8 Days, 8 Life Lessons - BC Bike Race 2019

Jul 25, 2019
by Sarah Moore  
BC Bike Race 2019
Your daily wake-up call at the BC Bike Race. Good morning racers! Margus Riga photo

Photos by Dave Silver, Margus Riga, Todd Weselake, Lorenz Jimenez, Scott Robarts

The rain is pounding down on my tent and I'm trying to convince myself, yet again, that I don't need to open up the door and venture into the storm to go pee. I finally fall back asleep, only to be woken up what feels like minutes later by the loud squawking of a plastic rubber chicken. It's go-time, Day 5 of the 2019 BC Bike Race.

I mumble good morning to my tentmate before shoving my sleeping bag into its stuff sack and squeezing all my gear into my rider bag. Starting with the Prologue in North Vancouver, I've raced over 150kms in the past six days and today is the longest of them all, a 57.8km journey from Earls Cove to Sechelt. I try not to think about the two 50km days that will follow this one, but also tell myself that once I get through today, the majority of the miles will be behind me and I'll only have 100km of singletrack before Beer O'Clock.


BC Bike Race 2019
Toptube stickers to give you an idea of where you are on the course, how far away you are from the next Fox Feature Trail (AKA best descent of the day) and where the next feed station is.

BC Bike Race 2019
BC Bike Race 2019
We moved camp most nights, but spent two nights in Cumberland and two nights in Powell River. If you're ever in Powell River, you have to buy ice cream from Wild Scoop. That ice cream, and knowing that Alice and Brohm would be at the finish line in Squamish with their real fruit ice cream, were big motivators.


Honestly, I'm surprised by how well my body is holding up so far. Never having raced more than two days in a row, I thought that by the fifth day of racing in a row my legs would barely bend and I'd be hobbling around like someone three times my age. The only sign of wear is the palms of my hands, which blistered on Day 3 in Cumberland.


BC Bike Race 2019
Raven Eye Photography photo
BC Bike Race 2019

Before we start pedaling, however, we depart our oceanside camp and head to the dining hall to gorge ourselves on fluffy eggs, fresh fruit and piping hot oatmeal. Then we hop on busses that take us to Saltery Bay. From there, I am one of the lucky riders who got to travel in a Harbour Air seaplane from Saltery Bay to Earls Cove. There are also water taxis and a massive ferry to help transport the 600 riders and support crew.


BC Bike Race 2019
No complimentary inflight drink service in this twelve-seater! I'll take the views over soda any day, though. Dave Silver photo

BC Bike Race 2019
Start of Day 5, racers arriving on the ferry from Saltery Bay for the start in Earls Cove. Dave Silver photo


The start for Day 5 is right at the ferry terminal so there's no warming up allowed among the cars that line the hill down to the ferry. As we arrive, I quickly find my bike, get my shoes, helmet and chamois butter on, find someone from the medical team to cover my blisters so that I don't wince with every bump in the trail, and then line up with the other 100 riders in wave 2.

The longest and least technical stage of the event, after four days of intense racing and painful hand blisters, Day 5 was the day I approached with the most trepidation since I knew it would be one where fitness would trump technical skills in the results list.


BC Bike Race 2019
Soul crushing climb looming in the distance on day 5. My moment of glory came when I proceeded to ride up the entire thing and pass everyone walking. No, I didn't regret it... Dave Silver photo


While Day 5 might not have been my best day results-wise, it's a day I'm very proud of. Despite inclement weather conditions and a long time in the saddle, I was able to stay positive and make it to the finish without losing too much time in the overall. Although I think a big part of "staying positive" was actually eating an insane number of Clif Bloks and Clif Shots. Every half hour without fail I had either three gummy blocks or a gel for the entire 4-hour ride.


