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  1. #1
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    Which bike for BC Bike Race

    I will be participating in the BC Bike Race next year, and am really excited about it.

    Now I am seeking advice on bike choice. Perhaps someone familiar with the race or the terrain can help me.

    I am currently riding an all mountain bike (Enduro 26"), and I am looking for a more XC-oriented bike for local endurance/marathon races and winter training anyway. I am considering a Specialized Epic WC (95mm travel, race geometry) for this.

    Would you consider this bike to be a good choice for the BC Bike Race, as well? Or would you suggest a different bike, perhaps a trail bike?

    In general, what would be the bike you'd take? 29er or not? Travel? Head angle? Would you have any particular bike model recommendations?

    Thanks for your advice!

  2. #2
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    Popular bikes for BC racer entries are Rocky Mountain Element 29, Element 29 BC Edition and Instinct 999 MSL. Another good bet would be the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt (120mm travel/650B). These are all born and bred for the trails just like the ones in the BC Bike Race.

    In more general terms bigger wheels and 120-130mm travel are what works the best, so Trail bikes verging on Enduro. Also super light XC race stuff often doesn't survive the whole race. There's are several online galleries of frame and component carnage that happens during the race.
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  3. #3
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    Thanks! In terms of weight, travel and geometry, the Rocky Mountain Element would be really close to the Specialized Epic. I love Rocky Mountain, but I have an outstanding Specialized LBS nearby.

    I'd consider my Enduro 26" to be overdone (and less suitable) with its slack geometry and 165mm of rear travel and RS Pike up front. Weight-wise, it is perfect, but the geometry makes it a less efficient pedaler. Also I don't know if 26" would be a good choice for this event.

    The Epic would be about 23.6 lbs. A Scott Genius 710 (650B) option is about 29 lbs with sturdier tires. I am more concerned about the geometry (seat angle for efficient pedaling and head angle not too steep) and the weight than the travel.

    What bike would you take if you had to do the race?

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    I think my Instinct 999 MSL would be my choice as 130mm and 29" wheels would be a good combo. I also have an 26" Element MSL (120mm) which I love, but the bigger wheels would make it better at handling anything that gets thrown at it. The Ride9 suspension geometry adjustment also gives you some flexibility in how it rides and handles.
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  5. #5
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    Vanguard - don't take this the wrong way but as an honest question. Are you a competent bike handler? And I mean competent in terms of technical trails? I would ride an Epic or my Turner Czar or a RM Element in the BCBR (and have done so on the guest days) but if you're more used to smooth relatively non-technical trails then the BCBR trails might be a bit tough on you.

    See this article and the embedded video Opinion - Cater To Your Weaknesses by mikelevy - Pinkbike

    See my pictures of lawndart corner which is typical for BCBR terrain BC Bike Race Day 1 - Racer's Take On The Shore by leelau - Pinkbike
    Locals' Guide to North Shore Rides http://mtbtrails.ca/

  6. #6
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    Thanks, Lee, for taking the time to link pictures to clarify your point. Everything is relative, of course, and competency depends on circumstances. I consider myself a competent bike handler in that I ride mostly singletrack in steep terrain (terrain that requires a dropper post and a slacker geometry, as well as a more travel than XC bikes have).

    After looking at the links you included, I'd say I'd probably not want to be on race tires or without a dropper post in this area.

    Thanks, Rockyuphill for your advice. I'd consider a trail bike (for instance, 29er with 130mm) to be an ideal choice and being a weight weenie to be a bad idea for this event.

  7. #7
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    My Instinct 999 MSL is sitting at 25.5 pounds with pedals, The really light bikes do tend to have a high casualty rate. A 25-27 pound bike would not be a horrible penalty for surviving the whole thing
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  8. #8
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    I'd not consider 25.5 pounds a heavy ride.

    I'd prefer a slack head angle trail bike. Currently, I'm deciding between:

    Thunderbolt BC Edition
    Instinct BC Edition
    Knolly Endorphin
    Pivot Mach 6

    Any thoughts? Any drawbacks of the BC editions of Thunderbolt and Instinct compared to the standard editions?

  9. #9
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    The Instinct and Thunderbolt BC Editions were fine tuned for the BC Bike Race trails by Andreas Hestler as one of the RMB factory racers and development/test riders, so definitely no downside there, the extra BB height and longer travel/slacker head angle work well in this part of the world.
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  10. #10
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    Might also look at a Trance X0 29er. I've been riding it all up and down the coast and Van Isle with great success. Maybe swap in a 36 fork and a better dropper post.

  11. #11
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    also: are you racing or riding?

    if you are riding, then get something that adds fun, to the fun sections (buy a bike for your strengths) if you are racing, then buy for your weakness (and have less fun, but be faster)
    good ski/bike deals at www.mntlion.com

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  12. #12
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    Thanks.

