Mountain Gear

BC Bike Race Stage 1: 29ers vs. 26ers

An unscientific poll conducted by our man on the ground puts big-wheeled bikes at BCBR in the neighborhood of 40 percent.

Editor’s Note: Along with daily race updates and photos, will post daily dispatches out of BC Bike Race from embedded rider/journalist Jason Sumner.

Mark Weir, who's known as the best all-round rider in mountain biking, is here in BC, racing the duo category aboard this 26-inch Cannondale Jekyll. Photo Jason Sumner

Once upon a time, the notion of riding 29-inch wheels at the BC Bike Race would have been met with snickers; the trails are too tight and technical for those wagon-wheeled bikes, conventional wisdom went.

But just like the rest of the cycling world, there’s a sea change underway here at the 2011 BCBR, a seven-day mountain bike stage race in British Columbia that started Sunday in Cumberland on Vancouver Island, and wraps up next Saturday at Whistler’s Olympic Plaza. In between, a field of 500 will take on a veritable greatest hits of BC’s best singletrack.

An unscientific poll conducted out on course put the number of big-wheeled bikes in the neighborhood of 40 percent. And the buy-in wasn’t limited to just one segment of racers; men, women, front of the packers and back markers alike were all spotted rocking 29-inch wheels on a day when the 54km stage 1 loop served up a tricky mix of tough logging-road climbing, and dicey, rooted and rocky singletrack that kept racers on high alert from start to finish.

Here’s a look at some of the bikes tackling the fifth-running of this iconic event, that’s fairly billed as the ultimate singletrack experience.