March 10, 2015 – By the time you read this, we’ll be in a plane to South Africa. Well, probably on the five hour leg to JFK, or the nine hour leg to Amsterdam. The 11hour flight to South Africa will still be ahead of us. Turns out, South Africa is a long way away.
We’re going to South Africa to race the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race. It was the infectious enthusiasm of the Cape Epic founder, Kevin Vermaak, that planted the seed during a chance meeting back in 2014. That seed took root and here we are, heading to South Africa to race the Cape Epic – 8 days, 800km, 15000meters – running from March 13th to March 20th.
There are the usual logistics to consider with any major international travel – flights, hotels, rental car, currency, ‘Did I download the South Africa map for the Garmin?’, ‘Whose gonna feed the dog and chickens?’, etc… But add to this the necessary equipment for eight days of racing on the Western Cape of South Africa and the brain quickly overloads. Now, times it by two. The Cape Epic is for two man teams. The race enters such remote territory Kevin never wanted any racer to be alone.
So, what follows are the products we are taking, just the bike stuff, the gear we hope will not just go fast, but keep going, day after day, subject to incredible punishment. We’ll start with the bikes themselves.
The name may be just a coincidence, but the Epic is perfect for the Cape Epic, in fact it’s the winningest bike at the race. It’s light, accelerates like a road bike, but delivers buttery dual suspension with 10mm of FSR travel out back and 100mm of RockShox RS-1 up front, both controlled by Specialized’s Brain inertia valve, meaning no lock-outs or levers to flick. The S-Works uses the Command Post XC dropper, which makes it feel like a nimble BMX bike on descents – all confidence, speed and fun. Roval Carbon wheels and Shimano XTR finish the build. More: Specialized
Perhaps the most ‘epic’ of all the Epic’s features is the SWAT integration. No one wants to race for eight days with a hydration pack or bulging pockets. Even with days over 100km and rest stops hours apart, the Epic can handle it all with no pack. Two big water bottles, tube, C02, levers, mini-tool and chain breaker all ride along with you on the frame. Perfect.
Voler FS Pro Kit
At the Cape Epic both riders need to wear matching kits, so you know what that means, new kits! We reached out to Voler, based up the road in Grover Beach, where the kits are designed and manufactured. Working with Voler was a breeze, our design was quickly dialed for apparel by their art team and into production lightening fast. We choose the FS Pro jersey since it is a slim race fit, uses Voler’s new Genesis fabric which is super light, breathable and comfortable, just the thing for hours in the saddle on the Cape. The matching bibs use a seven panel construction and the Apex chamois, a 4-way stretch, 3D molded pad designed to reduce friction. This a good thing, did we mention the race is eight days long? More: Voler
Voler also makes a lot of other great apparel, so we got some thermal vests, wind jackets and warmers – all customized for us by Voler’s art department. We used the Cape Epic ‘Rider Badge’ liberally!
Shoes, Helmets and Gloves
We looked to Specialized for these accessories. We chose the Airnet for a great combination of ventilation and light weight. Plus, the optional visor is integrated with the pads where it soaks up all your sweat and funnels it to drip off the brim, keeping it off our glasses. Brilliant. S-Works XC shoes and both Ridge and XC Lite long finger gloves will handle extremities. More: Specialized
With 600 two man teams on the trails (no, we won’t be at the front) dust is going to be an issue. We wanted protection and no one does eye protection better than Ride100%. We’ll be wearing the goggle like Speedcraft,in both short and long lens version. They are a super light, super comfy, optically perfect force field for your eyes. At camp we’ll be swapping to Ride100% casual glasses. More: Ride100%
My wife already thinks I’m nuts for doing the Cape Epic, but when I ran through the house one morning yelling, “The ‘Flying Sauser’ just emailed me!,”she knew the long miles and slim dinners had finally gotten to me. The ‘Flying Sauser’ is Christoph Sauser, the XC World Champ and 5x Cape Epic champ. We’re buddies now. I was looking for advice on tire selection and Specialized hooked me up with Christoph.
It turns out the Cape has thorns like drywall screws, normal rules don’t apply. Instead of lightweight race tires we’re running Specialized’s ‘The Captain’ Control 2Bliss. Tubeless of course, with a 60TPI casing for cut resistance, and we are bringing spares. Regular sealant is no match for the Cape. Apparently there is something called ‘Sludge’ in South Africa everyone rides. We’ll buy that there.
But even that won’t be enough. Christoph told us we’ll need to be prepared to plug our tires. ‘Plug? Like a car tire?’ I said to Christoph. Yup, they plug tires out there. I was turned on to a company called DynaPlug. They make plug kits for cars, motorcycles and now mountain bikes. It’s a super light, brilliantly packaged, incredibly effective little silver bullet to put in a saddle bag. More: Dynaplug
Once your bike, kit and accessories are dialed, it’s time to start thinking about spares. We got new XTR pedals to run, using our old set as spares. We got extra derailleur hangers, a spare XTR chain and XTR cassette. Sauser told us we could burn through brake pads in a single day on the Cape Epic, so we got three extra sets. More: Shimano
The last thing we wanted was to arrive in Cape Town with all our careful work undone by damage in transit. We researched the very best bike bags and came away with two choices – PRO’s Travel Case Mega and the Scicon AeroComfort MTB. Both offer enough protection to know you can relax on the plane – your bike is safe. They also have enough extra room to pack all our shoes, kits, helmets, nutrition and even a floor pump. More: Scicon More: PRO
We’ll report on the entire race experience soon in the pages of peloton. Until then, check out cape-epic.com to learn more about the race and follow the 2016 edition .