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BCBR MegaVolt 2024: Nine questions with Andreas Hestler

Photos Deniz Merdano

This will be the fourth year for BCBR's spin-off e-MTB event, the MegaVolt. Like the BC Bike Race, MegaVolt has moved around over the last few years, but this year sees a repeat appearance in Naramata, near Penticton, which is at the heart of BC's wine country. A week from now I'll be driving out on Hwy 3 along with Cam and Trevor, eagerly anticipating everything the crew has planned. Trevor and I are first timers, but Cam went to the first MegaVolt in 2021.

Deniz went to MegaVolt in 2022 and again along with Karin Grubb in 2023.

When the dust settles, we'll be back with our story from the festival but in the lead up to the event, we thought we'd put a few questions to Andreas Hestler about MegaVolt, what's changing for 2024 and why you should go. Even if you haven't committed yet, you're not too late and unlike other BCBR events, MegaVolt is both a festival and a race (but only a race if you want it to be), and you can definitely come right off the couch and get out there and have some fun.

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For 2024, BCBR's Megavolt returns to Naramata, BC, and the Three Blind Mice network of trails.

1) NSMB: MegaVolt is a very different type of event from BCBR and yet you already 10 or so years of success with the original event when you decided to branch out. What were you trying to achieve with MegaVolt that was different from the racing spirit of BCBR, and what did you want to preserve from BCBR?

Andreas Hestler: We've been putting on the BC Bike Race (BCBR) since 2007, what's that like 18 years with a small downtime during the Pandemic. As the world changes we have always maintained a position that we want to be adaptive and flexible, that includes new trails, and new ride formats that are exciting. Up until the Pandemic the logistics around BCBR were so complicated we didn't have bandwidth to add anything else, but with change comes opportunity. We as humans are constantly evolving, we were beginning to ride eMTB's on the regular, so to was the Industry changing and embracing them. The time was right, we had bandwidth, eMTB-ing was a direction we were personally going, and something that we could really get behind, so it was natural to begin the process of creating the MEGA VOLT, something we would be charged-up about! (punny eh).

2) You’ve had four years so far to tweak MegaVolt. What are some changes you’ve made over the years?

Those changes described in the previous email - Group Rides available every day with Professional guides/instructors- Professional Timing, Zone 4- 3x Challenges (Consistency, Hill Climb, and Trailforks Challenge) for fun experiences- More educational opportunities, more symposium style- Maintained the e-XC, and the e-Enduro- More Industry Participation, a big Exposition Area and Vendors

3) You’re describing MegaVolt as more of a festival than a race, but of course there are some optional competitive elements to it. For someone who may be intimidated by racing (on e-bikes or regular bikes) how would you describe the vibe of a MegaVolt vs BCBR or other MTB races?

From the get-go Dean Payne and myself the co-founders had set out to make BCBR the 'Most Fun' not the 'Hardest', La Ruta had that title, and Trans Alp has their own flavour. What BC Culture would we put into our event - like a recipe - Singletrack, Tailgate, you know the way we like to ride mountain bikes, coastal style. So naturally as we moved into Mega Volt, this part of the equation was a must, but smashing together Sea Otter, Sedona Fest and Outerbike as models we respect and finally figuring out the eMTB market took a bit of time. Our BCBR team has had eyeballs on a few sectors, Gravel, Guided Rides, and Festivals for a while, and we have put some efforts into those areas, but businesses' have to be careful in expansion, make sure they are passionate about what they are building and really believe in it. I think this ethos and our company culture are ultimately the flavour of all the events that BCBR puts on.

4) Let’s say someone just got an e-bike and is still learning how to ride one - is MegaVolt designed with the beginner in mind as well or should they get up to speed first?

This year anecdotally we have seen a lot of eMTB newbies popping up, for whatever reason. With that in mind we have added Group/Experiential rides each day to offerr skills gathering under awesome coaches/guides like Johnny Smoke, and Kelli Sherbinin - legends of 'Good Times on Bikes' with a deep history in mountain biking. We want to encourage and provide a learning environment for all, but also we want to have fun events like the Trailforks Challenge and the Consistency Challenge where we will all be together to enjoy the camaraderie of a community, laugh, pedal, and share.

