BCBRG
BCBR PREP

Suffering Looms on the Horizon

Words Cooper Quinn
Photos Cooper Quinn (unless noted)
Date Sep 23, 2022

With only a few days to go before I embark upon the BCBR Gravel Explorer I am – physically – about as ready as I’m going to be. BCBR Gravel, the much younger sibling of BCBR which Pete participated in last year, is a five day gravel stage race totaling somewhere around 370 kilometers of racing with around 7,400 meters of vert. Ouch. I expect the days will be filled with wonderful fall Okanagan scenery, ribbons of not-too-rough singletrack, and resource roads made of dreamy ¾” crush like the title photo (which wasn't snapped during some epic training ride, but from a work truck). If this sounds like an idyllic way to cruise BC's wine country, you’ve forgotten it’s a race.* Currently, I’m pretending I’m “tapering” by riding my brand spanking new We Are One Arrival 170 down steep things and keeping things very relaxed on my commute. Physically, I think the thing I’m most concerned about is my…er… well… it's going to be a LOT of time parked in the saddle, and those callouses only come with seat time.

*You can, of course, come enjoy BCBR at an idyllic pace, if that’s what you’d like to do. I’ve resigned myself to allowing the red mist to descend, but I’m not going to totally ignore that the race is based around a bunch of vineyards.

Karoo2-1

I tried to get out for a few high intensity rides after toddler bedtime. It was pleasant.

Karoo2-2

And then it started to get much darker much earlier.

Karoo2-3

And then it got just plain bad. I haven't done it in a while.

Mentally, I have a lot more questions than answers at this point. I’m confident I have the fitness to complete the course, confident I have the bike skills for anything tricky, and confident the Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon is going to be a good choice. After that, it’s a sea of unknowns from nutrition to weather to pack racing to strategy to how CO2 inflators work if I’m unfortunate enough to get a flat tire (I’ve never used one… I just carry a pump!). There’s not much more I can do to prep here, so we’ll just let the nerves fade across the start line on day one and hope for the best. It’ll be fine?

But no one cares about all that; what am I taking with me to compensate for my lack of preparation to go ride nearly 400 kilometers somewhere I’ve never been? In a word, LOTS. We've covered the bike. But here’s a few other items that have been key to pretending to prepare, or that I’m expecting to carry and use during the race. After is all said and done and I’ve recovered, I’ll follow up on these items so if you have specific questions, fire away. Or if I’m doing something critically wrong, let me know!

Diverge_Tacos

This bike spent a reasonable amount of time leaning up against various Mexican restaurants, with me inside chowing down. I've swapped off the stock handlebar, and am using the same Easton EC90 AX handlebar I was using on the Canyon Grizl for the latter portion of that review.

Hammerhead Karoo 2

Cycling computers have come a long way since my first 500 series Garmin; the Karoo 2 has a color touch screen, is powered by Android, and can track or tell you anything you could ever want to know about your ride while you’re on it. While not something I’ll use often on my mountain bikes, the ability to plot/plan routes is immensely helpful on drop bars and the Karoo 2 navigates well. It also auto-generates upcoming hill climb profiles on the road ahead which is either useful of depressing depending on your current level of tiredness and the size of the hill. On the backend it connects with AXS Web, Strava, Suunto, and many more. I typically load routes through Suunto, as I'm familiar with the interface and find the routing a little better. Overall, it's a neat, highly customizable unit with a suite of high end features at a medium price point that basically operates like a small cell phone, because that’s really what it is. Or, if all you want to do is connect it to your AXS drivetrain and show one data field, it’s a 579 CAD optical gear display.

S Works Recon Lace Shoes

As a fan of “tapdancing shoes” for mountain biking, these take it to a whole new level. They’re obscenely light, incredibly stiff, and as long as you’re not doing much walking or technical hike a biking (which I find myself doing sometimes) these are a great shoe. That said, they are more walkable than a road shoe as the SPD cleat is recessed and there’s XC-shoe-like tread bonded to carbon sole. Basically, they’re a blend of a road shoe with some XC shoe characteristics, and should be a solid choice for this event, and much of my riding. The subtle earthy looks are a nice touch, as S Works can occasionally be a bit flashy.. Don't be fooled, though, they still carry a Very S Works Pricetag of 450 CAD.

