Opinion - Cater To Your Weaknesses

Jul 8, 2014 at 16:29
by Mike Levy  
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Anyone who's serious about racing should tailor their equipment to their weaknesses rather than to flatter their strengths but, more often than not, that isn't how it's done.

I've just returned home after finishing up the B.C. Bike Race, a week-long cross-country stage race that's somewhat unique in that it puts a massive emphasis on a rider's bike handling abilities. This is in contrast to the majority of competitive cross-country events that simply reward those who have the biggest quads and lungs, and while fitness still rules the day at the BCBR, racers who manage to combine excellent conditioning with good handling skills are the ones who seem to prosper when it comes to both finishing positions and enjoyment levels. There's no way of getting around the fact that you're going to be faced with some stiff climbing up gravel roads when you're trying to serve up 50 or 60km of racing, but it really did feel like we spent the large majority of our time on singletrack during the week, with much of it being technically challenging regardless of if it was pointing up or down the hill.

It's all relative, of course, as you might not find that hairy rootball of a section too tricky when you're fresh as a daisy and still filled with hope for the day ahead, but come up on it after 40km of breathing through your eyeballs while battling for 50th position in 90° heat and you might feel a bit like you've slammed a bottle of Fireball whiskey and are now trying to play Jenga. I spent a lot of the week back in the mid-pack with riders who were quite obviously fitter than me but probably would have ridden said rooty sections better had they actually drank some Fireball before coming to the start line, and I'm sitting here now, a few days after the final stage in Whistler, nursing a taint that resembles an open can of tuna and thinking why that was the case. After all, going on appearances alone, these dudes should have been able to ride away from me at a moment's notice. These racers, men sporting body fat percentages that told me they ate way less candy than I do, with calves and quads that gave me questionable feelings of man-envy, were all on machines that catered exactly to their strengths. I'm talking about dudes who barely break the 100lb mark riding carbon fiber hardtails with scary looking 2" wide tires and handlebars that belong on a child's bike. Attached to 120mm long stems. And no dropper post. I would have been scared for their safety if they didn't put ten minutes into me on every five minute climb up a gravel road, followed be me closing the gap anytime we got back onto remotely challenging singletrack. Now, if these same riders had been on bikes with wider, more aggressive tires, a shorter stem and, god have mercy, a dropper seat post, the only time I would have seen them is at the start of each day's stage before they left me to cramp up by myself in the forest.

BC Bike Race - Squamish

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These all looked like men who were taking the BCBR seriously, had obviously trained hard for it, and probably had to give their bodies a coating of chamois cream so they could slip into the tightest plum smuggler suits possible, yet most were on bikes that catered to their strength: outright climbing and fitness, rather than their weaknesses: bike handling and terrain that asked you to call on all of your skills. I believe that this cost most of them some serious time, and while that counts for diddly squat on your casual ride, these boys were at the BCBR to race for position. You can spot the exact same scenario in pretty much any riding scene: local hammerheads who are obviously competitive people who put a lot of effort into their chosen discipline, yet nearly always choose equipment that flatters whatever it is that they're good at: the local cross-country phenom on the 20lb race whippet; the aggro dude with the 6" travel trail bike who climbs like a loaded tractor trailer and descends like a demon; the roadie convert who looks like he's trying to keep the same body position on the dirt as he does on the pavement (this one never ends well, does it?). If we're talking in competitive terms and only competitive terms, all three of those examples are both very common and perfect illustrations of exactly how not to do it.

bigquotesI spent a lot of the week back in the mid-pack with riders who were quite obviously fitter than me but probably would have ridden said rooty sections better had they actually drank some Fireball before coming to the start line, and I'm sitting here now, a few days after the final stage in Whistler, nursing a taint that resembles an open can of tuna and thinking why that was the case. After all, going on appearances alone, these dudes should have been able to ride away from me at a moment's notice.

Take a look at any sport that depends heavily upon the equipment used by those taking part, especially other wheeled sports, and you'll find that the very best tailor their gear to address their weaknesses. Supercross racers who struggle in the whoops often focus their setup on exactly that section, and race car drivers who are hard on their brakes will adjust their car's braking balance so as to inflict the least amount of stress on them. Nicolas Vouilloz, the greatest downhiller of all time and a master technician, is said to have preferred bikes that lessened the Frenchman's only weakness: tracks with loads of pedalling. Much of his success came aboard the Sunn Radical+, a bike that featured a massively high single pivot that made for efficient power delivery, as did his own V-Process NV02 downhill bike that he raced to a World Champs victory in 2002. The lesson? If you're racing, tailor your bike to your weaknesses and allow your strengths to overcome any drawbacks. You don't have to be Nico to benefit from this approach, either, as all I'm suggesting is not to let vanity and pride get the best of you and simply take stock of where you suck and then do something about it. Are you riding away from everyone on the climbs but stumbling on the downs? Try a much shorter stem and a dropper seat post - the 3/4 of a pound weight gain isn't going to cause you to lose your climbing advantage but it sure as hell is going to give you a bonus on the downs. Seriously, you have to work really f*cking hard to get fitter and faster on the climbs, but you can literally buy time on the downhills. Terrible climber? Get rid of those massive tires and tiny stem - if you've really got skill, you'll be able to descend nearly as fast on lighter weight rubber. In both cases you'll literally be buying speed once you learn how to get the most out of those changes.

Getting buck wild in the Lycra.

Plum smuggler taking to the air. Racer #105 has got his shit together: top fitness, skills to make the most of the trail, and a bike setup that complements the terrain. Photo: Dave Silver

Why don't more competitive riders do this? I believe that it's because it requires not only an honest evaluation of one's abilities, it also necessitates that you willingly sacrifice a bit of what you're good at in order to gain in other areas. I don't know about you guys, but I'm not that good at much so I want to really show off when I get the rare chance to do so. I don't want to give that up, and there's absolutely no reason to if you're just wanting to get out on the trail with your buddies, but those who take racing seriously should take stock of their strengths and weaknesses and maybe make some changes. Who knows, you might even discover that your 120mm stem isn't required.

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 67 1
 ...what's the solution for those of us who can't climb or descend?
  • 88 2
 Get a Dh bike and write a song about it.
  • 31 0
 I suck at doubles so I should ride a DJ bike to make them easier to pin or a long travel bike so casing has less effect?
  • 18 2
 Try an enduro steel hardtail.
  • 18 0
 Time in the saddle. PUT IN THOSE MILES.
  • 18 4
 suicide... obviously
  • 29 0
 Take up golf
  • 28 1
  • 4 0
 I'm happy to just find time to ride (up or down)!
  • 3 1
 We have to face the facts... we suck!!
  • 41 0
 So in summary, I should get an electric enduro hartail that I ride to the golf course, where I will write songs and eventually ride into a pond (e-bikes are depressing...), never to resurface.

