A final checklist for your first big MTB race

What to do in those moments leading up to your big event

With a bit of pre-race prep you'll have a much better time on the day

Getting ready to ride in a big event for the first time? Here’s your final checklist for those moments leading up to the event.


This is a sponsored article in association with the British Heart Foundation.

1. A few days to go…

So, event day is looming and you’ve probably not trained as much as you’d hoped. Don’t worry, no one ever does.

You’re really riding for the fun and experience, and there’s still time to make sure you’re ready to go come race day.

Hydration: Good hydration starts up to 48 hours beforehand, so drink plenty in the days running up. Consume plenty of complex carbohydrates like wholewheat pasta or rice the day before but don’t eat too late in the evening.

Research: Research the route, terrain and conditions, and double-check your bike is set up the best way to deal with them.

Don’t stress: Keep strenuous and stressful activities to a minimum in the days leading up to the event. Set two alarms so you can sleep soundly the night before without worrying about oversleeping.

Planning: Be organised and prepared in the run-up to minimise stress and aid sleep. Plan your journey, pack your kit and prep your bike. Note: refrain from making any significant last-minute changes if you can. Ask what refreshments are on the route so you don’t end up carrying more than you need to.

2. On the day

The big day is finally here. You’ll most likely feel excited, perhaps a little anxious, but above all keen to get underway as soon as possible. A little bit of focus will help keep things running smoothly and get you off to the best possible start

  • Plan to arrive at the venue with plenty of time to prepare (register, etc).
  • Eat breakfast 1.5-2hrs before the ride starts. Porridge is ideal, and an omelette too for a long ride.
  • Double check things like your seat height is correct, your chain is lubed and that tyre pressures are OK.
  • Fix your rider number to your bike and/or person, trim off cable ties and check neither interferes with your bike’s handling or your backpack.
  • Do a gentle 20-minute or so warm-up ride, with some short sharp sprints (6 seconds at 80% maximum effort) and add some gentle stretching afterwards.
  • If it’s your first event, position yourself towards the back of a mass start.
  • Listen carefully to any final event instructions – there can be some useful information in there.
  • Enjoy the anticipation, the banter and camaraderie – this excitement is what makes doing an event a totally different and exciting experience from a normal ride.
  • Ride at your pace, don’t be tempted to ride to someone else’s or set off too fast.
  • Eat and drink small amounts regularly – 0.5-1g of carbohydrates per kg of your bodyweight every hour and 500-1,000ml of fluid per hour depending on your build, conditions and intensity.
  • Break the ride down into sections and work towards each of those targets in turn.
  • Buddying up with someone who’s a similar pace to you can help and motivate you.
  • Don’t lose focus of why you’re there – to have fun. MTB events are about you versus the terrain and distance, your fellow riders are incidental.

3. Post ride

As well as basking in your accomplishment, there are a few things you should do after finishing the ride to help ensure you don’t seize up and to aid your recovery

1: Do at least 5-10 minutes of easy riding and some stretching to remove metabolic waste products from your muscles and aid recovery.

2: Consume plenty of fluids to rehydrate (alcohol is a diuretic, but who are we to tell you to forgo this, just drink plenty of water, too).

3: Eat within an hour after finishing; 1 part carbohydrates, 2 parts protein and 2-4 parts vegetables. (If you can’t eat properly within 1 hour, consume something like chocolate milk or protein shake/bars.)

4: Elevating your legs, a massage (or foam roller) and compression clothing can all aid blood flow, for a better recovery.

5: Go for an easy 30-60 minute recovery ride the next day, spinning quickly and with a few short, hard sprints for a few seconds (much like the warm-up).

6: Ice baths aren’t proven to help, but can help cool the muscles down and aid a good sleep.


London to Brighton

This September see the 10th anniversary of the BHF’s popular London to Brighton off-road event. There’s still time to sign up if you fancy a friendly challenge for a good cause. Head to www.bhf.org.uk for more info.