RockShox XPLR 50mm Dropper Post

The Diverge came equipped with a carbon seatpost, which I’ve swapped out for an AXS XPLR post. It was as simple as moving the saddle over, and holding a couple of buttons, and now it goes up and down. I expect this to come in very handy during any more technical and descending portions of the course. As well, the XPLR post has a suspension feature. Anywhere other than at the limits of it's stroke, the XPLR post rides on an adjustable air spring to smooth washboard, bumps, and hopefully help preserve my delicates. While 50mm may not sound like much it makes a significant difference descending; I'd spring for the 75mm version if I were you, but timelines and supply chains being what they are right now, I'll use all 50mm.

BCBRG-3

Activation of the post takes a few minutes to get used to on drop bars - the default configuration takes two hands as you click both shifters simultaneously. But, if you want to get creative, as illustrated in this recent SRAM video about wireless connectivity to see Squamish local, friend, and all around nice guy, Phil's adaptive approach utilizing a suite of AXS components from mountain, road, and triathlon to overcome some physical limitations. I'd expect to see further AXS integration now that SRAM owns Hammerhead.

Rapha Trail Lightweight Jacket

As Pete reminded me, it's fall, and last year temperatures at the start line were down as low as 2C for his race. This was a bit of a wakeup, as it's been a warm, mild, dry summer here and I’d forgotten other weather exists. With that in mind, I expect I’ll be carrying a vest or a jacket most days, probably crammed in my downtube storage. This Rapha jacked falls into the “emotional support jacket” category, but should be just enough to take the edge off the wind and any precipitation. It also packs down into its own pocket and comes with a frame strap, so strapping this to my top tube and unfurling it before significant descents is a very workable option if no one is handing out newspapers to stuff in the front of my jersey. Rapha's pricing generally surprises me - 240 CAD isn't cheap, but you could do a lot worse for similar product.

Rapha Trail Cargo Chamois

Speaking of delicates, I’ve got a few chamois options I’ll be taking for different weather and conditions, but the freshest and a very comfortable option is this cargo bib from Rapha. I’m a fan of cargo bibs, and the two small mesh pockets hold snacks well. These are also a great mountain bike option. They’re very lightweight with mesh panels on the sides, and are meant to be worn under baggies. Importantly, the chamois part and I seem to agree well. An MSRP of 185 CAD also is also justifiable for a high end chamois. I'll spare you all from photos of me wearing a bib chamois that's largely mesh.

AliExpress Ralpha Vest

I’m a vest guy. They’re a great garment for riding bikes – a very lightweight packable piece that easy to zip on/off and provide enough warmth and windbreaking to be a real difference maker. Ordinarily, I wear a Mission Workshop version that’s been through hell and back and is still in impressive shape (Worth Every Penny, I suppose). For this event, I’ll also pack my secret Ralpha prototype. Purchased sight unseen from overseas the fit is VERY “racey” (read: it's too tight to really wear over anything that isn’t lycra), so this seems like the perfect occasion to break it out.

BCBRG-6

Kids toys seemed appropriate. This vest "retails" for $15USD.

I’m going to be taking a mountain of other gear – both standard stuff I’ve been riding in over the past while, and things acquired or borrowed specifically for this event. Once it's all done and dusted (please, unlike Shore riding, I’d much prefer dust over rain for this), we’ll come back and revisit what worked, what didn’t, and what we’ve learned from it all.

BCBRG-7

I've been using this 2.4l Apidura Racing Frame Pack since 2019. Sometimes I wish I had the larger 4l, but this should be a good size for BCBR, and it'll finally be living up to its racing name. I may or may not also use a small 1l Apidura Top Tube Pack as well. I haven't made up my mind.

BCBRG-69

Spotted by NSMB's own Deniz Merdano on one of a few days I did any kind of real "training" and hustled up Seymour (a PR by several minutes, and I made it to daycare pickup less than 2 minutes late!). Standard issue kit for me: Smith Trace MIPS, 100% Speedcraft, 7mesh Skyline top and chamois. The top and chamois will likely be too cold for fall mornings. I'm a "gloves all the time" kind of mountain biker, but unless weather mandates digit covers, I avoid them on drop bars.