Sounds like a plan gang, I'll keep you updated.
  • 9 0
 Wear spandex, lots and lots of spandex, maybe a cape too...
  • 19 0
 Pick a wheel size and then speculate that if only you had some other wheel size it would be different.
  • 19 0
 I suck at pumptracks so I'll just get a 29er full suspension to roll over all those annoying bumps...
  • 11 1
 I suck at mountain biking. .. better go mountain biking all weekend to make up for my weaknesses. I am amazing at cooking, cleaning, dishes, DIY and a legend of a nice guy Smile
  • 3 0
 Try CycloCross! Just phukin kidding. Don't race!
  • 35 6
 Keep in mind a lot of the race courses for endurance xc races are basically dirt roads; glorified gravel paths or crazily smooth single track or both. Think Soquel Demo Forest, Sun Valley, Oregon, Salt lake City, Durango, Crested Butte or the laughable Marathon XC courses of Europe. Now that I've insulted half the riding population of the world keep in mind that the singletrack of the BCBR is an anomaly, as you recognized. These people quite likely have limited experience with local BC terrain. Sure they've seen pictures and video but nothing is quite like the cold bitch slap of reality. Under "normal" circumstances, said dirt roadie would have been just fine. The BCBR Is not normal --- and that's just fine
  • 19 1
 But if you ride DH well and want to race enduro then ride a 29er with 4-5 inches of travel and use your bike handling skills.to make up for the Geo and bumps while counting on the bike to make those pedally sections a little easier. This approach makes loads of sense.
  • 14 2
 Ouch. Ouch. And ouch. That was a thoroughly insulting paragraph. You just wrote off half the west as crazy smooth single track. Grumble.
  • 9 1
 ride360 - I'm describing the race courses. Although much of the singletrack in those locations is ridiculously smooth. I didn't say that was bad. Smooth fast trail is fun - but just sometimes lacks variety. Personal opinion.
  • 8 5
 leelau - but the problem is that even if you are a fireroad warrior, 80mm stem and >700mm bars are still better! Think of breathing of mr Kabush. The question is what is that virus that eats the brain of people so much that they make those ridiculous setups?
  • 2 1
 Try the Transvesubienne.
  • 4 1
 @WAKI I have to think the long stems come from roadies who want to be in their 'power position' on an mtb.... either that or they sized their mtb wrong, which is equally possible. On the bars, I think the AM/DH crowd is a little too quick to sing the praises of >700mm bars for all applications. I love my 720s for everyday riding, but in actual XC races on tight techy courses (yes, our XC courses can be super techy and fun here) where you have to squeeze by other riders on narrow trails, or weave through logjams of dismounted riders a narrower bar makes sense. I did a race last weekend and people were cutting down their bars in the parking lot an hour before the race... once I started getting tired I was tagging trees left and right, wishing I had 620s on. But like the article says, if you don't suck at technical stuff, you'll choose the right bars and trust your skills to get you through the root balls and rock piles.
  • 9 1
 "nothing is quite like the cold bitch slap of reality."

I love this. Thank you, leelau.
  • 11 1
 I was a little further back in the pack than Mike, but it was the same story. I was leap-frogging the same guys and girls all week long. They'd pass me on a climb and I'd pass them in the woods. They'd catch me again on the climb and I'd pass them again in the woods. The majority of folks were good about getting out of the way, but there were the occasional few who tried to run with their bikes cyclocross style rather than just step aside for a second or two.

I agree with Mike that you should get a bike or change your setup to cater to your weaknesses. But, like Lee said you have to think about where these folks were coming from. There were people from over 30 different countries at the BCBR and it's likely that many of them have nothing back home that is comparable to the terrain in BC. So maybe they think they're hot sh*t on the climbs AND descents, but their frame of reference is different.

Living on the East Coast of the US, we have some really good technical terrain that proved to be an excellent training ground for the race. We certainly don't have the sustained gnar found in the race, but once your skills are honed, it's just a matter of pressing "repeat"!

That said, this race will put your skills to the test and will leave you a much better rider after.
  • 9 1
 But Lee is correct. Having done BCBR myself, a vast majority of the riders come from racing backgrounds where a longer stem and narrower bars are ok because the likelihood that you're going to ride trail that would require (technically) a wider bar and shorter stem are slim to none. That is changing, yes, especially as the XCO/XCE courses are now trending back into technical grounds long forgotten in XCO events. When riders come to BC to ride, and to ride an "XC" race at that, they have to understand that "BC XC" is much more equatable to "all-mountain" almost anywhere else in the world. Sure, you can come here and ride 620mm bars and a 120mm stem on a 29er hardtail, and sure, you're fitness will most likely prevail, allowing you to finish in the top ranks, but the reality is, while you rode the trail fast, you definitely didn't ride it well, or smoothly, or technically, or had that much fun on it, but does any of that really matter if you come to win, and you do win?
When I did BCBR, the top 10 were predominantly europeans and Americans, hard-core XC'ers, on hardtails, or maybe 80-100mm travel XC bikes, set up for XCO-style racing, and they still kicked the ass of 95% of the racers, most of whom were from BC and had ridden BC trail for years. Shit, most of the Europeans were virtually national champions back home, in both XC and cyclocross...
So while here in BC we think that BC trail is so insanely technical (and while, for the most part it is particularly technical), and that everyone needs >720mm bars, and 80mm stems, and 130mm of travel front and back... the reality is that the XC results at some of our crown jewel races prove otherwise. No, they aren't riding the tougher trails on fromme or Cypress, but that's not the type of rider they are, so why should we tell them they have to be (as reflected in their bike set-up)?
  • 4 0
 I think it's also a question of how much you are willing to sacrifice. I'm not trying to make any justification for myself here and it's probably more applicable to an average joey than a racer but honestly, if you get the most fun out of your bike by cornering and riding rugged downhill section, it's probably more rewarding to haul a 30lbs sled in the end, even if you're a shitty pedaller, than going for a 100mm travel bike with super skinny tires and not fully enjoy your favorite parts of the ride.
  • 2 1
 Jesus Maria Gonsalez con Bartolomeu don Capitan... Isn't BCBR a marathon event, so one actualy do not need narrower bars to pass quickly on a start and on single track? Isn't it more of a reality of BCBR race to shout to someone to let you pass? In that case you can run 900mm bars aye? I know it smacks the head out of the bowl of "common misconceptions" but stem length has next to nothing to do with climbing position and efficiency - you know those things that can bring your chest to any position you like? They are called elbows and they bend. Also arm joints allow them to bend in different planes. We are humans people! Not stiff dolls fixed to a bike with "enduro or XC specific geometry, supposed to grant advantage depending on circumstances". XC bikes have longer stems to provide stability to narrow bars which are the actual point of departure in such bike design. I don't even go into explaining, soe please take it as read that wide bars+short stem will put your torso, thus weight center in more or less the same position as long stem and narrow bars - this is interchangeable! Stem length has mostly to do with how the bike handles! The longer to more oversteer you get, the shorter the more understeer you get. And that also depends on speed you are riding. IF you ride XC with lower speeds with too short stem, your front wheel will have tendency to deepen the turns too much. Consequently too long stem at too high speeds will make you shoot out of corners earlier than you like. Also, bar ends do much more than just bring your weight ahead, they provide balance when pedalling standing. Handling again. And speaking of that efficiency bullshit, wider bars open the chest better, allowing us to breathe better. A guy on 100mm HT with semi-slicks on BCBR looses NOTHING by using ca 70stem and 720 bars. He gains a lot on downhills. Peri-fkng-od.
  • 4 1
 The "wide bars allow better breathing" thing is horseshit. My road bike bars are like 500mm wide and I can breathe just as well on the hoods and flats of that bike as I can on my 720mm mtb bars. If it was a breathing advantage I'm sure you'd see some riders in the TDF or track racing running 650mm wide drop bars.
  • 1 0
 No you wouldn't because then pelotons would not exist and aerodynamics is a case as well in RR. Good luck
  • 3 1
 BCBR winners are all picking up their bikes and running over technical bits. that was my experience a few years back anyway. this a good article but in the end it's just conveniently advocating a move toward an enduro style set up, which is the general industry trend anyway.
  • 1 1
 lungs will beat the tuck, bro. get some rams horns for crist sake before you spout off your baggy short wearing, hairy leg having, beer drinking, opinion! How many calories are in that PBnJ that you ate on your last ride? If ya dont know, then ya is slow.
  • 21 1
 Pro -Excellent write up,good work!

