NSC caught up with Sam from the Sardine Racing GODZONE 2022 team to hear how a challenge this tough goes down.

NSC: Can you give us a bit of a race overview?

Sam: “Well it was about 6.5 days all up, they say the total race distance is supposedly 700km but that probably undercooks it – not every team goes the same way.  There was supposed to be about 170kms of biking, but it was probably more like 190km…

We were moving constantly in that time, probably only managing 3hrs of sleep a night across the whole race.

You must be in the mindset that the course isn’t going to be what you expect, you just tackle what’s in front of you. It seems pretty intimidating at the start, but you chip it away at it.

The trick is to not stop moving — efficiency is what gets you to the end, not speed.”


NSC: How did you feel along the way, as you were going, at the crux of it, by the end?

Sam: “The hardest bit – real type 2 fun — was on the Taieri river – 2am in the morning, foggy, no moon, wayfinding from a pack raft in a low flow river – It felt like we were never going to get out of it, it was impossible to keep track of every bend or where we were.

Thinking about the cycling, there was much more in the second half. The bike stages were crucial – because you cover so much ground, if you slow up too much over 300km of biking, you can really pull yourself behind. They were probably also the biggest unknowns before we started.

We overcame this by working as a team instead of working as individuals — we literally took turns towing one another with a modified dog lead. It meant we were sharing physical resources, as well as moving, working and communicating closer as a team… ”


NSC What did you find on the bike sections?

Sam: “A huge variety — Farm tracks, 4wd tracks, dirt and gravel roads, but also significant muddy, rutted sections, especially off the tops, steep decents off the ranges. These were very technical, but very fun.

Trails are where you can keep moving and keep some pace, however the bike brings risk - you are open to mechanical breakdowns or crashes. ”


NSC: What are some of your principles of gear selection?

Sam: “Multi-use, reliable, simple, light but tough. 

You want to forget about the equipment, you don’t want it to be remarkable for either working or not working – you just want it to do its job quietly. It certainly doesn’t need to be stellar…

The same principles apply to the bikes. ”


NSC: What bike setups did you run, and why these?

Sam: “We had fairly generic setups, all XC 29ers with 120mm full suspension. We did have one hardtail in the group – for simplicity and weight. Most of these were 12 by one groupsets – for simplicity again, less to break. ”


What about trye setups or other components?

Sam: “We ran fast rolling tyres because you spend a lot of time at a reasonable pace. There’s always a play off between grip and rolling efficiency. Decent well serviced brakes, you need to know they are going to work..

All running tubeless - a little bit lighter, rolls nice, far more resistant to punctures, you don’t notice them. Especially in Otago, riding through Spaniards – a nightmare in tussocky country, they will put a hole right through your tyres straight away.

Those DT Swiss 350 hubs, you know you can pull them apart in the middle of nowhere, fix that hub in 5 mins anywhere, compared to another hub where you wont know what you are opening up… ”


NSC: How did you load your bike for most efficient travel?

Sam: “On the long rides you want to take the weight off your body, for the sake of the arse. We put the weight into a handlebar roll. A top tube bags for food, frame bag for repair kits and other essentials.

Next time probably investigate more options for putting weight on the bike…”


NSC: What about staying fuelled?

Sam: “When tramping, lots of dehydrated meals – 4 a day, plus snacks. Eat while walking.

On the bike it’s much harder to fuel and move together– so cheese and salami quesadillas were the go… We took as much proper food as we could, supplementing this with energy drinks. Stayed away from the gels. A trick we do – always open the muesli bars before you set off, you cant open them on the bike…”


NSC: Any advice for taking on long distance travel on MTB?


  • Get the weight off your back and onto your bike frame.
  • Just keep moving, you will get you there sooner than going too fast at any one point.
  • Build up the skills and practice to be comfortable on faster rolling tyres
  • Focus on finding efficiencies wherever you can