The Enchilada Buffet is the most grueling ride in all of Austin.  It encompasses 5 of the most popular local trails and all of the connecting roads between them. I specifically waited until after I finished the ride to share this list.  I have mainly accumulated this knowledge from other riders, but wanted to make sure that it was really applicable first.  This is targeted at first timers who are not sure what to expect. With the right mindset and some effort, you can finish the ride, but it’s pretty difficult to just show up and finish.

This blog has tips for how to prepare for and survive your first buffet.

 

Your Bike

 

Seat – You’re going to be on it for hours, make sure it is comfortable.  I tried a different seat during my training rides and ended up with a rash that took a week off the saddle to recover from.

Lights – Depending on how fast you ride, you may only need them in the morning.  If this is your first time, err on the side of too much light.  The weight penalty is not that great and an accident early could take you out.

Fork – Make sure the lockout on your fork works. There is a lot of climbing on streets and a lot of road miles. The lockout maximizes your efficiency.  As you enter each trail, STOP.  Unlock your fork and continue.  I did the first half of City Park with my fork locked out on a practice ride.  Doh!

GPS – If you think that getting a GPS to follow the route is going to help you, I would say don’t bother.  The places where you really need the route (like Thumper and the Greenbelt) are not going to be easy to follow on a GPS.  Get one for entertainment. You are going to be staring at the road or trail for 10+ hours.  Knowing how far you have gone, what you are averaging and how much you have left are great motivators.  Most of the time you are riding alone or trying to maintain a pace that does not allow for conversation.

Tires – If you are riding tubeless make sure you have fresh Stans.  Make sure your tires a new, but not too new.  I had 2 or so rides on mine, so the beads were well seated and I never lost any air.  I switched from a 2.4” to a 2.25” for the ride and that was a big help for speed. I did not notice the difference in grip.

Grips – Your hands will get numb, pay attention to these during your training rides.  I used Ergon grips which have a wide contact point.

Air pressure – You should consider riding a little higher pressure than you are used to.  This helps on the streets a lot and the penalty at the trail portions is not all that great.

Tail lights – Make sure that you have tail lights for the full ride (not just in the dark.) It helps people see you on the roads, especially Parmer at the end.  If you don’t think yours will last, get a second one, they’re light.

Fitting – If you have not had a fitting it’s a good idea to get one at least a month before the ride.  I found after mine that I had ~10% more efficiency. BSS has a good program, shops that cater to roadies might be more adept at this.  You’re going to be on your bike longer than normal so you should be comfortable.

 

Clothing

Pack – your pack is going to be loaded down, so when you do your training, be sure to ride with an extra full one.  I was taking a couple extra bottles of water just to be prepared.  Make sure you know where everything is and make the most important stuff accessible.  Several people I passed with mechanicals had all of their contents out looking for something.

Gloves – Bring a second set.  Wiping sweat off your brow makes them wet over time.  Fresh gloves are an energy booster.

Socks – Same with socks, fresh ones will boost your energy.  If the creek crossings at the greenbelt get you wet, you want dry socks to change into.  Put them in a ziplock bag so that when you take your wet ones off you have somewhere to put them.

Jersey – Someone said to wear a light colored jersey because of the sun.  Mine was black, your mileage may vary.

Shoes – Make sure that they are comfortable.  Do NOT buy new shoes too soon before the ride.  Allow yourself time to break them in comfortably.

Shorts – make sure that your shorts are very comfortable.  Consider ditching the baggies for spandex.  Baggies tend to hold more sweat and can be less comfortable for long distances.  Make sure that you use a liberal dose of chamois cream at the start and take a few mini packs along with you.  Once you start to chafe, its going to be a miserable ride, so stay ahead of that.  I actually rolled up a pair of shorts as a backup, if my chamois was giving me problems, a fresh, dry pair would solve that.  With some effort you can roll them up pretty small.  I ended up not using them but it was good to know I had them.

 

Training

Build up to it – You need to be able to finish 80 miles, but not on your first training ride.  I was riding 15-20 miles on an average ride, maybe 80-100 miles per week before I started training.  When I started training I did 35, then 45, then 55 mile rides to build up to  it.  I was mixing in trail and road. My training rides became Shoal Creek to the greenbelt, up to City Park, over to Thumper and then back home.  Putting all the worst stuff in the practice was a good idea.

