Ultracycling - Whats that?
Basically you have a given route (or not), cut-off times and some distance, but the difference to traditional road or mountainbike races is that you don't ride in stages. The clock never stops until you finished. Nowadays there are a lot of different categories, rules and distances, therefore it's impossible to compare ultra endurance competitions or really define what is ultra and what is not. In the end the surroundings and conditions of a race, probably decide if it's ultra or not.
How do I get started?
I personally noticed on casual training rides, that I start to feel better the longer my rides are. This made me keen on finding out, how long I can ride, till my feelings turn the other way. But thats only one way to ride longer.
The most important thing is to set yourself a goal, wether it's riding 100km or to take part in an unsupported bikepacking race.
I know there is an incredible amount of equipment out there. Of course it depends on the terrain, but basically you can do long rides and even races on nearly any bike, on which you feel comfortable. Although some parts are mandatory: safety equipment like lights, reflectors and warm clothes. My advise is to check what you have and make the best out of it. Another important point is to deal with predicted weather conditions on your planned race. Try to bring enough for the worst possible conditions, but avoid packing too much, cause with too much weight you will struggle unnecessarily.
How much training to I need?
Well, that obviously depends on your target race, distance and terrain. You can do such races with very little specific training if your overall fitness is really good and you're willing to suffer. But, and that is important, if you also want to enjoy such projects, the better you are prepared the more you likely you will be able to enjoy it. A very general orientation is to ride around 10,000km a year to be well prepared for a 1,000km bikepacking ultra race.
Which ultra unsupported bikepacking races are there and how to choose the right one?
There are a lot of different sites, which are listing bikepacking races and events. To name just a few: Bikepacking.com, Ridefar, Apidura. Choosing the right race for you, might be tricky. I would suggest choosing a race that is not too long, to start with.
You made it. You're registered. What now?
Take it easy during your first ultra endurance race, your main goal should be to get through safe and simply have fun. Because what I have learned in my first season is, you can try to prepare as much as you want, but there will always be external influences you can't control. Another thing is, be prepared, but let enough space in your plan for improvisation.
When you've reached the lowest point, things can only go the other way
I guess I learnt a lot during my first season of racing. I did a whopping 3 races. Three Peaks Bike Race, Transiberica Badlands and Bohemia Divide. TPBR as a first ultra race might have been a bit too long, as I struggled with knee problems and saddle sores. It was much harder than I expected, but also more rewarding then I could ever imagine. Getting through your worst lows, feeling lonely , getting lost and in despair a few times a day, is part of the game. But these situations let you feel alive and give you the opportunity to get to know yourself better. They teach you no matter how hopeless the situation is, better times are coming for sure. Every long ride, bikepacking trip or ultra endurance race brings memories and knowledge along, which not only help you for future events, but make your life more valuable.
What did I learn during my first season?
Learn to enjoy being outside your comfort zone. Even if your plans or upcomming races make you nervous - just do it! You can be prepared really well, but even though every ultra race will have some surprises for you. With that said, prepare yourself for the worst and keep your mind open for surprises. You gonna learn new things at every race, earn experiences and your body gets used to it better and better.
What did we miss? Start the conversation and let's help growing our awesome community.
Map by Alex Hotchin (bikepacking.com)