The formula doesn't get any simpler; one racer, one track, and a stopwatch. In our case, the racer is a mountain biker, our track is a rooty and rocky descent, and the clock is a Freelap timing system
that doesn't lie. Last year saw Sam Hill and Miranda Miller, along with a bunch of other really fast people, throw down Pinkbike Hot Lap times, and we're back for the second season with a new track and new racers for 2019.
This year, the first racer to throw down a Hot Lap time is actually a local to the area, which you'd think would give him an advantage of some kind, but we use the words "racer" and "throw down" in the loosest possible sense...The Track
The second season of Hot Laps sees us move to Cakewalk, a classic Squamish descent that has a good mix of roots and rocks, as well as plenty of different lines to choose from. And just to keep everyone honest, there are even a few brief climbs to keep the mountain in mountain biking.
The Hot Lap
''Levy, you have to race the Pinkbike Hot Lap tomorrow,
'' read the Slack message from my boss. And because I still hadn't figured out how to turn off the notifications on yet another way he can get ahold of me, I kinda had to do it. "That'll be fun," I thought for a few moments, until a second ding alerted me of another message from the padrone. Two dings are never, ever a good thing. ''And you have to do it on that old Brodie 8-Ball from 2002,
'' he typed out before adding something about how I needed to be safe despite my long history of folding like a lawn chair under pressure. I mean, he's not wrong, but he didn't need to word it like that.
You're looking at the 2002 Brodie 8-Ball, AKA 47.5lb and 26'' of pure freeride.
With an afternoon to prepare, I sacrificed an entire bottle of Stan's sealant to the shop floor while trying to tubeless the 26" Sun Mag 30 rims and expired rubber. My arms and fingers got a great workout, but both ends of the bike ended up keeping their tubes. At that point, it was all I had in me to do a quick bolt-check; besides, what could go wrong with a well-used 17-year-old freeride bike bought on the Buy-and-Sell
While the tiny Fox shock is still full of oil, the 190mm-travel Marzocchi Shiver has about as much compression damping as I remember: none.
While I'm convinced that the primary reason for me racing the Hot Lap on the 47.5lb 8-Ball was to make my life difficult, it also presented an interesting opportunity to compare a long-travel bike from 2002 to more contemporary machines. Back then, I'd have traded both of my nipples for the big Brodie and its 203mm of travel, and the Hot Lap course is the type of thing I'd have wanted to ride it down. These days, it's a trail that most riders enjoy on bikes that can weigh 20lbs less and have 120 to 150mm of squish, bikes that let them have more fun and go faster than ever before.
Some more numbers for you: the 8-Ball's head angle is somewhere around 68-degrees when its 190mm-travel Shiver is at full height, which means it's roughly 107-degrees when the fork is bottomed and my eyes are closed. For some perspective, Yeti's SB100 sports
pretty much the same head angle but with a 120mm fork, it has a bottom bracket that's a few feet lower, and it literally weighs more than 22lbs less.
The 8-Ball's reach is somewhere around 400mm, which is a full 100mm shorter than the Pole Stamina that I'm currently testing. We have it so damn good, people.
So, how'd the Hot Lap go? About as well as you'd expect if I'm honest. My first attempt ended with a double pinch flat (how the f*ck did I ever ride with tubes?) and a trip over the handlebar that brought back a lot of good memories while also rearranging my organs. EWS racers don't get a second chance and that same rule is supposed to apply to the Hot Lap, but I have a few connections at Pinkbike and was able to finagle another attempt that went better-ish, aside from the chain falling off a few seconds after I dropped in, but that just made it feel more authentic.
The 8-Ball performed... Well, it also performed about as well as you'd expect. It was as nervous and twitchy as I am in a church, way too high off the ground, and why are the wheels so small? But none of that is surprising, of course. What will be surprising, though, is if any professional racers are able to beat my Hot Lap time of 6:26. As of right now, I'm the official leader of the Pinkbike Hot Lap series, and I'll be surprised if any of those EWS types are able to usurp my reign as champion.