We have been doing this sort of thing now for quite a few years and we’ve witnessed people having all sorts of difficulties with their noble steeds, and the state they’re often in come the end of their marathon. From these observations and experience we’ve managed to put a few points together that might help you enjoy your marathon even more, as you depend on your bike when you are out there, you want to make sure it is as marathon ready as you are.
Before we get started let us assure you that you don’t have to have the latest and the best to enjoy your marathon: a decent mountain bike will do the trick handsomely. To make sure that you get the maximum out of it and that you know in the back of your mind that your trusted steed is not going to let you down please read on.
General: 1. Make sure it’s in good working order:
- Check and if necessary replace all cables, brake blocks and disc pads
(better to replace them if they’re on their way out – 25km, 50km, 75km or even 100km riding can be hard work for half worn equipment)
- Check and if necessary replace the transmission components for wear and tear. Pay particular attention to the chain, chain rings, sprockets, jockey wheels, and freehub
- Clean the bike thoroughly, and lubricate everything necessary. If the conditions are dry use a dry lube (spray-on type), if it’s wet use a wet lube (thick, liquid lube)
- Check tyre pressures (roughly 40psi depending on tyre) and use tyres appropriate to the conditions. A good, general condition tyre is best, unless the conditions are very wet or very dry, where a specific tyre may be better.
2. Add/take off Crud Guards/Catchers according to the conditions.
3. Make sure that your saddle is high enough, and that you’ve got enough reach to the bars - it may be worth putting on a longer stem if you normally run a very short one. The general rule for the saddle height is that when you are sitting down that your leg should be almost but not quite straight when you put your heel on the pedal in the six o’clock position. Use this as a starting point to find the most comfortable position for you.
4.Check all your controls are set up on the bars in a comfortable position, paying special attention to your brake levers and make sure the lever blades are not set too far away from the bars.
5. For comfort, and to aid climbing it’s worth considering installing a pair of bar ends if you don’t already run them.
6. If you don’t already, consider using a foot retention pedaling system to maximise the efficiency of your pedaling: SPD-style pedals (Shimano SPDs, Time ATACs, Crank Bros. Egg Beaters etc), toe-clips and straps, or PowerStraps.
7. Put a second bottle cage on and take a second bottle (if you can two big ones). If you prefer Camelbaks that is fine too.
8. If you can put a computer on your bike then do as it makes pacing yourself much easier (make sure it is set up correctly).
9. If you change anything on your bike shortly before the event make sure you have had a few rides on it so that you can be sure that it is all run-in and that it is not going to fall off during your marathon.
10. Please make sure that whatever you are going to wear is comfortable and that you have worn it before. It is not much fun riding for 5+ hours in shoes that do not fit.
There are lots of bicycle types around these days with different strengths and weaknesses. If you have the choice of a bike, you probably already know which one is your favourite for the marathons. The general tips obviously apply to all bike tips but to help you to get your marathon machine prepared for the big day have a look under your section for specific tips.
Rigid bikes: light, less vulnerable to technical problems, less comfortable: 1. To increase comfort, it’s worth running a pair of wide tyres to give you extra cushion against the trail buzz
2. 3ins are perfect, but anything up from a 1.95ins tyre is good
3. Running tyre pressures lower than normal will also aid to cushion your ride, but be careful as this will make them more susceptible to pinch punctures as well. Experiment with tyre pressures and find one that works best for you
4. Install thick, cushioning bar grips to aid comfort and wear a pair of gloves with palm padding
5. If you can, install a suspension seat post to keep your perch as comfy as possible.
XC Hardtail: light, easy to maintain, increase of comfort through suspension forks, good in mud 1. Make sure that your suspension fork is set up correctly for your weight.
2. Install a suspension seat post to take the sting out of the trail for your butt.
Hardcore Hardtail: takes a good beating, can be heavy, most of the time setup for a different purpose 1. If you run a short seat pin swap it for a long version - possibly a suspension seat post - to get you in the best pedaling position. Or if you run your post low, extend it.
2. If you run a very short stem, swap it for something longer to aid pedaling and cross country handling.
3. If you run a single chain ring up front, swap it for a triple ring chainset, and add a front mech and shifter.
4. If you run a heavy-duty wheelset, try to swap them for a lighter XC wheelset. And/or swap the heavy-duty tyres and inner tubes for lighter, XC tyres and tubes.
5. If you run a long travel suspension fork and you have a travel adjust feature, wind the travel down to around 100mm, depending on your frame’s geometry and handling characteristics.
XC Full Suspension: light but comfortable, most people use one of these in the marathons, often needs a little bit of looking after 1. Check that both shocks - front and rear - are set up correctly. We believe that comfort is more important then speed in a marathon so it might be better to run a softer set-up but the final decision is yours.
2. If they have long travel options it’s worth winding the travel down to around 100mm front and rear to keep the benefit of suspension without it hindering climbing and powering through bobbing, unless you run intelligent shocks (like Manitou’s SPVs), on-the-fly travel adjust like Fox’s ‘Itch Switch’, or a mould breaking bike like a Maverick Reposado or a Whyte 46.
3. If you cannot fit a second bottle cage please take a Camelbak.
Long Travel Full Suspension: here starts the fun, slightly heavier than the XC version but more travel to suck up all the bumps and to give you super traction, can be difficult to maintain
1. If you run a single chain ring and chain retention device swap this for a triple chainset and add a front mech and shifters.
2. If you run a very short stem, consider swapping it for a longer one to get a better position on the bike.
3. Swap any heavyweight wheelset, tyres or tubes for more XC specific lightweight versions wherever possible.
4. Make sure the shocks are set up correctly, and it might pay to put more pressure than normal to stiffen them up so you don’t lose all your energy through suspension ‘bob’. You don’t have to worry about this too much though if you run intelligent shocks like Manitou SPVs or have on the fly adjusters.
5. Use SPD-style clipless pedals if you don’t already.
6. Put a long seat post on the bike that will let you reach a suitable and comfortable pedaling position.
We hope this covered most of your technical needs. If however you want to check something else just send us an email to:firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to help.