First timer thinking about Finke? Part 4 - Going the distance!

Author: Vaughan Cumming   Date Posted:10 April 2016 

First timer thinking about Finke? Part 4 - Going the distance! main image First timer thinking about Finke? Part 4 - Going the distance! image

First timer thinking about Finke? Part 4 - Going the distance!

NO TURNING BACK NOW!! You are entered, bike is almost prepared and now your thinking how the heck am I going to go the distance?? Well don't stress to much about becoming Arnie Schwarzenegger and looking like a condom full of walnuts because that will probably make it harder! (If this is you just jump ahead to the bit about taping your hands you will need it! ) Getting yourself ready for Finke is not just fitness although it helps (I don't really know this but I assume it would!) but getting all the little things in place to make it easier after the 80km mark on race weekend. Truth is not everyone has the time to loose a heap of weight and be fit enough to run a marathon and this is the category I fit in!

I wont lead you astray here and pretend to know anything about getting fit as I can't remember the last time I raced under 100kg, but I will help you work out finishing Finke as a person who still works 50+ hours a week, has a family, only really rides a couple of times a month, prefers the pub to the gym and has a fighting weight of a 10th of a tone is still VERY possible for the everyday punter to receive that Finke finishers dog spike and have a cracker of a time doing it.

WHERE TO START........ Hopefully you already have since its March!

Best place to start is the same way that keeps gym owners driving flash cars - Make a new years resolution, try to make it last past the end of January and join a gym! No seriously I reckon leave the gym alone if you can get out for a ride 1 or 2 days a week because riding is the best form of training for a club level rider but if you can't ride its a good thing having a gym membership as being fit and healthy is better for you apparently and it does motivate you to go to the gym knowing someone is swiping 20 bucks from your account each week while you sit on the lounge. Myself I prefer to go for a run or a swim but not for the getting fit part although its a helpful side effect!

Here's why I run - because it hurts running up hills just like endless sections of whoops! And its easier to walk than run just like it is sitting down instead of standing up through the whoops! BUT if you can make yourself head strong enough to get through that barrier you will thank me at about the 160km mark on when your legs and back are giving up! If you can get through your head that this is as bad as its going to hurt then you will keep standing up and keep punching out the km's at a good pace on race weekend. So get running and think of it as a mind strength thing and set yourself a goal (distance and time NOT speed) and keep trying to better it each time you run. Running is the easiest thing to give up at and I believe for me its the same feeling I get in the whoops wanting to sit down. The only thing you get from it is making the time longer and at Finke there's more chance of getting into trouble sitting rather than standing in the whoops!

If you want to get as fit as possible make sure your doing the right kind of training so it helps rather than hinders because you can waste a lot of time burning energy in the wrong areas - There are tones of personal trainers out there but try find a trainer who understands riding.


This is a personal thing but there are some little tips that I find help me personally and I would say to try if you have no other advice from someone else who has done this type of event.

GLOVES - Your hands are so important to look after for the whole time in preparation for the event and the race. You will notice there are all these new fancy light weight gloves that are like socks for your hands, they type that have only a thin stretchy material on the top of your hand and no strap to tighten them up on your wrist. Basically if you want to get the biggest blisters grab a set! These gloves are great for MX and short runs but in 2013 I had these gloves and it was the worst my hands have ever been and believe me the return trip with destroyed hands is about as fun as slamming you nuts in a car door. A month later I raced Hattah with a good set of Fox or Thor top quality gloves and had no problem at all without taping my hands. I believe this because the light weight gloves move to much on your hands causing your hands to pack it in early - I felt mine going at the first fuel stop and by the second fuel stop I was in agony. Don't be scared to spend up on gloves!

        I use the type of glove on the left as you can see its a bit thicker material and has paneling and stitching which gives it strength - the glove on the left is very light weight and comfy but in my experience they are as useless as tits on bull for Finke and other long races. (this has nothing to do with brand its the style of glove I'm talking about here. 

CAMELBAK - First off just make sure you have one even if you don't usually drink when you ride its great to be able to use the water to wash the dust out of your mouth. The other trick I worked out back in my first Finke was to not run those 90 degree mouth tips because when you get tired and lean to far forward through the whoops and the forks compress bringing your front brake hose up the tip gets hooked up on the hose and holds your head and shoulders down scaring the hell out of you.

            This is about the size drink pack you need I can't see the point in riding a race like Finke with enough water to cross the Sahara on a donkey. Also remove the right angle tip and place a straight one like the center pic.

NECKBRACE - I kind of sit on the fence with these and everybody has an opinion but if you do run one make sure when standing up on your bike you can still lift you head and see out in front of you. I have found when you are on the voluptuous side the neck brace can stop you getting full movement and stops you looking up ahead without strain on your neck.

As you can see in the 2 pics on the left and center movement can be restricted but that is what they are designed to do so don't be to surprised but if you are to short for your weight it can be much more restrictive. You can help the issue by getting a professional to fit them for you. Another product where buying in a local shop is a smarter idea than saving a few bucks.

SKINS OR TIGHTS - I never used to wear long tights under my riding pants but I have for the last few years and believe me its worth looking like a creep in Big W buying chicks tights in the women's clothing section! You can buy those sports skins pants but I just run the good old $5 tights from Big W or Kmart. (yes I get my wife to buy them for me!)

