Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trail conditions and bike choice for the BC Bike Race

I ride in the New Hampshire seacoast area.  There are a lot of roots and rocks.  I ride at night and I ride in wet conditions.  So when I heard people making a big deal out of the BC roots I wondered how bad they really were.  Turns out the technical trails in BC are very similar to New Hampshire.  There is a good mix of knarly root/rock mixtures and some pretty new trail sections on many days which made the conditions soft (especially with the rain that we had in 2016).  There are a lot of people riding this race from out West or overseas that do not know how to ride technical singletrack.  They got in our way a lot and we found ourselves waiting at the top of climb to let a group of riders get moving on the downhill before we started into it.  Sometimes this worked and we were able to bomb some of the techy stuff and other times we caught up with the slower group too quickly and couldn't ride it at the optimal speed.  Most technical riding is easier at speed but of course that is counter intuitive to riders who are only every on smooth stuff and hero dirt.

In the 2016 race there really only was 1 smooth day, and that was day 2 in Powell River.  That was an amazing day of buff singletrack with plenty of wet roots but overall very flowy.  All of the other days had a significant amount of technical singletrack with roots and rocks - the fun stuff!

The right bike:
I had a hard time finding information about what the perfect bike is for the BC Bike Race.  The video on the BCBR website was outdated and was still talking about 26ers (no offense people, but there were probably 10 26ers out of 600 bikes at the 2016 race).  For someone like me that was riding in the middle of the pack and not trying to podium, here are my thoughts on the "perfect" bike from the perspective of a New England technical rider:

  • 29 or 27.5 - whatever it really doesn't matter
  • Dropper post is mandatory unless you want to walk the steep downhill sections, which there are plenty of!
  • Trail bike suspension range: 120mm - 150mm
  • Comfortable grips - long days on the bike
  • Strong brakes with new brake pads.  You'll earn the downhills but there are plenty of them
  • Tires: somewhat dependent on the weather forecast but I would favor wider and knobbier tires.  You don't want XC race tires.  And you want strong sidewalls.
I rode a Stumpjumper 29er with a 150mm Pike fork and 135mm of rear travel with a 125mm KS Lev dropper post.

Day 6 at Squamish (short video here)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

BC Bike Race 2016 retrospective

We had a good amount of rain and drizzle during the 9 days of the race (day -1 through day 7).  The good news is that it ended up being amazing weather for riding long distances and climbing a lot.  Cool and in the 60s.  However the rain forced me to get really good with keeping things dry and trying to dry wet stuff when there wasn't a lot of sun.  Some lessons learned:

  • My riding shoes were constantly wet.  Each night I pulled out the inserts and kept them in the tent near my side so that some body heat would tranfer from the sleeping bag and dry them out.  This worked pretty well.  Whenever I could scrounge up some newspaper, I shoved that in my riding shoes to try to soak up the water.  This technique worked but on most days I didn't have enough paper, and it would have been good to be able to swap out the paper once or twice before the next day's ride.
  • My tent mate and I relied on the tent vestibule to store wet things: shoes, cambelbak primarily.  In the second half of the week I also started keeping dirty clothes out in the vestibule.  We learned that nothing drys in the vestibule and it would have been better to keep those things inside the tent to get some of the heat that builds up.
  • I should have brought some type of athletic pants to use on rainy days - something that repelled water a bit.  My only pair of pants were cotton and they stayed damped the whole trip.
  • I used the new Crocs that have cloth on top and have good rubber support on the bottom. They worked out really well.  I also had tennis shoes and they became a nuisance because I never used them and they took up significant space in my BCBR red bag.
  • Gold Bond powder helped a few times to dry out the crotch (I had a travel size with me that I got at Target)
  • Should have brought more riding gloves, maybe even 7 pairs (I brought 3 pairs).  They were hard to dry out because of the weather we had so I was always starting with wet gloves.  They don't take up much space and can be crammed anywhere in the bag.
  • I kept each riding outfit in a separate large freezer bag.  I used a smaller gallon size freezer bag to store 8 pairs of underwear, socks, and a t-shirt.  This definitely helped keep the vital stuff completely dry, and it made it easy to organize things inside the tent.  I could just pull out the next riding outfit so that it was ready to go in the morning.  Having the larger freezer bags also helped contained the smell of dirty wet riding clothes later in the week.
  • Charging phone, garmin, and other accessories:  the "Bears Den" isn't as great as it sounds.  The hours are limited and the power is flaky at some locations.  You may get a charge up to 100% or you may get your phone back still not fully charged.  I bought an EasyAcc Monster 20000mAh Power Bank on Amazon.  This charged my smartphone 5-7 times back up to 100%.  It has 4 USB ports so I ended up charging my friend's phones too.  The catch is that it takes FOREVER to charge this unit back up once it runs dry.  You'll need to find an outlet at a school or community center along the way and give it multiple hours.  The Bear Den power won't do much to charge this unit back up.
The Biknd Jetpack bike bag worked really well.  At the airport in Boston at the beginning of the trip, TSA opened up each of our bike bags and even took the wheels out to inspect everything.  There were five of us, and we hadn't accounted for this extra time before being able to go through regular security and get over to the gate.  However the TSA guy was able to go through my Biknd bag very easily (there were 2 other people traveling with me that had the same bag).  I was worried about my wheels being damaged using this soft shell bag, but they were fine.  2 people traveling with me had much more work to do using hard shell cases, as they had to disassemble their bikes a lot more than I did.  I only had to take off the wheels and pedals, and detach the handle bar and derailleur.

