MBO Score tips on the day.
What to take
Your bike - this may seem obvious but folks have arrived at events having left wheels, saddles, pedals, clothing, maps, pens and shoes at home.
Your SPORTident dibber if you have one.
A full tool kit and a track pump. Don't use the event toolkit for pre-start adjustments. It will be wrapped in a rag and tucked into a hidden corner of your bum bag. The temptation is to not bother tweaking that 5mm brake nut because the tool kit is so well stowed away that you can't be bothered to get it out.
Spare tyres/tubes. Better still; take a couple of spare wheels compatible with your normal ones. This also enables you to make a tyre choice easily when you arrive at the event centre - but remember to reset your computer if you use a different front tyre.
Food - some sandwiches for after the event.
Drink - make sure that you are well hydrated before you start. Drink plenty of water for a couple of days before and again half an hour before you start.
Some competitors take a large pressurised garden spray with them to clean their bike after the event.
Maps and all the other goodies mentioned in the First Event section. Keep all this paraphernalia together in a box (and hide it from the kids at home).
Clothing change, towels and toiletries if showers are available.
Plastic bag to put your event clothing into when you get back.
One or two carpet sections about ½ metre square. Useful to throw down and stand on if the event centre does not provide changing facilities and you have to change at the car.
Camping gear if a Saturday night stop is required - together with the name of the pub that other competitors will be meeting in. There's always a pub.
When you get there
Arrive in plenty of time. Most event centres open up at 8:00 am.
Register as soon as the organisers are ready. Don't hassle them. They will be under considerable pressure and they're out of bed early on (usually) a Sunday morning with no prospect of commensurate reward this side of the pearly gates. You may be given a control description sheet at this time. This will give the number of each control, it's points value and a brief description of where it is sited. It will also give an emergency phone No to contact the organiser. [This is not for if you are lost.]
Check the flags, streamers etc which the organisers are using to mark the control points so that you know precisely what you are looking for. Event organisers have a responsibility to display in the Event Centre the flags and streamers used in their event.
Bag the control descriptions sheet and keep it visible throughout the event. Some riders pin it to a leg or arm.
A map of the area will be posted at the HQ. Study the map to see where the hills are and get the general topography in your mind. A route cannot be decided until all the information is available but you can get some idea of possible routes and any areas to avoid if possible. It may be possible at this time to envisage a clockwise or counter-clockwise route. Wind direction may have a bearing also.
Assemble your bike and test it. Use this as an opportunity to check the event centre exit and entry routes but don't go so far that you run the risk of being accused of pre-riding the course. Check your tyre pressures when you return.
When you are ready to start make sure that you are aware of any last minute instructions or map changes.
Make sure that you know where the Finish desk will be sited at the end of the event.
When you start: the route plan.
For events using SPORTident. Go to the start area and 'clear' your dibber at the box provided. This removes all data from a previous event. Proceed to the start marshal where you will be given your marked map, dip your dibber in the start box and your event has started.
For events using control cards and punches. Go to the start desk and hand over your control card. The start Marshal will detach the end strip and return the control card. Some competitors engineer things so that they get a start time which is easy to remember. You will be given a marked map or a control description sheet listing the control point's values. Your event has started.
This is a crucial time. Disregard the adrenalin. Don't rush off but stop and carefully Check the point's value of each control on your map. Study the map for the best possible and most practical route:
- Aim to take in as many of the high value controls as possible bearing in mind the terrain, the weather, your ambition and your ability.
- Look for a 'circular' route that is not too committing.
- Look for potential escape routes back to the finish if you start to run out of time, or the weather changes, or you have to repair a mechanical problem or you don't perform as expected.
- You will be tired at the end of the event so aim, if possible, to return downhill to the event centre or with any strong wind at your back.
- Avoid doubling back.
- Aim to go up the roads and down the tracks wherever possible.
- If its wet and the land is muddy then try to stay off farmland. It's better to ride 3 km on tarmac than to carry a mud choked bike for 300 m and then waste time clearing out the forks and seat stays.
- It is often easier and quicker to take a longer detour on flattish ground around a valley (or a hill) rather than a direct route that entails descending and climbing.
- If you have to gain height then try to keep high for as long as possible.
- Try to envisage a route with regular rewards; it's good for moral if you are able to keep clipping the control card.
- Bridleways in forests are sometimes appalling because people use the forest roads instead.
- Bridleways can become very muddy after rain.
- Byways are often deeply rutted after 4x4 use.
- Go to low value points only if they are on or near to your route. Most events will have low value points near to the event centre. Collect them if you pass nearby on your way out but save some for later. You may have time available near the end of the event.
- Beware of 'plums', unusually high value points which are often remote and isolated, or hard to get to. Multiple 'plums' are sometimes set at opposite ends of an event area. They are sometimes not worth the effort involved (see below).