BODY ARMOR - Is a good idea in any race when you are in the pack and Finke is no exception. There is some rocky sections and if you are unfortunate enough to be stuck behind a 4 wheeled mobility scooter they peg boulders at you so make sure your body armor is good quality. Im not sure about those full netted armor suits, personally I have never worn one but I have heard plenty of trail riders complain about how hot they are so make sure what ever armor you wear try it for a few hours before you get 3000km's from home.

GENERAL PANTS, JERSEY AND BOOTS - All this gear the day to day stuff must be in good condition because they check it all at scrutineering to make sure its not all ripped up and 30 years old. Check you have all the boot buckles and also if your boots are old get them resoled before you leave home and not because of scrutineering but because you will be standing in them for about 6-8 hours minimum!

GOGGLES AND LENSES - This is yet another area of discussion but the first this is to buy goggles that fit you helmet and face together so they seal around your face perfectly. Do 1 of 2 things - 1) take your helmet to the shop and try the goggles on 2) find the same helmet as yours and try them on together. Don't buy your goggles online go to the bike shop and get the right set for your face. If you do buy online buy from a local retailer so you can speak with them if you have an issue or need spare lenses in a hurry. Now the real discussion is in the lens colour - I run the slightly tinted lens but im VERY colour blind so I struggle with shadows on the track, if you have a personal preference stick with it and if your not sure buy a few different types and try them when you get to Alice.



Probably one of the most important preparation tasks you will need to do on race weekend. It is important to start now trying different ways to tape up that works for you. Below I have some tips and tricks for taping that I use and that I was told by some of the top outright guys quite a few years back. This way I tape my hands has served me well except for 2013 when I taped my hands the wrong way.

Which tape to use? - Use the 40mm wide ridged tape. Its the tape that sports players use for ankles and knees. Don't use the flexible elastoplast tape that is 20mm wide, it will bunch up and cause you a world of hurt.                                                                   

How to prepare? - Make sure your hands are perfectly clean, use a hand cleaner with the sand in it so they are clean as surgen! ( I also give them a hit of brake cleaner but this is at your own risk) Make sure they are dry before you start taping. If you do this the tape will stick like shit to a blanket.

What tools to use? - Just a pair of really sharp scissors are needed and if you can find someone to help its better.

How to tape? - This is only how I like to tape my hands and its a way that was shown to me quite a few years ago by a mate from Alice and I have found it to be great and never give me any grief except for 2013 when I was to stupid to do it this way! My mate Duncan used this technique and it served him well for the week of pre running and racing and he has hands like an Avon lady!

Its almost to basic to seem legit but it works!

1 - Start by cutting 3 strips about at a length that will cover the length of the palm of your hand.

2 - Then lay each strip up the length of your hand and kind of massage the tape into your hand to make it follow the shape of you hand. 

3 - Then place the next 2 strips on the remaining uncovered part of your hand

4 - Trim up the excess tape and your done!

Like I have said before there are many ways to tape a hand and you can see most of them on google but I would suggest asking mates who have tried things and have experience and most of all start trying to work out now what is comfortable for yourself as its a very personal thing.



Now this is a real topic for the forum fans! what grip to use???? In the past I have heard all kinds of theories good and bad about which grip is best and why!
The first is you need the foam grips like the Safari/Dakar bikes run - Well this is only a 3 or so hour race each way not a 11 000km race across the Sahara so think of what you might use for long trail rides. 
Reason I don't like foam grips is because they are generally a much larger diameter to hang on to so you spend most of the race trying to reposition your hands on the handlebars. This will make your hands really sore like they are cramping. Yes they are comfy on the smooth sections of track but when you have bumps your hands strength will be less because your hand is kind of already part opened so you might find you hands get blown off the bars. I have a large hand which I use an XL glove but still have this same issue on bumps with foam grips.

Second thing you might hear is you must have the softest grips you can buy - These are great for most guys and will feel good to ride with, the only issue I have seen is they can tear easy in a crash and you might need a few spare sets by the time you do some pre running and wear them out or tear them in a fall.

Next is you need grip donuts - Personally I have never run these but I have never had a blister on the sides of my thumbs. The guys that do get blisters rave about them so I would grab a set and try them out, it might be a few bucks well spent!

How I choose the best grips for me? - I always no matter which event I race choose a set of grips depending on the diameter as I have found the medium to small diameter grips allow for me to get my whole hand wrapped around the bar and hang on without having to use extra strength or energy. The down side is they can be this and sometimes end up with light bruising on my hands. It's a matter of deciding the pro's and con's of what you are after - comfort vs performance! In recent years I have been running a Pro Taper brand grip as its not to thin and still has a small diameter and they are quite wide for my big mit. ( I think this is why I don't get blisters on my thumbs because I the grip is wide enough to have my hand away from the in edge)


The Pro Taper grips on the left are my personal choice and the foamies on the right you see how much larger they are where you have to hang on!


*TIP* When installing new grips make sure your bars are really clean and use glue and wire. If you think buying a little tube of glue for $15 is a bit rich just grab a small pot of plumbers glue from the hardware! I had a chemist friend tell us years ago its the same or very similar stuff! I have used it for years with no issues and to top it off I bought the glue pot about 5 years ago!


Get running and shopping as time is ticking away!! Good luck!

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