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  The video on the BCBR website was outdated and was still talking about 26ers (no offense people, but there were probably 10 26ers out of 600 bikes at the 2016 race).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)

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