- It's the Reward/Effort ratio that is important not simply the discrete value of a specific control point. If the effort of going to one 50 point control is less than the effort of going to five nearby 10 point controls then it's worth the effort. If it requires more effort then it may be better to leave it and get the five separate 10 point controls instead.
- Don't lose sight of the fact that you are looking for the fastest possible route between control points with the least possible energy expenditure.
- Eschew an inflexible mindset - don't plan the entire route at the event centre and insist to yourself that you have to finish what you've started.
- Recognise the inevitability and the desirability of reappraisal as you navigate the course.
Remember that MBO is an endurance event so pace yourself. Resist the adrenalin induced urge to go off at full tilt right from the start. You could be out for 5 hours.
Drink before you are thirsty. Eat before you are hungry.
Try to minimise the time lost by making navigation stops. Navigate on the move.
Try to minimise the time lost by making stops to adjust clothing. Wear enough to stay warm but don't get hot.
Keep an eye on the time. The first three hours go quite slowly. The final hour flies by.
- Navigate carefully. Try to ensure that you always know where you are. Be aware of landmarks but bear in mind that landscape can alter. We're not talking tectonic plate shift here, but roads do get realigned and woods felled. What's on the map may not always appear on the ground, particularly if you're using an older map.
- Zero the trip distance on your computer as you pass identifiable points every km or so and at every control point. This will help you to keep a clear idea of your precise position at all times (and see Relocation, below).
- Use attack points - un-missable map features which are on the way to the next control point. Ride as quickly as possible to the attack point, zero your cycle computer and then fine navigate to the actual control point.
- Navigate past the control point. Finding the next control point is not your ultimate goal. You will always be going on somewhere else. You should know where you are going after a control point before you get to it. This has two clear benefits: firstly you are able to maintain a good rhythm and flow to your ride and secondly you do not spend time hanging around a control point advertising its position to other competitors.
- Beware of parallel errors. It is very easy, particularly in forest areas, to find yourself on a road running parallel to the one you want. Forest roads often run parallel to each other as they contour around steep hillsides. The only effective way to avoid mistakes in this type of terrain is to be thoroughly systematic with the counting of junctions, the tripping of the cycle computer at every landmark and with accurate compass use.
- Ride with awareness. If you know from your map that you have 2km to do before you reach the next attack point then don't put your head down and concentrate only on spinning the crank set. You may have made an error and be doing 2km on the wrong track. If you take notice of the terrain as you cycle through it you may become aware of the error before you travel the whole 2km and, in the event that you don't, you will at least have a visualisation of the area that may be crucial for relocation (see below).
- Time yourself going up a hill if there's any possibility that you may climb the same hill - perhaps from the other side- later. This information may be important nearer the end of an event for planning the last few controls..
- If the scenery around you becomes a poor match for the view you expect from the mapping data (technical term: you're getting lost) then acknowledge the fact to yourself immediately - don't press on in the hope that things will get better. You may be able to read your trip distance from your cycle computer while you are still moving. This will tell you how far you've gone from the last identifiable point and, if you can remember where it was, you may be able to pinpoint your position on the map without having to stop. This is Relocation on the run.
- If things don't fit after relocation on the run you should stop and orientate the map with the compass. Study the map and ground for features which help you to locate your position. If this doesn't help then you must face up to the fact that you are lost.
- The first rule when you realise that you are lost is not to waste time by wandering around looking for clues or other competitors. Remain calm, be proactive and start taking positive steps to relocate yourself.
- Stop, get off the bike, remove the map from the map board and examine the map carefully. Compare your map picture to the terrain around you. If this doesn't help then look for the last point on the map where you were certain of your position. Now project your route forward from that known position and see if you can correlate map features with physical features around you. If that works and things seem to fit then you are back in business but remember to start off carefully -you are at your most vulnerable after a mistake.
- If you still can't locate your position then you must reverse your route and attempt to return the way you came in order to arrive at one of the identifiable points that you passed earlier. This is when you will appreciate the advice to take notice of features as you cycle through an area - you may need to retrace your steps.
- It is essential that you:
1. Establish an identifiable point
2. Don't keep going in the hope that you may stumble on the control point or another competitor
3. Remain calm.
- Panic shuttling backwards and forwards or going round in ever decreasing circles will waste time and destroy your self-confidence for the day, even if you are lucky enough to stumble out of trouble. It is important that once you have relocated your position you avoid the temptation to speed off in an attempt to make up lost time. You should carefully ease yourself back up to competition speed.
A group of riders gathered together on foot is a good indicator that a control point is nearby. The seasoned competitor will use such groups as a sure and speedy beacon to a control point. This is one advantage of a late start. Other competitors, however, go to great lengths to avoid advertising a control point location. Bikes are hidden behind bushes as cards are punched, a team partner might take both bikes 50 metres away and hide as the other punches in, bikes are carried over the last few metres to a control point in order to avoid leaving tyre marks, and so on.