Con- may not enjoy tuna sandwiches until brain becomes "Untainted" from epic graphic Levyism....
  • 4 1
 Woowee that image was a rough one indeed.
  • 2 1
 Forgive me.. what does this mean?

...nursing a taint that resembles an open can of tuna..
  • 2 0
 I enjoyed the write up as well, but I honestly think that the phenomenon Levi is observing has less to do with a failure to acknowledge and cater to weaknesses and more with a failure to study race conditions and prepare adequately for the course. In my experience it is more important to cater the bike to the conditions rather than to the rider. No matter what your weaknesses are, if you aren't on the proper bike odds are you will be hindered. Also the examples he gives about other sports are examples of specific modifications to already observed standards. A supercross racer still show up at the starting line with a supercross bike, not an enduro bike a touring bike, or heaven forbid a crotch rocket. A more accurate analogy would be of a cyclist who is a strong decender but poor climber to run a smaller chainring up front to cater to his weakness. This is something that is already fairly common. Some local racers I know have started running 28t single chainrings on their 29er race bikes for just that reason. We also see this in dh where riders will run various levels of compression, damping, and tire pressures, to best suit their needs(hence the world cup trend of switching between enduro bikes and full on Dh sleds depending upon course layout). this seems a pretty clear example of the benefits of catering the bike to the conditions rather than the rider. I obviously don't know Levy, so I may be entirely wrong, but his success againsy his possibly HGH strungout competitors had more to do with his greater knowledge the BC area and the fact that he brought along a bike that played to his strengths (strong descender, candy powered climber), than it had with any attention to his weaknesses.
  • 13 2
 So if you're weakness is smooth fireroad climbing (as you claim?), by your own advice: shouldn't you have ditched the dropper (to save weight) and run skinny tires on a 20lbs hardtail to compensate for such weakness?
  • 3 2
 Those were my exact thoughts after reading the article!
  • 5 2
 This article should have ended with "And so I bought a carbon 29er hardtail, lycra, and some taint cream."
Put down the candy and swallow your own advice.
  • 6 0
 He's talking about competitive racers, maybe he was just doing it for fun as Mike sounds like he had no hope of ever coming close to winning.
  • 2 0
 But if he catered to his weakness... Wink Plus it was only the top 4 solo men that were close to each other. In the much bigger competitive picture, Mike did pretty well finishing 48th in his category (140 or so riders).
  • 2 1
 PLC07 - Suppose he is talking about serious racers only, and he just goofing around not trying to win, isn't that worse?
People who aren't trying to win telling racers what they should be doing. That's garbage.
I think Mike was trying to win, otherwise he wouldn't have been so dead afterwards as it implies.

But, I do agree, in the regard that if you aren't racing: ride whatever bike is most fun for you.
  • 2 1
 Mike was riding the BCBR just to have fun.

That's a weird thing to say speed. He was with a pack of mostly guys who were super fast aerobic monsters but pretty poor descenders. I know, I saw them. Recognized some names and have raced with them in spandex days.

Seemed like well intentioned advice. Maybe it'll be taken, maybe it won't. I can't see Mike's advice being super relevant for the hard core endurance XC guys. BCBR is about the only race where you can easily lose 10 - 15 minutes on the descent portions total over a 2.5 hour race (which is huge). Where are guys who have smooth fast relatively non-technical trails going to practise to get good at the type of terrain they get in the BCBR?
  • 2 0
 leelau - weird how? I'm not trying to troll here. Just curious what about my comment didn't add up. I'm happy to clarify.

FWIW - all and all, I enjoyed the article. I just walked away thinking the same thing rfeagan and burnbern clearly did.
  • 2 0
 This comment "People who aren't trying to win telling racers what they should be doing. That's garbage".

Mike and I were talking about how cool it is that people from all over the world are here enjoying the race. I suspect where he's coming from was that some of the guys he was riding with were struggling in the downs and maybe he thought that it might be a good thing for them to do some little things differently to get a bit faster; because these guys were losing pretty huge times on the downs.

I don't think its "garbage" to give well intentioned advice to BCBR racers who are trying to improve their racing. Ah maybe I'm overthinking this
  • 13 0
 I should clarify: I was on a 95mm travel Rocky Mountain Element 999 RSL for the BCBR, built up with a 100mm RockShox RS-1, relatively light wheels, much lighter tires than I'd usually run at home (by about 200g each!), and went from a 36 tooth ring that I usually run to a 30 tooth. Climbing is my weakness and I set my bike up to help me on that front. It's a quick handling XC bike that aids me on tech climbs that I struggle with otherwise, and the faster rolling and less aggressive rubber certainly helps on those fire road grinders.

I'd like to think that I can hold my own on the downhills, and that I probably wouldn't descent much faster (if at all) on a longer travel bike, but I do know that I climb cleaner and faster on the little Rocky Mountain than on a longer legged machine. I also believe that I climb better on the Rocky than I would on an even lighter carbon hardtail, simply due to the steep technical pitches that are low on traction. As for the dropper seat post, that's not catering to anything... it's just common sense.
  • 5 0
 Dang, your bike clarification takes away all the wittiness of the "Mike should take his own advice" perspective...lol

And about the dropper seatpost... OMG... How true... I am 100% positive there were XC rider/machines who could have taken 30 minutes off their overall time by having a dropper seatpost.
  • 3 0
 Mike - thanks for chiming in. That puts to bed a lot of speculation and strengthens your point. Appreciate that.

