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Coach's Column with Chris Eatough

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |October 11, 2011 1:38 AM

Chris Eatough is a 6-time 24 hour solo world champion and 5-time 24 hour solo national champion along with multiple win in 100-mile mountain bike races.  Chris uses his 12 years as a professional mountain bike racer to assist others in reaching their peak fitness and ability. View Chrisís tailor-made training plans including 100-mile, 24-hour, and MTB stage race at


Question: It's well know that through all of your 100 milers, 24 hour races, and stage races you have had very few mechanical issues with your bike. I am racing the Trans-Sylvania Epic this summer. What can I do to insure that I minimize any mechanical issues during the race?

Answer: Avoiding Mechanicals the Eatough Way

I think there are 3 secrets to my success in terms of finishing lots of races over the years with very few mechanical setbacks. 

1.  Sensible equipment choices.

2.  Top notch bike preparation from mechanics that really care.

3.  Smooth riding style that does not put excessive strain on equipment.

When I race tough endurance events, I don't choose the lightest equipment.  Usually lighter means weaker, and getting to the finish line is always the number one goal.  I think it's important to choose equipment that you are confident will hold up to the strain and the duration. 

The most common mechanicals are tire related.  I like tubeless tires in the 550 to 650g range.  There are lighter choices out there, but I never found any super light tires that are also super durable.  I prefer to make it to the finish line with air in my tires.  The tires can still be fast rolling and efficient, but the extra rubber is critical to protection.  I also use plenty of tire sealant in tubeless tires. 

For the rest of the bike, I choose durability, performance, lightweight - in that order.  There is lots of great product available these days, but it's important not to get too hung up on weight.  Some particular components that I never take risks with are saddles, spokes, pedals, seatposts and handlebars. 

It's also important to know a good bike mechanic and make good friends with him/her.  Schedule with them so that you can take you bike to them 2 to 3 weeks before your focus race.  Give them a few days to look over your bike thoroughly and recommend any part replacements.  It's important to allow some time so that you can test ride the bike with a couple of real trail rides after it has been dialed in by the mechanic to iron out any kinks that can arise from part replacement.  Be respectful to your mechanic and make sure he knows you appreciate his work and that he/she is an integral part of your race success.  The mechanic will take even more pride in their work and will want your bike to work flawlessly for your big race. 

Even if you get to race day with your bike in perfect condition, riding style is still important.  Riding smooth and light will drastically reduce the number of mechanicals you get.  Smooth shifting, finesse pedalling and floating over the terrain are all keys to my personal success.  If you think there even the smallest possibility of a stick or debris being near your derailler, stop pedalling immediately and jump off to check it out.  Most snapped derallers and hangers can be avoided this way.  Avoiding crashes is also important.  Even though you might jump up quickly from a crash, your bike might not be so lucky and you can't expect your bike to hold up well if you keep ramming it into trees and rock gardens. 

Most mechanicals ARE avoidable, and bad luck only plays a very small role.  Hopefully these tips help you prepare for your next race so that you can make it to the finish line with no mechanical setbacks.  Your bike will thank you for it.

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