Life After the BC Bike Race

Jan 15, 2015
by Mike Levy  

LIFE AFTER THE

WHEN IT'S ALL OVER

BC BIKE RACE



What can I say about the BC Bike Race that hasn't been said already? You've likely all heard about the near endless ribbons of singletrack that look to be straight out of a movie (some of them actually are), countless technical challenges in the form of roots and rocks that can be made even more demanding by B.C.'s sometimes unpredictable weather, and so much camaraderie that you might end up naming your first born son after someone you meet during the week. And anyone who tells you that the race is a breeze is either full of shit or hasn't yet ticked it off their own list. The truth is, you can never be too fit, too strong, or too good of a bike handler, and that applies regardless of if you're heading into it with podium aspirations or if your results are about as important to you as what shade of blue your wife wants to paint the washroom. After all, teal is a great colour, and mountain biking is fun and all, but it's even more enjoyable when you're strong enough to have fun during the hard days, right?

All that's a bit obvious, though. Less clear is what happens after you cross that last finish line in Whistler, enjoy two or seven celebratory fizzy drinks, and then pack up a week's worth of dirty socks and chamois before heading back to wherever you're from. First things first, get over the fact that you not only survived, but that your weeklong stay in la-la land is over and that it's time to go back to normal life. And I don't care how awesome you think your normal life is, the B.C. Bike Race is "awesomer".

B.C. Bike Race Photos by Dave Silver
  A week of this? It can't last forever, but you'll want it to by the time you get to the end of it.


It's Not Over, Is it?

Racing for a week straight is a funny thing. First, there's the steady build-up of nerves: did I train hard enough? Will my bike see me through all seven days? Will my tent-mate fart all night long from downing thirty gels during every stage? All those thoughts kept me from getting a good night's sleep before the first day's early morning start in North Vancouver, but I'm sure that I'm far from being the only one who would admit that. Put in a good showing on day one, though, and the remaining week is tough, but you'll have a much easier go of it for the remaining six stages - the higher your placing on the first day, the closer to the front you'll get to start for the rest of the week. In other words, think of stage one as a qualifying session. It's completely true that your legs will feel worn out everyday, but don't forget that many of your peers are also waking up at 3am with their quads locked in a painful seizure that feels like they'll never soften up.

By the time you get to the third and fourth days you'll be hitting your stride, so long as you've been taking care of yourself, and then, if you're like me, day five and six will start off being more about survival than putting the hurt on others... even if the trails are some of the best that B.C. has to offer. My advice: take a few deep breaths, push a gear or two easier than you might want to for the first thirty minutes, and let the race come to you. It might actually end up ''coming to you,'' or you might end up in the pain cave all day regardless, but at least you'll see the finish line with that strategy.

BC Bike Race Photos by Dave Silver Margus Riga Tim Westlake
  What looks like weariness and pain is actually disappointment that my week-long overindulge of singletrack has come to an end.


The final day of the BCBR almost doesn't feel real. You've made it, or at least you will in another hour and a half barring disaster, but rather than being grateful that the end is in sight like you expected to be, you'll likely be wishing for it to go on and on. Just a few more nights in the tent, just a few more days of breathing through your eyeballs on climbs and skidding around loamy downhill corners, and, of course, just a few more days of hanging out with new and old friends. But then it's all over and you're supposed to go back to normal life like it never happened. No more falling asleep in your dirty riding gear in front of your tent after a hard day. No more going up for desert three times without shame (''It was a hard day!''). Singletrack cold turkey with a badass glove tan from your efforts.
bigquotesYou've likely all heard about the near endless ribbons of singletrack that look to be straight out of a movie (some of them actually are), countless technical challenges in the form or roots and rocks that can be made even more demanding by B.C.'s sometimes unpredictable weather, and so much camaraderie that you might end up wanting to name your first born son after someone you meet during the week.



Rocky Mountain Element BC Bike Race Photo by Amy Mcdermid
  Ingredients for a good time at the BCBR: big wheels, real mountain bike tires run tubeless, and, of course, a dropper post.