Leelau - I'm going to have to stick to my guns a little bit. Growing up in the Midwest I watched many a fat old man sitting at a bar yelling at the game on TV, about what the players should be doing. That's what I call "garbage." To get to the top level in any sport takes an aweful lot of work. Although there is nothing wrong with playing for fun, the suggestion that a recreational participant is telling hard working athletes that they are doing it wrong upsets me. Not that Mike is some fat chump in a bar. But if your goal isn't winning then it might be hard to build credibility as a coach for winning. I dunno.

Bottom line. Article was cool. Mike's reponse was on point. I love lamp.
  • 3 0
 ok - i see where you're coming from. You should come and race BCBR. It's good times. But maybe get good shorts. Sorry Mike but the chammy in those SWOT bibs is garbage hence your tuna
  • 1 0
 Hey @MikeLevy good clarification, and nice bike choice. And the general thrust of your advice is solid. I've got a rigid 29er, 4" XC race 29er, and 6" bike in my stable, and I've raced all three. I see two many fellow competitors that are stuck on the perceived efficiency of a hardtail, when in fact a nice full suspension XC rig is probably just as (if not more) efficient. and it certainly helps on the downhills!

There are a lot of participants in this sport that spend countless hours working on fitness and simply "manage" their bike handling skills. visit a bike park, and you can meet so many athletes that spend countless hours working on skills but (barely) manage/train their aerobic fitness. God I love the special people in our sport that work on both!
  • 1 0
 For those racers on a budget, I always tell them: "no suspension is better than shitty suspension."
  • 18 11
 Good write up. But at the same time... there is next to no good reason to run 120mm stems and narrow bars. That is a setup, nothing more. They would be nowhere slower on uphills if they chose shorter stem and 720mm+ bars. Dropper would not slow them down on uphills either. That would slow them down a second on all climbing throughout all race, not 10 mins. That is not a fault of greater ideology, weakness vs strength, rather a conservative, straight dumb, roadie induced, bike-fit mentality.

So are the new ideas like "shorter stem is always better, buy 35mm!"
  • 7 2
 but i want a 5ft long top tube and zero reach stem
  • 4 1
 that just a little excessive...
  • 6 1
 I wan't a 6ft top tube with a 120mm stem pointed backwards at me so I can use it like a rudder. I heard long top tubes are the future. Tried the short stem thing for about a week and totally hated it, ended up going back to my 90mm. I really like tech climbing and do a lot of it and I hated being that upright. I had to sit on the nose of the saddle or crouch forward a lot more often than normal to counteract how much weight was over the back wheel. I felt a slight benefit for descending, but nowhere near as big a difference as when I went from XC bars to 720s. Do what makes sense for your frame and your riding.
  • 3 0
 I've done exactly the same thing. Swapped 90mm stem with a 60 mm one and hated it. But... After a time bought a 770mm Spank bar (old one was 640mm) and matched it to that short stem. That was the real thing! Not going back to old setup.
  • 2 0
 Bkm303, curious did you run that short stem with your original bar? Cause the theroy is short stem + wide bar. Having the proper combo will put the weight back to the front of the bike and recentering the majority of your weight. This is quite common hearing this tho.

Customers come in to the shop saying they've tried the short stem thing and hated it. I tell them and offer a wide bar demo with their short stem and they are sold. The steering improves and is handled better and the climbing actually improves cuase the ability to use less body english to lift the front end and putting it the weight back is not so dramatic with long stems.

Next thing you know it I'm selling them on a Enve 800mm DH bar for their tallboy with a 60mm stem. hahaha And that right there is what my wife which is 5'10" is running on her medium tallboy. Says she's never felt more comfortable with this setup ever before and the confidence it has given her on the descends just stokes her even more.

So just remember having just a short stem with the wide handle bar will bring your chest down and elbows out like how you are supposed to have in the attack position for climbing and decending.
  • 1 0
 I was exactly the same but inverse I was using a 600mm bar and bought a spank bar in 740mm but keep the long stem 110mm, and I almost hatedt, Then added the 45-35mm stem and not going back.
  • 2 0
 They really do go together. short bars + short stem = twitch fest extraordinaire. Can't ignore the effects up & back sweep have either. I'm literally only running 780 bars at the moment because the ones I'm using are 5 up & 9 back, which is fairly extreme, but pairs well with my bike & stem length, 720 felt too small. Waki is right though: no modern geometry bike requires more than 90mm stem, if fit correctly, and many bikes shouldn't even go that far.
  • 1 0
 My original bar was 620ish and I moved to 720 on the same stem, loved the fit (also added a tad of fork travel, so that angle change probably offset some of the added reach by putting me more upright). Then tried the 720 with the shorter stem and felt the climbing performance suffered a lot. It's possible it would have worked better with an even wider bar (800?) but that's way excessive for me, and it's a XC/Trail bike and I use it in XC races where you need to weave thru trees and pass riders.