The low point of the BC Bike Race is the high point of your regular week. Margus Riga photo


It made me realize that the previous day's doldrum in the final kilometers were actually me bonking. At the moment, you're going as hard as you can and you can't think properly, but it's interesting observing yourself afterward and reflecting on your emotions. I'm normally a pretty level-headed person so I find it fascinating how high and low racing can bring one's emotions.

Here are some of the highs from a week in the saddle:


Day 1 in the Cowichan Valley was separated into two sections with a neutral section in between. The short 2.5km Prologue on Day 0 and then the two 17km sections were a great way to ease racers into the week. Margus Riga photo

I was absolutely blown away by the technical trails on Maple Mountain and I can't wait to go back. Raven Eye Photography photo

BC Bike Race 2019
This race start in Cumberland on Day 2 was my all-time favorite with a call and response song with all the racers. Robert Shaer photo

Liv Factory Racing's Serena Gordon told me early on in the event that people can usually get through the first couple days of stage racing, but struggle through the second half since they don't eat enough to recover. I went for tacos in Cumberland after racing on Day 3. Raven Eye Photography photo

BC Bike Race 2019
The crew of mechanics from Obsession Bikes in North Vancouver was up into the wee hours of the morning every night fixing racer's bikes. Give them your rig after the ride with your credit card number and a list of ailments, then find it race-ready in the start corral with the rest of the bikes in the morning.Margus Riga photo

BC Bike Race 2019
The arrival in Powell River was my favorite. We walked off the ferry as a crew of 600 to be welcomed by what felt like the entire town, and a live band. Dave Silver photo

BC Bike Race 2019
I didn't stay up late enough to see this sunset, but it's nice, isn't it? Margus Riga photo

BC Bike Race 2019
The Rocky Mountain beer garden was hopping every afternoon and into the evening.

BC Bike Race 2019
YouTubers Syd Schultz and Macky Franklin started in wave 2 with me every morning. On Day 4, I had a great time speeding along in a train with them for the first half of the race before bonking.

BC Bike Race 2019
Fox Feature Trail on Day 4. This trail was always the highlight of my day.

BC Bike Race 2019
Tippie was a part of the absolutely unbelievable crew that traveled alongside the racers for the entire week.Dave Silver photo

BC Bike Race 2019
After a tough Day 4 that left my back feeling stiff, I booked myself in for a massage with the BCBR Wellness team. A half-hour massage has never felt so therapeutic and the next day my back didn't hurt at all during the longest stage of the week. Dave Silver photo

BC Bike Race 2019
The second day on the Sunshine Coast, Day 6, was a touch shorter at 50km from Sechelt to Gibsons. It finished with a super fun 8km descent to the ferry terminal. My hand blisters didn't hurt and I was able to follow a local for part of it, making it even more fun.

Can't beat those ribbons of singletrack on the Sunshine Coast... Raven Eye Photography

BC Bike Race 2019
I think Mike Levy was pretty proud of me when I told him I ate at least a donut a day for seven days in a row. Tim Hortons at the finish line food station for the win!

BC Bike Race 2019
The final campsite in Squamish with a view of the Chief was lovely, but sleeping in my own bed at home was even better. Dave Silver photo

The Squamish finish line smile of relief. It was fun to ride trails I knew after a week of blind racing. It's definitely easier to push yourself on climbs when you know exactly where the top of a climb is. As for the descents, I felt like a superhero. Scott Robarts photo

BC Bike Race 2019
Finisher medals that double as belt buckles. Dave Silver photo

BC Bike Race 2019
The Pinkbike crew came out to cheer me on in Squamish on the final day of the event.





So You Want to Do BC Bike Race Next Year?

I thought you might - exploring sweet singletrack, pushing yourself physically, gorging yourself on donuts and meeting wonderful like-minded people from around the world. What more could you want? As I assemble the above photos, I'm chomping at the bit to do BC Bike Race again.

There's something about the event that is hard to put into words, videos, or Instagram captions. Something you need to feel to understand. That being said, here are some things I learned in my first BC Bike Race that you might find useful if you do the event yourself. Really, they are lessons that could serve you for any stage race, and even life in general.


