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By Fred Dreier
The fifth day of the 2009 BC Bike Race saw a sizable line of riders queue up outside the Obsession Bikes bike maintenance tent at the finish line in Langdale.
After five days of racing, the wrenches-for-hire had seen just about every mechanical calamity known in the world of mountain bike maintenance. Since day one, the business has attacked between 60-70 bikes a night, often times working on the rigs into the wee hours of the morning.
“We’ve seen a crazy number of bent brake rotors and broken wheels from people who have skidded off of logs and rocks,” said James Wilson, one of the nine staffers from Obsession Bikes — a North Vancouver bike shop — providing mechanical support for the event.
“Free hubs are also breaking a lot,” Wilson said.
Like the world’s other major endurance mountain bike stage races, the BC Bike Race takes a heavy toll on bike parts. Costa Rica’s La Ruta de los Conquistadores is infamous for clogging drive trains and shifting cables with water and gritty mud from the constant river crossings and rain. South Africa’s Absa Cape Epic wears down hubs and brake pads with dust kicked up by riding on fire roads.
The BC Bike Race is run on heavy miles of choppy singletrack, where riders must navigate tight tree-lined trails, slow-speed technical step-ups and downs and wooden structures. The riding style takes a heavy toll on suspension (both front and rear), rear linkage bolts and bike frames.
“A lot of people come here and don’t quite know how to ride the terrain,” Wilson said. “They’re overly cautions, and that’s where a lot of the accidents occur.”
The most popular style of bikes at the 2009 BC Bike Race are full-suspension rigs
Marshall Cant, a 20-year veteran of supporting mountain bike races, is another mechanic working at the Obsession Bikes tent. Cant is a two-time finisher of the TransRockies race in eastern British Columbia, and said he offers similar advice to prospective stage racers.
“I tell people to keep things simple — bring equipment that is easy to maintain because you put a season’s worth of riding on your stuff in one week,” Cant said. “Stay away from the exotic, like fancy wheels or suspension parts. If it breaks, chances are we aren’t going to carry the parts.”
Cant, a product manager at Syncros, also said he steers would-be stage racers away from dishing out big dollars on expensive component groups for stage races. The cheaper, heavier components, he said, hold up better over a week of hard abuse. But riders should make sure that gears and brakes are dialed in and working properly before the race.
The constant terrain changes at the BC Bike Race, Cant said, puts a premium on clean shifting.
“The pros need the light stuff, but they’re only racing for three hours a day,” Cant said. “The average Joe is out there longer and probably putting the stuff through even more stress. That lightweight stuff can only take so much.”
Sitting in the back of Cant’s trailer was a junk pile of broken carbon fiber bike frames, many of them big-dollar models. Cant said he recommends bringing alloy frames on the stage races because of this reason.
Cant said his ideal rig for the BC Bike Race would be a lightweight dual-suspension cross-country bike with four inches of front and rear travel.
But broken bikes and mechanical problems are all part of the stage racing experience, said Obsession Bikes wrench Fraser Nalen.
“By the end of the week everybody’s bike is creaking,” Nalen said. “This race gets people to fall in love with their bikes even more. You get to link together all of these fun trails. It’s like a really long weekend ride.”