Tricks and Tips for Yak Ru

In our previous articles, we mentioned the basics for getting you through each stage of the Yak Ru. From a physical and skills point of view, that alone may be enough to complete the event. However, being a smart racer goes a long way. The old adage 'fortune favours the well-prepared' is very true here especially if you are an international competitor.

The Nepali participants have largely figured out what works best for them already; what the international competitor needs to do is learn from them and apply them into their gear selection and preparation.


Cyclist struggling Yak Ru

We are concerned with 3 main points:

- Enhancing convenience
- Gaining efficiency

- Preventing/mitigating equipment-related problems

Here are top seven tips and tricks that will help make a difference to your Yak Ru race.

#1. Go light, every gram counts in a race where most of the racing stages are uphill - carry the smallest possible hydration pack, or do not carry one at all if you are in contention for a podium place. This is especially true once the water/aid stations are known along the route. You can carry race nutrition, tools, and spares in jersey pockets. Some keen racers will even tape energy gel packets, spare tubes, or pumps to their frames to further reduce the weight in their pockets.

#2. The one caveat to tip #1 above is to always be self-sufficient. Repair items must be in working order and regularly replaced or checked for wear & tear. Most importantly, you must know how to effect repairs! Survival gear, emergency food/electrolytes, and sufficient cold-weather clothing (to be covered in a later article) will not all fit into your jersey pockets so it might be better to haul that hydration pack if you know the stage will see you out on the trail for a long time.

#3. Another caveat to #1: avoid using any kind of saddle bag in an effort to minimise on-body weight - they are the worst invention for endurance mountain biking! The issue is that they will have their straps damaged or ripped off after hours of tortuous rattling and bumping. You are better off with a bike-bottle-sized storage canister in an extra bottle cage, securely bolted of cable-tied to the back of your seat post. 


Struggle at Yak Kharka

#4. Choose proper mountain biking shoes for off-the-bike situations - the ones that work the best are not the latest lightweight, full carbon-soled, cross-country kicks. Look for a comfortable pair a few tiers down from the top-range model: something with rubber threads on the outsole, perhaps a bit beefier, and having some flex to make walking and running easier. The shoes have to be do-it-all footwear and might be called upon to trudge through snow, over wet rocks, or along muddy slopes. You might even consider taking a pair of trail running shoes (with reliable grip in the snow) specifically for the purpose of hiking up; then swap back to your bike shoes at the top, and enjoy the ride down.

#5. Always pack money - a couple of hundred Nepalese rupees tucked away is very handy for buying water and snacks during the race, especially on the first two stages where guest houses are numerous. This solves the problem of having to rely on the aid stations and ration your water/food consumption (see tip #1); it also allows you the choice to quickly purchase drinks and food immediately upon finishing a stage when the rest of your baggage has yet to arrive at the end point.

#6. Consider taking a different backpack specifically for the job of hauling your bike up to Thorong La Pass - indeed, this infamously gruelling high-altitude traverse becomes much easier if the entire bike frame and wheels can be strapped to your back and allow you to hike hands-free. Look for a pack with numerous sturdy straps, robust construction, and a stable harness system. You may need to experiment before your trip to Nepal and improvise with additional rope, straps, or bungee cord to ensure you retain good mobility and balance when fully-loaded on steep terrain; and that the frame and wheels do not shift and damage each other.


Cyclist packing bike for transporting

#7. Go in with a zen attitude - this may seem counter-intuitive to competitive type-A racers out there, but it is so important to revel in the beauty of the environment you are traveling through, as well as the kinship and camaraderie of fellow racers and race officials. Being flustered and anxious is a sure way to make mistakes and invite failure; being calm and keeping an open mind does the opposite by drawing upon the energy of others and the majestic environment you are racing through. Racing hard is a given, but it is the willingness to take part in the little things (having a smile, sharing food at mealtimes, posing for pictures, helping other competitors, and being willing to accept help and advice from others, especially locals) that make the Yak Ru more bearable, and memorable.

You can of course contact me if you have any gear and logistics-related questions that have up till now not been answered. It will be great to start a chat, bouncing ideas back and forth, and perhaps refining our race approach - a good way for you and me to learn and become better prepared!

Wilson Low completed the inaugural Yak Ru Annapurna Challenge in 2014. A self-professed outdoor endurance junkie, his past competition experiences have included the Cape Epic; qualification and completion of the Ironman, 70.3, XTERRA, and Multisport World Championships; and several expedition-length and multi-stage adventure races. Wilson is based in sea-level Singapore, and works as a professional mountain bike skills instructor with MTBSkills Singapore as well as a triathlon coach with Athlete Lab.


  • Nepalese Army supports Yak Ru race
  • Pipe Dream Cycles supports Yak Ru race
  • Sony supports Yak Ru race
  • Blue Ocean Systems supports Yak Ru race
  • DirTraction supports Yak Ru race
  • NCA supports Yak Ru race
  • Tripcaptcha supports Yak Ru race
  • Grande International Hospital - Yak Ru Medical Partner
  • Big Mart
  • Bikersnepal
  • The North face
  • Setopati