    My main decision is now between 650B (e.g. Thunderbolt) and 29er (e.g. Instinct). I ride a 29er race bike (Epic) and a 26" Spec. Enduro.

    I appreciate the rollover of the Epic and it is a great climber, but I must admit that the light carbon wheels really play a part, plus the bikes overall weight of 23 lbs. I've had a 29er before that felt heavy compared to the Epic, and I would not enjoy riding it on a multi stage race. With its steep head angle, short chain stays (438mm) and resulting wheelbase, the Epic feels a lot more like a 650B. It is agile and super fast. However, the head angle makes it a less than ideal ride for the BC bike race.

    Enduro: This is my fun bike, obviously. I'm sure I would appreciate its head angle (66.5) on BC terrain, it's light (~26 lbs) and fast, but its overall geometry is less suited for a race, and it is a weaker climber compared to the Epic. I ride day-long tours on it with as much as 6000 ft. elevation gain, but not at race pace, of course.

    Instinct: I'm not sure how much agility I will lose with the slacker head angle. I think a 29er might be a strength overall, but I'm not sure it's the bike that will give me broad smiles.

    Thunderbolt: I think this bike will be more fun, but I'm not sure it will be the best tool for rough, root sections where rollover helps you.

    @mntlion: I'm riding. I'm a casual racer at home, but I'll join the BC bike race for having fun and finishing. Of course, I'm looking forward to not being the rear guard

  13. #13
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    I own an Instinct 999 MSL and I had a good test ride the alloy 750 Thunderbolt at Mont Sainte Anne in early August. Lots of roots and rocks on those XC trails. I think the 650B Thunderbolt might just be the Goldilocks size, it feels as nimble as a 26" wheel bike and seems to roll over obstacles nearly as easily as the 29" wheels (or near enough it don't make no never mind difference). I'm looking at replacing my Instinct with a Thunderbolt MSL.
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  14. #14
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    I have had extensive time on 650B and must say I feel it is close to 26" in all aspects. It offers slightly better rollover, but slightly less playfulness -- the differences are really small to me. Whenever I switch to a 29er, I feel a significant difference, whether coming from the 26" or the 650B.

    Still, I agree that I might enjoy the 650B more, especially if the climbs are long (29er is the better climber, but only if the wheel set is really light (that's ~1500g for me) and the trails include a lot of tight switchbacks and playful elements.

  15. #15
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    A lot of the BCBR trails will be more rollercoaster like, with a lot of short ups and downs, there's a few long climbs, but generally BC trails tend to have limited opportunities for long uninterrupted climbs, there's a lot of switchback climbs, so having a bike that can handle well in shorter radius turns is a bonus.

    Have a look at the elevation profiles on the BCBR website, the North Shore and Whistler stages have long climbs, but most other stages are lots of small ups and downs even on climbs and descents, so a bike that can do punchy short steep climbs is a bonus, and one that feels comfy rolling wood bridges is a double bonus.

    BC Bike Race || a Seven Day Mountain Bike Stage Race from Vancouver to Whistler, BC, Canada
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  16. #16
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    Thanks. I've looked at the stages before, but firsthand information is better, of course.

    I think that makes the Thunderbolt an ideal choice. I'd now have to decide between the standard edition (770 MSL) and the BC edition. I have no idea about the weight difference, but I guess it might be small and mostly due to tire choice.

    I like the slacker head angle on the BC, plus I enjoy the Pike on my Enduro. On the other hand, the standard model's option of remotely locking the shock might be valuable -- especially, since pedal bob has been mentioned in some reviews of Rocky bikes.

    What do you think about the options?

  17. #17
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    The extra travel in the fork is never a bad idea in this part of the world, and the new 770 MSL Thunderbolts have Ride9 so you can adjust head angle and BB height. Having the ability to adjust the BB drop through 30mm really makes a difference to prevent pedal strike on really rooty trails. The main weight difference in weight will be the 35mm stanchion Pike fork and slightly beefier wheels. Although a single front gear on the BC edition might offset that.

    My Instinct 999 MSL is 25 pounds with carbon 29" wheels, so it should be possible to get a Thunderbolt closer to 24 pounds with some pimpin' parts.
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  18. #18
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    I'd ride my Chromag Surface for the BCBR, but I also seem to ride some part of 3 stages anytime I go for a ride

  19. #19
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    You really don't need an aggressive bike for BC bike race. The organizers do a good job of choosing terrain that is XC appropriate for a large number of riders.

    My wife has raced it 3 times on a sub 22lb XC bike and had zero mechanical issues. And she descends as fast and as hard as just about anybody out there.

