Thursday, January 1, 2015

Why The Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt Is My Bike Of Choice For The 2015 BCBike Race

The coveted BCBR Belt Buckle
Update: First Impressions post now up! 

After dashing last year's hopes for a shiny BC Bike Race belt buckle in a dismal example of why you should always keep the chit chat to a minimum and watch where you're going (or else risk falling on your face, and breaking your hand), I have rallied, my support crew has rallied, and we are going back to [hopefully] finish this thing.

We learned a lot from our maiden voyage and this year's campaign will be even better than before. Mom has already started booking our campsites, Dad picked out an RV that is bigger and badder than last year's rig, and Gerhard is putting up with an absentee wife while I am busy logging those base miles.

But I think the thing I am most excited about for the 2015 BCBR, is getting to ride it on the 2015 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt MSL 770.  The decision has been made, the order is on the books, and this red rocket will be here in just three short months.

Thunderbolt MSL 770 on the Interbike floor, where we first met. Jon Grinney photo
For those of you wondering what bike to choose for the "Ultimate Singletrack Experience," here are the six things that tipped the scales for me. And believe me ... I did not make this decision lightly. My coach and I carefully evaluated the geometry and specs of about six frontrunners on the short list. When we put all the data into an elaborate excel spreadsheet, the Thunderbolt was the clear winner.


When picking a bike out, there are two schools of thought: play to your strengths, or play to your weaknesses. Last year, I chose my Trek Top Fuel over a loaner Juliana Furtado because when it comes to BC single track, my strength is climbing, and I didn't want to bring the extra weight of the Furtado. The Top Fuel is a pure XC race machine ... which for me, I discovered, is not the bike for the BCBR.

Ride-9 chip. Jon Grinney photo.
The Thunderbolt's geometry is almost purpose-built for this race. I'm getting a slacker head tube angle so technical descents and rough trail will be more manageable, but not so slack that I'm sacrificing on the climbs.  And with Rocky Mountain's Ride-9 technology, you can actually change the geometry to match the stage you're on. Genius. The chip has nine different settings that move the shock mount-point into different configurations: Forward = Aggressive, Back = Efficient, Up = Lightweight Riders, Down = Heavyweight Riders.

The RIDE-9™ System Explained from Rocky Mountain Bicycles on Vimeo.

It also comes shod with 27.5-inch wheels, which are a great choice for demanding trails, especially for riders of my stature. Basically, choosing the Thunderbolt means I don't have to play to either my strengths or weaknesses ... it's almost like magic how much capability is packed into this one frame.


My Top Fuel gave me 100mm in the front and back and to be honest, I didn't feel like I was coming up short in this area in last year's race. But, more is always nice, so the 120mm that comes with the Thunderbolt is a welcome addition. Rocky Mountain also thoughtfully included a remote for the rear shock -- for me, that's a critical feature that will ensure I make use of the shock's settings, even on the fly.

The suspension is also the feature that put the 770 MSL past the BC Edition of the Thunderbolt. For me, at 125 lbs race weight, a 130mm Rockshox Pike is a bit much ... though dang, that bike was a close second. If you're a guy reading this, I think that's what I would recommend. For us lighter-weight riders, we can get away with less.


I think one of the biggest lessons I learned (the hard way) at the race last year is that a dropper post is mandatory. There is just so much technical descending, a little help getting your seat out of the way is a no-brainer. The Thunderbolt comes spec'd with the one I'd choose: the RockShox Reverb Stealth. I like that it's the most reliable one I've tried, and you can drop/raise it to whatever height you like, rather than pre-set levels.
Me, racing the 2014 BCBR, stage 1, North Vancouver
Margus Riga photo


It's not that I have anything against a 1X system ... but for this race--with 29,000 feet of climbing--I'm a fan of keeping a smaller chain ring. Shimano's XT has always been my go-to for its low-maintenance, reliable, takes-all-of-my-abuse capabilities. With Rocky's add of the XTR rear derailleur 'great' just got better. For me, a less-cluttered cockpit is a big price to pay for the tendonitis I'd get from rifling through my gears up and down, rather than a single left-hand shift. I like gears. I use all of them.


It's red. Red is fast. And it's also the color of my very first "real" mountain bike. The one I got because I wanted something "cool" to ride when my Raleigh Tarantula was stolen--my gateway into the sport. It was a Rocky Mountain, too. A Fusion to be exact, with a RockShox Judy fork. I loved that bike and the places it took me. I get nostalgic thinking about it, so for me, the paint comes with some very good vibrations.

RED hot. Jon Grinney photo.


Rocky Mountain is an awesome Canadian brand that's now in its 30s. But more than that, it's British Columbian. These guys build bikes they'd want to ride in their back yard. Which happens to be where the BC Bike Race takes place. So for me, there's an extra level of confidence that comes from knowing that the bike I chose has been tested and tried against the very terrain waiting for me and 599 other racers this July.


The BC Bike Race is a "cross country" event, but it's a little more than that. The enduro sections are challenging, the single track is technical and though you'll want to bring an XC racer's fitness to the start line, you'll also benefit from a downhiller's technical skills. That's why when choosing a bike for the BC Bike Race, you need a little more than a cross country bike. The Thunderbolt is the perfect amount of "more."

But wait, there's more more! When I let Rocky Mountain know I was totally enamoured with their new Thunderbolt--in carbon this year for the first time--they were stoked too and made me an official ambassador. That's why in 2015, not only am I thrilled that a Thunderbolt will be taking up residence with me, but also a Vertex, their 29er hardtail, for all the racing leading up to BCBR.

More on that beauty later, but before we get another minute into 2015, I wanted to share this most exciting news for the upcoming year. Thank you so much, Rocky Mountain!

Over the coming weeks, I'll be sharing even more news like this welcoming all of the amazing support that has come to the table in 2015 so stay tuned. It's going to be an awesome year. Love the ride!!

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