BMB22 – Part 2 – Planning and training

Two weeks to go. Since my last BMB post I’ve been busy. A quick summary of my training and preparation:

Heat acclimatisation

Knowing that BMB will be in mid-August, and that in 2020 there was a heatwave which caused a number of riders to abandon half way, I’ve been working on training myself to adapt to summer heat and develop hydration strategies. So far, I have done two 100km rides starting at 2pm with temperatures of about 30-35C.

Clearly there is a difference in length to what I can expect on BMB, however I deliberately sought out the hottest time of the day. Both rides were a success and I felt physically and mentally good afterwards, and not showing any symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke (been there, done that…). I am happy with carrying sufficient water, as well as my use of electrolytes and sunscreen, as well as riding style. Depending on the conditions however, I would still consider taking a siesta and riding at night instead (see below).

Hot weather riding whilst working on the time trial position. Keeps me aero and gives me another place to rest my hands.

Endurance

So far, my longest ride was 330 km in one day, however I feel that my general fitness is good given the extent of my base training. In any case, to test my equipment and build up confidence after a dodgy first half of the year, I have been gradually increasing my ride distance using my fully loaded bike. These last few weeks I have several rides gradually increasing distance and intensity.

One ride of note was a relatively flat ride of 150 km including a steep 500 m ascent at the end to test my resolve. I did this on my Triban and things went well until after the climb, where my feet really started hurting. After some enquiries at my local bike shop, it was suggested that the issue was my mountain bike shoes, which I originally wanted to wear to give me more comfort. I was however told that these have composite soles which didn’t offer sufficient stiffness, which therefore caused the pain. As a result, I have started testing my stiffer road bike shoes.

The next weekend I tried hillier ride of 200 km using my road shoes on my Triban. My foot pain didn’t materialise, however I identified another problem. My Triban has straight chainstays (the part of the frame between the pedal crank and back wheel), and from experience on shorter rides I know that the heels of my shoes sometimes strike the chainstay. I never really felt this with the MTB shoes but when wearing the road shoes, I hit the chainstay on every rotation. To remedy this, during a quick stop I decided to change my cleat position slightly. This did work, pushing my heels outward slightly, however in the last 30 km of my ride I developed some really nasty knee pain which remained with me for several days.

This left me with a difficult choice – do I ride 1500 km with dodgy MTB shoes, or do I use the road shoes which (without a proper bike fit) cause me pain in my knee? My solution was to explore using my CAAD13 race bike instead of the Triban, which, whilst offering a more aggressive position, is faster and lighter, and has recently been through a professional bike fitting. Since the ride I have put the cleats back in their original position, but this means another test…

In the last few weeks, I’ve been racing as well, which certainly helps me with bike handling, high intensity intervals, and stamina. Not only that, it really was good fun and since then I think more about braking efficiently and smooth cornering, which certainly will pay dividends over a longer journey.

Fully laden CAAD13, as used in Passau-Vienna in 2021.

Night riding

One key part of my toolbox of skills and experience that I’ll likely need to draw upon in BMB is riding at night. There won’t be enough time to simply have a nice ride during the day and 8 hours of sleep, but subject to weather, mechanicals, physical condition and mental mindframe, I will likely need to push through from start to finish, riding efficiently and eating, taking breaks and catnaps when I can.

Over the last few years, I have ridden in all sorts of weather, and – whilst I have done my commute at night – I have never had a proper long ride during the night (the so-called “graveyard shift”). From stories I’ve heard, this can be mentally taxing especially given that most places are closed, there is no sign of life, and you have to motivate and entertain yourself until the sun comes up. And that’s without getting a puncture.

Last Saturday I decided to do a 140 km night ride, starting at sunset at 9pm and returning at 3 am. Thankfully Mrs MT really is a good sport and has been very supporting and understanding. The route was a familiar one, but served to get used to the feeling of riding and navigating in complete darkness, as well as testing my lights and computer. The test went very well and I really enjoyed it, spotting a variety of creatures of the night, including deers, rabbits, all manner of insects, a surprised owl, suicidal frogs, as well as a few drunken Austrians (one of whom oddly enough still managed to managed to slur “scheiß Radfahrer” as I rode past. Plus ça change…).

I used the CAAD13 fully laden, and now I’m in no doubt its the right setup for BMB. Its quick and still relatively light with bags, easy to ride and fairly comfortable. The deep carbon wheels are the ultimate nighttime soundtrack and, combined with the rest of the kit, there is no real issue with side winds. Nevertheless, during the ride I couldn’t help thinking about final tweaks, there is apparently always something to improve!

Charlie in Krems at 1am.

Equipment

For a while now I have been preparing a list of kit I will take with me. This ranges from:

  • electronics (bike computer, lights, battery pack),
  • bags (Tailfin, top tube bag, feed bags, frame bag),
  • clothing (spare jersey and bib shorts, rain clothes, warm clothes, high viz kit), and
  • tools and spares (multitool, pump, inner tubes).

I’ll have to work on keeping this down to the bare minimum to avoid excess weight and drag, but carry enough in case of unexpected weather conditions (wet, cold, heat) and mechanicals (punctures, etc.). My training so far has mostly been with heavy bags so that I have become used to the different handling of the bike and to train riding uphill.

Testing my equipment, including my aerobars and navigation using my Hammerhead.

Route planning

Thankfully the BMB organisers have already provided a route to follow, however I will need to manage my energy to ensure I make each of the 9 checkpoints in time (each has a closing time) and I still have to finish within the maximum deadline of 128 hours.

Below is a list of the checkpoints:

LegStartEndDistance (km)Climbing (m)
1BerlinLeipzig197880
2LeipzigWaldershof2282,350
3WaldershofRegensburg1481,340
4RegensburgMunich133870
5MunichRegensburg133670
6RegensburgWaldershof1481,530
7WaldershofDresden2363,130
8DresdenLutherstadt-
Wittenberg
156450
9Lutherstadt-
Wittenberg
Berlin113440
Total1,49211,660

I’m working on a tool which helps me to calculate the optimum speed and timing for each stage, which would allow me to even plan rest times. That being said, I should be flexible enough to allow for bad weather, mechanicals, and any other unplanned occurrences.


I really enjoy this preparation stage, planning what to take, working out the setup of the bike and equipment, and practising the various skills I will need. Over the next two weeks, I’m planning to do one more 300 km ride for a final proper test, work on some HIIT skills and hill climbing, and then take a rest before heading over to Berlin.

I might post my full kit list beforehand, but if you don’t hear from me before then, I’ll see you on the start line!

-MT

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