    I suspect that you would have a great time on your Epic.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  20. #20
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    Yeah, but Catharine is quite light and is a World Cup calibre racer, and much like Lea Davison, Kabush, Sneddon, Wicks, and some of the local XC stars, skills can make up for a lot of bike.

    Anyone in the 150 pound plus range who is racing BCBR should be thinking about bike durability.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockyuphill View Post
    Yeah, but Catharine is quite light and is a World Cup calibre racer, and much like Lea Davison, Kabush, Sneddon, Wicks, and some of the local XC stars, skills can make up for a lot of bike.

    Anyone in the 150 pound plus range who is racing BCBR should be thinking about bike durability.
    I would have to disagree. The course really isn't that difficult technically (even when compared to riding outside of BC) and the modern XC bikes are incredibly durable. Mechanical failures are going to come from crashes, which are equally deadly to durable and non-durable parts, not from riding. I ride those trails all the time with big guys who ride light bikes, mechanical failures are not an issue.

    In the past there was a lot of bike failures at BCBR, but that wasn't because of the trails, that was because full suspensions from a certain major manufacture couldn't be ridden more than 500km without breaking.

    BCBR is an XC race. More than anything you are going to want a bike that climbs well. Most of the descents are fast and flowy and can easily be ridden on an XC bike by a rider with moderate technical skills.

    I am quite a bit fitter than the average bear, racing BCBR on a bike as big as an Instinct sounds like misery.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  22. #22
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    There were certainly a lot of 100mm travel bikes in the top 25 group on each stage in June, 'Dre was down around 23rd-40th on most stages (30th cumulative), and I'm pretty sure he was riding an Instinct MSL, maybe 10-15 minutes back from the fastest XC riders. So definitely if you're capable of contending for a top 25, a 100mm FS race bike would be a good choice.

    Having spent an afternoon test riding a 120mm travel 650B RMB Thunderbolt at MSA and another afternoon riding a 650B Scott Spark on many of the same trails, I felt a lot fresher after riding the 120mm Thunderbolt, the slacker angles and longer travel improves confidence and reduces the beating without a huge penalty for climbing. I found the Spark a bit twitchy, but I'm definitely no Nino or Kabush, for fitness or skills. For long stages, a bike that makes up for some of the loss of focus and being physically tired is nice and can save you from disastrous consequences. That's where most of the crashes happen, once people get tired.

    For a lot of racers who are there for the BCBR experience and not going for the stage wins, a 120-130mm travel FS bike, with any wheel size, is likely the sweet spot, and if they could have a 23-25 pound version of that kind of bike, that would be ideal.
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  23. #23
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    25-27lb carbon bikes?!? These are around $10k after taxes!! If you're just going to be using that bike for the BCBR that's a very expensive proposition isn't it? Not to mention the race cost + meals + travel.

    I'm just going to use my 26" Epic with 100mm of travel. I'm used to it and what I feel most comfortable in.
    '11 Epic Comp, Shimano SPD M780, Giant Contact Switch-R, Specialized Ribcage, Bontrager Trip 200, Ergon GS1

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    Thanks. I agree to most, if not all of what's been said. I'll think about the bike some more time.

    To those familiar with the terrain or the race, what tires would you recommend?

    I usually ride Maxxis DHR2, but that may be a bit high rolling resistance, no? But race tires will be too flimsy.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vanguard View Post
    Thanks. I agree to most, if not all of what's been said. I'll think about the bike some more time.

    To those familiar with the terrain or the race, what tires would you recommend?

    I usually ride Maxxis DHR2, but that may be a bit high rolling resistance, no? But race tires will be too flimsy.
    I've said my piece about this in the context of what bike to bring but it kind of depends. It sounds like you know what you're doing so i think you could go in with your normal setup and maybe bias it a bit to 7 days of stage racing durability Wet will be very different than dry of course. I used Maxxis Ardent front and Crossmark rears most times in the trails the BCBR is on for almost all conditions short of monsoons but then I'm used to riding these trails.

    The DHR2 will IMO be total overkill. I don't think race tires will be too flimsy at all.
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  26. #26
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    I raced it this year on Epic WC. I am 160-165lbs, not a podium material The frame held really well, although the front hub and the headset developed some play. There is onsite mechanic service, which I used. Overall, Epic is a great bike for BC race, although the 27.2 seattube severely limits choice of dropper seatposts.

    I am going to race BC this year too. I am planning to use epic as well, but with time I have put a 90-120mm TALAS fork instead of 95mm SID on the Epic. I will also get bigger front brake rotor.

    I raced it with Butcher Control front and Purgatory S-Works rear (so did Lea Davison). It proved to be enough tires, maybe a little bit too much on the heavy side. OTOH, on day 4 when dozens of riders got their tires cut by shale, my setup worked just fine.

