Technical Support at 24-Hour Races
24-hour racing is very demanding on riders, bikes, race officials, promoters, and technical support. I recently attended the 24-9, host of the US National 24 Hour Championship, held on a hot, sultry weekend, deep in woods on Nine-Mile forest of Wisconsin. As is usually the case, it was a weekend to remember.
Technical support for 24-hour racing takes a lot of planning. Events like this will see most every type of MTB bike: top-of-the-line full suspension carbon bikes, 7-speed steel frames from the 1990's, 29'ers, single speeds, it all shows up. Peter Hamer, a local mechanic from Excel Cycles, was with me as we arrived Friday evening to set up our tent and equipment. A series of squalls with high winds, rain, and lightning added to the excitement of the weekend.
Our first repair had a hitchhiker. This slug founds its way to the rear cogs during a wet Friday night. Was this gastropod mollusc a warning of the precipitation that was to come?
The racing began at 10:00 AM Saturday, and we are set up and ready to knock out the bike by 7:00 AM. The work will continue through the racing , and yes, we are open all night. If a rider needs help, we want to be there. There were riders racing solo, going the entire event alone, as well as teams of 4 and 5 riders taking turns doing the approximately 9 mile lap.
Our work area is very busy. We set up with tables down the middle, and stands on either side. The bikes piled to the left await work. Another pile off camera was bikes that we repaired and are ready to race.
In 24 hour racing, everyone settles in for the long haul. The feeling is more of a village, then of a short term "circus" atmosphere. You are better off getting along with people, because you're going to be around them for a while.
A team of young riders is looking fresh, eager and ready for racing. They will look much different a day later.
A huge trailer, a rain tent, a hot meal on a grill, bikes, and your Park Tool repair stands make the weekend more fun.
We completed a repair ticket on each repair so we could track what the bike needed and we didn't miss anything. The first repairs we saw were typically problems that the riders brought with them. In other words, the bikes were just not ready for racing. Later in the evening, we would tend to see issues that developed from the stress of the days racing. The wet, sandy conditions made for a lot of cable changes.
The chain above was incorrectly routed through the rear derailleur. The chain should pass in a straight line as it leaves the upper pulley to the lower pulley. Although we may be thinking it, we never ask,"Who did this?"
This is the same bike as above. Looking down from above, I see a gap between the rotor lockring and the rotor, where there should be no gap. The rotor lockring is loose. A simple fix, but one should not have been needed. This lockring was loose for the simple reason that is was never tight to begin with. It is quickly repaired with the FR-5G.
The hydraulic disc brakes offer some advantages, especially in the wet sloppy racing we saw in the morning and again the next day. Bleeding is sometimes best done as a team. This model brake uses a DOT fluid, which will eat away paint, so we wear our MG-1 gloves for protection.
Surgery is sometimes required, and we are ready. Pete and I had approximately 120 pounds worth of tools between us, so we'd better be ready. The saddle post binder bolt head was ruined on this bike, and the rider's post was slipping. He has a new collar but could not remove the old one. Pete uses a cutting wheel to quickly slice through the bad bolt. The repair stand brings the work up to a comfortable level for this delicate work.
This team tent has a nice set up.
We may have a lot of tools, but we don't have a lot of parts. This inner cassette cog had a bend, and should be replaced, but a new cassette simply isn't an option. While built for aligning disc rotors, holding the DT-2 sideways gets enough purchase of the cog to help and Pete convinces it to straighten up and fly right.
At these busy events, you don't do extra work just for the fun of it. The DT-1 rotor mount facer saw more use then I anticipated, as we machined 4 bikes under our tent, and loaned it to other tech tents as well. The brake pads aligned "spot-on" after this process.
This bike came in for a cable end cap on the rear brake wire. What is it doing upside down without a fork? The headset was so loose that the lower retainer was losing ball bearings. We pulled the fork and also discovered the upper cup could come out with your fingers. New ball bearings and some retaining compound was the cure needed.
This rider complained of poor shifting on his new bike. The reason was that brake housing, which is coiled and flexible, was used rather then shift cable housing, is stiffer and transmits the shift pull more effectively to the rear derailleur.
It is a family affair for many here. This dad had his racing to think about, but there was a kid's event that night. While the threadless headset rules the day here, the Park Tool Workshop has not forgotten the traditional threaded headset, and we had the tools to make both dad and lad happy.
"Around and around they go..." Mavic sponsors a kid's "musical bikes" game that night. There is one less chair available then the number of riders.
The word is given, and it's a mad dash to leap off the bikes and head for a chair!
Night time allows me to wander the technical pits. Mavic of course has seen their share of work, especially in the wheel department. This wheel never saw the race course, as it was run over by a car. The moral of the story: Don't lay your bikes down in driveways.
Tom Schuler is a former US National Champion, a manager of professional race teams, and mingles with the elite of our sport. His servant-leadership abilities shine through as he is the first one to grab the right tools for cleaning showers.
Muddy and gritty riders appreciated Tom's work. Some riders took 4-5 showers over the weekend.
"We leave the lights on for you." The work slows for a while at about 1:00 AM. There are still lots of bikes with lots of problems, but mostly, the riders don't care anymore. When lighting your work tent, shine the lamps up, not down, to give you better work illumination.
We did have a selection of spokes, but not every size made. This rider broke a radial laced left side, and needed a 250mm, but we had 258. Removing a second spoke, were were able to do a "crow's foot" pattern in this one section and get the bike and rider back into the competition. The black spokes are the originals, the chrome ones are the replacements.
Once screaming and eager for battle, the team mates wait for their rider in the transition area. At 2:00 AM, a lot of the frenzy had worn away.
My tool box. Not as tidy as it might be, but it does put out the work and helps me solve the problems. The repair tickets off to the right keep us organized and lets us track our work.