Rat Race Scotland Coast to Coast

Bike questions

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25/07/2013 at 12:53


Sorry to ask a question that has been covered elsewhere but I am hoping for some further advice on the Rat Race Coast to Coast Challenge on 14/15 September. I know there is lots of discussion on bike choices and I am yet to decide how to approach this. I am a keen mountain biker and do 2/3 rides a week up some pretty challenging hills so am a reasonably competent rider.

My choices are:

1) Full suss MTB (which I already own and use regularly) with slick tyres
2) Buy cyclocross bike for event only and look to resell following the race. I live on the Isle of Man and there is no scope for cyclocross riding over here. Looking at eBay and gumtree it looks like cyclocross bikes hold their value pretty well.
3) Buy a cheap and cheerful road bike that I don't mind taking over some rough stuff. Surely the worst that will happen is a buckled wheel and maybe a pinch flat. I understand most of the cycling section is on the road with day 2 having a 10 mile section of rougher stuff (although it doesn't look any where near as rough as what I am used to on my MTB on the local trails). I would imagine the time made up on the road section would be more than I would lose by running/pushing through this bit.

I think the the day 2 running section is going to be incredibly tough so I want to give myself the best possible start on the cycling sections. I hope to be pretty strong here but need to make sure I have the right kit under me.


25/07/2013 at 13:11


Did this in 2011, great event!

I had a hybrid with lockout front forks and semi slick tyres, now I'm not the fastest cyclist but I was consistently passing people on and off road. I think whatever you go for it should be 2/3 road oriented and 1/3 off-road as something like 65 of the 80 odd cycling miles are on roads and the majority of the off-road is on wide forest tracks with only a couple of miles of single track.

Yes the run/ walk section is tough (some pretty serious ascent and decent), make sure you have shoes with decent grip and protection. I wore fell running shoes, which were great for the descents but inadequate on the rockier sections (felt like running bare foot over snooker balls).

Hope this helps and have a great event!

26/07/2013 at 09:06


I have found a cheap cyclocross bike on gumtree that I am pretty sure I can resell for a similar price so I am thinking of doing that. Thanks for the advice on the trainers. I do a fell runs over here but my trainers are very lightweight Salomon ones that sound like they aren't up to the job. Oh well, more new kit to buy lol.

Thanks for all of the advice. Any more hints and tips are greatly appreciated!

cougie    pirate
26/07/2013 at 09:30
Full sus would be rubbish. Cheap road wouldn't be up to it.
Cross bike is the fastest option. Get sturdy tyres on it as you don't wan flat tyres.
If you put road tyres on a cross bike - it will be as fast as a road bike.

Make sure your backpack is good for running with. As roger says - that last yomp is tough.
26/07/2013 at 14:11

Thanks guys. The bike I have in mind is a second hand one from Gumtree. Not very light but sturdy, has good reviews and should have far less rolling resistance on the road sections and be quicker on the canal path and fire road bits. As you say, I was worried about using my full sus MTB with slicks as it was just going to be too slow and I would have struggled to keep up with lesser riders who have the right sort of kit. I need as much of a head start for the giant fell run as possible!

My plan is to get road tyres for day 1, then swap onto something with a bit of tread for day 2. Hopefully my MTB skills will mean that the rougher stuff isn't too much of a problem despite the lack of suspension (I usually ride flatter bits and uphills with it all locked out anyway).

Thanks for all of the advice. I do need to practice running with my bag. I am a sucker for Strava though so haven't wanted to slow my times down. I know, very stupid, but its horribly addictive and I am very competitive.

cougie    pirate
26/07/2013 at 14:20
TBH - I'd not bother with changing tyres. I did it in the one day and used Schwalbe Marathon plus tyres. OK on road (I still use them for winter) and they were fine through the mud and I had rain allllllll day long. Plus we were going through after the 2 dayers had gone through. If you can MTB you will be fine.

The last leg is brutal. I can run a half in under 90 mins. I was well over double that time for the last leg. I used trail shoes which were fine for the rocky bits - but crap on the descents. I fell so many times on that last hill !

Definitely practice with a packed bag or you'll hate it come race day.
26/07/2013 at 15:22

I have heard it is going to be in glorious sunshine this year without a drop of rain all weekend. Wind behind the whole way.

26/07/2013 at 16:04

30/07/2013 at 21:42

Hi all, just reading soMe of the posts above.  The only thing that concerns me is the off road bit of the second bike section.  I was thinking of putting cyclocross tyres on my old Orbea racer, maybe schwalbe of something similar.  Also how far is the kayak bit?  I've entered with a friend as a pair hoping we can do it in one day.  Never done anything like this before (might never again if it goes wrong!).