Anyway my point was not to naysay short stems as a concept, just that once you have a good fit, stem and bars have to change together for it to make sense (like you're saying). But especially if you're on an older frame your top tube probably isn't that long, so you may have to go stupid wide to get the stem "short", but that's not always practical. IMO stem length is more of a byproduct of the bar width you want, not the other way around (bar is the performance item, stem is the fit item that makes it work). When upgrading the optimal bar width should be the goal, not the stem length (my opinion).
  • 1 0
 stem used to make a certain length bars fit=yes. stem as a fit device to size the bike to you correctly=no, and that's something pro bike fitters have been rallying against for a long time. If you need to change stem length more than a small amount to fit the bike to you, then you bought the wrong size. but it'd be interesting to know what your sweep numbers are because even one degree of change makes a huge difference in my experience.
  • 1 0
 Got a 50mm stem on a short sized bike. I really dig the short more upright cockpit and the nimbleness but sometimes I feel that when it comes to riding downhill or out of sadde pedaling, going for a medium with a shorter stem would have been a better idea as I feel a little bit too forward on the bike for my own taste. Can't imagine riding with a longer stem...
  • 2 0
 @ bkm303
Usualy, there is no more than 4 size for a given bicycle frame, meaning that each size have to cover 10 cm increments of body height (so from 160 cm to 200 cm). Given we all have different morphologies and riding habits, we need the amount of adaptation stems, bars, saddles and seat tube can offers.
A shorter stem together with longer top tube and wheelbase to maintain traction on steep climb is the better set up I ever found, coming from XC. But you can't simply fit a 50mm short stem on your usual frame if it was designed with a 90mm stem in mind, like most of XC bikes or trailbikes until now. Doing so will change your overall reach (I mean frame reach + stem length) from a L size to a S size equivalent. Keep in mind that reach difference between 2 frame size is usualy 2 or 3 cm. Reducing your stem length in such a way will results in debalancing your frame, putting your weight over the rear and ultimately act on your rear suspension behaviour.
Short stems are thought to fit longer reached frame, like yeti's, mondraker's, the new strive CF or kona's. Or you need to upscale your frame from your usual size in order to benefit from the advantages of a shorter stem.
  • 1 0
 dude, that's exactly what I said. Old frames and short stems don't mix, unless you get the most massive bars available.
  • 1 1
 Why old frames and short stems don't mix? at what handlebar width, at what handlebar sweep? At what head angle, at what reach? What wheel size? How old frame? What is an old frame? Why can't you put a short stem to short reach? If I jump a lot I may want a shorter frame that is easier to flip around no? It will not be too stable at speed, but still it can cater to certain riding styles and preferences. I got into that long reach, short stem BS for 2 months, and no thank you. No internet consensus is going to tell me, and I pray to anyone else, that this and that trend is "gooder" and old one is "worser". I feel best at my trails, with my bike, with the current way I ride, with a 70mm or even 80mm stem. and that was common for my 2008 Nomad in Medium as it is now with Blur TR in Large. Now my hardtail on another hand likes 50mm stem more than 70mm stem. I piss on trend, I trust my judgment. I alos wish to piss on steep seat angles and DH slack trail bikes. If someone wants to live his life according to what his mom, dad, priest, teachers say then keep on living this way by listening to what majority of bikers say on internet - then be my guest. But a true solution to all your problems is in the head of yours and of people closest to you Wink Very few persons are dumb, most people are though.
  • 1 0
 Waki, we say the same.
First point, we don't say that old frame and short stem don't match. We just say that given your riding habits and your frame, if there is an overall reach (frame reach + stem length) you are used to, and if this reach is achieved with a long (90 - 110mm) stem, then, putting a short (35 - 50 mm) stem (because of trend, for instance) will not be a good choice 'cause it will be equivalent to downsize your frame size to at least 2 size.
Second point, some frames were thought with short reach (like your nomad), some other with long reach (like the new nomad) for a given size. Since there is still 4 frame sizes from S to XL, longer reach frames (e.g. Kona process 153, Yt capra, mondraker, new strive cf, etc...) have to be used with shorter stem. Or you can downsize them in order to use a longer stem. Which will be -for me- quite stupid, since I find a great benefice to long reach, long wheelbase and... short stem.
  • 3 0
 This is a discussion close to my heart. over the last 2 years I've tried every stem length from 35 to 90 and every bar width from 740 to 800...with each other(ish). Im pretty happy with my current set up. It seems pretty good everywhere and has a good balance between stability and Manovurability. My confidence is high and i feel like i can shred, which is what is important to me.
  • 7 0
 Luckily this article is on this site and not somewhere roadie- and multisports converts come to visit.

Guys, please keep this quiet and protect the advantage that the riders with an open mind have. Thank you. I am perfectly fine with me being one of the few riding a dropper post in an XC race or marathon ;-).
  • 2 1
 My favorite is "You don't need a dropper for this trail..." and I'm like, Have you seen all the cornering on this trail??
  • 4 0
 Man I *wish* this was somewhere roadies would see it. The guys setting up their mtbs like road bikes are the ones all those buffed out boring trails are made for... maybe if they had some technical ability they'd be asking for more challenging race courses and trails to train on.
  • 1 0
 I don't understand this long stem idea, for road I use a 120mm stem but that's road... for xc that'd be stupid, I just run a 50mm stem and slam it so I'm lower but it doesn't mess up the handling (I like to have low stems for cornering) pro roadies aren't so bad but when recreational roadies hit trails it goes very wrong very fast.
  • 7 1
 Nice article. I think a lot of the problems with XC setups have to do with identity issues. Yeah you heard that right, identity issues. When one identifies as an XC racer he/ she will want to act like an XC racer and ride what the XC racers ride. The need to identify with the XC racers group can override logic when choosing gear. Obviously the same can be said for the dude who wants to identify as a DH racer. Btw he's faster than you (and you and you too)!
  • 2 0
 That's exactly what I came here to say. People identify as X type of riders so they adopt the clothing, the gear and the attitude that goes with it. It's like that in most sports/disciplines, I blame it on the natural human need to fit in and be accepted. Also, people probably didn't feel like buying/renting a different bike for a single race when they had a perfectly fine 10k$ race bike already.
  • 1 0
 True, it'd be crazy to purchase a bike specifically for the BCBR (although I'm sure a few did exactly that), but I think the general idea of catering to one's weakness can be applied to any type of riding. That said, I'm sure that not many who are downhillers-at-heart wants to spend all their time on pure XC bikes, but it's worth thinking about anyways. Even small changes can help... if you're looking for help, that is.
  • 1 0
 I have come to a similar conclusion myself. I feel I'm a pretty good descender but always struggle on the long and steep technical climbs so a lighter bike with less travel and narrower tires would most likely help a ton, especially seeing the nature of my local trails.

The truth is that I'd much rather travel with my money than own multiple bikes, so my all mountain bike might be a little big for most trails around here and even though its often "too much bike", it's never too big or too small anywhere I take it so in it's own way, it is the perfect bike.
  • 4 1
 Why not focus on your weaknesses during training and capitalize on your strengths in a race? It's possible that catering to your weaknesses by getting a better bike on the downhills will lose you more time if your strength is on the climbs.

Also, what worked for Nico Vouilloz may not work for everyone else.
  • 2 1
 As said for Tour de France: you must win it in the uphills, but you can lose it in the downhills.
  • 2 1
 Depends on the stage doesn't it? Each stage can have all sorts of variation in height. Generally in XC however, the downhill parts are much shorter than the uphill so it's better to win the climbs.

In any case, the only occasions I see racers lose a lot of time is when they crash. But that could happen to anybody.

And you shouldn't come to race day knowing that you're bad at descents anyway. Descents can make up a large part of the race and it wouldn't make sense to not focus on it if you're not already proficient.
  • 3 1
 Age old racing mantra: "Train to your weaknesses but race to your strengths".

Another I like: "Don't race what you can't replace".