5) One thing that’s always been crucial to the success of BCBR since inception are the relationships you’ve built with the communities you visit. Can you explain a bit about how that works in terms of working with local businesses, but more importantly, working with local trail organizations and giving back to the trails and networks you use for your events?

When BC Bike Race (BCBR) began (2007), the mountain bike landscape in BC was much different - let's go back 18 years, and as Jeremy Grasby (from Cumberland) says "tumbleweeds were blowing down the main street." - now fast forward to where BC is now, a mountain bike mecca, everywhere, not just Whistler. Along that journey of years, we have grown together, the communities and BC Bike Race, and now the MEGA VOLT. These relationships are symbiotic, and we never want to take that for granted, it takes two to tango, we work hand in hand.

The partnerships with all the communities we work, and have worked with, are one of the pillars of sustainability - for us, and for them - it has to be a benefit for both parties. In the past, towns like Penticton, Vernon, Powell River, Sechelt, Cowichan Valley, Campbell River, Naramata, and many, many more have had small budgets to market their amenities and facilities, working together is like co-op marketing. Through our event reports, photos, and videos we enable telling those stories, of the legendary singletrack, and the incredible outdoor experiences that assist with solidifying those communities as highly desirable, outdoor destinations, to visit, to travel to, or in some cases to move to. 

BCBR and the MEGA VOLT are spokes in the wheel, extending from the communities, into the province, and eventually to the world. We always aim to be a good partner, to evaluate our Economic Impact (EI) for the region, and what most people look at, our Impact on the trails as we ride, and travel through these incredible host communities. You can see that after 18 years we are still here, working cooperatively with these communities. That speaks to our commitment to working together for the long term, to achieve a wholesome overall experience for everyone.

6) Naramata in October for BCBR a few years back was incredible. What should we expect from the Three Blind Mice trail network in early June?

The Okanagan is like Napa Valley, the wine-producing region of British Columbia, it's a special place, but getting in before the sun gets too hot there is critical. Late May, to early June, and Sept to October are the windows of perfection, coolish nights, warm days, and moisture in the soil. With the massive unassuming height of the local mountains, the riders can expect a bit of everything. Up top the grass will be green and the moisture content higher, that's where we will climb to, and on the way down, there will be a bit of everything else, including, roots, rocks, dust, burms, ponderosa pines, and of course a crystal blue lake to swim in at the base camp.

7) For the nerds, let’s talk about e-bike setup for these trails. Heavy duty casings, inserts, etc…or would you be considering a faster rear tire for those that want to compete at the pointy end in the races?

Great question - in general I'd say "run what you brung" but the terrain at the Three Blind Mice trail network does include a bit of everything - rocks, roots, smooth flow trails and sharp jagged shale - we will be trying to get a taste of it all at the MEGA VOLT. With that caveat I'd suggest beefier tires and good tire pressure - maybe lighten up the shock pressures for the bumpy nature of the area, and if you are gunning for speed, maybe find a faster rolling rear tire.

8) Big Ass Bacon Station. Details, please! For the uninitiated, BCBR aid stations are legendary. What’s in the plan for MegaVolt and food/drink stations, as well as post-ride entertainment, etc?

We take our entertainment seriously, our Bacon station was started organically many years ago by our communications manager Lance Fryling, and it grew to be a famous feature at the BCBR. Some of the rides won't need support as they are timed to be single-bottle adventures, so we'll move those stations to the basecamp for a Pizza Party, some Industry panel discussions, and of course a beer garden each afternoon to celebrate the awesome rides we just completed.

9) Anything else you want to say to those out there that are on the fence about coming out for MegaVolt this year?

Reasons to come to MegaVolt:

  • Amazing area of the world, British Columbia's wine country.
  • Lakes, beaches, a beautiful relaxing get-away.
  • You don't need to train, it's an eMTB event!
  • Learn more about your eMTB within a festival designed to support and educate
  • amazing trails, rides, and people to hang out with.
  • Do awesome things - and the MEGA VOLT is awesome - you will be more awesome when you finish.
  • Meet new friends, ride with friends, make contacts for future rides.
  • Epic terrain, epic views, and singletrack for days.

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