Where Are My Legs?

Putting in a half decent performance at your local cross-country race is no easy feat - it takes a fair bit of commitment, or at least a willingness to pedal hard as balls for awhile if you hope to do well relative to those around you. Putting in a half decent performance at a week-long stage race is a whole other ballgame, though, and I'd say that challenges like setting the time on your VCR, earning a master's degree, or raising a few children are about on par with being strong and consistent through a week of racing on British Columbia's technical singletrack. Then again, I haven't done any of those things except the bit about the BC Bike Race, so I may be a little off-base with my comparisons. Even the fittest and cockiest of riders out there knows that the BCBR is a hard event to complete, let alone actually race, but it's funny what your body can handle when the other option is telling your friends that you gave up. Each of the seven days essentially feels a lot like a very long cross-country race, and you'd usually take the next day off the bike, or maybe do an easy recovery spin to keep the legs moving, but the BCBR obviously doesn't allow that. Nope, you get up the next morning and do it all over again, and somehow your legs are okay with that. It's when the race is over that they say enough is enough, though...

I'll admit that I felt pretty damn smug about how I rode at this year's event, and I seriously expected to head home after a week of full-on racing and crush everyone in my local crew. I was really looking forward to stepping on their balls during the climbs, and feeling fresh as a daisy after a three hour ride that put them in the hurt locker. I'm an idiot, as it turns out, and that's pretty much the last thing that was going to happen. Your body, or at least mine, wants to go into re-building mode after a hard week spent in the saddle, and a few flights of stairs had me reeling from lactic acid that hit my legs in much the same way that I suspect sticking a fork into a wall socket would do. Sure, drink all the chocolate milk that you can pour down your throat. Stretch until you're so flexible that you feel okay about those Lululemon ''guys pants'' that you bought. Get on up with that foam roller so hard that you start talking dirty to it. It's not going to matter because you're going to feel like you got taken out at the knees by a fat kid on a scooter regardless of how much so-called recovery work you do.

Your legs will come back, eventually. And not only that, they'll come back even stronger than before, but it's going to take time unless you race bikes for a living. I found that almost two weeks had passed until I was back to the point where I could only feel the good effects of racing the BCBR, which is, not surprisingly, a newfound ability to suffer more than your friends. I'm not going to lie, that's a great feeling. In fact, you'll feel like a million bucks all around after a short while: lighter, fitter, stronger. Basically, it's the world's funnest boot camp.





bigquotesSure, drink all the chocolate milk that you can pour down your throat. Stretch until you're so flexible that you feel okay about those Lululemon ''guys pants'' that you bought. Get on up with that foam roller so hard that you start talking dirty to it. It's not going to matter because you're going to feel like you got taken out at the knees by a fat kid on a scooter regardless of how much so-called recovery work you do.




There's My Legs!

Mountain bike boot camp, er, I mean the BC Bike Race, will turn you into an animal on the bike, and there's a good chance that you're going to want to ride, ride, and then ride some more after you recover from the event. Weeks after the BCBR, I often found myself wanting to keep rolling, work and other commitments be damned, and I just couldn't understand why others in my local crew didn't want to ride for the entire day - what else could there be to do? Can't your four year old make his own dinner? What do you mean you're going to get fired? The BCBR spoils you: you wake up and go stuff your face with as much bacon, eggs, and pastries as you want, then your only other responsibility is to get chamois'd up and be on the line when the horn sounds. It's the good life, one where being at work on time or arguing over who's turn it is to clean the dishes doesn't exist. But it also spoils you by giving you a taste of what life could be like if you won some sort of lottery that awarded you with free time rather than useless money. I think that it should really be called the B.C. Bike Race Time Lottery. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that the event has been directly responsible for a few divorces over the years.

BC Bike Race Photos by Dave Silver Margus Riga Tim Westlake
  Singletrack sampler: the best dirt, some interesting wood, and a lot of rock.