BC Bike Race 2019

1. The tool you choose will make a difference in the long run.

The 120mm Ibis Ripley was the perfect bike for the job. There's a lot of gravel road climbing, but a lot of tricky technical climbs and descents as well. The first day in the Cowichan Valley was an eye-opener. I knew we were going to be riding singletrack, but I didn't realize how technical it would be. I was very pleasantly surprised. That being said, you want to make sure your set-up is capable enough for the steep descents as well as a lot of climbing.

The couple from Spain that I met in the bike wash line who had never ridden singletrack before BC Bike Race? They bought dropper posts and had Obsession Bikes install them after Day 1.


Lorenz Jimenez photo

2. Find your weakness and work on it.

My weakness was the gravel climbs and it often felt like I was going backward on them since I got passed by so many people as soon as we hit the ascents. I could hold onto other racers' wheels on the flats, zip past them on the downhills, and power past on the technical climbs, but if I do BC Bike Race again, I'll spend some more time at race pace on long, gradual climbs before the race.

That being said, from what I saw, most people struggled on the technical climbs, even if they were good technical descenders. If you want to improve one skill ahead of BC Bike Race, I would suggest technical climbing since that seemed to be the area where the most time could be made up. Find some punchy climbs with roots and rocks to session at the end of your ride.

Side note: I recommend bringing a hydration system like Camelbak's Chase Vest so that you can sip hydration mix through it all with your hands on the handlebars.


Dave Silver photo

3. The singletrack descents are worth the climbs.

The BC Bike Race team had a great video that they showed at the Rider Meeting at the start of the event that taught everyone about rider etiquette. I've done marathon XC race where the traffic on the descents makes them boring at best, and dangerous at worst. During BC Bike Race, however, I found people were super happy to let me pass them on the descents and courteous if they wanted me to move over and the courses were well designed to make sure that the pack was spread out by the time it reached the more technical downhills. On the most technical day, instead of waves of 100 racers at the start, there were waves of 25.


If you still get stuck behind someone on a descent, take a moment to appreciate where you are and what your body can do, catch your breath, and by that time the person ahead of you will have found a good spot to move over.


BC Bike Race 2019
Robert Shaer photo

BC Bike Race 2019
BC Bike Race 2019


4. Everyone wants you to get to the finish line.

The Medical team is at the start every day to fix your blisters or help your aches and pains before the race starts. In retrospect, I should have visited them a couple days earlier, before the blisters on my hands popped, but hindsight is 20/20 and they patched up my hands four mornings in a row without one complaint or lecture.

Bike Patrol and the Medical team are on course every day to help you with injuries, flats tires, and a positive word or two. Even your fellow racers want to see you succeed and almost everyone had a word of encouragement when they passed me on the gravel climbs.

No less important to helping everyone get through the week healthy, there's no grabbing your own snacks off the table. Volunteers pass you the chips, candies, donuts, peanut butter sandwiches and watermelon with rubber gloves on.


BC Bike Race 2019
Dave Silver photo
BC Bike Race 2019


5. Surround yourself with the best kind of people, their energy is contagious.

The people that do BC Bike Race and the crew that supports it are incredible. The event logistics are very complicated but somehow you, your bike and your luggage make it from one location to the next seamlessly. Before you arrive, your tent is even set up for you. All you have to do is find your luggage, pick a tent and walk to the dining hall.

It was a pretty neat experience to sit down next to overall winner Felix Burke at dinner one evening and chat about his experiences at the front of the race. At the same time, it was fun to chat with my tent mate who took 22 hours longer than Felix to finish the race and see how her day played out. Everyone is happy to chat about their day and, regardless of speed, have had similar experiences.

You really get to know the people who ride with you every day and develop a bond with them. I think half the fun of the day was talking to the people at the finish line or over dinner and seeing how their days went. There's always a story to tell.

