2011 BC Bike Race: Barry Wicks

BC Bike Race: Bottles or Hydration Pack?

The question of lugging bottles or hydration pack is an oft-debated topic at events like the BC Bike Race.

Like Sunday’s 26er-v-29er face-off, the question of bottles or hydration pack is an oft-debated topic at events like the BC Bike Race. But unlike the balance found in the wheel-size query, hydration packs are winning hands down at this seven-day cross-country stage race that started Sunday in Cumberland on Vancouver Island and concludes next Saturday in Whistler.

During another unscientific poll, this time conducted during a walk around the start line on Monday in Campbell River just before the gun sounded, the ratio was no less than 80-20. And it might well have been 90-10.

This was not just a case of all the mid-packers opting for packs, and thus tilting the numbers. Indeed, that group overwhelming choose hydration packs, but top racers like Mark Weir, Brian Lopes and even the defending duo-team champs Barry Wicks and Chris Sneddon all were strapped with packs. One qualifier for the Wicks-Sneddon Kona duo, though: Both riders were sporting a modified pack system that Wicks had fashioned himself (see photos).

“I should probably trademark this thing,” Wicks joked. “It works really well and it’s a lot cheaper than the similar options out there.”

So why go with a pack, which is undeniably a heavier choice in a race? It’s a combination of needing to abide to the BC Bike Race’s mandatory gear list, which includes things like waterproof matches and a wound compress, and the fact that this is a pretty burly event from a technical riding standpoint, so best to be prepared with tools and even a few spare parts.

As for your author, I too am a hydration pack devotee, though with stages that have ranged in the 3.5 to 4-hour range, and two on-course aid stations, there’s been no need to top off the bladder. Half way is more than enough.

Here’s a look at some of the packs — and a few of the bottles — that made their way around an exceptionally sweet batch of singletrack on Day No. 2 of the BC Bike Race.