The Belgian Waffle Ride is a unique event. It’s not a gravel ride in the same way that Dirty Kanza is and it’s not a true road race. Additionally Southern California doesn’t really have gravel, mostly we have dirt, dust, rocks or sand. There aren’t the minimum maintenance roads that you find in Kansas, these are jeep trails. That said There are a couple of sections that are actually are gravel but combined they are probably less than 5 miles.
You can spend three, four, five times longer than it takes to ride the course considering equipment. A road bike with a big cassette, a CX bike or the choice of new gravel specific bikes that have come to market in recent years. Last year I rode a Lynskey Cooper CX. I picked it up used from a Facebook Swap Meet group late in 2015. I eye balled the size, switched it over from SRAM to Shimano and upgraded it slowly from random parts to Dura Ace and finally added a Stages Power Meter, racing with a power meter makes sense when you train with one! Not only did I use it for BWR but I rode it at Dirty Kanza 200, The Rock Cobbler twice and Strada Rossa…almost twice! In the fall of 2016 I used the Lynskey Trade In program and I traded the frame in for the 2018 model, it netted my around 30% off the price of a frame, which was a good enough deal for me. I went with the etched graphics as they just look classier! The newer model came with a tapered headtube, thru axels, a gravel specific frame, wider chainstays and flat mount brakes. My old frame was stripped down and the parts moved over. I had to switch out the brakes as the newer model had flat mount brakes with compressionless cables. I went with mechanical TRP Spyres, I like mechanical, if it breaks I can probably fix it or jerry-rig it to get me home.
With the upgraded frame switching across the cockpit and components was easy. The bike was specced with 3T Ergonnova Bars, these are alloy with a nice flat top, I use the Fizik gel pads under them and then they are wrapped in Fizik bar tape, there is an Arx Stem and a carbon Stylus Seatpost, everything is in black. The seat is an ISM Prologue, yeah it looks funny but I can sit on it for 200+ miles and it’s my ass. I have one of these on every bike. ISM have stopped making this model so whenever I see one for sale I snap it up. There is a K-Edge Garmin Mount and Chain Catcher (I can’t think why you wouldn’t put a chain catcher on any bike these days)! The chain is lubed with Wend Wax, it keeps it clean and running.
I switched across the entire drivetrain including the power meter. I’ve been riding with Power since 2013 and my first PM was a Stages which is why I had no issues in buying another, with hindsight I have found that this type of riding where you don’t have the smoothness of the road can result in some odd numbers, especially when you “stomp” on the pedals, 2000 watt spikes are not unusual.
The Bottom Bracket is from Hawk Racing, it’s the sealed CX version. Best value for a steel bearing version and sealed against the elements. I have one on my road bike with nearly 13,000 miles and it still spins like a laser through warm butter!
In advance of Crushar in the Tushar I did some research on gearing. The 50/34 11-32 was fine but with two 10,000’ summits I was looking for something that would give me a bigger ratio. I settled on the Wolftooth Tanpan. The Tanpan is an inline device that lets you mix and match Road and MTB gearing. It’s needed to take up the gearing cable differential between the two types of groupsets. This let me switch out my DA Rear Derailleur for an XT MTB Derailleur and add a 11-42 cassette, this gave me a 50/34 11-42 gearing. I can pretty much ride up a lamppost with this. It was the same set up I used for Mauna Kea ascent in October. It’s a bit fiddly to set up and to be honest I let the boys at Wins Wheels deal with it. I have managed to completely eff it once resulting in the need for new cable. It’s not the prettiest of things but it works. The other advantage of the XT derailleur is that it has a clutch, this takes up the slack on the chain and reduces the risk of it bouncing off. Shimano has just (as of this writing) released an Ultegra RX Clutch Rear Derailleur with a clutch and it was used by John Degenkolb at this years Paris – Roubaix.
In keeping with the 3T theme the bike had 3T C35 Pro Discus wheels, these are alloy (not carbon) and are kinda deepish so there is some aero benefit. The biggest discussion after gearing for the race is tires. Last year I used Clement X’Plor USH and had no issues. This year I had planned on using the Hutchinson Sectors that we had been given at Camp last year. At Camp this year IRC had come on as the official tire sponsor and they had three offerings. I thought long and hard and chatted to several folks for an independent opinion. They all suggested the IRCs were a more puncture resistant choice than the Hutchinson's and were a faster tire than the Clements. I picked up a pair of Serac Sand CX Tubeless and fitted them. They stayed on the bike from January and I had no issues with them on race day. They are 32mm wide so much more of a CX tire than a road tire but the filetread pattern affords some grip in the climbs and corners. I opted to run them as clinchers (with leftover Bontrager slime filled tubes from DK) rather than the recommended tubeless. I have little to no experience of tubeless and now wasn’t the time to start at the bottom of the learning curve. They were inflated to 65psi. My only concern was was that they were super tight on my wheels, as in took 30 minutes to fit tight and almost breaking the indestructible Pedro’s tire lever, vs. 3 minutes for the Clements and using just my thumbs. Fortunately I had no punctures on race day.
Cloudy Day at the SPNDX Stampede!
Plenty of grip in the dirt!
Final items on the bike were a Topeak Pro Pack saddle bag with an extra Tube, lever and C02. I like that it hangs down and is not wrapped around the seat post. Up front was Road Runner Burrito Bag, another spare tube, C02 sealant, spare derailleur hanger, extra Gel and an emergency Payday bar!
Pedals are Crank Brothers Egg Beaters, I wear MTB shoes and I like that these are easy to clip into. They have both developed an annoying squeak, I have been told that this is due to sand in the spring. I’ve blasted them with compressed air but it remains!
The bottle cages are by Electra and they mounted a Silca Tactica pump on the frame.
With the bags and pump mounted the bike weighs in at just over 22lbs. It’s not light by any stretch, my Cervelo R3 is a svelte 15lbs by comparison. But the weight is offset by the ride. The titanium frame just soaks up the trail. I’ve ridden this bike and the prior version down (and up) trails that were MTB designated. It rolls through rock gardens and the more I ride it the more comfortable I get with it’s abilities. I am hoping to go back to Dirty Kanza in 2019 and this will be the bike I’ll take for sure.
If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments