Hopefully I'll be doing it again this coming year.
My advice is;
If you are fit; make sure you get on the start line early as you will get held up by the slower riders as soon as you hit the first climb.
The first few miles are neutralised behind a police car (how cool is that!) but watch out for overlapping wheels as I saw a beaut of a crash last year (and its ensuing near fight!).
Expect extreme weather as the last edition was baking (and I mean baking) hot but the previous was run in hailstones.
Don't underestimate the event; if you are doing the 100k it's very tough with climb after climb, and much of it around ploughed fields or on grass.
If it's dry then it's very bumpy but if it's wet the ground can be very energy sapping.
I've done it on a mountain bike before but used my cyclocross bike last time. I'd say that if it's dry then an mtb is better to absorb the shocks but that a crosser is better in the wet.
Finding your way can be a little tricky too. I just followed everyone else last time and didn't go wrong once. My mate meticulously followed his map and went wrong twice - tortoise and the hare - we finished together.
- Always use a cyclocross bike or a tourer with knobblies and no guards because that's the way to do it properly. (If you do use a mtb, try to get all the Christmas wrapping paper off it before the start, unlike most of the entrants).
- Always do the 100km as it will motivate you to get some miles done in late winter which will then have a benefit all summer long.
- Enter the other 'Hell of the North' (Paris Roubaix cyclo) in June as doing the double has some kudos.
- Take a map as it's a very contorted route and if you had to 'jack' it would be tricky to work out which way is 'home'.
Have a good time, but leave a little 'something' in your arms for the final (ish?) descent down a double wheel track farm road. In my euphoria at being nearly home I came very close to 'loosing it'. Big time!
Looking across at Mrs TB sitting there serenely and untroubled, on her Santa Cruz Superlight brought the differences in downhill ability between a 'cross and full sus bike into stark relief!