag or Camelback to hold it all in.
Personal equipment preparation
Helmet - compulsory.
Clothing suitable for the time of year and expected weather. Waterproofs are declared essential by some organisers. Competitors can waste a lot of time by having to add or remove clothing. Try to carry only as much as you need and to avoid the need to make stops to adjust your clothing. Most sophisticated (expensive) clothing can be adjusted on the move. They have pit zips, neck zips, side zips, wrist zips and are, perhaps, worth the zip-filled investment.
A whistle - usually attached to your compass (see below).
An accurate and reliable watch (that continues to work and remains un-fogged when wet).
Food. The received wisdom is that the biochemistry of endurance events like MBO requires the competitor to ensure the continual slow release into her/his bloodstream of energy produced by the digestion of carbohydrate-rich foods like fruit and cereal-based 'energy bars' which are nibbled throughout an event. Some competitors, however, prefer the sudden energy rush provided by Mars bars or glucose tablets. Some competitors eat continually throughout an event. Others don't eat at all. It's different strokes for different folks. Sports diets are considered fully in other and more learned publications but the reader is urged to consider the concept of carbohydrate loading prior to an endurance event like a marathon run or an MBO.
Drink - water or energy drink such as Hi Five or isotonic drink such as Isostar. Isotonic drinks do not provide energy, they replace lost electrolytes. The most important principle is to take sufficient fluids for the event and to drink it regularly. Budget to consume up to 2 litres on a warm day. Camelbacks are becoming more popular but some riders still prefer bottles.
Survival blanket. The foil ones are packed very small, are light, inexpensive and worth considering. A foil bag is also available and is arguably better than the plain flat blanket. Essential on Polaris events and anywhere there is the potential for hypothermia in the worst case scenario.
Small change to enable you to make a 'phone call in the event of an emergency. And/or a mobile phone. The organisers phone may be a mobile so bear this in mind when considering the amount you carry. Hint: if you do need to contact the event centre on the emergency number then give your 'phone number as soon as you get through. Get the organiser to call you back.
Simple First Aid Kit. Compulsory and essential.
Carry some ID. Enough said.
SPORTident dibber. It is worth getting your own if you intend to ride many events. They are now widely used and can pay for themselves quite quickly. http://www.sportident.co.uk/
Navigation equipment preparation
The map for the event. Essential (!). Most organisers now provide pre-marked maps at the start of the event but the following is still relevant so has been left in.
Many events use pre-marked maps with all RoWs and OoBs marked but the following has been left to cover events that do not do this.
If the organisers supply a specific event map on the day, then buy your own copy of the map covering the area anyway. Usually 1:50000 OS Landranger. Check the map publication date.
It is important to try to familiarise yourself as soon as possible with the lie of the land in which the event is to be held - so buy the map and study it. It is undeniable that there is a 'home advantage' if an event is held in an area that you ride regularly and know well. The reverse is also true. By studying a map of the event area you will minimise the disadvantage of your unfamiliarity. This is particularly true at events where pre-marked maps are made available to competitors as their event clock starts. Of course, you won't know where the control points will be sited, or even if the event 'centre' will actually be in the centre of the event area, but you will be able to visualise the area and make some pretty good guesses as to where control points might be sited.
Many events take place in areas which are covered by specific off-road guidebooks. The Dark Peak is a classic. Almost every legitimate track or trail in The Dark Peak is included in somebody's Guide to Off Road Cycling in The Peak District. It is often worth scanning these guides for any information on trails which pass through an event area.
A compass and the knowledge to be able to use it. Essential. Some competitors never use a compass and rely instead on their innate ability to keep track of their location on the map at all times. This is fine if one can do it but it is advisable to carry a compass for the day when ones unerring ability errs and one finds oneself totally 'lost' (a technical term) in, for arguments sake, the Cwm Henog forest East of Llanwrtyd Wells, in thick mist, driving rain, cold, wet, alone, at the end of a day early in the season and in gathering gloom. One doesn't forget an experience like that. Some carry two compasses. A pukka Silva jobby in a Camelback side pocket and a small orienteering compass which can be fitted to a wrist strap and which is worn throughout an event. There is a great temptation to press on with faith if checking the compass means having to stop. The little wrist-worn compass is easily consulted without having to stop.
Map measure (could be a piece of string, a Roamer or the graduated scale on the compass)
At least one pen to be carried during the event. Useful if the Control Point punch has been removed but the flag or streamer remains. The competitor may legitimately claim the value of an un-punched control card box if the appropriate identification letter has been written in. Also used to write a competitor's time of arrival at and the names of any witnesses to a completely missing control point (it does happen).
Practice map reading and navigation
Nearly all Events provide pre-marked maps. Competitors are advised on the event leaflet if it is the organisers intention to provide a pre-marked map. These are usually full-colour A3 reproduction of the appropriate OS mapping onto which the organisers have marked the control point locations and all other relevant information. They are not made available until the competitor's event clock has started. Pre-marked maps greatly reduce the competitors' pre-event administrative work and they avoid the need to cut maps - but study time is now part of event time. Study a map of the area in the days preceding the event. Look at the roads and the legal RoWs. Study the contours and try to envisage the terrain. Look for likely climbs and descents. Ask yourself where you would place control points if you were the event course setter - remembering that the organisers have to put the control points out, usually the previous day, and collect them in after the event has closed.
Keep an eye on the weather conditions in the days prior to the event.
Teams should identify, utilise and refine strategies which allow them to maximise the benefits while at the same time minimising the drawbacks of team riding.
The solo rider may feel that teams have a cushy number. Two heads may be better than one, but two people (as opposed to one team) can sometimes take more than twice as long to complete a task as a solo rider.
Teams should ride so as to capitalise on each other's strengths. Some are happier with road hauls, while others prefer off-road grunting. They alternate leads as appropriate.
Teams will prepare in much the same way as solo riders (see above) but should remember that they have double the potential for forgetting something or failing to spot a mechanical problem before the event. Where possible, teams should check each other's kit before leaving home.
Team riders are able to share the weight of the tool-kit. They only need one set of the major tools such as chain splitters, tyre levers, multitool, and pump. Each team member retains the same puncture risk as the solo rider so teams should not cut down on the number of tubes or patches carried.
Team members should not let their partner get out of sight on the course (see rules). A lot of time can be wasted if one team member waits for their partner to come around a bend, unaware that they're stuck 100 m back with a puncture and no tyre levers.
One or two maps?
Take two maps and share the navigation on the course. Do this because:
- There is reduced potential for navigational errors if both are checking.
- Two people can keep a better mental picture of the map, reducing the frequency of stopping for re-checks.
- At control points one team member can be working on the route while the other clips the control card - remembering that both team members should visit the control point. Both must use their SPORTident dibbers.