Pack Essentials for MTB Stage Racing

Jen and pack
When Jen was riding the remote Switchgrass Trail in Kansas she made sure she had all the supplies to handle anything adventure threw at her.

MTB stage racing takes riders back to the roots of the sport.  Expect big loops on the best trails in the area and be ready for an epic day on the bike!  Self-support skills are mandatory: ability to fix a mechanical on the trail, route finding (courses are flagged, but they often get removed by “wildlife”), inclement weather preparedness, planning hydration/ nutrition strategy for the day, and of course a mindset to embrace the unexpected.  Quebec Single Track Experience, like most stage races, will have aid stations along the course.  However, racers should not depend on these because mechanicals typically happen at the furthest point from civilization, the cookies may have been stolen by Yogi the Bear, and Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humor.

Here is what I’ll carry with me each day of QSE

Pack with Numbers

  • Osprey Pack My ride pack must be comfortable, adjustable, and big enough to hold all the stuff I need to be self-sufficient for the day
  • Flat repair kit
    • Hand Pump. For whatever reason, when I am stage racing, a flat is followed by another.  The ease of a CO2 cartridge is out ruled by repeat and reliable use of a hand pump.
    • Tube. Make sure it’s the right size, but in a pinch a smaller diameter tube will work – but a larger diameter will not.
    • Tire levers my KMC ones multi-task as a quick-link tool
    • Patch kit
    • Plug kit
    • Spare valve core and core tool
  • Tools
    • Multi-tool with a minimum of a 4,5, and 6mm hex wrench, torx T-25 and chain tool.  I carry Crank Brothers M17
    • Duct Tape. I carry bright orange tape so I remember to really fix the issue at the end of the day.  I’ve also used it on my pack for safety during hunting season.
    • Derailleur hanger
    • KMC Missing Link
Stage 3 Profile (3)
My top tube course notes from stage 3 of BreckEpic
  •  Navigation
    • Know the course every day! You may end up riding solo and cell service/ satellites may not work.
    • I put a piece of masking tape on my top tube with relevant course info such as mileage to aid stations, critical junctions, length of climbs, and views I need to pause for.
    • I load the course into my Garmin 820.
    • I carry a map of the area and a mile-by-mile description of the course.

QSE Weather Numbers and LAbels

  • Weather Preparedness
    • Small tube of JTree Life sunscreen and SPF lip balm.
    • Hyperthreads duo jacket. With removable sleeves, water resistance, and windout fabric this garment can tackle the weather.
    • Arms and knees.  These are easy to use for warmth, are easily stashed in my pack, and if I forget to put sunscreen on one of my arms (I’ve done this); a hot arm is better than a sunburnt arm.
    • Fleece Beanie.  If you get really cold, keeping your head warm will have the largest return on investment.
    • Hot Hands.  These small single-use heating pads can be put in gloves or socks to keep them warm if I get soaked, cold, and have a big descent in front of me.  Numb hands make braking and shifting nearly impossible.
  • Nutrition
    • I plan to carry .5 – 1L of water per hour of riding.
    • I use one scoop of GQ-6 Green Apple Base per hour of riding in my hydration pack. This provides electrolytes and some of the calories I will need.
    • I carry a water bottle with plain water to wash down gels
    • I plan to consume 250 – 300 Kcal per hour. I’m a big fan of Gu’s Coconut Stroopwafle and Birthday Cake gels.
    • King-sized PayDay bar.  If my stomach turns or my stoke needs a little fire, this saves the day!
    • I carry enough nutrition and water for an hour longer than I expect the stage to take me, just in case.  Bonking makes a hard day more difficult.

QSE Misc Numbers and LAbels

  • Unexpected
    • Bumps, bruises, and scrapes are just part of the game.  Stage races have excellent volunteers on courses who will help with a serious medical issue, but sometimes there is the in-between injury.  Here is my mini first-aid kit:
      • Big Band-Aid (2)
      • Steri-strips (8) for a laceration that may need stitches
      • Ibuprofen (4) to dull a cramping low back
      • Benadryl (4) to slow the swelling of a bee sting or itching of poison oak (Epi-Pen if you are allergic!)
    • Road ID. These tiny bracelets are peace of mind
    • Single use chamois cream packet.  If I start getting a saddle sore on day 2, quickly addressing the issue will make the next 5 stages more comfortable.
    •  $20.  There is nothing worse than finishing hot a stage when an ice cream truck drives by and you don’t have cash.  Seriously, this has happened.

I’m packed for each days stage at QSE.  Up next: my nutrition strategy for stage racing.

Trailside Repair
Hopefully you will never have to turn your bike into a single speed mid-ride after a rogue stick broke your derailleur hanger in half and bent your derailleur.  But having the tools to do so will save the day!

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