If you are reading this and you have ridden Karoo to Coast before, you’re probably thinking to yourself that a hardtail 29er is the best bike for this race. If you are reading this and you are riding your first Karoo to Coast this year you are probably thinking the same thing based on what everyone is telling you.
For those of you who don’t know a thing about Karoo to Coast, it’s a 100km mountain bike race from the Karoo town in Uniondale to Knysna over a course that features more downhill than uphill. With mostly smooth gravel district roads, this event has earned itself the title of a “road race on dirt” , and people have been known to try all sorts of machines, like cyclo-cross bikes to fully rigid single speed mountain bikes. Look out for the dual suspension tandem hitting the route this year piloted by William’s Bike Shop’s William Keith.
This year will be my 6th Karoo to Coast, and I have ridden mostly on 26er hardtails, and twice on 29er hardtails, which have worked very well actually with me riding to a 2nd place last year. It’s not a secret, to have a fast time at Karoo to Coast is all about holding a high momentum over the 100km course which will will save you energy in the long run. If you can keep that momentum up that is.
Last year I found myself holding onto Charles Keey’s wheel for dear life with 20km to go. Eventually I couldn’t hold on any longer and had to solo my way home in 2nd place. It wasn’t until I did my first marathon race this year, Attakwas, on a dual suss 29er that I realised how fast a dual suss can actually be not just for technical sections, but also on gravel road. They really fly!
I think this makes sense particularly in my case because of my weight. Weighing in at a lean 58kg after my heavyweight bout at World Champs, it’s needless to say that I don’t hold momentum easily! Hopefully the dual suss will prevent me from losing speed through some of the corrugations and save the energy that I lacked last year at the crucial point.
In another bold move, I’ve decided to stay with Sram’s XX1 groupest, running a 36tooth single ring up front. This may seem too light for those high speed descents, but the 10tooth sprocket at the rear hold a massive advantage over an 11tooth, and the greaing is pretty similar actually. Lets hope I don’t run out of gears on the climbs!
Other equipment that I’ installing on my Rocky Mountain Element 999 in my quest for the top step are Stans NoTubes ZTR Race Gold Wheels, coupled with Geax’s ultra fast rolling Mezcal tyre, the same tyre I rode at World Champs. Suspension wise it’s the Sid World Cup XX up front and Monarch XX at the rear both with rock solid hydraulic lockout for those ultra smooth sections finished off with Look S-Track Ti pedals. All in all, the bike should be a decent 9.7kg race ready.
Come say hi at the race!
Until then, keep it rubber side down.