Are you one of those Strava nutbars who screenshots their latest KOM conquests and posts them on Facebook or Instagram? If so, please stop doing that. But if you won't stop, the BC Bike Race is going to feel like the perfect training program for the real race in your head, which happens to be every timed section of your local trail network. Prepare to likely be faster than you ever have, just please have some class about it. And go easy on your riding buddies once you fully recover - no one likes a showoff, do they?
bigquotes But it also spoils you by giving you a taste of what life could be like if you won some sort of lottery that awarded you with free time rather than useless money. I think that it should really should be called the B.C. Bike Race Time Lottery. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that the event has been directly responsible for a few divorces over the years.




Where's Everyone At?

Almost every firsthand account of the BCBR that I've read, including my own, inevitably has a few sentences where the writer complains about trail traffic, often Euros who seem to think roots and rocks mean eating shit or walking, or long lineups of less than ideally fit riders practicing their trackstands at the entry to tricky sections. That happens, no doubt about it, but if you're just quick enough on the ups to stay ahead of riders less adapt at B.C.'s singletrack, you'll likely be rewarded with latching onto a group of shredders who posses similar skills and lungs. I can't overstate how awesome it is to race for hours with the same group of guys, day-in and day-out, which is something that leads to an immense amount of heckling and name-calling that is only ever going to be appropriate when way out in the bush.

BC Bike Race Photos by Dave Silver Margus Riga Tim Westlake

''You'll climb faster if you don't brake on the uphills,'' was yelled at me while my eyes were rolling back in their sockets during a steep gravel road climb in the blazing heat. I wasn't squeezing the brake levers, but I may have well been.

There's a lot of technical sections in the BC Bike Race, and you're bound to get caught out by a few of them, which might lead to a peer piping up with a ''Is this your first mountain bike ride?'' The funny thing is that you might be so tired that it does feel like your first time on singletrack. Which lever operates which brake? Inside pedal up or down? OMG, I'm cross-geared!

''Are you choosing lines or just closing your eyes and hoping for the best,'' is something that I asked a fellow racer ahead of me after he got lucky a handful of times on a rocky, rough downhill. I think I hit the deck about two minutes after that. Karma is a bitch.

Apparently it's not kosher to yell out ''Hey everyone, Lance Armstrong wants through!'' when the guy behind you tersely asks to get by during a fast, strung out, single file climb that saw thirty of us lined up. Dude, where the f*ck are you going to go? I let Lance past, as did a few people ahead of me, only to see him a couple of minutes later, tangled up in his carbon hardtail on the ground from trying to execute a shady off-trail pass through the bush.

It's those moments that really make those long, hard efforts in the saddle so much better; simply knowing that you're all suffering but still having enough wits about you to come up with a smart ass remark. That in itself is worth the packed trails and crowded post-race shower lineups (oh look, another penis...), and it's something that I don't think I really appreciated until I was back home, doing long rides with either a single friend or by myself. I always think of myself as a bit of a loner who tends to avoid crowds, be it a big group ride or going grocery shopping on welfare Wednesday, but the BCBR was an eye opener - I really do like riding with others. There's no coming around a corner while 30 kilometers out in the bush on your own trails and seeing Rocky Mountain's Brett Tippie wearing a wig and yelling at you through a megaphone that you're awesome. You're also unlikely to get two sasquatches on one dirtbike pacing you up your local gravel road climb. Or stumble upon two or three different feed zones during your weekend epic that are fully stocked with drinks and food. I really do wish that last one would happen, though.

BC Bike Race Photos by Dave Silver Margus Riga Tim Westlake
  You might need a little pick me up after a few hours of racing, and Tippie is there to do exactly that.



So, About Next Year...

