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Seven Tips To Success At The Munga

The Munga is an annual ultra-distance single-stage mountain bike race for anyone crazy enough to pedal a bike across the Karoo amid summer and an opportunity to test your fitness and see if you have what it takes to become an ultra-endurance cyclist.

Here are seven tips that will help you make the most of your experience at The Munga:


Your bicycle.


Get to the start line.

Start line to race village 1.

Maximize efficiency.

Don’t quit.

1. Now your timeline.

If you are in good shape with a solid aerobic base and can comfortably ride 10 hours in one go, you can prepare for an ultra in roughly 12 to 24 weeks. However, if you are a newbie or starting from scratch, you may need between 24 to 52 weeks to prepare for the ultra.

Real improvements take time..., as you can see from the above-mentioned, riding or racing an ultra will require more time to prepare for, make sure you have the time to commit to training that will be boring and repetitive.

Yip! That is what it is.

2. Your bike.

Your bike does not have to be the highest end. Something less fancy or complicated is often better.

You must be comfortable when riding it. Your bike should fit you well to ensure your riding efficiency. Bike maintenance is also crucial. When you look after your bike, it will run more efficiently and lower the risk of mechanical issues in training and racing.

3. Find a plan or make a plan and stick to it.

By now, you should have an understanding of what it is going to take and how many hours you can train. Doing junk miles isn’t going to help; you need to prepare smartly, so sit down and research, find a good plan that closely matches your goal and desired outcome and maximize your available training time or hire a coach.

Physical and mental fitness is the key - the greater and more specific it is, the better you will be able to deal with unforeseen challenges when riding across the Karoo.

Training Tip: Ride your bike...

Endurance is the foundation; ultra-distance/endurance cycling is all about stamina, pacing and the ability to keep moving. Long endurance rides may seem dull to others, but for an ultra-distance/endurance cyclist, this is the best way to improve stamina.

Training Tip: Nutrition...

The most important to develop in training, train with what is available to eat at the event - fruits, sweets and homemade foods - sandwiches, boiled eggs, potatoes, banana bread, muffins, pancakes, etc. Calories needed during the event will be high, and at some point, you might need to get a meal from a petrol (gas) station or spaza shop convenience store. Flexibility is always a good thing to experiment with different foods.

Training Tip: Back-to-back simulation rides on a fully loaded bike...

Simulation rides are an effective and beneficial training activity before The Munga. The rides on a fully loaded bike can be an opportunity to boost your endurance, get a feel for riding at night and test out lights, gear and nutrition strategies.

Training Tip: Heat training three weeks before...

Most sections of the Munga course can exceed 40 degrees during the day. Heat acclimation training may be necessary to decrease the physiological effect - increasing thermal comfort (feeling less hot) and reducing the perception of effort. There are many ways of doing it, but I focus on a tried and true heat training method I used...

You can simulate hot and humid conditions by riding indoors for 60 to 90 minutes targeting zone 1 to zone 2 while wearing a few extra layers of clothing, hydrating, training without a fan and or keeping the windows closed. Basically, it should feel like you’re riding in a sauna. All forms of heat training are additional stress, so....

  • The overall workload needs to decrease during this time frame.

  • The sessions should be at low to moderate intensities and no longer than 90 minutes.

  • 9 to 12 days of heat acclimatization training is the minimum amount necessary to earn physiological and performance adaptations. The adaptations will last around ten days, so 2.5 weeks before the Munga start date is ideal.

4. Getting to the start line.

Four weeks to go!

  • Prioritize your sleep.

  • Minimize your chances of getting ill or injured.

  • By now, your riding position should be pain/niggle free. Don’t make any adjustments to the bike setup.

  • Keep doing at least one long ride (+6 hrs) on the weekends to maintain overall endurance.

  • For peace of mind, have your bike serviced.

5. Start line to race village 1.

Prepare everything on Tuesday so that you can sleep in late on Wednesday. Morning of should have minimal admin and minimal time on your feet. Have a good breakfast, head to the race briefing, be dressed for the journey and fit your tracker.

  • Your goal for day one should be to cruise into race village 1. Don’t get caught up in the speed, don’t rev the engine, just cruise.

  • If you slept well on Tuesday and can go the distance when reaching race village 1, then push through to race village 2.

  • If you arrive at race village 1 roasted, sleep for 2 to 3 hours.

6. If you have a time goal, maximize efficiency.

  • Before reaching the water points and race villages, decide if you are going to sleep or not. This approach ensures that your stops are efficient and effective.

  • If you want to sleep, grab a recovery drink, have a small meal and go straight to bed. The small meal has no impact on your sleep. Have a bigger meal afterwards.

  • If you are not going to sleep, restock fuel and hydration, have a meal and get out of there. The longer you stay, the more comfortable you get, and the hard it is to get going again.

7. The voice in your head.

I have specific Munga knowledge and experience; the race is in my bones. It is going to be an uncomfortable ride for most of the way. You will be battling the heat, the cold, the sleep monster, might have technical issues, will be hungry and thirsty, have chapped lips, numb hands, saddle sores and all other aches and pains; the trek across the Karoo will wear you down, and the voice in your head will tell to call it quits. Don't listen, don't give in, don't quit.


That is it. Thank you for reading. I hope you found it to be a useful resource. Questions, comments and high fives! Drop them here.


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