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Thursday, August 5,2010

Seven days, 500 bikes and a unicycle

By Isaac Woods Stokes

I got dropped like a bad transmission, but thank the fat-tired deities I didn’t get beat by the guy on the damn unicycle.

Having survived the BC Bike Race (BCBR) in British Columbia and lived to tell enough tales that hometown riding buddies are threatening restraining orders on any further reminiscing, I can say for sure that fat-tired wise, forevermore there is BC BCBR, and AD BCBR.

Imagine a mobile summer camp 500-plus strong of mountain bikers riding seven straight days of epics. In Colorado it would be the equivalent of riding in Breck Day 1, Aspen Day 2, Crested Butte Day 3, etc. Average mileage of 40 miles a day and 5,000 vertical feet of climbing, mad technical, with a cast and crew that included Olympians Geoff Kabush and Catherine Pendrel, World X-Terra champion Melanie McQuaid, a cheery whitehaired retired schoolteacher named Mary born in 1947 (two years younger than my mom!), a diabetic participant who stopped to check blood sugar along the way, and a dad and 15-year-old son doing major bonding. All were inspiring.

Except the dude on the damn unicycle, that was just very wrong.

Actually, in all seriousness, Chris Holm, unicyclist extraordinaire, opened my mind again to the infinite possibilities of having fun on wheel(s). Chris has ridden the Great Wall of China, a 6,000meter peak in Bolivia (meters, y’all!), and appeared in multiple Banff Film Fest flicks. He also owns a unicycle company — um, surprise — and was rocking a two-speed internal hub. Remember, when you’re freewheeling downhill, homeboy is always still pedaling.

Surviving the BCBR in any way was bodacious, but the giant banana seat on Chris’ cycle must have had a cutaway for some extra large cojones. Unreal.

This event is billed as the ultimate singletrack experience, and it’s no lie. In fact, it’s a massive understatement. The 12-inch-wide trail mileage feels endless, with every possible delectable variety of singletrack smorgasbord conceivable on tap. You want blazing alpine descents? You got it. You want rolling, rooted, low-speed techy-ness with bridges and berms amongst old growth giants straight out of Lord of Rings? Check. You want to try your tough guy/girl luck on luge-like courses with table top jumps and banked corners that tattooed bros in full face helmet slice and dice? Yup. You want to motor through babybutt-smooth, shoulder-width tunnels off green vegetation all by your lonesome with only bear scat on the trail to suggest any living companionship? Check. How about 10 miles straight of off-camber, freshly skinned white roots embedded in a spongy two inches of lime green moss? Or a three-mile edgeof-the-nose-of-the-seat granny gear climb after 30-plus miles and four hours of cranking? Or … (insert any variety of known riding here, because they have it). Capice? I defy anybody in Boulder County to ride this event and express a desire for even a “wafer-thin mint” more of singletrack. Check the M. Python reference; it is spot-on.

Luckily for you, all you have to do is show up and ride your spandex-clad ass off. BCBR has everything else covered. You want gorgeous ferry crossing coordinated and booked for 500 people? They did that. How about a couple dozen school buses chartered and shuttling you to the ideal drop off spot?

Affirmative. Tents set up, breakfast and dinner catered, hot shower trucks waiting, bike washes erected, lovely masseuses on site, coffee and burrito trucks waiting, and beer gardens at the ready. Done, done and done well. A note on the beer, in relation to the intensity of the riding — a confession on my part, and warning, sensitive or younger readers, look away — I managed to drink a pathetic three apres beers in a week on the course, that’s how rugged it was. I’m not proud. The campground was morgue quiet by 9 p.m. most nights, that’s how shelled folks were.

Not only is the event superbly organized, but at every turn you are greeted with smiling volunteers. In 300 miles of riding, I got lost only once. The flagging and marking is that good, and directionally, I’m no walking GPS. Once again, BCBR frees you to focus on your number one job — turning the cranks. And it doesn’t hurt that they love you up with roughly $500 worth of branded swag, including a jersey, rolling Dakine bag and the coveted belt buckle.

Mountain biking mojo, karma and pride are alive and real in Canada. The course designers actually told us the logging companies lend them machinery to construct trails on their land. Trail-building is high art in Canada, and I guarantee you have never seen pride or expertise in the discipline that is on display up North. We were warmly cheered by thousands, and memories like pedaling by a middle school and being highfived by several hundred jubilant 10-years-olds jumping up and down chokes a brother up as he types.

Finally, I must also give a shout out to the onsite mechanics from Obsession Bikes — huge gracias. This shop was in charge of servicing roughly $2 million bucks worth of rolling thunder, and nobody missed a day because of a mechanical. Imagine that. The owner, James, stood up at the initial Day 0 briefing and said, “We have 12 mechanics that work all night, we can get 12 more, and we will have you ready to race.” Not only that, but if you, say, snapped a handlebar on the course (which I saw, crunch), they would motor in a replacement, or if your freewheel gave out mid-day, they would have a replacement wheelset waiting at the aid station. I wish I could get this rock-star treatment trailside everyday.

Find some room in your life to do this event. BC BCBR, I aspired to know how deep I could go in the woods on my bike mentally, physically and soulfully. AD BCBR I know.

BCBikeRace.com is the website for all info, including deals on early entry for July 2011, and plenty of videos to visually tell the story. If you have some question about the distance and intensity of the event, consider doing the Challenge course instead of the Epic course, which offers more human routes and still loads of singletrack.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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