A lot of the world is heading into the darkness known as winter, which, if you're anything like me, mostly involves eating my feelings, wearing thermal underwear, and reliving the good times I had on my bike before it started getting dark at 4pm. In years past I've usually done my best to acquire diabetes between December and late February, but this winter is different. This winter is all about next summer, which is probably the furthest ahead that I've ever planned anything in my life, but that's the sort of thing that the BC Bike Race will do to you. You could be sitting on your couch, listening to the rain come down or watching the snow pile up, and suddenly realize that yes, you do want to go to spin class. Maybe you'll be doing your usual Sunday night grocery shopping when you figure out that grocery shopping should consist of more than buying chips and cookies. This is the sort of thing that the BC Bike Race will do to you, even when you're months removed from the event as we are now: even the most committed of slackers (that's me) will be scheming and planning for next summer's event.

BC Bike Race Photos by Dave Silver Margus Riga Tim Westlake
  Oh, you know, just another ocean-side start to the day.


Those with families will likely be thinking longterm by planting the seed early, ''You know, honey, B.C. is really nice in early July. I think we deserve a holiday together!'' Those with jobs who might not cater to such fantasies will be browsing Wikipedia for some sort of believable disease that they can use as an excuse to get away, while others will be saving every penny for their mid-summer adventure. Don't assume that the homeless looking guy collecting cans along the side of the highway is doing it for food money... it could be for his BC Bike Race entry fee. Whatever your method of getting there, doing the race once isn't likely going to feel like it's enough, even though it'll really feel like more than enough when you're trying to get through it. One day removed, though, you'll likely be find yourself planning for next year as you clean out wounds from the week's racing that you just completed. It's a funny thing how that works, isn't it?


www.bcbikerace.com
Photographery by Dave Silver, Margus Riga and Todd Weselake


57 Comments

  • + 26
 Cool write up, interesting to hear a real perspective
  • + 6
 Great write up Mike! Enjoy the freedom while you can!
  • + 14
 "What can I say about the BC Bike Race that hasn't been said already? You've likely all heard about the near endless ribbons of singletrack that look to be straight out of a movie (some of them actually are), countless technical challenges in the form of roots and rocks that can be made even more demanding by B.C.'s sometimes unpredictable weather, and so much camaraderie that you might end up naming your first born son after someone you meet during the week."

I'm only slightly ashamed to admit that although I consider myself pretty well acquainted with the world of mountain biking, and although I'd heard references to this race on several occasions, I knew absolutely nothing about it until reading this article. Now I've got a new lifetime goal, and I'm raring to go out there and cross it off NOW - thanks for the tip, Levy!
  • + 2
 Check this out @Bluefire. It'll give you a good taste of what the event is about:

vimeo.com/98975241

The cool thing is that this short film focuses mostly on regular folks. You'll definitely find more than a few hammerheads and professional riders on the pointy end of the stages, but most of the people that participate in BCBR are out there for the fun of the experience.
  • + 2
 That video does do a great job of showing the atmosphere and riding. My wife and I rode in 2013 and it was a great experience, and we are in the video twice as well! A lot of people bring up that it is too expensive but I can bet that once you have done it, the price is well justified! By far the best week I have had riding and it was a great way to see a large amount of BC as well.
  • + 14
 Well, you'll be happy to know there's a local brewery in Cumberland now.........Cumberland Brewing Company.........right behind Rider's Pizza. See ya in July.......or sooner! Smile
  • + 2
 It's so great to add a brewery right by the trails. Hopefully they have more seats by BCBR time next year...lol
  • + 5
 Want a cheap way to experience the BCBR....volunteer for the week! Get yourself to North Van and they take care of the entire weeks' needs! I volunteered for the week in the bike transport crew, and this summer I'm racing!