The average weekend warrior rarely adheres to either of this age old bits of advice- I know I'm often guilty!
  • 14 1
 I prefer this classic, "ride faster you f*cking pussy". That usually gets me fired up.
  • 5 1
 I do have a "toughen up princess" sticker on my SS just in case I didn't realise it would be tough going Smile
  • 11 1
 I commented to a guy I was riding with that his hub was insanely loud. His response was that "it's to remind me to start f*ckin pedaling again!" My favorite motivational phrase ever. Whenever I hear my hub I think about it, then I laugh, then I start f*ckin pedaling haha
  • 3 1
 Niners bikes 'Pedal Damn it' sticker sits pride of place on my (26" bike) top tube... just as a reminder.
  • 1 0
 Rule #5 of the Velominati 'harden the f*ck up'.
  • 3 1
 I think this applies just as much to regular riding as racing. I'm sick of my buddies buying XC bikes because they are scared of downhill, then all they can ride is fire roads, then they try to con me into riding those fire roads.
  • 1 0
 Okay lets think about it this way. Im still in school and I've started to race road bikes with a xc background as well. The hill stages or mountain road races are the only thing Im good at. I suck at sprinting and the whole crit thing. I would rather really shine as a climber and run the super lightweight frame with really light wheels and sacrifice aero whatever bullshiat, however much that may help regardless, because I know that I can keep rolling in the back on the flat stages and then wait for my mountain stage. It may just be me, but I train for my strength of going uphill rather than trying to be an all-rounder. Although in mountain biking I could do with a good dose of shredding abilities. I totally agree that for things like the BCBR where your overall riding ability in every category is tested, then for sure MIKE LEVY is TOTALLY CORRECT.
  • 1 0
 A great read with a refreshing point of view. Some good laughs too haha. I think I'll go buy some butt butter now. Agreed - Anyone racing without a dropper post is doing it wrong. Doesn't matter how great you are, they shave minutes and save shoulders. Best bike innovation to date.
  • 3 1
 You're stating the obvious, but you're absolutely right. I intend to now focus on the climbs and descents and put in much less PVR time. Makes you think. Keep these articles coming.
  • 6 1
 @mike levy. Can u give us a run down of your setup for the BCBR...
  • 1 0
 Yes want to try the race in my SB66 aluminium frame jejeje, donĀ“t know if its too much bike hahaha
  • 2 0
 Here's what I rode:

Rocky Mountain Element RSL 999 (95mm)
RockShox RS-1 (100mm)
FOX Float CTD shock
SRAM Roam 50 wheelset
Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires (2.2", tubeless)
FOX D.O.S.S. dropper post
SRAM XX1 drivetrain w/ a 30t 'ring
  • 2 1
 Nice article.

If you want to go faster and need to choose between either improving either your climbing OR descending, choose climbing. Why? Because you spend more time climbing than descending. For a trail that takes 60 minutes to climb and 15 minutes to descend:
For a 10% improvement on the descent only: 60 + 13.5 = 73.5 minutes.
For a 10% improvement on the climb only: 54 + 15 = 69 minutes.
  • 2 1
 Plus the added fitness will help you on the descents. You'll be pedaling everywhere you can and staying fresher/more alert cuz you're not as gassed. Working on the motor is always a great investment.
  • 2 1
 I think he's saying that for a given season you're generally only as fit and strong and technically capable as you are when you show up to a race. Training and gaining skill for next season is great, but there are set up changes you should consider to reduce your handicap at your next race, which you can do this afternoon.
  • 2 1
 iamamodel, you are forgetting something. An improvement on the climb is much costlier energywise than one on a descent. Bike setup gains in the descent can quickly amount to a lot, while you'd only loose seconds in the climbs with f.e. 500 grams extra for a dropper post and some extra knobs. Also a full suspension and some more travel, while heavier, can help postpone upper body fatigue by a lot - even on flat courses. I acknowledge the reasons top XC racers tend to optimise for uphill though: that's where the initiative is. You have to be able to hold the wheel of other riders, or gain time on them. In the downhills, especially in the upper ranks where speed differences are minimal, it's really hard to overtake. There is no point being a faster downhiller if you get blocked anyhow. I'd say a bit lower in the rankings where skills differences are much larger, there is a lot to be gained by bike setup. Or in the case of those with handicapped handling skills: limited losses.
  • 1 0
 jeroenk, I'm talking about a 10% improvement without trying harder during the race, such as going from a heavy bike to a light bike, or improving climbing fitness. The apparent effort while climbing will be the same.

In my scenario, in order to get down to 69 minutes through a improvement in descending only, one would need to drop 7 minutes from a 15 minute descent. That's not going to happen through setup alone, especially without affecting the climb. You could switch to a downhill bike, knock five minutes off the fifteen minute descent, but the climb will take forever and you will come home in last place.

You make a great point about overtaking on climbs versus descents - I have witnessed this many times.
  • 2 1
 I wouldn't say that the trails that the BCBR is run on are overly technical. But they are an absolute blast to ride. For me the most brutal thing about the race is the Steep as hell fire road climbs. But even with those brutal climbs and as weak of a climber as I am. I defiantly wouldn't choose a hardtail for the race. I am well aware of my weaknesses and riding a hardtail at race speed is defiantly one of them. I see no reason what so ever to suffer all day. The BCBR is all about the Single track. Really good single track. Take your trail bike and laugh at the roadies
  • 2 1
 One thing that I can relate that mike observed and wrote about, is seeing people riding the downhill with their seat post up and being sketched out seeing them ride like that. I tend to see it as a common problem on trails where, there is no climbing for a long while and it's somewhat steep going down and some riders do all of these sections completely with their seat post up, then as a result of that crashing because of its up or because they were going slow with their center of gravity up really high and get bucked, high sighted, or contorting with a seat in their chest or belly. I get sketched out watching riders on semi mellow trails that are narrow single track, going 10-15 mph and riding with their legs and arms almost fully locked out. Several of these riders I'd see on this particular trail had dropper posts and just were not using them. I don't get it I guess.
  • 3 0
 40km in 90 degree heat...? Can we stick to one measuring system? Hehe. I'd love to give the BCBR a shot in the next few years.
  • 1 0
 Great Article! One question for you Mike, in the grand scheme of things do you think you think you would have been that much faster if you would have optimized your bike for climbing? Would you have been as quick on the descents or had as much fun? Or in other words, since you didn't have sponsorship dollars on the line, do you think you would have enjoyed the race more if your bike was setup as more of an all a rounder rather then optimized for the descents?
  • 1 0
 His bike was actually optimized for climbing, it's somewhere in the comments above.
  • 1 0
 I raced on a 95mm travel XC bike with tires that are much smaller and lighter than I'd usually run, and with gearing setup for the day's long climbs. I don't feel like I was any slower on the downhills or had any less fun than if I had been on a 5 - 6" travel bike.
  • 1 0
 After lots of $$$, 4 years in Colorado, and 3 different bikes on both ends of the travel spectrum to include a hardtail I have finally decided on my all around bike. A Yeti SB95C with the 140mm fork option. I am going to shell out 8G for it to keep the weight around 26 pounds and plan to race it in 1/2 marathons while also just doing my regular all day fun rides through the woods. It took a while but I figured out that I am not a great descender, but I don't suck at it; yet I cannot jump to save my life. I am strong with the lungs and a few extra pounds on the bike isn't gonna hurt me too much. I really enjoyed the article because of my recent experience with what I figured out with my riding strengths/weaknesses.
  • 1 0
 Nice article Mike. Every serious racer goes through this moment when they have to decide about bike set up and Training -how much time to spend on weaknesses and how much to sacrifice strengths in order to get better at something they are weaker at. In my experience it is a major mistake to spend time in training on weaknesses one you get to a certain level. Once you are at the top end of the proficiency scale you need to spend time training strengths, and not weaknesses, you need to build your tactics around your strengths, and have your bike set up to help you capitalize on your strengths. For recreational racers of course you need to improve your self in every area you can, and you need to train to possess the baseline proficiency necessary to be in the game, but beyond that training weaknesses or seting up your bike to ameliorate weaknesses at the cost of your strengths is a bad idea.
  • 1 0
 I'm pretty there's more to it than just swapping out a stem or a dropper post on your bike. Many of those xc guys you are talking about, probably never descend your favorite single track. I ride Brown mountain to El prieto once a week and see those XC guys crank up the hill no problem. But, they always come back down the fire road. Some people are just afraid of heights and don't want to risk getting injured. So you can't really be confident if you never ride that type of terrain to begin with.
  • 1 0
 This is a great article. I am also an avid bodybuilder and weightlifter, so completely get your article. For example, many guys at the gym don't train legs. With tops off and jeans on, they look solid. With shorts on, they look ridiculous. Many people want to train chest and arms every goddam day, yet neglect legs or back because they don't like it or aren't good at it. Dude, that's y u need to train it!!! Don't neglect the things your good at, just make sure u work your ass off at what your crap at. It makes perfect sense.
  • 1 1
 If a rider often rides technical trails with only few hard uphills, he will have a bike and the skills for technicals part of the race. And if he don't have two bikes he don't change it every time. It's the same for riders who often rides tracks with a lot of uphills and no technical part.
So seeing a rider with a bike that cater to his strengths is not illogical. Not everyone races everyday.

