Check Out: BC Bike Race Edition

Last week I travelled to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, for the BC Bike Race. For those who aren’t familiar, the BCBR is a week-long stage race, where riders take on a different cross-country course each day. This year, the race days were in the 20 mile range, with 2,500 to 4,000 vertical feet of elevation gain. Those numbers aren’t as large as they were in some of the race’s previous years, so the actual time on the bike was a little shorter, but the pace was that much higher.

In preparation for the race I gathered up a smattering of components and apparel that was a little different from what I typically wear out on the trail. The knee pads were left behind, I found a helmet without a visor, and an Orbea Oiz was called in for race duty. I can’t show the full bike quite yet, since there are a few components that haven’t been launched – the race also served as a chance to get in some additional testing time.

With minimal preparation other than just riding my bike a lot, I put on most of the items mentioned below and headed out for a week of racing against 600 other mostly spandex-clad riders.

Fox FlexAir Ascent Shorts & Jersey

Ascent Shorts
• TruDri fabrics
• Ratcheting waist closure
• 9.75″ inseam
• Colors: black, dirt brown, blue, nutmeg brown
• Sizes: 28 – 40
• $119.95 USD

Ascent Jersey
• Colors: black, slate blue, cordovan red
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL, 2X
• Recycled polyester fabric
• $69.95 USD

Full spandex is the preferred costume for the BC Bike Race, but my days of donning a skinsuit are well in the past, even more so since I stopped wearing a chamois. Still, I didn’t want to stand out too much, so I went with Fox’s new FlexAir Ascent Shorts. With a 9.75” inseam these are very short shorts, and they’re definitely designed to be worn without knee pads.

The material is light and quick drying (I wore the same pair all week, rinsing them off occasionally and letting them dry in the sun so they’d be ready for the next day), and the ratcheting buckle means there’s no velcro to wear out. A small pocket on the right side has just enough room for a phone, and that’s about it. I don’t have any complaints about the fit – the shorts are snug where they should be while still providing enough freedom of movement to avoid any unwanted constriction.

On some of the days I paired the shorts with Fox’s FlexAir Ascent jersey. Once again, a snug fit and lightweight material is the name of the game here. There were some seriously hot race days (at least for the Pacific Northwest), and even when it was soaked with sweat the fabric remained comfortable. The only small grip I have about the jersey is that it’s so tight that getting it off can be a bit of a struggle, sort of like removing a wetsuit.

Overall, Fox’s Ascent collection makes a lot of sense for riders heading out for XC or gravel adventures that don’t want to go the full spando route, and who also don’t want to look like they just finished taking laps in the bike park.

Sweet Protection Memento Rig Sunglasses


• Multiple frame and lens options
• Sweet Protection RIG lens technology
• Includes hard case, microbag, 3 nose pieces

bigquotes Conditions were extra dry for the entire race, and most days involved a fair bit of riding semi-blind through clouds of dust. I typically bring clear glasses with me on rides, sticking them in my helmet for the climbs and then donning them for the descents, but I decided to take a little different route for the race, since I’d be riding with large groups of riders and wouldn’t have as many chances to fuss with my glasses.

I went with Sweet Protection’s Memento Rig glasses due to their large amount of coverage and the moderate lens tint – that meant I could I could keep them on in the trees, and still have some protection from the harsh light reflecting off the logging roads snaking through clear cuts.

The Memento glasses did a great job of keeping dust and other debris out of my eyes, and the optics were excellent. I did struggle at times when the sweat off my forehead would drip onto the lens. On some of the days I did a pretty good job at keeping the lenses smear-free, but there were a few occasions when I just gave up and stuck them into my helmet. That’s more of a testament to the conditions rather than a mark against the glasses – for more normal rides, once where you’re not constantly trying to go as fast as possible, getting sweat on the lens will be less of an issue.

The price isn’t exorbitant either, at least compared to other high-end sport sunglasses in this category. 

Rab Cinder Phantom Jacket


• Pertex Shield waterproof / breathable fabric
• Tailored bike fit
• Under helmet hood

bigquotes It didn’t rain at all during the BCBR, not even a little bit. Personally, I would have rather had grey, rainy conditions instead of sweating away under a blazing sun, but I’m still working on figuring out how to control the weather. In any case, the Rab Cinder Phantom jacket that I brought along remained in my duffle bag for the whole week. The reason the Rab earned a spot in my bag is its light weight (it’s only 92 grams) and ability to pack down to the size of a tennis ball.

I may not have used the jacket during the race, but I was able to get out on a bunch of rainy rides with it beforehand. As a just-in-case layer, something to wear when the weather can’t make up its mind, the Cinder Phantom is excellent. It’s waterproof and quite breathable, although, like all rain jackets, it will eventually start getting saturated if it’s raining hard and you’re working even harder. Still, for riders in the Pacific Northwest or similar climates I’d say it’s an ideal layer – it barely takes up any room, and work well when it’s needed. The fit was designed with biking in mind, which means the arms and back are a little longer to keep the jacket from riding up. The hood fits well underneath a helmet, and a small carrying sack is included that can be used to attach the jacket to your frame or handlebar.

Fizik Vento Ferox Carbon Shoes


• Woven mesh over a PU laminated upper
• Li2 Boa dial
• X1 carbon outsole

• Sizes: 36 – 48
• $299.95 USD

bigquotes Might as well finish things off with some fancy purple shoes, right? The Vento Ferox Carbon’s are Fizik’s stiffest MTB or gravel shoes, with a stiffness rating of 10 out of 10.

I’m usually a size 45 for most cycling shoes, but if I had to do it again I’d probably go down a ½ size with the Vento’s. My feet weren’t swimming, but the fit was a little roomier than I would have preferred around my toes. As always, it’s best to try a pair on before you buy them. Luckily the large velcro strap and Boa closure make it possible to really lock things down, keeping my feet securely in place even with that extra room. The width of the rest of the shoe was ideal, close-fitting without being uncomfortable.

I’d put the Vento’s into the ‘seriously stiff’ category – there’s minimal flex from the carbon plate underfoot, ensuring that there’s no power lost while pedaling. That stiffness does create some heel lift when walking, but realistically most XC riders aren’t going to be spending much time trouncing around off the bike. If it does become necessary to walk, the sole provides a decent amount of grip, at least for this style of shoe. Again, they’re made for bike not hiking.

There’s something to be said about equipment that makes you feel fast, and the Vento shoes certainly tick that box – they’re a very good option for riders looking for a high-end, well constructed cross-country shoe.

Title image: Margus Riga. Action shot: Dave Silver

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