(Doesn't hurt that as a volunteer I got to sign up with the racers for the lowest price point at the end of the race that past summer either...)
  • + 4
 Never done a race this long, but last year I did a survival 100k mtb race, and my life has never been the same.. Now I constantly look for further distances, and somewhat enjoy the pain..
  • + 7
 Awesome write up. (insert prop busting hilarious comment here)
  • + 1
 You have to dig deep for this week of riding. A few years ago, on day 3, I boarded on the ferry and slept on the floor right outside the women's washroom (flat, open space), with a line up for it right beside me. I didn't care one bit 'cause I was just that tired. Don't get me wrong, the trails are amazing, everything is very well prepared, tech support is unbelievably well organized, and I always had enough to eat and drink, but you will feel it and you will be tired... and the single track is amazing! You won't think of work once, your better half/spouse/kids/pet sure, but only for a minute as ride some of the best singletrack in BC. The trails are prepped, some are linked and some are purpose built just for BCBR. Your day job will be but a distant memory for the week as your legs whimper at the sight of yet another hill... and then ride more trail and see yet amazing views and forget all about how tired you are. By the next start line you adapt, and just go ride for another 45-60km of brand new to you single track and then do it the next day, and the next, and the next. Yep, it's physically difficult, but it's ridiculously fun and you will not regret doing it.
  • + 5
 Great article! I completed this race in 2010 and the article brings back some great memories. Many points made are bang on.
  • + 4
 Great stuff. I think all know that feeling you get at the end of a weeks riding anywhere - I could live in the woods eat berries and nuts and ride my bike all day long forever and ever Smile
  • + 2
 I worked for Rocky during the 2014 BCBR. What a great experience. It was insane to watch the riders go from fresh and fit to lumps of skin covered in bruises and cuts. Everyone who raced in that deserves a medal! When we were in Powell River it was crazy to watch the poor Euros trying to ride NS terrain they had never seen before. Myself and another Rocky guy must have passed 60 or 70 riders when we got out for a ride after the start. They hiked a lot of terrain!
  • + 2
 Best race ever! I have done it twice now and will begin the negotiations with the wife shortly for a proposed third trip back. Excellent write-up and spot on on all accounts.
  • + 1
 Great write up, Mike. I'll be doing the race for the first time this year and you've answered a lot of questions I had in my head with this. Thanks. About the bike: what size of chainring did you run? I'm on a 1x10 (120mm travel 29er) and I'm a little worried about it. I have a 32x42 low gear that I'm not concerned about, but the 32x11 is a pretty low top gear for any extended road sections. I'm hoping there isn't much in the way of downhill road sections in BCBR anyway, but I'm curious about your opinion on drivetrains for the race. I also don't have a dropper post. I do quite a lot of XC racing in Quebec and don't feel it's necessary there. I'm reluctant to spring for what could be an expensive single-use item. Thoughts?
  • + 1
 Most 29'ers I saw had 28 tooth rings. Only the top pro's had 36'ers. Almost all of the DH is sweet, sweet single track so I never found an issue with low gearing. Most of the climbs are steep long fire road slogs so I think a double is a good bet. I offered a girl $1000 for her triple one climb!

Consider the fee you payed to race. Don't be afraid to put some cash into getting your bike sorted. Or just buy a new one! I have NEVER seen so much 10k carbon in my life! (I'm kidding, my bike is a few season old and it was fine. But I started with rebuilt suspension, new chain and cassette, tires and made sure my wheels were dialled.)

Build your bike for steep terrain. Big bars, fat tires and a dropper. And have fun! I would kill to do it again!!!
  • + 1
 I wish I could do this race...then again my lungs aren't nearly as capable as my descending skills so I guess I would not be having much fun on the downs with the trail traffic.
  • + 1
 I've already booked the time off!

PS when @ideguise and I did it 5 years ago (in the no defunct Challenge cat) we rode everyday in baggies, and won our category overall! Baggies RULE!
  • + 0
 Anyone else put off by the $2K plus registration cost? Its almost cruel to make the cost of entering such a great race so prohibitive
for most people. There could be a market for BCBR course tours at a fraction of the cost?
  • + 3
 If you consider what the fee includes, it is not very expensive as it would cost a similar, if not more, amount to do it on your own. The race fee includes all transportation once in North Van, ferry crossings (4 if I recall correctly), all food (2 aid stations) during the course, lots of marshals keeping you going in the right direction, full emergency crew if you have issues, tent (accomodations), setup/take down of camp every day, on site bike repair, transport of your bag daily to the new location, etc.