30/07/2013 at 22:42

1st kayak is only for 2 dayers I think, the one at the end is a little over a mile and a real test of your hip flexors.

Tyres wise there really is no more than a couple of miles of technical riding on the 2nd bike stage with most of the off road consisting of wide, fairly even fire breaks, so if you are competent with a mountain bike you could definatley get away with a racer as long as you don't have slicks fitted.

cougie    pirate
30/07/2013 at 23:39
I think everyone does the kayak in the middle but it's only a few 100m.
I caught a girl on a road bike using slick tyres on the off road section. So it wasn't ideal - but it's very short anyway. I'd worry more about impact punctures from thin tyres. I think mine are 35mm.

The last kayak is a mile or so ? Yes it's funny to see people struggling with hip flexor issues ! And if you haven't kayaked before its well worth practicing. Some kayaks were all over the place. You can see the finish but just can't reach it !
02/08/2013 at 20:57

Thanks for your info guys, I'll get some schwalbe tyres on the racer I think.  Looking forward to getting started!

06/08/2013 at 10:35

Same ideas. I have a sturdy road bike and was hoping to put some good grippy tyres on it and take it very easy on the rough bits. On that off road section, how much of it is tow path, forest road and rough single track?

I dont even mind pushing the road bike a couple of miles if needs be.


any help much appreciated!

cougie    pirate
06/08/2013 at 11:29
I'd say theres a few miles of tow path - most of it on grit - but then theres some badly broken up pavement - you'll be glad of some wider tyres there.

The forest roads you wont have any issues with = and the single track- well there might be a few bumps you need to push the bike up - but I think people on MTBs might well be doing the same. I think its the risk of hitting a stone and flatting more than anything else - so I'd go for sturdy rather than grippy.
20/08/2013 at 13:43

Hi, again. Cheers for the advice so far, I bought a cheap CX bike so fingers crossed it does the job.

Next question now! How hilly/undulating is the bike ride on day 1? Looking at the route profile it doesn't appear to be too bad but I saw the guy who won the racer category was only averaging about 15mph. That doesn't sound particularly fast for elite competitors so I think it sounds like its much hillier than the profile suggests, or that the wind plays a big part.

02/09/2013 at 12:11

Seems I've been posting in the wrong Coast to Coast discussion! Sorry Caroline I hyjacked your post about shoes in the other forum discussion on the race Reading all this is making me feel much better, I'm scared! Been having a complete fit over the weekend about bikes suddenly changing my mind about what I should use.But seems everyone is in the same boat and that there will be whole range of bikes out there. Going to go try out my road bike on the off road bit on Friday and see what I think (well see how fast I can do it pushing for large parts!)

Currently the weather in the Fort is blowing a gale and its wet and miserable - basically all the rubbish weather is getting itself out the way so come race day its going to be calm,cool, clear with stunning views for us all just like Ron says!!!! Joanne

04/09/2013 at 22:04

We've done this race a few times, the last time on cross bikes.  If you don't have a cross bike I would definitely do what you can to favour the road biking section. Before I had a cross bike I used my mountain bike and found the road sections a grind.

As others have said there is a little bit of single track that you might push on, but I did that anyway as I'm pants at mountain biking.  Bigger worry is punctures so whatever you use good tyres are the order of the day.

Very sorry to be missing the race this year.  Will be thinking of you all on that descent in to the final kayak (how on earth can you have bogs on that steep a slope?!).

16/09/2013 at 12:46

How did you all get on?

Little late for this conversation but maybe of use for future participants - I used a cross bike with Sammy Slick tyres fully pumped to 85psi. Think that was ideal choice for event as so much on road or good track, I am not a strong cyclist and needed all the help i could get. I did take a tumble on last part of the single track (I was't the only one) but that was more due to my lack of bike handling skills than tyre choice.

cougie    pirate
16/09/2013 at 13:50
I heard they had to change the route at least on Day 2 to avoid the stream crossing and the kayak across the lake. That's a pity. Race reports would be good when they've recovered.
16/09/2013 at 16:54

I was so glad I done the single day event, the weather was perfect on Saturday. We stayed at the Isle of Glen Coe Hotel the Saturday night (located at the finish) and the weather was foul on the Sunday morning. I noticed no Kayak times posted for the two day event so assumed they had cancelled the kayak. Yep will be good to hear their reports. 

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