BC Bike Race 2019
BC Bike Race 2019


6. Simplicity is key.

You have to pack everything into these big red bags and they're smaller than they look so choose wisely and keep it simple and organized. The big red bag goes straight to camp each day, but you have a small black rider backpack that goes to the finish line each day. Keep a change of clothes, soap, a towel and anything you may want at the end of the race in that one.

The one thing I was really happy to have was a rechargeable battery. There's a tent where you can leave your phone and other electronics to charge, but it's nice to be able to charge them overnight in your own tent after leaving the charging station.

I was really happy I had eight kits to wear during BC Bike Race (stay tuned for my review of them!) since there was likely a rain shower moments after the photo on the right was taken. I put the shorts, jersey, socks, sports bra and jersey that I planned to wear for each day in a Ziploc bag at home so I didn't have to worry about trying to sort through all my apparel first thing in the morning. You want to make things as easy as possible for yourself when you're unpacking and packing almost every day.


BC Bike Race 2019


7. Practice yoga daily.

Lululemon is a sponsor of the BC Bike Race and was on-site every day with yoga mats, foam rollers, massage "guns", NormaTec pants, and even an ice bath. This was the best part of the day. After a hard ride, easy yoga with 100+ other riders is the best way to speed up recovery and wind down before heading to bed.


BC Bike Race 2019


8. Get as much sleep as possible.

The mornings are early and the days are long so put your earplugs in and get into your tent early. If you can, take every bus and ferry ride as an opportunity to nap.


Dave Silver photo


Learn more about BC Bike Race and register for 2020 here.


51 Comments

  • + 24
 Awesome, inspiring article. For years it's been my dream to ride the BC Bike Race but being in the military has caused schedule conflicts and long periods off the bike. Still hopeful that I'll be able to participate sometime in the future. In the meantime, all this coverage is great to see.
  • + 17
 Thanks for your service.
  • + 4
 @NateMob: Thank you for your support. As much as the Navy demands from me, they're also the reason I finally got to achieve another dream of mine, moving out to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Sadly, only a few months until I have to kiss the bikes goodbye again.
  • + 17
 wow, never not smiling. respect
  • + 16
 Are those condoms taped to your palms?
  • + 3
 Lol. Probably a moleskin donut around the blisters.
  • + 8
 You're right @TheStabbyCyclist, but I can see why there might be confusion @pinhead907.
  • + 2
 @sarahmoore: ya, I figured it was something to take pressure off of the blisters... wasn't sure if it was an improvisation or what ;-)
  • + 3
 @pinhead907: Always some improvisation with blisters since they're all different! The medics made a donut out of foam wrap to remove pressure and then held it in place with a heavy-duty bandage and tape.
  • + 3
 Thanks for the great article. I was there for the first time this year. I was surprised how technical this race is. Many stages would have gone through Germany as Enduro race. But it was really the best week on a bike
  • + 1
 Awesome you were there too. I was surprised how technical the trails were as well, but so stoked at the same time!
  • + 2
 One of the cool things about these multi-day events is how many new trails you get to see. It's like "ok, you're riding regularly at home and you're feeling good, feeling strong, now lets go someplace and ride new trails for 8. days. straight." Who could complain?
  • + 1
 Biking road trip with all the details pre-arranged, it's perfect!
  • + 3
 Great summary of the experience. I raced in 2016 and that photo of the "soul crushing climb" with the power lines immediately brought back memories of that grind! Congrats on what looks to be an awesome week.
  • + 3
 Yup, that's a memorable one. Thank you!
  • + 4
 Can we get a copy of that rider etiquette movie on the front page for the rest of the people who may have a problem with this rider etiquette thing.
  • + 5
 I've added the video into the blog post. It's here as well: https://www.bcbikerace.com/media/educationalvideos/
  • + 1
 @sarahmoore: Thank you for doing that!
  • + 2
 1. Go ride your bike 2. Go ride your bike 3. Go ride your bike 4. Go ride your bike 5. Go ride your bike 6. Go ride your bike 7. Go ride your bike 8. Go ride your bike
  • + 1
 All day every day!
  • + 1
 Thanks for the memories..... I did this race 2 years ago with my wife. I loved every bit of it, I thought I died and went to heaven. Trying to convince the wife to race it again but coming from OZ is a big ask.
  • + 1
 Maple Syrup is a great trail and riding up that climb on Day 5 is pretty impressive. Very few people are going to make that one at that point in the race. Well done. And great article.
  • + 2
 "Every half hour without fail I had either three gummy blocks or a gel for the entire 4-hour ride."