If an entire control point (flag, streamer and punch or SPORTident box) is missing and you are sure that you are in the right position (footprints, tyre tracks etc) then, if possible, get the name of another competitor (for corroboration) and mark the time and the other competitors name on your map. Don't waste time on a fruitless search.
If you elect to leave your bike and run to a control point (it's legal) and visibility is poor then take your map and compass as well as the control point description and your control card. It's bad enough to get lost but it's really embarrassing if you lose your bike as well.
If the control flag and/or streamer is visible but the SPORTident box or punch has gone then write the code number or letter written on the punch or streamer on the map.
Don't lose your SPORTident dibber. They cost £18 (2008) and you will not be able to complete the event without it.
Teams must stay together (within reasonable hearing distance, say, 30 metres), especially at controls. Severe penalties can be levied if teams split so that one rider goes to a control while the other enjoys a breather at, say, the bottom of a hill. This is cheating. Organisers are putting in more manned controls, partly to ensure that teams do stay together.
Shut all gates. The only exception is where a farmer has tied a gate open to allow stock to move between fields or where another rider immediately behind you calls to accept responsibility for the closure of the gate. If you can close the gate before they reach you then do it. If you're the last rider in an adhoc group to pass through a gate then it is your responsibility to shut it. If you realise this 50 m before the gate and sprint in front of the other rider, then it's their responsibility!
Treat farm stock with caution and respect - especially during the lambing season.
Pass walkers and horse riders slowly and courteously, a smile and a casual pleasantry, usually helps. Remember that we are all ambassadors for the sport. Acknowledge other competitors during the event but keep your own counsel, unless someone else is clearly in trouble and unequivocally asks you for help.
If you find yourself riding with others in a big group then try to split up. Large groups of riders can be intimidating to other trail users.
Brake carefully and without skidding. Treat the trails with respect. Don't climb walls or force through hedges. Only use legal Right of Ways. Don't use footpaths (even if you are carrying your bike), or private tracks, drives or roads or even open country. You must assume that white roads are private unless the event Master Map tells you otherwise.
You must not enter any Out of Bounds area declared by the event organisers. The penalty for doing so is disqualification. And quite right too.
The most common breakdown is a puncture. The time lost by a breakdown early in an event is unfortunate but not crucial. The competitor will have many opportunities to make subsequent route adjustment and complete the course within the time limit. The significance of a breakdown increases dramatically as the competitor approaches the end of the event and the potential for route flexibility diminishes.
Make sure that you get back in time. It is better to be back 10 minutes early than 2 minutes late.
Never leave litter anywhere. 'Pack it in and pack it out'.
- Trails or forestry roads with off camber bends.
- Fallen trees, branches or drainage ditches on little used forest fire tracks or roads.
- Forestry roads where edges may have been undercut by rainwater.
- Sandy stretches. These are often at the bottom of a steep hill where hitting 6 inches of dry sand at speed could result in a face plant.
- Trails going down steep scarp edges of Wolds or Downs. The further down you get, the greater the likelihood of deep rain eroded dips and gullies.
- Gates and fences. Barbed wire rips pertex, goretex and skintex.
- Deep tractor tracks.
- Fellow competitors cycling towards you to or from control points on dead-end tracks.
The important thing is to finish on time and in one piece. Going too fast down an unknown hill is dangerous recklessness. You risk breaking your bike as well as injuring yourself or others.
You must report to the finish even if you retire. Organisers are understandably annoyed when search parties are sent out unnecessarily. Competitors who generate an unnecessary search should expect to face a bill from the agencies involved, usually the Police and mountain rescue teams.
Most errors occur near the end of the event when competitors are tired. Take special care when making decisions in the last hour or so.
When you finish
Cycle as close to the Finish desk as you reasonably can but don't leave your bike where it may be a danger to others. Immediately dip your dibber in the finish box or hand in your control card (you checked the site of the finish desk before you left, didn't you).
Make sure that you are given the correct finish time and calculate your own event time and score. Put you score card on the relevant results string [non SPORTident events].
Go to the download desk and download your dibber data. You will be given a sheet with your final score and also your split times [SPORTident events].
Report any missing controls and claim their values if you have proof of your visit.
Report any problems you may have had with Right of Ways on the event. If there has been a problem over access the organiser will want to know as soon as possible so that s/he can prepare a case for the defence.
Secure your bike.
Drink something - an isotonic electrolyte replacement fluid is best. Tea, coffee and particularly alcohol have diuretic properties which your body won't need at this time.
You will probably be wet and tired. If showers are available then use them or at least get out of your wet clothing.
Peruse the results string or print out to check that your results are as you expected. If there is a problem then consult one of the organisers as soon as possible but do not remove your result card from the results string - that's the organiser's prerogative.
Chat to other competitors. Relax. Eat something and drink more. It will probably take you a number of hours