July 23, 2018
Photo Margus Riga
Early this month, I had the great and occasionally grueling experience of completing the BC Bike Race (BCBR)! This event - if you don't know about it - is a world class multi-stage bike race that travels daily for a week around South Western British Columbia. There are over 600 riders and close to 300 support staff. Many of the riders are highly competitive but there are also plenty of weekend warriors riding for the sheer epic experience. Overall, the event was amazing and should be on every rider’s bucket list because it’s an ideal mixture of fun riding, challenging adventure and amazing comradery!
Last year, a few friends and I decided to commit to the BCBR. For this year’s race we rode a mixture of bike models and two of us were on pre-production Fugitives (Knolly’s latest 29’er set to ship at the end of this summer). The BCBR is a 7 day XC race with some reasonably technical sections. The 120mm Fugitive is a technical trail bike that in its Long Travel (LT 135mm) form can double as an enduro light bike as well. In both versions, it's a product class or two heavier than the ideal BCBR bike if you're going for the fastest time. My goal was to ride the course, have some fun and test out the new Fugitive. I wasn’t able to get the optimal days of training in, so was in less than ideal shape for the event (although I knew I'd get through it). I built up my Fugitive to be as light as possible while still being able to descend aggressively and handle my 100KG weight. My good friend Dave was in better shape and was able to push the bike a lot harder on the climbs, while still descending with ease. My goal was to build up a bike to compliment my weaknesses (long climbs) so a lightweight build kit with suspension tailored to my strengths (descending). Now that the event is finished, I wanted to share the details and specs about the bikes that Dave and I built up to maximize our climbing and pedalling ability, while also ensuring we could capitalize on the Fugitive's insanely smooth descending attributes.
The first, and as far as I'm concerned, the most important decision to make was regarding tires. We're a Maxxis OEM customer and I knew that Maxxis would have an option that I would be stoked on. However, I also knew that I did NOT want to ride on 3C 1.5 ply 900-1000g tires for this event. While the Minion and DHR II are among my favourite Maxxis tires for my everyday rides, they are too heavy duty for this event. For one week of riding totaling 312km and close to 11,000m of climbing, I needed tires that could handle my weight and aggressive descents but also, still be substantially lighter than the 3C EXO Minion / DHR II combo. My goal was to drop around 200g per wheel while still maximizing rolling efficiency and not completely sacrificing traction (i.e. the Maxxis Ikon is a great XC tire but perhaps just too light for me). Ultimately I decided on two lighter duty tires from Maxxis, one that's been a staple in their lineup. I chose the 2.25" Ardent EXO (~800g) for the rear wheel and the newer 2.35" Forekaster EXO (~735g) for the front.
I was concerned about burping the rear tire and had originally been testing the 2.25" Recon, but I ran the pressure too low and ultimately damaged the tire due to repeatedly burping it. In all fairness to the Recon, it's first test was being smashed down the entrance to Horsethief Bench in Fruita, 15 psi underinflated where I burped it 3 times in a row followed by burping it at least another 3 times while riding around the Bench. Quickly I figured out that my standard 28-30ish psi pressure range was not going to work for these lighter duty tires. For BCBR, I set the Forekaster up at 35 psi and the Ardent at 40 psi where they both stayed for the duration of the race.
At this pressure and being a harder compound than the 3C compounds used in other Maxxis tires, I knew that I would get myself into situations where traction would potentially become an issue. My strategy was to rely on my technical riding skills and keep off the brakes. Day Two (Cumberland) in particular turned out to have several wet root and rock sections. While I had to pay a bit more attention to how I rode these tires in some of those sections, I have to admit that overall I was pleasantly surprised with how well both tires hooked up and how I was able to point and shoot many of the wet technical descents. For the challenging climbs, it was standard practice. I needed to avoid mashing on the cranks and keep the wheel rotating within the range of static friction (and not slipping at kinetic friction).
The 2.35" Forekaster EXO was a huge surprise. My only experience using this tire before BCBR was a small amount of local riding and one long weekend in Fruita on loose, hardpack desert trails. I have to admit that I was skeptical about how well a 735g tire could perform given that I was used to riding tires that were routinely 200-250g heavier. Frankly, the Forekaster blew me away! The tire was absolutely on point in almost every situation. It’s blocky open knob design hooked up consistently in almost every condition. It was a bit less confident on slippery wet rock and roots, but even then remained extremely predictable. In fresh dirt and on hard packed berms (like in Cumberland or Full Nelson / Pseudo-Tsuga in Squamish), the tire was insanely comfortable being pushed as hard as I could. In soft dirt, I could not ask for anything more. Braking was also extremely consistent and even with a 203mm rotor on the front, I could hit the binders hard and completely trust that the Forekaster would check speed aggressively. It was mounted to a 27mm inner width rim (more about the excellent Industry Nine wheelset 270 wheelset later on) and it was super stable. I felt like I was riding a larger volume, sticky rubber tire most of the time. The Forekaster is a dual compound tire designed for technical XC and I felt that it performed exceptionally well. It’s volume and weight performance was great overall, even when outside of it’s comfort zone. For someone looking for a lighter weight technical trail tire, I highly recommend this tire for the front of your bike.
The 2.25" Ardent EXO was my rear tire. To be honest, I've had mixed experiences with the Ardent in the past. Although they were on a DH bike, and I had them on the front and the rear. For my size, the Ardent is decidedly a rear tire because the side knobs are too weak to support my weight under hard cornering as a front wheel. My goal with the 2.25" Ardent was to maximize rolling efficiency. With it's almost continuous row of centre knobs, this is where the Ardent performs best. The side knobs’ lack of cornering ability up front (again, for me) is not an issue on the rear and in fact, lets you get the tire a bit sideways on purpose. Sometimes this is just roosting things up on dry, dusty trails and other times it's to allow a root to do some self correction to your line, when the rear wheel drifts sideways. For BCBR, this tire performed perfectly because it rolled well and had amazing straight line braking performance. It might be a little squirrely for someone my size under aggressive side loading, but it also breaks away predictably and if you get used to this, you can actually use it to your advantage to do micro (and sometimes macro!) line corrections. Note that Dave (at 160 pounds compared to my 220 pounds) ran the 2.25" Ardent in the rear as well but also ran a 2.4" Ardent in the front (instead of the 2.35" Forekaster) and had absolutely no issues with it whatsoever.
Together these two Maxxis tires (the 2.35" Forekaster EXO and the 2.25" Ardent EXO) performed exactly as I had hoped they would. We had zero flats and no issues at all while enabling me to climb the trickiest of climbs and absolutely smash the descents to the edge of my abilities. Sure, they're not your first choice for Enduro racing or highly technical descends but given their lighter weights and harder rubber compounds, I have no hesitation running either of them again for a technical trail bike setup. If you're building a Fugitive in the 120 / 140 setting with a Fox 34 or RS Pike (or similar fork) and don't need the durability or traction of the heavier duty Minion / DHR EXO 3C tires, then take a serious look at the Forekaster / Ardent combo. Of course, each rider has their own preferences, but for me this tire combination worked consistently, repeatedly, and reliably every day of the BC Bike Race.
#Fugitive #bikesetup #fugitivelt #bcbr #racingsetup