The riding around Alice Springs is truly exceptional with kilometre after kilometre of rolling single track and 4WD tracks set amongst the spectacular MacDonnell Ranges. But it can also be pretty harsh on your bike and particularly on your tyres if you're not well prepared. The guidelines below were prepared by Alice Springs rider Chris Ravenhall and, in our opinion, should be followed very closely if you want to make the most of your riding time during the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro - Red Centre.
Most of the single track and 4WD tracks consist of sandy gravel and small sharp rocks on a firm base which makes for fast riding, but depending on summer rain, Tribulus macrocarpus (better know as catheads or four corner thorns) can be very prevalent thoughout the region and will cause havoc for riders who have not set their tyres up correctly or who are trying to save weight on tyres and tubes. So you should take all possible precautions to prevent puncturing.
This is my recommendation:
Tyres and how to puncture proof your ride
The locals ride and recommend the following set up:
- tubeless tyres (UST) with a good amount of tread. They may be a little heavier but they have thicker side walls and are built stronger which helps prevent thorns getting through the tyre in the first place, and bigger rocks or sticks from puncturing the side walls. Be weary using low profile tyres or semi slicks (even if they are tubeless) as they won’t grip and are often not all that thick. Remember, you do not have to have tubeless rims to use tubeless tyres but that said, tubeless rims provide a better seal
- no tubes but using a sealant (such as Stan’s No Tubes) inside the tyre. If you get a small puncture or thorn that does go through the tubeless tyre, a sealant will fill the hole that’s been created and seal it up. The sealant ‘sets’ or turns from a liquid to a silicon type rubber when it mixed with the air outside the tyre so often you don’t even know you have got a puncture as it fixes them automatically.
- tubeless rims. Obviously these are more expensive if you have to change over but they provide a better seal for tubless tyres. You can use a normal tubed rim with a conversion kit with tubeless tyres which works quite well, but it is a bit more involved if you do get a puncture and need to put a tube in. They are also a pain to reinflate because the seal against the tyre is not so tight.
Other possible set ups…
- tubes filled with some Slime and a tubeless or normal tyre. This is probably about the second best option, the Slime inside the tube helps fix the puncture as per a sealant inside the tyre, but it is heavier and Slime is not considered to be quite as good as Stan’s inside a tyre. It's got to be a good quality tube (one that has been water cooled in production). It's also not a bad idea to carry a spare tube filled with Slime (or even Stan's) in it, no matter what set up you are running as they are pretty good for emergencies. (Just unscrew the valve and squeeze it in!)
- normal tubes and a tubeless tyre. Not bad, but if you do get a thorn through the tyre, your tube will still get punctured and you will have to stop and fix it rather than letting the sealant fill the hole itself. Having a sealant in there is way preferred.
- tubes and a tyre liner with a tubeless or normal tyre. OK, but the side walls are still a bit unprotected and once again, sealants are better these days.
- a thorn proof tube and a tubeless or normal tyre. OK, but these tubes are very heavy and in my mind are still questionable as to how ‘thorn proof’ they really are.
There are of course many tyres to choose from and we’re not going to recommend any brands because everybody has different riding styles. What's good for one rider may not be good for the another. However, I would recommend a tyre that has good traction in dry sandy conditions, with an adequate knobby profile rather than a minimalist racing flat. It's also handy to get used to riding with around 35-40 psi in your tyres as this keeps the side walls vertical (rather than all baggy under the wheel) as this will help reduce the risk of side wall damage.
These points are designed to get you around the course with as few punctures and problems as possible. You do not have to follow them and by crickey, it is possible that you could ride with tubes, on thin tyres for the 5 days and not get a puncture. Some locals might call it a miracle but it could be possible. But for the sake of spending a few dollars to get yourself set up right first time around and having a fast and fun race, we’d recommend following these points to the letter… and trust me, Sam and John learnt the hard way when they first came up!
If you want any local advice and instructions we’d recommend you give Corey Gerdsen a call from the Ultimate Ride Shop in Alice Springs. He knows all the ins and outs of tyres and bikes and will also be running a work shop and bike mechanic service at the event centre, firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: (08) 8953-7297.
Equipment for you and your bike
The following equipment MUST be carried with you for all stages (except Stage 3) from the start to the finish of the event as outlined in the race rules:
- For the night stage you require front lights and a red light for the back of your bike
- Emergency space blanket
- A First Aid kit comprising: 2 x crepe bandages, 2 x non-adhesive wound dressings, 6 x steri-strip wound closures, 1 x triangular bandage and a pair of surgical gloves.
- Mobile Phone (please store the following mobile phone numbers for emergencies: John Jacoby (Race Director) 0408 035 261 and Sam Maffett (Event Manager) 0400 001 786
We will be conducting random checks for first aid kits and other compulsory equipment during all stages with any competitor found not having the required equipment at any point during that stage given a 1hour time penalty. This will be strictly enforced (as it is for your own safety!)
A limited number of first aid kits will be available to purchase during registration for $15.
We recommend that you also carry with you:
- tyre patches (look for Park Tools sticky ones) in case you do get a hole in the side wall that is too big for the sealant to seal
- bike computer
- 2 bottle cages or a 2lt hydration backpack - refer notes below
- sunglasses and a small tube of sunscreen
- multi tool with chain breaker
- spare tube (recommended to carry 2) – with either Slime or Stan’s inside – maybe even a spare folding tyre if you feel you’re particularly prone to punctures!
We will set up one water point out on the course for Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 4 (2 water points) and Stage 7 but this means that (depending how fast you ride) you will still need to carry your own water for up to 2+ hours of riding. As such, we recommend that you carry at least 2 water bottles and/or a 2lt hydration backpack with you whilst racing.
Tyre and bike set up
The riding terrain around Alice Springs is likely to be quite different to any you have previously experienced due to the unique landscape and environment hence we highly recommend that you set your bike up for the local conditions so you make the most of the riding you have come to enjoy. Most of the single track and 4WD tracks around Alice consist of sandy gravel and small sharp rocks on a firm base which makes for fun, fast riding but can also cause havoc with your tyres due to a) the prevalence of ‘cat head’ thorns that will puncture your tyre and b) the sharp rocks that can cut the tyre’s side-walls.
The locals’ recommended tyre set up, and one that we RECOMMEND YOU FOLLOW TO SAVE ENDLESS PUNCTURES, is to use tubeless rated tyres, with a sealant inside, ideally on tubeless rims. This set up works best as the sealant will fill any punctures you get from the thorns, the tubeless tyres have a tougher side wall and are more resilient to sharp rocks cutting your side walls and the tubeless rims make for a tighter fit for the tubeless tyres.
We recommend True Blue Goo as the preferred tyre sealant. Their product is Australian owned and made, has been in use for over 30 years and is especially designed for Australian conditions. Check them out at www.truebluegoo.net
For more information on our recommended bike set up, read the equipment page on the event website or speak to the guys from the Ultimate Ride Bike Shop at the Event Centre for all the ins and outs of riding in the Red Centre: email@example.com or tel: (08) 8953-7297.