So over the past six months I’ve put in hundreds of hours and thousands of kilometers of training and racing in preparation for the 2015 ABSA Cape Epic. I’m fortunate in my line of work to be able to test ride different bikes and gear.
Here’s what I’ve ended up choosing. Warning: It’s quite a detailed list…
Momsen VIPA Team Issue
I was going to race the Cape Epic on the Momsen VIPA XT, but when the Team Issue (flagship model) was launched and I test rode it, I felt it was it better option, mostly because it’s lighter – 10.72kg vs 11.68kg.
It has Fox’s dual-adjust simultaneous suspension remote that allows me to switch between Climb, Trail and Descend with my left hand. To be honest, I’ve yet to find this system working flawlessly on any bike and have only stuck with it because I will have Heino Engelbrecht’s daily mechanical mastery to ensure my bike is working flawlessly for every stage (including the suspension adjustment).
I like the angles of the frame – 70.5-degree headtube and 73.5-degree seattube, giving me a good position for climbing and a stable feel for descending, with enough weight over the front wheel for cornering. It’s a fairly standard geometry for most bikes in this category. The shorter-than-most 1102mm wheelbase and 440mm chainstays give the bike slightly compact feel, which I like for tight turns and steep climbs.
Although I tested the Reynolds XC Carbon wheels and raced them at Attakwas, I decided to go with the stock Stan’s ZTR Crest wheelset that comes with the VIPA Team Issue. I felt the Reynolds wheels were really firm (carbon rims give you that) and strong and light. While I didn’t have any problems with the hubs, I did have quite a few guys warn me to be careful with them and relayed their stories about issues they’d had with the hubs. The fact that Reynolds says it has sorted out any hub problems with its new models did give me some confidence. But you have to expect the worst and hope for the best in mountain bike stage racing, especially the Cape Epic, which takes on some exceptionally rugged terrain for XC/marathon equipment. So I decided that even if I do have a problem with the Stan’s wheels, there’s plenty of spares and back-up available at the Cape Epic to sort it out, but didn’t feel the same with the more rare Reynolds wheelset.
If there’s one topic that can go on for hours, even days, it’s tyre choice for the Cape Epic. Holy cow! After trying many different brands and models over the past six months – and having tested many more over the past six years, I have settled on the Vittoria Barzo front and rear. Vittoria has always owned the Geax MTB tyre brand, but has now brought it under the Vittoria brand for the sake of simplicity.
The Barzo weighs 600g (not super light, but also not that heavy) and has sidewall cut resistance in the form of Vittoria’s TNT technology.
The tread pattern is more biased towards fast rolling than super-aggressive cornering. This is what I feel will benefit me most. Cornering is my strength in terms of skill; I need more straight-line speed assistance, which I feel this tyre will give me.
The width is 2.25 and I’ll be running about 1.6 bars up front and 1.8 bars at the rear.
After having done most of my build-up training and racing with both Shimano and SRAM 2×10, I will be tackling the Cape Epic with Shimano’s XTR 1×11. It’s what comes standard on the VIPA Team Issue and despite my initial concerns that I’m not strong enough to rock a 1×11 for an eight-day stage race, I’ve been talked into a, er, mindset shift (and trained into a more powerful pedaller).
As I mentioned in my previous diary entry, the 32-tooth chainring was going to have to be replaced by a 30 for the Cape Epic. Easier said than done! They’re currently very scarce! Actually, so scarce, I can’t get one! You can’t just fit any brand of chainring onto the Shimano XTR crankset. Not good, especially when there’s a major shortage of 30-tooth Shimano XTR chainrings – globally…
Those Cape Epic 1×11 riders using SRAM (the majority it seems) have the option of a 42-tooth large sprocket at the back, making a 32 up front just fine. But Shimano will only have a 42-tooth sprocket option from the middle of 2015. So it’s a 40-tooth large sprocket at the back for me. Gulp! The 1×11 SRAM users have not had sleepless nights like I’ve had. My legs are just going to have to man up. I wonder if Shimano will pay for some leg massages during the race – these I can source easily…
Shimano XTR hydraulic disc with 160mm rotors. I’ve never ever written anything negative about these brakes. They’re just flippen amazing!