BCBRG-8

Now, if you'll excuse me, this kid set his bike down again and wandered off chasing a "dumbol-dee" that may or may not even exist. Ask your questions below and I'll get to them once I find him.

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn

Size medium millennial.

Reformed downhiller, now rides all the bikes.

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Comments

Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 5 days ago
+3 Deniz Merdano Cooper Quinn Derek Baker

Well Cooper, the only bit of advice I can give after my experience going into basically this madness (LT100) years ago is this....if you're taking bars or any sort of chewable type nutrition, cut it up into small 1cm cubes, because when you're pushing, it's damn hard to get much more than that chewed and down the gullet with the lack of saliva you'll have in your mouth. Yes, use the little top tube/tri bag, it puts your nutrition much more easily accessible and hence you'll reach in more often and for these types of races, nutrition is THE biggest factor to being successful. Also, don't fvck around with nutrition once you're in, use what you know, don't experiment.

Other than that, good luck, do your best to take in all the beautiful scenery and if your brain sees a beautiful scene/shot and says let's stop and take a pic, listen to it and tell the "race fanatic" in you to go fvck off, stop and take the pic. I missed such an epic pic of a line of riders heading up a climb into the woods, shrouded in mist when I did the Laramie Enduro 111 and I'm so, so sorry I did, because honestly there wasn't a snow balls chance in hell I was going to do anything fantabulous finish wise and it would have been an amazing photo to have and look back at.

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
1 week, 5 days ago
+4 Cooper Quinn Lynx . Pete Roggeman Merwinn

ALWAYS! Stop for the photo! 

(*Biased guy in the corner)

Reply

Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 5 days ago
0

You wouldn't believe that that was what I was actually doing as a profession back then Deniz, an actual photographer. But I was finally getting into a  rhythm on the start climb and the ST was sweet and there was a long line of people behind and that stupid little voice said don't stop, you'll end up even further back. I got sucked into the whole "race" thinking and was regretting it both times I had to pull over and try to recover after almost fully bonking from pushing too hard and not fueling. That "race" hurt like hell and I DON'T have the photo at least to bring back a nice memory.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Yeah part of the debate around my fuel tank bag is a camera - I've got an RX100VI that slots right in with a custom piece of foam I cut out. Buuuuuuut hundreds of km of rattling is terrible for a camera, and I'm not sure how much "documenting" I'd actually do. I could carry my a6400 (which shot most of these photos) as I've got a good three point strap for it, but that seems... excessive. 

Lots of small details to think about before Sunday morning, that's for sure.

Reply

Captain-Snappy
Merwinn
1 week, 2 days ago
+1 Derek Baker

After BCBR, I realized that 70% of the time I was pushing my physical boundaries enough that I wouldn't have been able to take a good photo. I just enjoyed the 'moment' (s).

Reply

Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Are you going to be wearing a backpack/hydration pack? If you are, just get a small camera bag with a belt loop and run it on the chest strap, then it's always there, quick to hand and your body will be your damper for it.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
1 week, 5 days ago
0

I'm not currently planning on taking a pack, although I am still debating taking an ultralight Solomon pack I've got for running. 

I'm used to riding with the small camera strapped on a pack like this - it also fits in jersey pockets pretty well. 

I suppose I could attach an easel to a QUADLOCK and paint my way through the race like Cy... but I have no talent.

Reply

DaveSmith
Dave Smith
1 week, 5 days ago
0

I've beaten the living snot out of my point and shoots and they still work fine. Better to have it.

Reply

Lynx
Lynx .
1 week, 4 days ago
0

I actually had a small P&S case from Topeak back in the day that had a mount for the bar and quick release, as well as clip to go on a strap, might be something worth looking into.

Reply

LoamtoHome
Jerry Willows
1 week, 5 days ago
+3 PowellRiviera Cooper Quinn Trent Blucher

the vest is the highlight in my eyes....