One tip regarding packing the BCBR red bag that one of my friends came up with.  Instead of storing it in the main compartment of the red bag in it's stuff sack, I didn't use the stuff sack and instead stuffed the bag into one of the end compartments, AFTER having filled up the bag with all of my other gear.  The sleeping bag is much easier to stuff into an already full bag compared to clothes, sneakers, toiletries, etc.



Saturday, July 2, 2016

This is my equipment checklist for BC.  I didn't include a bluetooth radio because my tentmate is bringing one.  I am putting each day's riding outfit into a 2.5 gallon ziplock bag.  I'm putting each day's post race clothes in a 1 gallon ziplock bag.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

I did a practice pack up of my XL Stumpjumper 29er today in preparation for British Columbia.  The Jetpack by bikend fits my XL.  I had to take the pressure out of front fork, my other option would be to take off the seat, which is more of a pain in the ass.  Seems like a good case, my only worry is that is the bag ends up on its side and then something is smashed down on top of it.  That would likely damage a wheel.

Here is a link to the bike case:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Here is my old school rap playlist - on Spotify: Alex's Old School Rap

Alex's Old School Rap:
California Love (2Pac, Roger, Dr. Dre)
Award Tour (A Tribe Called Quest)
In Da Club (50 Cent)
Gin and Juice (Snoop Dogg)
The Humpty Dance (Digital Underground)
Breathe and Stop (Q-Tip)
Who Am I (What's My Name) (Snoop Dogg)
The Next Episode (Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg)
Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster (Geto Boys)
No Tears (Scarface)
Forgot About Dre (Dr. Dre, Eminem)
Bust A Move (Young MC)
Gettin' Jiggy Wit It (Will Smith)
The Power (SNAP!)
Vivrant Thing (Q-Tip)
What's the Difference (Dr. Dre)
99 Problems (JAY Z)
I Wish (Skee-Lo)
Insane in the Membrane (Cypress Hill)
Humpty Dance (Digital Underground)
Nobody Move (Eazy-E)

Here is my most recent modern funk playlist.  It is on Spotify at

Alex's Funkfest:
Do the Right Thing (Kung Fu)
Thanks! (Stanton Moore Trio)
DVS (Mike Dillon)
Loose (Kung Fu)
Crazyhorse Mongoose (Galactic)
Hat Trick (Soulive)
Lettsanity (Lettuce)
Blast Off (Lettuce)
Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho (Medeski, Martin & Wood)
Hollywood Kisses (Kung Fu)
Bowler (Lettuce)
Gung Ho (Kunk Fu)
Ideofunk (The John Scofield Band)
Mean Greens (Bill Martin, Will Blades)
Sugar Craft (Medeski, Martin & Wood)
Scrab (Kung Fu)
Ziggowatt (Lettuce)
Pick Pocket (Billy Martin, Will Blades)
Brother Bru (Billy Martin, Will Blades)

Chank (John Scofield)