My god, that's a recipe for explosive pooping!
  • + 2
 The body can absorb 60g of carbohydrate per hour, but it is recommended that you try this out and train your body to absorb the calories ahead of time.
  • + 1
 "Hey babe, I know neither of us has ridden single-track before, but I signed us up for a grueling multi-day stage race half way across the world on some of the most technically challenging terrain available. Should be fun"
  • + 1
 This is the most stoke I've seen in a while; the photos and description made me smile! Great job on your race and the article!
  • + 1
 All the stoke! Thank you!
  • + 2
 Well done, Sarah! Congrats on finishing strong (and smiley) and thanks for the great article. #donutsmakeyoutough
  • + 1
 Thank you Angi! Smile It's hard not to smile when you're riding a bike and know there are donuts at the finish line!!!
  • + 1
 Agreed, great article, awesome effort, it's my one and only "race" that I hope to do some day, but damn that is a lot of really hard riding back to back for days, great job!!
  • + 2
 What was your setup on the ripley ? Looks like a great bike for the race.
  • + 4
 I rode the XTR bike stock other than a 2.3 Maxxis Minion front tire, a 2.35 Vittoria Mezcal rear tire and a OneUp Components bar and stem (with the EDC tool in it). It was a great bike for the race.
  • + 1
 Pretty sure it was the same bike reviewed earlier this week. Check for it in the reviews tags
  • + 1
 @sarahmoore: Awesome tyre set-up, a different type of reverse mullet
  • + 1
 @sarahmoore: nice. How did you get on with the steep STA. It's the only thing putting that worries me. Love the look of the bike for this kind of riding.
  • + 2
 @olibluegoat: If you haven't ridden a bike with a steep STA it is a game changer, so much more comfortable and you have way better control on technical climbs. I'm sure there's a point where a STA can be too steep but 75-77 degrees feels nice and natural to me.
  • + 1
 @Boondocker390: cheers dude. Need to try it out. Going to take a ripley for a demo soon
  • + 1
 @Boondocker390: just seen she had tape on her palms. Just wondering if the steep STA put too much pressure on the hands or if it was just the conditions / course
  • + 1
 incredible write-up. syd and macky are fantastic people. I'm glad you got to ride with them (and vice-versa).
  • + 1
 great story , four years since I rode the BCBR , always enjoy these recaps , 2022 edition for me next time
  • + 2
 Possibly the best-written, most informative article ever on PB. Brava!
  • + 1
 Incredible Event, maybe one day run in BC !!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • + 1
 I'm stoked on the Pink Bike employee rocking the Nike Dunk "pigeons"
  • + 1
 Was nice to meet you (and ride on your wheel on the second half of Day 2).
  • + 1
 lotta miles to be riding a DHF...nice job.
  • + 1
 Great article ...thanks for the tips! Smile
  • + 2
 BUCKET LIST!
  • + 1
 Riding Maple today, so good!!
  • + 2
 Maple Syrup was my favourite trail of the whole week. Enjoy!
  • + 1
 @sarahmoore: Yeah, I really love that trail.
  • + 1
 Ive done 35 stages in various races, 14 at the BCBR.

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