What I learnt riding 100km on a mountain bike

I can knock out a 100km road ride pretty easily. That’s not a brag, it is what it is. I know I could jump on my roadie tomorrow morning and have it done before lunch. Recently I had an idea, what about a metric century on a mountain bike hitting a bunch of trails along the way? Now that’s an adventure! So with a little bit of not enough preparation and a day off work, I saddled up and gave it a shot!

Here’s what I learnt riding 101km on my fat tyre 29er trail bike…

It’s gonna take some time. On the road bike, I can cruise around 100km in under four hours easy door to door. Humming along in a bunch I could cut that to three. On the mountain bike? Throw those times out the window! There’s no getting around the fact it’s going to be slower. A lot slower. Draggy tyres on the road, techy sections and steep climbs on the trails. It’s best to block out the whole day to get it done! My total start to finish elapsed time was eight hours.

Hiding in a bush shack, waiting for a heavy shower to pass over.

Your Garmin may run out of gas before you do! I started the ride with 100% battery on my Garmin 820 and by the time I rolled back to the car and hit “save” it had dropped to 3% charge! I did have my mobile phone and handlebar remote connected via Bluetooth, so of course turning Bluetooth/ANT+ off will extend battery life. I’d HATE to get near the end of a ride only for the battery to die! I probably would have cried.

Trails take a lot more concentration. Unlike road cycling, where you can tune out at times or take in the scenery while mile munching along the smooth open tarmac, negotiating the trails takes a much higher level of sustained concentration. Your brain is always on – reading the ever changing trail like; watch out, gravel, rocks, rut, drop, berm, jump, roots, rocks, rocks, ROCKS! Lose that concentration and you’re down. I found that out the hard way at 4 hours in. I put my front wheel into a large rut, which sent me down into the dirt for an unplanned lay down.

Views back across Hobart after a long off-road climb!

Fuel for the ride. Pushing those fat, low pressure, knobbly tyres across uneven ground is hard work. You’re going to burn more calories per mile so stock up on snacks and eat often. Keep hydrated too. If you have to stop for coffee or lunch, make it quick and light. I try and carry as much food as I can. I’ve got a fantastic Henty hydration pack, which can store 3L of water plus plenty of room for on-the-go snacks (and spare clothing layers). Speaking of layers…

The neat Henty Enduro Pack is perfect for a long adventure!

The weather can change drastically throughout the course of a day. Check the local forecast beforehand and dress/pack accordingly. My ride started early when the temperature was 5 degrees C and it topped out at 17. I rode through rain, strong winds, sunshine, lower temperatures atop the mountain (it was snowing further up), more rain and more wind! A high quality gilet is worth it’s weight in gold. It pays to be prepared.

On a final note, the ride was actually a lot of fun! Hard graft? Yes. Slow going? Sure. But fun. Hardly seeing a single car, surrounded by ever-changing natural beauty and breathing in the fresh mountain air, the day was a journey. It’s certainly not one I plan on repeating any time soon, but if you haven’t gotten off the tarmac and completed a long solo off-road ride, I highly recommend the experience! Like they say, a change is as good as a holiday! #bigwheelskeepturning

13 Comments Add yours

  1. idlecyclist says:

    Well done 💪

    My longest MTB spin was 75km and that was tough going! I have aspirations to complete an off road Audax event that is 200km but I’d need to be at peak fitness to take on that challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’d be a long day in the saddle!!


  2. bgddyjim says:

    I did… carry the one… a 70 k on the gravel bike this morning. It was spectacular fun, but just a 15-mph average was tough. We weren’t even on mountain bikes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s best not to look at your average during the ride, messes with your head! I think I averaged 9 miles an hour! 😳

      Liked by 2 people

      1. bgddyjim says:

        I know that feeling. I get caught up on the notion that 17-mph is an active recovery pace and that blows everything because 9 or 10 on trails is absolutely crushing it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It takes some getting used to! I have a “MTB” page on my Garmin that just has time and elevation gain. I focus on amount of climbing and better descending instead of worrying about speed. Clocked 5000 feet of climbing that ride.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike says:

    I have an epic UK trail race 107k – 8 weeks to go and one week of training completed – wish me luck. It’s going to break a 50+ man.


    1. You’ll crush it! I certainly didn’t “race” my 100km mtb ride, but pacing I think would be key. Very easy to go super hard from the gun and be wasted by the half way mark! Have a great ride.


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