It includes a lot, not like a normal race that is just a course. Individual course tours and travel around to all of the locations would for sure cost more than the race entry fee.
  • + 2
 great story , promised myself not to start looking at BCBR stories till the end of january , as i already cant wait till june !!!!!!!!
  • + 0
 Nice write up. Interestingly when I was riding in Pisgah National Forest, NC I met a lady who had done both the BCBR and the Pisgah Stage Race and she said the Pisgah Stage Race was harder haha. Sounds like they are both crazy!!
  • + 2
 Oh boy, I'm nervous already about all the training and prep. I have to do for it this year ,, Smile , first timer this year!,
  • + 3
 so looking forward to June....
  • + 2
 Lol sounds awesome. If only I had $2200 plus travel expenses to enter a bike race....
Off to work I go
  • + 1
 that was exactly the same sentence i used when i left the alps for the first time... "will i ever like to ride again at my home trails???" :s
  • + 2
 Why wait until next summer? Cape Epic (www.cape-epic.com) is in March! Just one more race isn't much, eh? Big Grin
  • + 2
 Isn't Cape Epic the fire road race where people get run over by gazellas? I mean you could eventually argue for being eaten by a bear during B.C.Race buy I'd rather die on a single track Big Grin
  • + 2
 Yep, so bring your spear and BBQ gear Wink
  • + 2
 And Knäckebröd
  • + 1
 Always Knäckebröd with deer.
  • + 2
 what about the lingenberry? (sp?)
  • + 2
 Lingon don't travel that well. They would go great with the rest of the menu though!
  • + 1
 indeed. My step dad of swedish descent) always kept a jar of preserves in the fridge. TBH i think it was likely purchased from IKEA
  • + 3
 more like life before. Amiright?!?!?!?!
get it?? BC??
  • + 1
 This is on my bucket list. Rock on Mike! It takes some major balls to stick with a big race like this!
  • + 2
 Great perspective on the BCBR.
  • + 1
 my older brother built the bridge that you go over then under"aloha bridge".....in powell river...
  • + 1
 shiiiit, i already lost my job, im down to ride all day, and night, where you at man?
  • + 1
 Very interesting read and personal growth learned, added to my bucket list.
  • + 1
 2017. BC Bike Race. I'm coming for you.
  • + 1
 Setting the time on your VCR? What kind of outdated reference is that?!
  • + 1
 Wish I could afford that bike.
  • + 1
 I've got "some interesting wood" after looking at these photos
  • + 1
 Levy makes the best faces
  • + 13
 I'm working hard to keep my dick-mouth to a minimum.
  • + 4
 Not hard enough Levy
  • + 4
 Levy, did you finish first in the baggy pants category?
  • + 4
 @leelau - it takes real concentration to not look like I have a cock in my mouth when I'm trying hard on the bike.

@L-train - I'm not sure
  • + 1
 @mikelevy Hahah dick in mouth face...priceless
  • - 3
 "Ingredients for a good time at the BCBR: big wheels, real mountain bike tires run tubeless, and, of course, a dropper post." Never been, but i would assume that that is a subjective statement.
  • + 5
 The real mountain bikes tires and dropper post comment is not. That extra pound and a half would have helped a bunch of euro style XC riders immensely. Saving seconds on the climb for minutes on the descent.
  • + 4
 or having fun on the descent.
  • + 1
 I wasnt there, but im sure there were people with "small" wheels, no dropper post, ran tubes and they still had the ingredients for a good time. I just thought that the whole comment was odd, what are "real mountain bike tires"?? Are there fake ones??
  • + 7
 It was tongue in cheek, for sure. It's easier on big wheels but I'd do the BCBR on 20" wheels if that was the only way. That said, I might not do it without a dropper post Wink
  • + 2
 Gotcha. yeah i was just over analyzing your comment, like any other race people have their bike setup preferences geared to what that race will be like. Nice article, if i lived closer i would love to check this race out.

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