What is the best bike for IC? In our opinion (and no matter how much we may berate you for what you ride it is only our opinion, of course in our opinion our opinion is the only opinion that matters) the best bike is a cross bike. We say cross not just because we because the event was designed around a cross bike and every inch of it - except parts of the Wigwam "Run-Up" are rideable on a cross bike. We did it, so can you. Iron Cross is and always has been about more than the time you post, but about the experience of doing something a little odd and different on a bike maybe not perfectly suited for it. That said, 29ers didn't exist when we launched this thing and properly set up they make a strong statement as the "best choice." A slightly narrower tire on a 29er with a rigid or lock out fork will roll really well at IC. Of course the introduction of discs to cross (finally! only took 'em 11 years of IC for the industry to catch on, in our opinion...) has blurred the lines further as discs combat one of the few shortcomings of a cross bike at IC, how to control the damn bike on descents like Lippencote, Thompson Hollow and Huckleberry.
With the updates to the course this year and the loss of a bit of singletrack we're even more sure that we're right with our original recommendation of a 'cross being the best choice for Iron Cross - and a Foundry Cycles Auger or Harrow at that - but maybe you'll prove us wrong. And no matter what you ride you're in for a good time.
What tires should I run? How about pressure? You know what opinions are like right? Sorry, did I just answer a question with a question? I did it again! Me, I'd run small knobs that roll fast on a tire with a big-ish casing. You don't need a 40mm but you probably do want something bigger than 33. We've seen people be successful on file tread and with less singletrack that style tire could be a better choice than ever. I'm still going small knobs as I feel like there is more control bombing the descents with those. The best tire related advice we can give is, "Run NoTubes." They don't have an Iron Cross wheel by coincidence. Tubeless is ideal for IC. When we first set this thing up we were pinching tires and slicing open tubulars all over the place. NoTubes takes care of an awful lot of those issues. And you run higher than "short race" pressure with most at 45+ psi depending on weight. Does it mean you have no chance of flatting? No there's stuff out there that'll git cha. But NoTubing up is definitely something we wholeheartedly recommend.
What parts and tools should I carry with me? Multi-tool. Chain link. 2 tubes. Mini-pump. Knowledge how to use all of it. At least. Bottle opener in case you run into any trail fairies may be appropriate (and again, you get to pit back at your car this year).
FOOD AND FUEL
Checkpoints/How should I plan to fuel and hydrate? While Larry's Tavern is always a great answer to both of these queries there is probably a better one for you in terms of your overall success on the day. Lets talk Checkpoints (CPs). CPs 1 & 3 will be stocked primarily with fluids for you - water and Hammer Nutrition's HEED. There will be lots of fluid available at these checkpoints should you need a refill. Do not expect bottle handups at any CPs, instead plan to stop and have a nice volunteer help you refill. There will be some light emergency fuel like Hammer Gels at both CP 1 and 3 and we will have Coke and a few other items at CP3. Again, with the mid-race checkpoint this is an ideal opportunity to bring and use what you like and need to have your best day on the bike. Plan to use this to your advantage and support yourself! Drink often. Eat before you need it. Don't get in a
Checkpoint 2/Self Support - We will have an area designated for you to place whatever you like (small cooler/bag or smaller) for your pit area at CP2. We suggest that you affix your number to your bag. We will have some volunteers available to help you at CP2, particularly with refills, but you should be prepared to pit for yourself at this point of the course. As this is the center of the loop and easy to access from your car you should plan to bring whatever you need to make it through the rest of the loop - drink mix, nutritional supplements, food, etc. This allows you to use what you need for the race! At the risk of beating a dying horse, CPs 1 and 3 should be considered stops primarily for fluids only.
Water at the start/finish/CP2 - Water supplies are limited at the S/F/CP2 and you need to plan to bring several gallons for yourself to ensure you have what you need for the day before, during and after the event. Bring water with you.
Bottles or Hydration Pack? With the new course this year and a reduction in singletrack overall you bottles are a better choice than ever. Hydration packs are always popular though and with the mid-race self-support pit at CP2 you may find it easy to drop a pack from the first half the race on your pass through CP2
On-course personal support - We do not allow you to have "private" support on course as it contributes to far too much traffic on roads already taxed by the race and other users. Plus it a little unfair. If you have someone who wants to support you at the event they may go to a CP and help at that CP and while there may support you. Instances of private support will result in a time penalty for the first offense and a DQ for the second.
How about after the race? Our bud and 7x ICer Warren Holtzman is cooking up a few hundred pounds of pork for you we'll have bubbling in a cauldron at the finish line when you arrive this year. Macaroni salad, chips, coleslaw and a couple cookies will fill out the meal. Iced tea and lemonade will be available to drink. There might be a bit of beer around too. We will have a veggy burger option for vegetarians we're cooking up too. A post race meal is included in the entry for every racer and you must bring your ticket from reg with you in order to get your grub on. Supporters and family can pick up a meal ticket on BikeReg or at Reg on Sunday.
Where can I spectate? We really can not have you out on course as it clogs what are already narrow roads littered with cyclists in various states of blowing up. BUT, we can recommend a few spots for spectating. Please do not ask us on race morning how to get to these locations, instead look over the map and follow the directions below as they are all easy to reach and none should take more than 20 minutes to reach from the start/finish.
In order riders encounter them around the course:
1. Caledonia State Park. At the south end of the course the riders will pass by Caledonia on Rt 233. This will only be a quick look, but some nice vantage spots exist. Park at the park and walk over to 233. Caledonia can be reached by turn right from the Big Flat Lot on Shippensburg Rd then making the next right onto Rt 233 at the four way intersection in the valley. Stay on 233 and look for Caledonia on the right.
2. The Start/Finish! As the S/F also serves as CP#2 every rider will be back through at some point. To get there is pretty easy.... Either stay there after the start or back track from Caledonia if you made the trip.
3. Pine Grove Furnace State Park Fuller Lake Parking Lot - the course comes down the Hiker Biker path into the State Park and just as it reaches Fuller Lake makes a right up a short steep trail before heading out for more Michaux. Park at the Fuller Lot and it is a short walk to the course at the Fuller Lake beach. While you're there enjoy the sweet park and pick up some ice cream at the convenience store! From the start/finish at Big Flat make a right onto Shippensburg Rd. When you hit the stop sign with 233 turn Left and stay on 233 and you'll soon see Pine Grove SP on your right. Pass the park office and look for Fuller Lake parking on your right.
And while we know we don't need to remind you, a reminder - no personal feeding on course. If you want to support your rider please volunteer to help staff a checkpoint and we'll welcome you to the family with open arms!