Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hotter'n Hell Hundred: For Those Who Are About to Ride

The HHH takes place this weekend in Wichita Falls, TX. Wichita Falls is located approximately in the middle of nowhere. The terrain is slightly rolling and not too pretty, the hotels smell funky from flooding and cricket infestations, and the local hospitality community shakes down riders with year-in-advance prepay policies, high rates and mediocre facilities. And people swarm the place every year by the thousands for this ride. Hotel reservations are sold and traded, people camp in scorched parking lots and sleep in church gymnasiums. I've done it twice, which is just enough. Our first year was the hottest HHH ever, with temperatures reaching 109 officially by midmorning, Hell's Gate being slammed shut at 11:00AM instead of 12:30PM as advertised, Garmins reading 119-120 degrees  out on the pavement, medical tents full, SAG wagons overflowing, every shady spot (there aren't many!) packed and many riders simply laid out on the side of the road, ice supplies depleted at the rest stops for 40-50 miles in the middle of the course.......  In short, it was everything this ride is cracked up to be. It was a long, miserable slog as we nursed in a cramping buddy over the last 30 miles, but we made it. Our next trip was very different, with highs in the mid-80's and the logistics in good order. It was so much easier that it was almost anticlimactic.
Many of you have done this ride ride multiple times, but here are some nuggets that you might find useful, particularly if this is your first HHH:

Look at the course map and the weather. Typically, wind will be from the southwest and is light in the morning, building through the day. That means it is not a factor early, can be your friend through the middle of the course, and then kick your ass for the last 20-30 miles.


Start as far forward as you can and go out fast. If you're a 7 hour rider, don't go to the front, but if you're going to ride a 5 hour hundred, get where you belong. It takes 12-13,000 people awhile to roll out. Don't red line, but don't dawdle. You want as many people behind you as possible.

Do not ride off of the pavement!!!   I can't overemphasize this. After every rest stop, you will see riders lining the side of the road with their flat kits out, sweating, cussing and losing time. The only riders more pissed off are their buddies who have to wait on them.
The culprit: goat heads.
 Disregard this advice and you can easily end up like my friend Patrick a few years ago. Out of tubes, out of buddies, out of luck, walking across the finish in his socks, or, worse yet, in the SAG wagon. Even if you think most of my suggestions are bullshit, you will thank me for this advice!

These bad boys are everywhere on the HHH course. Any time you get off a paved surface, even for a few feet, pick up your bike and carry it!! Don't even ride or roll your bike in gravel driveways.

Skip the early rest stops and stop only long enough to refuel. You should have food and fluid for at least 30-40 miles. 50 is even better. The early rest stops are congested and will waste your time while leaving you behind all the faster, more savvy riders.

Every rider behind you can represent an opportunity for you to get into a pack or grab a wheel further down the line. If everybody as fast or faster than you is out front, you won't see them again.

If you have your own squadron, this may not be a big deal, but it's always good to have more riders to share the load out there at about mile 80. I rode solo on my second HHH and had a blast moving around in various groups.

Don't experiment with food, drink or pickle juice. I tried pickle juice before the ride and found that it really upset my stomach (it did not sit well on a hot fudge sundae, at least). Many folks swear by it, but don't try it for the first time out on the course. They use PowerAde sports drink at the rest stops, which I cannot handle, so if you're not sure how that works for you, take whatever you usually drink. I carried a couple of premeasured loads of Gatorade powder. I also pass on such food items as the chilidogs offered at some rest areas.

Do stop at the beer barn! This is just a matter of good form. At about mile 98 as you make a right hand turn, you will be offered free beer, often by bikini-clad girls. This is a good stop. Take a little cash for a donation if you want to partake of the hot wings or plan to have more than a beer or two. Keep in mind that the course is actually 102.something miles, so you still have to ride 5 miles to the finish.

Do not go to dinner and ask for a table for 16. You've spent enough time with those people, anyway, and you will never get served!

The Expo is worth visiting and some bargains can be found,  but it can also be like a flea market for out-of-style merchandise, gizmos and gimmicks. I'm not much of a shopper, but always stock up on threaded CO2 cartridges that can be bought in bulk.

Hotter'n Hell is something everybody should do at least once. The phenomenon of riding out with 12,000 people is hard to describe. The weather forecast for the weekend is mild, so this ride will only be epic if you make it that way. If you want to have tall tales of misery and woe, simply ignore everything you've just read!
Have fun and good luck!


Phil W said...

great post! I'll be there this weekend for the 2nd time. Definitely skip the early rest stops....chaos.

Mike said...

I am really kicking myself now for not planning the trip out there. The electricity of 14000(last year) riders all lined up downtown is almost worth the trip by itself. I can't agree more--start even closer to the front than you think you should and don't stop til at least the 40 mile rest stop. We made it last year with only one stop. Two other things. The ride is not 100 miles--it is 101.7. There is one hill--at mile 86--right where I always wonder why in the heck anyone would want to do this ride

Anonymous said...


thanks for the advice, i will pick you up a bunch of threaded co2 bottles, and will stay on the road!! see you next week and will be ready for MS 150!
Chuck Richesin