We caught up with Barry Kemp, one of the organising team from High Fell Events who run the Kielder Chiller, to see what was in store for the 2019 edition of the famous race and how to survive 24 hours of biking in some of the harshest conditions in the UK.
On the weekend of 9th-10th February one of the hardest 24 hour races on the UK calendar will be taking place again. The Kielder Chiller 24 in the frozen north of England has achieved a fearsome reputation in its short lifespan. Hardened racers such as Naomi Frierich, Richard Rothwell, Donna Waring and Nigel Smith have taken it on and lived to warn others of what's in store. In reality the course is not too bad with a subtle mix of red graded singletrack and exposed forest roads. What can really make the difference is the changeable weather as the lowest point of the course is still over 200 metres. In 2017 there were strong icy winds that chilled the bones. 2018 was beset with torrential rain turning to sheet ice and heavy snow. Despite all this the riders gritted their teeth and headed out to complete lap after lap.
What kind of person should take part?
Deep winter 24 hour mtb races are not as formidable as you think. Clearly a certain level of fitness and mental strength is required but if it's your first time then you can make life easier on yourself by entering as a pair or a quad. This will give you a great chance to dip a toe in the water. The atmosphere is extremely friendly and you'll find supportive riders who will go out of their way to help and advise others. This advice and experience is the most valuable thing out there.
What should you take?
Kit is very, very important so please sit down and think hard about what you're going to bring. The Kielder Chiller 24 has a real mix of terrrain and plenty of weather variation. This is one of those rare occassions when having too much is way better than having too little.
Bikes - It's easily possible to take part with just 1 bike but having a spare or alternating between bikes will ease the mechanical strain.
Spares - Multiple brake pads are a must. Chain, mech hanger and inner tubes would also be very useful.
Clothing - Bring everything as you'll burn through it, especially if the conditions are muddy. If you want to be really organised then have individual kits prepared in different bags.
Food - Eat, eat and eat some more. You'll know best what your body can handle. Try and have hot food if you can.
Lights - Big, bright lights are the order of the day. Chilli Technology make great single and double LED lights which are perfect. A second light attached to the helmet is excellent for vision round corners. Don't forget a way of charging them!
Pit - Loads of people operate directly out of a car. Others bring a motorhome and some also have a separate tent/shelter. Heaters, cookers, chairs, bike stand and other gear do a need a home if you bring them.
Electricity - Having a way to charge electrical items is pretty essential as the cold will rapidly deplete battery life.
That's just a small list of items to consider.
You'd think there isn't much strategy involved for a 24 hour event, just ride as hard as you can for as long as you can right? Unless you are at the very sharp end of things then it's not quite as simple. Go flat out early and Kielder will chew you up and spit you out. Many solo riders plan out how they will ride and even pre-plan rest periods during the night to allow the body to recover before another stint. Pairs riders need to decide on how many laps each they will do and what pace. Quads is less of a discussion as each rider will be getting plently of rest between laps. Whatever you go for just make sure it is a plan that works for you.
Now that you have an insight in to what you'd be taking on, why not come and enjoy the test of 24 hours chilling in Kielder?
If that's got your juices flowing, entries can be found here: www.kielderchiller24.com