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
1 week, 5 days ago
0

The replies in my IG would say you're not alone there.

Reply

olrustybones
olrustybones
1 week, 5 days ago
+3 Pete Roggeman Niels van Kampenhout Mike Ferrentino

I'm seriously looking into this veat, do you mind telling us HOW tight it really is? I'm 210lbs but my chest isn't big. Long time reader of NSMB, but this is the first thing I've actually commented on.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 4 days ago
+2 Niels van Kampenhout Tjaard Breeuwer

I kinda love that Cooper's Ralpha vest is brought you out of the shadows. We should drink beer.

Reply

olrustybones
olrustybones
1 week, 4 days ago
0

We should, but Fernie far away.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
1 week, 4 days ago
0

I usually run medium things. This says medium but is very "road race fit" not "mtb/gravrgrav fit". 

I'd go up at least one size over whatever you normally run.

Reply

olrustybones
olrustybones
1 week, 4 days ago
+1 Cooper Quinn

Thank you!

Reply

Shortyesquire
Andrew Collins
1 week, 2 days ago
0

So that would be XXXXL for me. They would have that right?

Reply

heckler
Sven Luebke
1 week, 2 days ago
0

I bought a nightgown in the big Beijing tourist market as a gift.  Try explaining the XXXL to my wife. But it fits and she (usually a Medium) still wears it. 

Chinese sold sizing is out to lunch for the rest of the world.  Go big or go home.

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
1 week, 1 day ago
0

Is gravgrav short for gravel or gravy?

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
1 week, 4 days ago
+3 Cooper Quinn Pete Roggeman Mike Ferrentino

You’ll be fine son. Training is highly overrated and you’ll get by with your youth. Remember on those hard climbs that you can always go a little harder.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
1 week, 4 days ago
0

I ain't as young as I once was. 

Ugh. I'll try and remember that though.

Reply

gubbinalia
gubbinalia
1 week, 5 days ago
+1 Cooper Quinn

Have an awesome race out in the winelands, Cooper. While I've never done a multiday gravel race, there are some super fun one day events around the northeast US and it seems like a booming category (maybe THE booming category) for folks who don't usually race bikes but want to give it a shot. 

Out of curiosity: Did the Bjorn not make the cut for the race because the plastic Spesh is faster, or because you wanted to put a test bike through the ringer?

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
1 week, 5 days ago
0

Yeah, it'll be enjoyable, and only as hard as I want it to be, really. We're aiming for somewhere between type 2 and type 3 fun, and at least that number of glasses of wine a night. 

Yeah, BCBR-G is more or less an excuse to try something different? I'd be perfectly happy (I think, having never done the event) on the Bjorn, but most of the reason I do this review stuff is to try new things, so... hey why not. I'm attempting to line up a suspension fork for that bike to review, so hopefully you'll see it again. 

I'll likely pack the Bjorn just as a "backup" bike, so I have a full set of everything should I have some form of major mechanical mishap, or just ride it the rest of the race. The real downside to trying this Specialized is that its gotten me used to AXS on drop bars, and its really nice, especially how it works with the dropper. Is it faster? Well, its certainly lighter and the geo is what you'd consider "racier" by a lot.

Reply

Sethimus
Sethimus
1 week, 2 days ago
+1 Sven Luebke

wrong shoe choice, if one goes the sworks recon route, one should go the full monty. lace up shoes need to be tied 2x per ride, re adjusting means a full stop with these, with the boas just a foot lift off the pedal and some clicks on the boa dial

Reply

heckler
Sven Luebke
1 week, 2 days ago
0

Tuck in those big shoelace loops, at least on the drive side.   Unless your carrying spare shoelaces in that camera bag.   Nothing worse than a lace caught in the big chainring with 200 km to go.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
Tjaard Breeuwer
4 days, 15 hours ago
0

Where do people find these road jerseys with sleeves down to the elbows? With my skinny biker arms, I do not need cuffs that end mid bicep, yet that what I get.  Also, for cool weather jerseys (most of my gravel bike riding is spring and all, when trails are closed), all the way to elbow is warmer, and holds arm warmers better.

Reply

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