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  27. #27
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    Rockyuphill, you mentioned that you found the Spark twitchy. Given that you have a 26 RM Element MSL (which I also have), how would you say the two compare? The Element has quite a steep head angle... Would you confidently ride the 26er in the BCBR?

    I have ridden the Thunderbolt on some of the BCBR Shore trails and enjoyed it (although it was a bit heavy...the alum version). I am considering a RM Altitude 770 and think it would be a great bike for the BCBR. Any thoughts?

  28. #28
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    The Spark felt more like the Element RSL 26", the steering was a bit fast for steep tech stuff for my taste, the Element 70 MSL feels quite a bit more relaxed and comfy, especially rolling up onto woodwork or ladder bridges that are a bit narrow. The only downside to the 26" Element MSL is the tendency for pedal strike. Having ridden the Thunderbolt and really liked the way it rode, I think the 27.5" wheels and the 120mm travel with the carbon frame and the Ride9 would really be the sweet spot. Set it up with the higher BB and the medium XC geometry and that'd be the ticket.

    I'll just add that I'm old enough that I rely on the bike to make up for a lack of speedy reflexes and skills in the realm of bike handling. And I like a bike that doesn't beat me up. The Spark felt almost like a hardtail on rough stuff, where the Thunderbolt had much more supple small bump performance. For a couple of hours it might not be a huge difference, but for several long days in the saddle in a row, I'd really want a bike that wasn't too much of a sadist.
    Last edited by rockyuphill; 10-18-2014 at 06:42 AM.
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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockyuphill
    The Spark felt almost like a hardtail on rough stuff, where the Thunderbolt had much more supple small bump performance.
    The climb mode on the Scotts (Spark, Genius) is a full lockout. It isn't comparable to the usual feel a float CTD has. The negative aspect is that it offers little traction and no bump compliance. The positive aspect is, well, that it rides like a hardtail in climb mode.

    I'd agree on the head angle, and in general, the Spark is pretty racy. I prefer a plusher rear and a slacker head angle. The Thunderbolt seems really in the sweet spot.

    I'm not sure about how far below 30 lbs the Thunderbolt BC Edition would end up without modifications and with a sturdy set of tires (like DHR2)?

    This brings me to another question:

    What tires to run for BC bike race?

    I'm running DHR2 front and rear (the freeride version) on my trail bike, and in the wet season swap the front for a Shorty. In terms of rolling resistance and weight, I'm sure they would be on the heavy side (many participants will probably run lighter tires). On the other hand, I don't want to run weight-weenie XC race tires. Firstly, because I think they would not be adequate to the terrain, and secondly, because I'll be participating for the fun aspect and not for the podium.

  30. #30
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    If you're into a stretch of dry weather (and you'll never know until that week) then you want a tire that has a good tread pattern for grip on loamy trails but still can handle wood features or exposed rock without having a squirm fest.

    If it's going to be wet then your primary concern will be a tire that has good grip on wet roots rocks and wood bridges. For the most part, when sustainable trails are wet, the mud is not sticky or slimy as most of the trail surface is organic matter in some degree of decomp. But wet roots and rocks are plentiful and wet wooden bridge decks and trail features could be your nemesis. Grippy tires can be worth the rolling resistance penalty on hard pack surfaces in wet conditions.

    Popular favourites in wet conditions in North Vancouver are the Hans Dampf EVO in really grippy Trailstar 3 rubber for the front and Minion DHRII rear in moderately grippy rubber so you can actually keep pedaling uphills. I like Conti Mountain King 2.4 Protection in the Black Chili rubber as they are grippy but roll faster than other sticky rubber I've tried. Not everyone seems to like the MK tread pattern, but they may ride faster or push harder than I do.
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  31. #31
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    Thanks for the details on the conditions, that's great help.

    I must say I much prefer the DHR2 to the Hans Dampf. In my experience, the DHR2 is superior to the Hans Dampf in all aspects, both front and back. Hans Dampf clogs really quickly, and is slippery on roots and rocks (I have used the trailstar compound).

    I'm running the DHR2 as an all-year round tire both front and back on two bikes, and it would be my first choice for dry and moderately wet conditions.

    I am wondering what other people will ride for the BC bike race, or, even better, have ridden and have had good or bad experiences with.

  32. #32
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    Someone else seems to have arrived at the Thunderbolt decision

    RACER DIARIES: Why The Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt Is My Bike Of Choice For The 2015 BCBike Race
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  33. #33
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    I raced last year. Ikon EXO front and rear with no regrets. Given the opportunity to race again I would run the exact same setup. Wet or dry. I'm 185.

    There are only a few spots in the entire race that you could justify running 800g tires, and you're tired enough that you're not really pushing in those sections.

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