MTB Noob looking for advice for first marathon cross country race

Hi all

I’m a roadie who bought my first mountain bike (2020 Trek Top Fuel 9.7) this week, and on a whim signed up for a 80 km marathon XC race in a few weeks (October 3rd 2020). I could use some advice on what to prep / carry for the race itself, and advice on good everyday carry items for long MTB rides in the wildnerness. Here is what I’ve thought of so far:

Nutrition, hydration, etc.

  • there are no aid stations (#COVID) so I need to carry all of my nutrition / water with me. The bike only has one bottle mount, so I will be using a hydration pack with lots of storage space for snacks, tools, etc.

Flat protection / repair

  • I will run tubless tires.
  • tire plugs and tool
  • maybe a bottle of extra sealant (Stans)
  • Tire boots
  • 2 butyl inner tubes and a patch kit for redundancy
  • tire levers (with a steel core)
  • mini pump
  • CO2

Misc. mechanical issues

  • multitool
  • chain breaker
  • spare quick like (or 2)
  • zip ties
  • small duct tape roll
  • chain lube

First aid

  • wilderness first aid kit
  • cell phone

What have I forgotten?

That seems a decent list, perhaps a bit long. How remote is the race? You might be able to leave the phone and first aid kit if you’re never that far from civilization or if the course will be well marshaled. You might be able to get away with one tube as well if you bring a patch kit. You are prepared for multiple flats, which might be overkill, obviously that depends on your comfort level. Extra lube is probably not necessary

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I think it kinda depends on the terrain and weather. A lot of that list would be overkill in the XCM races I do but might well be applicable on a huge point to point across a mountain range.

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Agree with others that the terrain will make a difference. I don’t typically carry extra sealant and carry one extra light tube.

The main issue is going to be fluid. If it’s warm and a long day (5 - 6 hours) it may be difficult to carry enough. Again, terrain and access to fluids during the race going to be a critical factor.

For 2 - 3 hours, I use a USWE back with a 2 liter bladder. For something longer, the strategy is based on the availability of fluid. If this is a 5 hour event with no aid, then I would probably stash a second USWE somewhere along the route and try and switch out packs half way.

Also, need to plan out your nutrition strategy and what you will carry for this.

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Congrats on the new bike and welcome to the club.

There are two key questions I would ask you that would make a big difference with respect to recommendations on your list.

  1. How deep into the wilderness are you going here?
  2. What is your goal for the race with respect to finishing vs. competing?

If this is a true back country event in rocky terrain, your list could be spot on. But… you just bought a bike and I’m guessing this isn’t a double black type trail that you will be riding. If it is, given your recent move to mountain biking, I would add some knee pads to the list.

If you care about your placement, that list is pretty robust presuming you are racing a typical XCM type course and not a super technical rocky single track only type event. But for peace of mind, you pretty much have covered all of your bases.

If I were racing, placement mattered and it wasn’t a gnarly course, I would leave both tubes behind, the extra sealant, one tire lever, all but one tire boot, the duct tape and the first aid kit. For you I would recommend taking one tube.


Thanks for the comments all!

Looks like I may be being a bit overly cautious with the gear list, I’m sure I can pair it down.

I don’t know a lot about the terrain, but I believe it is relatively tame (although I’m used to the tarmac not the single track).

It’s really important to know your pacing, fluid, and nutrition requirements for these type of races, and the only way to figure those out is practice.

Upper body fatigue can be a significant factor, especially for someone new to mountain biking. A heavy pack can add to this.

My advice would be to possibly simulate the race this upcoming weekend so you can figure everything out.