6 Musings From The 6th Annual Belgian Waffle Ride

Another Belgian Waffle Ride has come and gone, and like all five that came before this one, it didn’t fail to deliver one of the hardest days on the bike I’m faced with each year. Obviously, that’s kind of the appeal, and I believe the unique element of BWR is the fact that it inspires riders to go well past their comfort zone and overcome heat, a stupid amount of miles and some rather challenging off-road terrain in order to make it on the list of finishers. It’s that inspiration that I love most about BWR.

Even though it wasn’t a pretty picture, and at times, downright undignified, I too made it through another edition of the event. One thing that I took consolation in, as I crossed the finish line a broken man, was the fact that I’m one of only a few who has finished all six BWRs. Considering how many things can and usually do go wrong out there I’m quite pleased with my finishing streak. As I sat there on the ground in a huddled mess at the finish, I had the following meaningless musings cross through my mind:

The top of Double Peak can never come soon enough, but once there it’s all downhill to the finish. Photo: PB Creative

1- People like to suffer
It’s not just that they like to suffer, they pay good money for that privilege. Between the two routes there were something like 1,200 riders that signed up to subject themselves to whatever was thrown at them. Seriously, if the fastest pro riders are finishing in right around 7 hours, that means the mortals with full-time jobs, kids, and weekly training plans that consist of riding single digit hours are out there for 10, 11, and 12+ hours! Sitting at the finish, pitying myself and how smashed my body felt, I was feeling sorry for the riders still out on course, thinking that they must be miserable. And maybe they were, but as I watched riders finish pretty much every one of them had a huge smile on their face, relieved to be done of course, but happy. I guess when it comes to the dollar-per-minute of fun ratio, the 12-hour finishers are the real winners.

2- It’s gotten faster
That has happened each year really, but this time around there were more current pros and top elite amateurs present than ever before. Riders like Joshua Berry and Serghei Tvetchov from Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis that had just finished Stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California the previous day, eventual winner Jesse Anthony from Rally Cycling and Brian McCulloch of Elevate-KHS all added significant depth to the field. On the women’s side Alison Tetrick of Cylance and 21-year-old phenom Larissa Connors of Sho-Air Twenty20 brought the level of the women’s field up to an all-time high. Finding a non-sanctioned event with deeper talent would be a tall order.

3- This mixed-surface stuff might just catch on
BWR didn’t invent riding road bikes on dirt, but they sure made it cool. And as it turns out, it’s really quite fun having the completely wrong tool for the job. Riding a road bike through rock gardens, sand pits and water crossings might seem entirely ludicrous, and it kind of is, but it’s all about finding the right balance of equipment to be the most efficient throughout the entire course. All this means is that, at some point, you’re going to be the nail while the course is the hammer.

Wide tires with tubeless technology and road frames with increased clearance are now readily available, which wasn’t the case just a handful of years ago.

4- Equipment comes to the rescue
At the first BWR six years ago, most of us were on bikes with frame clearance limited to a 25mm tire since the equipment simply hadn’t yet caught up to the type of riding we were doing. Now, there are a ton of frame, wheel, and tire options that deliver wider tires, tubeless, and disc brakes that can dramatically improve versatility and the experience. Even if Jesse Anthony can win on his team road bike, it doesn’t mean that’s the best equipment choice for most of us out there. A 30 or 32mm tire on a disc brake-equipped bike can do wonders for one’s ability in the dirt sections without coming at a performance cost on the pavement.

5- An easier route doesn’t mean an easier day
After last year’s BWR had us hitting nearly 150 miles, this year at just 132 miles was going to be downright easy. I had plans to loop back after the finish and hit Double Peak again just so my annual mileage on Strava wouldn’t suffer. Then my anticipated cake walk of a day ran head first into 100-degree temperatures, which beat me into submission with little mercy. Even though there were plenty of feed zones stocked with water and GQ-6 electrolyte replacement mix, I’m guessing a number of riders ended their day with heat exhaustion.

6- Whoever said, “Dirt don’t hurt” is either a liar or a fool
Even though I made it through the route unscathed in terms of lost skin and spilled blood, there are about a dozen people I know personally that can attest to the pain dirt can cause when one decides to pile drive it. All but two of them were just fine and able to continue on and finish. So although I do acknowledge it still hurts any time you stack it, it’s not on the same scale as a run in with the pavement, most of the time. One thing that I love about railing dirt on a bike that has no business being railed in dirt is the fact that I can get an adrenaline rush at a fraction of the speed it would take on the pavement. If things go wrong, it usually just involves dusting myself off and scrubbing a little more speed through that next corner.

For those that can hardly wait for the next Belgian Waffle Ride to try their hand at another mixed-surface event, check out SPNDX Stampede or Crusher in The Tushar on July 8th, Bakersfield’s Grapes of Wrath on October 14th, and a new event in Arizona coming from the BWR team in November.