715mm Carbon Momsen Design Up/Down handlebar; Carbon Momsen Design Downer Stem (90mm with – 20-degree drop); Custom carbon seatpost; Fizik Tundra saddle; Momsen Design Silcone Race grips.
Shimano SPD – Bomb-proof, reliable, adjustable, serviceable… I can’t think of any reason not to use them.
Kask Mojito – It’s a road-racing helmet, but it’s light (220g), well ventilated and really comfortable. I especially like the leather-feel straps, which are firm, but soft.
Halo Headband’s Bandana – I hate getting sweat in my eyes. The Halo has a rubber forehead strip that completely eliminates that from happening. I can also douse my head with water on hot days and the Halo bandana holds the moisture and keeps my head cool.
Oakley RadarLock – I like to use the Clear-to-Black photochromic lens most of the time because of the changing light conditions, especially when there are forests or clouds. On overcast days I use the Persimmon lens, which has a superlight tint that makes it possible to see all trail obstacles in even the darkest conditions. In fact, if you’re a natural pessimist, wear this lens daily for a brighter outlook!
First Ascent and Craft – Even on the hottest days I wear an undershirt to help manage my body temperature. It’s also an extra layer of protection in case of a crash.
We modified our existing TREAD jersey design and got European company BioRacer to make our Cape Epic jerseys. There’s a dash of red now. BioRacer makes jerseys for many of the world’s biggest pro racing teams so the quality and fit are superb.
Assos Equipe and Assos Rally – I’ve already mentioned in a previous diary entry just how comfortable the Assos bib shorts are. The Equipe is one of the most popular among Cape Epic riders (you’ll spot them by the thin lilac strip on the left leg cuff), while the Rally is a brand new mountain bike specific model.
It has a very robust fabric, which is designed to withstand snags on branches and thorns. It also has internal pouches for removable pads to protect your femur/hip junction – that boney spot on the side of your butt that always gets roastied/bruised in a crash. I will not be using these pads. The look and the feel just seem a bit off for me… They fit me exceptionally well. The leg-length is perfect – it almost seems like they were tailor made for my proportions.
I’ve always been quite picky with cycling socks. I hate any kind of foot discomfort so like my socks to fit perfectly – not bunch up, not have an irritating toe seam, not slip down my ankle, not get too sweaty… The best socks I’ve found for me that tick all these boxes, are the DeFeet Levitator Lite. I tried to get more for myself for Christmas, but the local agent didn’t have. I reluctantly decided to order the Airator model instead, but it’s not the same. I’m hoping I can get a couple of pairs of the Levitator Lite in time for the Epic. I want happy feet!
I will take two pairs of shoes – The Bontrager RXL, which I have been wearing for races for more than a year; and the Fizik Boa, which I started using a month ago.
The Bontrager RXLs are really comfy, but also light and stiff. They’re a bit damaged and will be my second choice option.
The Fizik Boa will be my first choice. They’re slipper-like in look and feel, but really stiff and light too. They’re not as low profile as the Bontragers, covering more of my inner foot – this is great for protecting my foot against occasional knocks on the crank, but has felt a bit uncomfortable on very long rides. This was put down to the kangaroo hide being new and stiff. I’ve washed them a few times, which has hopefully softened them up enough to be comfy. If they give me any discomfort, I’ll switch to the Bontragers.
I’m using a PowerTap G3 rear hub, which measures my power. It’s a little heavier than a regular hub, but I feel that with my discovery of the importance of power measurement for pacing, my effort judgment ability will, er, outweigh the extra grammage.
I’ve been using a Mio Cyclo 105 device for the past nine months. As someone that’s technically challenged, I find it’s simple to understand, adjust, read and upload. And the text is large enough for me to see without my reading specs… It connects seamlessly with the PowerTap hub too. My last Cape Epic I rode by feel. This Cape Epic I’m riding my numbers. It’s a race. I’m in race mode…
Next diary entry: I’ll explain how power-measurement has developed my ‘engine’ for the Cape Epic. I’ll also describe my nutrition/supplement strategy for the race. Follow me on Instagram and twitter for more regular Cape Epic 2015 updates: @Mr_TREAD