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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

Bikes and gear ready for servicing in Oak Valley after stage 6.
Photo: Dino Lloyd/Tread MTB


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: 

Drivetrain configuration

  2016 2017
Single chainring 49% 67%
Double chainring 48% 30%
Triple chainring 3% 3%

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.

Erik Kleinhans (Topeak Ergon) on his SRAM Eagle 1×12 equipped Canyon bike, during stage 3 held at Greyton.
Photo: Dino Lloyd/Tread MTB


Will you replace your drivetrain before the 2017 Cape Epic?

Yes, entirely 42%
Cassette and chain only 23%
Chain only 17%
No 18%

Component split

  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Shimano 61% 57% 57% 47% 46% 45% 51% 50% 44% 44% 44%
SRAM 36% 41% 41% 51% 53% 55% 49% 49% 55% 55% 56%
Other 3% 2% 2% 2% 1% 0% 0% 1% 1% 1% 0%

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.

Nino Schurter next to his SRAM Eagle equipped Scott, with Maxxis tyres.
Photo: Dino Lloyd/Tread MTB



Tyre brand 2017
Bontrager 6%
Continental 16%
Kenda 1%
Maxxis 31%
Michelin 1%
Mitas 4%
Schwalbe 27%
Vittoria (Geax) 10%
Vredestein 1%
Other 3%

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.

Start line treads and threads for the final stage from Oak Valley to Val de Vie.
Photo: Dino Lloyd/Tread MTB


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?

No 83%
Yes 17%

Olympic Champion and Mixed category winner, Jenny Rissveds’s Scott with dropper post.
Photo: Dino Lloyd/Tread MTB


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:

  2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Oakley 36% 40% 45% 49% 51% 55%
Rudy Project 24% 25% 24% 21% 20% 14%
adidas 11% 10% 8% 12% 12% 10%
UVEX           2%
POC           2%
Bollé           2%
Other 29% 25% 23% 18% 17% 15%

Anneke Hanekom (Rei-nette-haas) wearing Adidas eyewear. Photo: Dino Lloyd/Tread MTB


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.

From left team mates William Mokgopo and Phillimon Sebona (Diepsloot MTB Academy 1) wearing Oakley and Nike eyewear respectively. Photo: Dino Lloyd/Tread MTB


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?

B&W 1%
Bike Box Alan 1%
Biknd 1%
Cardboard Box 3%
Evoc 35%
Scicon 5%
Thule 7%
Other 9%
N/A 38%

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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GEAR CHOICE AT THE 2017 ABSA CAPE EPIC: ALL THE STATS Reviewed by on . [review] [review]     The Absa Cape Epic is the pinnacle event in mountain bike stage racing. Everything about the event is difficult, especially secu [review] [review]     The Absa Cape Epic is the pinnacle event in mountain bike stage racing. Everything about the event is difficult, especially secu Rating: 0

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