To my opinion, the best bike is the bike that suits the track, especially the most "strategical" parts. And this bike has to not being a dead body when you are in your less favorite part of the track.
  • 2 1
 Has anyone else noticed wide bars helped them in all climbs?? I'm a big guy- 6'1" so maybe they were just all to small for me prior but especially on technical climbs the wide bars and short stem are godsend. 720-740ish
  • 2 0
 I have.

"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." The harder you push on the pedals, the harder you have to pull on the bars, and wider bars give more leverage.
  • 1 0
 Its like you can use arm/core strength to push the pedals ... I now mildly enjoy the climb to the top of the trail with wide bars. Now if I didn't have to drive an hour to get to the nearest trails .... hrmmm
  • 1 0
 I wonder if the author raced on a carbon hardtail with pinner tires and no dropper post?

After all if he can out descend the people he climbs with then he should get equipment that makes him climb quicker.
  • 3 0
 Actually, I raced on a 95mm travel XC race bike because my weakness is climbing, especially tech climbing. This choice made me faster on the ups and maybe marginally slower on the downs. I ran 2.2'' tires rather than the 2.4" meat I usually prefer, and modified my gearing and cockpit to help on the climbs.

I would climb slower on a lighter weight hardtail, and a dropper post makes no difference on the ups so why not run it to aid me on the downs? In my mind I was on equipment that makes me climb quicker.
  • 1 0
 See my comment above. Mind-boggling.
  • 2 1
 Actually the dropper post did cost you time. Weight always cost time. It is actually fairly easy to calculate the MINIMUM amount of time the weight of the dropper post cost you. I don't know your average climbing power but as a rough estimate I used 250 watts.

Formula Time lost = (extra weight x total climbing x 9.Cool / Average power output.

For BC bike race the dropper post cost you a minimum of 100 seconds climbing. In reality the weight probably cost you double that (I didn't include accelerations). So a bit over 3 minutes over the whole race.

Did you make that time up on the descents with dropper post? Probably not.
1. You were stuck in traffic and couldn't use your descending skills.
2. If you are good at descending with your seat up you can rip the relativitively non-technical descents at BCBR fairly close to the speeds that you do with your seat down.
3. Descending with your seat down is more tiring. You spend more timing standing and pedaling. These efforts are going to make you climb even slower.

All that being said, I would choose to run a dropper post for BCBR. But not because it is quicker, it is in fact quicker to not use one. But for myself racing is about having fun and dropper post are a lot of fun.
  • 1 0
 I'm sorry.. but a dropper post is a piece of metal. It has no capacity to propel itself. It is impossible for a dropper post to make someone faster or slower. It only has the capacity to put them in a position to be either slower or faster. If Levy thought he was faster with one, then he probably was
  • 1 0
 Optimizing bike set-ups for racing is sort of what I do. I know from experience that what we think is faster and what is actually faster are often very different. Very few people do proper testing and measurements, they go by feel, which is meaningless. Weight is a perfect example. When riding you don't feel an extra kg on a bike. A 24lb bike a 26lb bike feel the same. But that extra kilo cost you about 40s for every 1000m of of climbing. No way around that. And don't get me started on wheel size, if XC racers actually did some proper testing a lot of them would reconsidering their wheel size choice. I am not a weight weenie by any means. You need to race on a bike that is a capable descender and most importantly durable enough to get you through the race without mechanicals. But weight matters, if you are going to run something heavier it better give you advantages else where.
  • 1 0
 Very nice reply. You sound like a smart enough guy, so instead of turning this into a trolling rant fest maybe we can actually turn this into a discussion. I don't doubt your expertise in optimizing bicycles (I've worked as a bike mechanic for over 6 years and I'm sure we'd agree on a lot), but what I do in the off season is analyze arguments and find flaws in seemingly logical conclusions. The thing that I'm questioning most about your claims is a guarantee of saved time. The fact of the matter is that weight does not directly factor into how slow or fast a rider is. Weight directly effects the amount of energy necessary to propel an object at a certain speed over a certain distance. We're talking about saving calories and joules, not seconds. Saved time is a side affect of saved energy along with a variety of other factors. However, because there are so many other variables that go into saving or losing time I find it hard to buy into a set formula for saving time.

SIDENOTE: I'm curious about your formula. I'm sure you simplified it for this post, but I'd like to see it in it's full form. I'm specifically curious to know if "total climbing" a measure of time or distance? If it's distance then your conclusion of saved time is mathematically impossible because you can't balance out each of the individual units of time, mass, distance,and wattage. Your answer would have to be something like saved watt per gram per kilometer. If it's measured in time, then your answer still isn't saved seconds, but rather saved watt per gram per seconds. In the end it's energy that is being saved, not time. Obviously I could be way off, but without the originally formula I'm having to make some assumptions.
  • 1 0
 However, I do agree that optimizing a bike is a very important element of successful racing. However, whenever the cycling community discusses optimization it tends to focus primarily on optimizing the bike to the rider (probably because this in turn encourages bike sales). This opinion piece is also playing into this trend. I, however, feel that it's more important to optimize a bike to the terrain/conditions than to the rider.

For example, each of your perfectly valid reasons for not using a dropper post on the descents are dependent upon condition external to the rider. The first one is dependent upon how crowded the trail is, the second is dependent upon the definition of a "non-technical descent"(which is a perspective/opinion, not a measurable quantity), and finally the third one is dependent upon length of time in the descent and the perceived need to stand or sit. Like you said, "weight matters, if you are going to run something heavier it better give you advantages else where", but when you boil it all down each of your reasons for why a dropper post isn't worth the weight penalty are dependent upon neither the rider or the bike but rather the conditions of the race.