Pre-ride everything that you can – If you live in Austin and have a chance, get in on the pre-rides to learn the routes.  Nothing sucks up energy like having to backtrack to find where you should have turned.  Especially in Thumper where a miscalculation is consuming all of your energy as well as your time. Download the GPX track and study it.  Try to find someone to train with to learn the route.

Thumper – Thumper sucks, so ride it a few times before you set out for the real thing.  I hate that trail, it breaks the spirit of most riders, so having a few good completions under your belt will be helpful.  In addition, make your mistakes on the training ride, not on the real ride.

The Bible – about a week before the ride, the organizers will send out “the bible”; read it.  This has everything you will need to know.  Not knowing what to do, where to go or how to conduct yourself will not make you a favorite of those around you.

 

The Ride

Find your pace – There will be people slower than you.  There will be people faster than you. And there will be you.  Assume that you will ride alone, don’t try to match someone else’s pace.  For a good portion of the ride, there will always be riders in sight.  If you go too fast you burn too much energy too quickly. If you go too slow you waste valuable time that is harder to make up at the end.

Constant cadence – Don’t push for bursts, try to find a cadence and keep spinning.  Mountain bikers are used to pedaling and coasting.  Instead try to keep spinning as constantly as you can.

Don’t burn out too quick –It will be a long day, don’t try to win it in the first 15 miles.  It is important to keep up with the pack until you get to the greenbelt, but you don’t have to lead the pack, this is not the time for jockeying for positon.

The first 15 miles matter – That being said, the first 15 miles matter.  That was roughly 20% of the ride. Being ahead of where you expected means that you don’t have to work harder at the end to finish.  Thumper will suck up your energy and kill your average speed, so bank some advantage while you can.

Roadie signals – there were plenty of roadies in our pack and they were using hand signals to communicate stopping, parked cars, etc.  Learn them.

Eating – Always make sure that you are adding calories back into the tank. I brought tortillas with banana, nutella and peanut butter, each individually packed.  Easy to eat and a good mix of what you need. I only ate 4, there were things at the rest stops to eat.  If you have something easy to eat with 1 hand you can eat it while you push your bike up a hill. Don’t rely solely on the rest stops, you need to refuel BEFORE you feel it coming on, so have food with you.

Walking – there is no shame in walking up one of the 4 steep hills.  But make sure that you ride as much as you can before you hop off.  Too many people started walking too early, actually braking to get off and climb.  Use your momentum to its fullest and only give up when you really need to.  Don’t burn all of your energy on the hills, be smart and find a balance, everyone is different.

Contact – Make sure that your phone is fully charged. Set up a mechanism for someone to find you if something goes haywire.  Try not to use your phone for strava or other GPS apps – nothing worse than getting stuck somewhere only to find your phone out of juice.

Find a leader – In technical sections if you are not as familiar, try to ride behind someone.  Even if they are not the best at that section, it is better than nothing.  If they can make it, you probably can (because the really good people that can clear anything will be long gone before you hit the greenbelt…)

Know the milestones – It is important to be able to say “I am at X and it is Y:YY so far, I am ahead or behind where I should be.”  You need to be able to gauge where you believe you will be and keep that foremost in your head.  You don’t want to be finishing the greenbelt 4 hours into the ride and still believe that you can finish in daylight.  Remember this is an all you can eat, some people have bigger stomachs than others.  Peer pressure never ends well.

Always Refill Your Water – This goes without saying.  Never get stuck anywhere without water.  I did refills at both stops even though I was downing Gatorade at the stops as well.  Better to have too much.

Rest Stops – the two main stops are City Park and Thumper, take advantage of these. The food is geared towards the things that can help you on a ride.  Don’t eat what you think you should eat, instead eat what you want.  I find that your body will tell you what it wants. Your cravings are a direct indication of what your body needs.

Thanks - Don’t forget to thank the organizers and the Trail Angels for all of their work. This is put on by volunteers and they all work extra hard to make it easier for you.

 

Overall, this is not a race (except for a few). This is a ride, it’s an opportunity to really push yourself.  Have fun.