The Absa Cape Epic is the pinnacle event in mountain bike stage racing. Everything about the event is difficult, especially securing an entry. Once you have the entry though, you have the difficult task of spending a good few months preparing for the event, building the power, endurance and skill required to finish the demanding eight-day race. Then you have the difficult task of choosing what gear is best for you. Here’s a summary and analysis of the gear, including tyres, drivetrains, eyewear and bike bags used by competitors at the 2017 Cape Epic.
Compiled by Sean Badenhorst and Shikara Nel
Photos by Dino Lloyd
What tyres should I use? Should I go with a one-by drivetrain? Shimano or SRAM? Should I have a dropper seatpost? So many questions for Cape Epic entrants, especially first-timers and often no right or wrong answer. Sometimes it’s best to look at the stats to find the answers. Each year the Cape Epic offers a survey to the entrants. It’s an online survey and this year 1141 of the 1332 entrants completed the survey (86%). Here are the results:
Introduced only last year, the drivetrain question is an important one. At the first few Cape Epics, mountain bikes were accepted to have triple chainrings and most of them were Shimano drivetrains. SRAM then entered the fray and changed – and improved – how we pedal, introducing first double and then single chainrings, forcing Shimano to react with similar offerings. The result is that drivetrains have become almost as significant a choice as tyres.
After seeing the 2016 Cape Epic drivetrain stats, we predicted an increase in double chainring choice for 2017. But that was before the launch of SRAM Eagle, the 1×12 drivetrain that’s made a second chainring redundant for most. But it comes at a price. A full SRAM Eagle drivetrain costs around R25 000. It’s clear by the stats and our own observations at the 2017 edition that committed mountain bikers prefer simplicity. Sixty-seven percent is quite a compelling number; and with the likelihood of the 1×12 option trickling down to SRAM’s more affordable groupsets, as well as a likely 1×12 response from Shimano, it seems that this figure is sure to grow over the next year.
Will you replace your drivetrain before the 2017 Cape Epic?
|Cassette and chain only||23%|
We honestly thought that SRAM’s two-year lead would be reduced by Shimano in 2017 with the introduction of the Japanese brand’s new 1×11 and 2×11 groupsets in 2015 and 2016. But that was before the launch of SRAM Eagle 1×12 in June 2016, which has clearly helped SRAM not only maintain, but increase its lead over Shimano at the 2017 Cape Epic.
This is the first year where tyre brand has been introduced to the Cape Epic rider survey. We have to say that the results are pretty much in line with what we expected with Maxxis, Schwalbe and Continental being the Big Three. We did expect Continental to have more than 16% of the field though and were a little surprised to see that Vittoria has as much as 10%. Only a little surprised though because our editor, Sean Badenhorst, rode the 2015 Cape Epic with Vittoria tyres and was highly impressed.
For the majority of Cape Epic entrants, tyre durability is more important than tyre weight, but for the more serious racers, a trade-off between durability and weight becomes somewhat of a dilemma. Price is also a factor on a consumable gear item and the Maxxis pricing in South Africa, due largely to there being two official distributors for the brand, has been difficult for other brands to match.
Nobody wants to have their Cape Epic punctuated with moments of tyre drama. Historically, Maxxis, Schwalbe and Continental have become trusted brands at the Cape Epic. That’s not to say other brands aren’t as good, but credibility over time is really what seems to count most at the Cape Epic.
Will you ride with a dropper seatpost?
This is the first year this question has been asked and we’re expecting this percentage majority to switch once dropper seatposts become lighter and cheaper over the next few years. Riding descents and sequential singletrack turns (in fact most fast turns) with the seat lowered makes a significant different to a rider’s control and confidence. It also helps the rider carry speed through corners and therefore reduced fatigue. It’s one more thing to worry about on a bike, but benefits outweigh that. The dropper seatpost’s time has surely come to marathon racing.
Eyewear brands – most popular:
This is the first year we have been given a more detailed breakdown of eyewear brands. In the past it’s been the Big Three – Oakley, Rudy Project and adidas, with the rest being grouped as Other.
Oakley’s domination has increased even more this year, while both Rudy Project and adidas have dropped. The adidas drop surprised us because we felt like there was a bigger adidas presence at the race than previous years.
UVEX, POC and Bollé each only have 2%, but combined, that 6% has no doubt had an impact on Rudy Project and adidas’s Cape Epic reach.
Which bike travel bag do you own?
|Bike Box Alan||1%|
This is a new question and it shows that Evoc dominates this market. This doesn’t surprise us as, based on our experience, the Evoc bike bag is exceptionally well made, well priced, not too heavy and highly protective.
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