What do you think? What should take precedence when optimizing a bike: rider or terrain? Would you agree with me if I said that "not enough riders take enough time studying course conditions/layout, and don't take the time to customize their bike to those conditions"? I'd also love to hear what you have to say about wheel sizes. I think we'd agree on a lot there.
  • 1 0
 A lot to respond to

1st: Formula: All I did was calculate the amount of time required to lift a mass a certain vertical distance (this value is given for each stage of BCBR). Since this is a linear relation ship, losing that amount of mass is going to change your time by that much, assuming you average the same power output. Engery to lift: mass x height x 9.8 Energy expended by rider = Power x Time.

Combine the two and solve for Time => Time=(Mass x height x 9.Cool /Power This is assuming that all climbing is done at a constance speed (which is false), if the ride is accelerating and decelerating them the time difference is going to be larger. Check this site out for another analysis www.analyticcycling.com/ForcesLessWeight_Page.html

2nd: In theory you should optimize for your terrain. But I don't know about you but it takes me a bit to adapt to smallest change on my bike. When I am constantly changing the set-up I have hard time riding well. Because of this I think racers need to be fairly consistent with their set-up. Small changes can be made, tires, suspensions, stem spacers, ect.. But big changes, not so much.

Dropper post are a big change IMHO. When I first started using one I was slower everywhere. I spent too much time thinking about what to do with it instead on just riding my bike. You need to train with one to make the most of it. Same with going the other way, if you are use to using one you are really going to struggle when you are forced to descend with your seat up.
  • 1 1
 The whole irony of this post is that Levy's success against his grape smuggling brethren came about not because he was catering to his weaknesses but because he was riding a bike that catered to HIS strengths (strong descender, candy powered climber). If a focus on ones's weaknesses will improve one's results then wouldn't he have been better off on a hardtail 29er? Or would that have simply resulted in him not gaining enough ground on the descents to make up for his losses on the climbs? Levy, if by some strange act of cycling deity you actually see this post I'd love to hear your thoughts. What are your weaknesses as a rider? What kind of setup would you run to cater to those weaknesses? I personally have always been a very strong climber and endurance athlete and a poor descender (I blame slow reflexes), but have ridden dh and long travel AM bikes for the past 6 years just so that I could ride with my friends. Instead of making up for my weaknesses I found my skills being averaged out and my results are mediocre at best: not as fast on the climbs as an xc bike, but not very fast on the descents due to lack of skill. I'm not horrible anywhere on the trail, but then again I'm not very good either.
  • 2 0
 The most interesting thing about all of the responses to Mike's piece is that everyone seems to have assumed he did not follow his own advice. Pinkbike paradox?
  • 2 2
 Last year I did a few XC races on my giant reign and I had a very similar story. I would be mid pack coming up the climbs, but as soon as it would point down hill I would pass riders like crazy.
  • 4 2
 Conversely, get an XC bike, , not mid pack on the climbs and still pass a bunch of people on the dh's. Climbing is a much larger percentage (time wise) of an XC. It's how my fat/bigger boned/natural body armoured dh body still cut the mustard at XC races.

If its for an enduro race and you suck at climbing (but lets face it pies and beers are more fun than training), but a big portion of that said "Enduro" is pedally then you go for a set up that works for that, not for the 30 secs of braaappp.
The flip side is, that if you have a course that's hella gnar, some high speed, but sweet FA pedalling, then you make sure you have beefy tires and wheels on, and slap a bigger ring on.

Of crouse if your just riding and not racing, then just ride whatever the marketing tells....sorry, whatever the hell you want. Walk those climbs, have a cone/rest/stupid selfie mid run. smell the flowers, take pics of the couple you caught doing the nasty by the waterfall....
  • 1 1
 Haha, comedy. Love the 30 seconds of braaaapp! I think secretly I build all my bikes for those thirty seconds. Big Grin
  • 1 0
 Work on your weaknesses until they become your strengths. A coach told me this at some point, has served me well for years. Enjoyed the write up.
  • 1 0
 Got my Saturday night planned out now. Slam a flask of Fireball and play some Jenga! Thanks for the suggestion Mike. Cheers.
  • 1 0
 "a coating of chamois cream so they could slip into the tightest plum smuggler suits possible"
  • 1 1
 maybe the hardtail is the only bike they own. Buying another bike specifically for the one event that may actually benefit their placing may be seen as a little excessive??
  • 3 1
 Buying fatter tires and a new handlebar isn't that much of an investment for a week-long destination race, considering they probably paid 5x that cost in entry fees and transporting them and their bike to the event. Doesn't take a whole new bike to descend better, just a few tweaks.
  • 1 0
 "I got a few kings of the mountain. I reckon I could give Jerome Clements a pretty good run." - too funny.
  • 1 0
 What did I just watch
  • 3 1
 Right on the money.
  • 2 1
 ...and for those of us who don't race?
  • 6 1
 Focus on the fun!
  • 2 1
 good article, i wish more races courses would also mix it up.
  • 3 2
 Just ride 120mm stem 790mm bars and barends for swinging round trees?
  • 1 0
 Just to know Mike, what was your bike setup for this race???
  • 1 0

are we going to see a mike levy post race recap? the ups and downs of the bc bike race?
  • 2 0
 I was on a 95mm travel Rocky Mountain Element RSL 999 with a 100mm travel RS-1 up front. I usually run 2.4" wide tires but opted for 2.2" for the BCBR, and went with an XX1 drivetrain with a 30t 'ring instead on the 36t I prefer. I also cut my bar down a bit to help on the tight climbs on the Island.
  • 1 0
 Sounds like you were set up pretty much for a good long xc race. The post had me imagining you on something like a 140 -150 trail bike for some reason. I wonder if your bike setup wasn't so much a catering to your weaknesses but rather to your strengths as a descender (assumming you're a stronger descender than climber). The drop in chainring size and is a great way to cater to weak climbing but isn't all that uncommon. I've got a local guy who is running 28t and is just a rocket in late stage races because his legs are still fresh (his descending is also better because he's not as worn out), but the wider tires and handlebars( you said you cut them down but I'm guessing they were still wider than average) seem to cater more to a strong defender. What do you think? Were you set up more for descending or climbing? Was it catering to strengths, weaknesses or finding a good middle ground that made the most difference in the end?
  • 1 0
 Interesting setup, I need to think how I will mod my set up for the next year, I have a yeti sb66 descending oriented setup, maybe a nobby nic instead of hansdampf, 6" will be in the fork and shock (no money for other options jajaja), I have a 1x10 setup with a 33t ring but 30 makes more sense, thanks for the info Mike Smile
  • 2 3
 I think it's better to focus all your energy on how to cheat and get away with it. Example; TDF. Lol
  • 3 5
 A better line of advice: hey dirt roadies, suspension, meaty tires, and a dropper post doesn't really slow you down. Not even on the climbs, really. Try it.
  • 2 1
 Nice write up
  • 1 0
 2.40 nice bike dude

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