Preparing for the Strathpuffer

What’s The Puffer?

Freezing temperatures. 17 hours of darkness. 

Miles upon miles of gruelling terrain. A brutal mix of ice, wind, hail, mud and snow,

and maybe, just maybe, a glorious Scottish winter sunrise…

When it comes to mountain bike challenges, they don’t come much tougher or more rewarding than the Strathpuffer – the legendary 24 hour mountain bike endurance event held every year in the Highlands of Scotland in the middle of winter.

It’s in the middle of January – 17 hours of darkness and typically maximum temperatures are sub-zero – getting down to under -10 at night!

Who’s daft enough to ride it?

I was fascinated by this event when I read about it – and I asked everyone I knew if they’d like to join me – only one person was just as daft as me – Rob G! Good man! His off-roading and huge TT endurance should come in handy!


Both Rob and I are working hard on prepping – as much shopping for bits and bobs as thinking through minutiae like how many turns, how many kit changes, what kind of food we can cook and how to cook it in the cold dark night… I’m going to post updates here to share the fun – let me know if you have any comments!




  1. Jonathan Harris

    Sounds like you’re in a pretty good place. Most of the advice above is based on all the mistakes that I made and seems you’re well ahead of that.

    Baking brake pads I thought was for boiling out oils in contaminated pads. I’m not aware of using it as a technique for bedding them in. For bedding in, just riding up and down the road and gradually increasing speed / braking should be enough, but heh, maybe I’ve missed some big secret.

    I gave up 24 hour racing because I just didn’t really enjoy it that much. Don’t mind the miles and the suffering, but I really struggled with the sleep deprivation element. So thank you for the kind offer, but it’s not something I’m keen to return to, so I’ll pass 🙂

  2. Jonathan Harris

    I’ve done a handful of 24 hour MTB races and it is bloody hard. I’ve never done it as a pair, but that’s supposed to be the hardest combo and on top of that, you’ve chosen Strathpuffer as your first outing? You’re certifiable! 🙂

    Anyway, various bits of unsolicited advice:
    It’s all about energy preservation! I can not emphasise this enough – every opportunity to do as little as possible needs to be taken; both on the bike and off.

    Don’t start too fast! Don’t start too fast! Don’t start too fast! You absolutely do not want to get to 6 hours in and find you’re tuckered, because the following 18 hours will be the most miserable of your life.
    What feels terminally slow in the first hour will be a really good pace in the 23rd hour.
    Don’t be too proud to get off and walk on steep stuff, even on the first lap.
    Resist the urge to ‘kick on’ after 4 or 5 hours because you’re feeling good.
    Be prepared. Be properly prepared. Don’t try and get by or compromise on anything.
    Beg / bribe / blackmail to get yourself a pit bitch, or even better, a crew. Having people taking care of bikes, logistics, light charging, bottles, feeds, cups of tea/coffee, kit changes, lap times, etc, means you can concentrate on racing and the non-rider gets a proper break.
    Take a massive tent and gazebo. If it’s tipping down with rain / snowing, you don’t want to be waiting / working on bikes without any cover. And you don’t want to be messing around trying to do stuff in a small 2 man tent.
    Use a sleeping bag liner(s) so you can just climb in to your sleeping bag without having to fully clean up before sleeping.
    Give each other a decent break during the night and churn out multiple individual laps so your partner can get a couple of hours kip.
    Take multiple spares and, if at all possible, spare bikes. The more the better for Strathpuffer.
    Take multiple really bright (at least 1000 lumens) front lights. For Strathpuffer, depending on the conditions, you may need to run them for the full 24 hours
    Don’t bother picking and choosing what clothing to take. Just open a massive bag and tip everything you own in to it!
    Loads of warm non-riding clothing to throw on between laps.
    Loads of towels you don’t mind getting dirty.
    Nutrition is really individual, but everyone gets sick (sometimes literally) from standard gels and bars after a few hours. Mix it up early on and have a variety of foods available, because your cravings can get really weird in the middle of the night.
    Small things become really important: kit or a bike setup that niggles after a few hours becomes agony after 24. A cup of tea in the middle of the night, a bacon roll or a fresh pair of socks don’t seem like much, but can make you feel like the happiest person alive.

    I’ve got some kit that may help (portable jet wash, lights, etc) that may help. Give us a shout if you want any of it or if you’ve got any questions you think I might be able to help with.

    And finally, good luck and may the weather gods smile upon you 🙂

    1. Steve Rodgers Post author

      Thanks for the advice, Jonathan – all very good.
      We’ve been prepping for some time – Rob’s big camper van plus the Avanti gazebo – added side panels to keep out the wind – should see us through.
      I’ve a worx portable jetwash with a spare battery – haven’t had a really muddy cx race to test it in anger yet but I’ve been making sure I use it at home to clean up bikes after rides.
      I’ve 4x 1100 lumen lights with 4x add-on battery backs which I’ve been riding with in the evenings to get used to. Plan was to always have 2 lights+battery boosters on the bike on-course and the others charging when I’m resting. Additional spare lights might be helpful though – once I’ve been through a few more runtime tests at home I might take you up on the offer of a loan for emergency spares- thanks!
      I’ve spares of everything, Rob has a full spare bike – a recently acquired 26″ race bike.
      We’ve both got a set of spare wheels with ice spiker tyres on, too.
      I’ve got some spare brake pads that I’ve not broken in yet but I’ve read about baking them to break in en-masse – tried that?

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