Credit: Tony Harrison
From a seven-day tryout of the latest in mountain-bike clothing and equipmentDuring the first week of July, I put a bunch of mountain-biking gear—and myself—through a gruelling test of endurance, comfort and recovery in the fifth annual BC Bike Race. The seven-day mountain-bike stage race zigzags along B.C.'s southwest coast, hitting a different community's trails every day. In total I logged about 350 kilometres, 70 per cent of those on trails, and climbed almost 30,000 fee. When the dust settled and my legs stopped aching, here's what I still loved:
Gore Bike Wear Freeride Long Gloves
A thick gel pad in the palm of these full-coverage biking gloves kept my hands fresh and ready to shift and brake even late in the day. Training, I'd often had problems with my hands going numb from vibrations coming up through the bike, but these kept me comfy, and dried fast after long, sweaty days in the saddle.
Icebreaker Circuit Bib
Though these are technically road-cycling shorts, I loved them on cooler racing days. Icebreaker mixed their soft merino wool with Lycra to create a stretchy bib short, and by day six of my ride, I definitely appreciated the quality of the padding. Plus, I really like the mid-section comfort of the bib style.
2XU Cycle Compression Short
As the days ran together, anything that helped my muscles keep moving the pedals was key. The specific weave to these cycling shorts encourages oxygen-depleted blood to move back toward the heart, allowing the muscles to replenish more quickly. The padding is super comfortable; these shorts always felt good.
Mavic Razor Shoes
As with skis and ski boots, your biking skills are only as good as your attachment to your steed. I took a risk and pulled on the Razors a couple of days before the race, then wore them for all seven days. A ratchet and velcro lace system allowed me to dial in the fit, and the shoes were stiff enough to feel efficient but soft enough to be comfortable, even five hours into a ride. They have enough grip, too, for wading creeks and the odd hike-a-bike.
Giro Xar Helmet
When it hit 25 degrees on a power line climb in direct sunshine I could still feel a cooling breeze find my scalp through the 17 vents in this helmet. Even the sun visor is vented, but is stiff enough never to flap. Giro's easily adjustable fitting system, called Roc Loc 5, snugs the helmet in place without any brain-crushing squeeze.