The 24-hour mountain bike race is the most demanding, requiring intense physical and mental preparation. Cyclists ride non-stop for 24 hours, requiring food, water, and support for both the body and the bike. Powerful lights are needed for night riding, and the race can be done solo or as a team. Mental exhaustion is as important as physical exhaustion.
All mountain bike races require an intense degree of physical fitness and mental preparation, but none are more demanding than the 24 hour race. An established race course is designed for a 24-hour race, and mountain bikers aim to put in the most laps in the 24-hour period. This means that cyclists must ride their bicycle at night with lights mounted on their helmet or handlebars, or both. A 24-hour race typically starts at noon on Saturday and ends at noon on Sunday, and while many runners schedule rest stops, ranging from ten minutes to an hour or more, other, more competitive runners will run non-stop for the entire 24 hours of the race, excluding short stops to change clothing or equipment.
One of the most challenging aspects of a 24-hour race is preparation. Since a cyclist has to commit to cycling for 24 hours, the physical demands of the body are great and therefore the body needs support. Plenty of food and water is essential. The body will burn an immense amount of calories and use more water than the body is used to using in a 24-hour period, so carbohydrate-rich and easily digestible foods are key, as is an abundance of water and beverages that replace electrolytes.
A 24-hour ride is also demanding on a bicycle, requiring in most cases a support crew or at least complete mechanical ability regarding the bicycle on the part of the rider. As the race goes on for 24 hours non-stop, repairs need to be done quickly and efficiently if and when they occur. Having a support team helps the rider get through the start-finish area quickly and efficiently, allowing for more time to ride.
At night, cyclists need powerful lights to navigate the dark trails. These can be mounted on the helmet or on the handlebars of the bike. The lights run on powerful batteries and have variable run times, usually requiring more than one light. The lights for a 24-hour race vary in design from LED lights to halogen and other types of lights.
A 24 hour race can be done solo with a driver racing for himself or as a team. Team categories vary by race, but are often mixed and range from duos to teams of 5 riders. While riding as a team makes energy conservation easier for riders, it can also lead to cramping while team members wait their turn to take a ride, as well as mental fatigue and depletion of motivation. This aspect of the 24-hour race, whether solo or team racing, makes mental exhaustion as important a part of the race as physical exhaustion.