Why R+ Bike Upgrades for the BC Epic

Every Cyclist’s Addiction

There is no denying that for almost all cyclists, bike upgrades become a borderline addiction once you get fully immersed in the sport. Whether a road, gravel, or MTB enthusiast, the veteran cyclist avidly follows along with the bike industry’s newest trends, while simultaneously grumbling about the bike industry’s lack of standards (new hub standards, wheelsize standards, drivetrain upgrades, I could go on), and how these ‘new standards’ are just a marketing ploy to get people constantly upgrading their biking hardware.

Still, it’s hard to argue with some of the bike industry’s most notable revamps, including lighter weight bike frames and materials, and for me, this is a key consideration as I embark on my first ever bikepacking race this summer: the BC Epic 1,000 – a 1,000 km gravel, dirt, and singletrack race from Merrit, BC, to Fernie.

After countless conversations with my bikepacking friends, internet research and study, not to mention deep, personal reflection and introspection, I decided to heed no one’s advice but my own and ride my Why R+ for the race, going against most everyone’s advice for me that my Why S7, a hardtail MTB would be much more comfortable over that long of a distance. I elected the R+ because it weighs 4 pounds less than my MTB, which is a significant savings over the course of 650+ miles, and I personally find it just as comfortable after comparing it to my MTB over a couple 100 mile gravel rides this spring.

So the bike for the race is the Why R+. But what about the components and parts? What follows is an inventory of the most noteworthy upgrades I made to my R+ going into this summer’s race.

Why R+ Upgrades

Fork Upgrade: Lauf Grit SL

Perhaps the most ‘controversial’ upgrade I made to my Why R+ is the Lauf Grit SL suspension(ish) fork, so let’s start there. This is a superlight carbon fork that has 30mm of travel via glassfiber springs that flex when riding through bumpy terrain. Having used this fork extensively over the past month, I’ve gotten a feel for how the fork works.

The Lauf Grit SL is at its best riding over gravel and dirt roads, where all of the micro-vibrations and minor bumps are made smooth with its 30mm of travel. I definitely feel less fatigue when riding over this kind of terrain with the Lauf fork in comparison to my rigid carbon fork. It also allows me to descend flowy gravel roads with more confidence. With less vibration in the handlebars, the front tire seems to stick to the road, and as a mediocre gravel descender at best, this advantage is noteworthy as it helps me keep up with riders that have superior technical downhill expertise, as long as the gravel road doesn’t become too technical or steep (more on that in a second).

In my opinion, there are a two applications where the Lauf fork does not perform well: singletrack and steep road or gravel descents. On singletrack, the Lauf fork simply does not provide enough travel to feel any sort of benefit, at least in the 30mm gravel fork application. It basically just feels like a rigid fork, so I wouldn’t buy this if you’re looking to make a gravel-bike more singletrack oriented.

I have also found that when cranking hard on the pedals on a steep downhill, the fork goes into a relatively disconcerting ‘pogo-stick’ mode, where you can feel the fork flex on every pedals stroke in a way that is not confidence-inspiring. This only happens at around 40+ MPH, and for me only happens when I’m really pushing the watts on the crankset, but it is worth noting. Additionally, when descending a steep gravel road, I have found that the flex of the Lauf fork sometimes makes the bike feel less stable when I hit the brakes relatively hard.

For the vast majority of gravel scenarios, though, this fork is a worthwhile investment, especially if delving into the endurance gravel scene. I’m really glad I went for it leading into the Skull 120 next week and BC Epic in late June.

Wheelset Upgrade: Industry 9 UL235 27.5 Wheelset

This is perhaps one of the best wheel upgrades you can make while still keeping the cost somewhat manageable. I9’s UL235s are aluminum rather than carbon, but don’t let that trick you into thinking they’re heavy. Weighing in at a featherlight 1,310 grams, as light as most of its carbon competition, these wheels are light and responsive.

I’ve got mine laced to a set of their classic Torch hubs, which I’ve been using for years now with zero issues to speak of. I absolutely LOVE I9 and will likely buy any and all future wheelsets through them, as they make a quality product, have GREAT customer service, and are on the cutting edge of innovations when it comes to wheels and hubs.

My trusty I9 torch hubs.

Handlebar Upgrade: Profile Design ADL aluminum Clip-On Aerobars

Before I knew much about aerobars, I elected to go with a set from Profile Design, well-known for making quality bars. I chose the ADLs because their weight and pricepoint was exactly what I was looking for. While the ADL is aluminum rather than carbon, they weighed in at or lower than many of its carbon counterparts, so I thought it was a no-brainer when I purchased them.

However, the weight savings comes at a cost. These bars have virtually zero adjustability, so you better hope that if you go for the ADLs, they’ll work with your body position on the bike. For me, they work out ok. I made a few small custom tweaks involving steel spacers on the underside of the arm rests, and overall, they work. If I end up doing the Tour Divide next summer, I may upgrade to a more customizable Profile Design aerobar.

Steel spacers for my elbow rests.

Crankset Upgrade: Cane Creek Titanium EEWings

Cane Creek is a relatively small company based in North Carolina that creates some seriously high quality materials, one of which is their Titanium EEwings Crankset. While this crankset is not cheap, it is as light or lighter than all of its carbon crankset competitors, and when you have a titanium frame, it goes without saying that the most logical next step is to tack on as many titanium bits as possible.

I elected to go with the 170mm length cranks, rather than the 175, as I am a relatively short-legged person and don’t feel like I need the extra leverage. What I love about this crankset is that it’s light, stiff, and virtually indestructible. So indestructible, in fact, that Cane Creek gives the crankset a 10-year warranty. No one else in the industry is willing to back a crankset with that kind of return policy, probably because cranksets take a ton of abuse. It just proves the level of quality, craftsmanship, and durability Cane Creek puts into its products.

Chainring Upgrade: Wolftooth 42-Tooth Chainring

Wolftooth is another American-made company that I have grown to really appreciate over the years for their innovation and build quality. To make the EEwings work with my bike, I needed a direct-mount chainring, and turned immediately to Wolftooth for an American-made chainring that I know I won’t have to worry about chain-slip or chainring bend over time, two things that have happened to me with other chainring brands (of which I’ll avoid mentioning).

Seatpost Upgrade: Syntace HiFlex Full Carbon P6 Seatpost Seatpost

Although it’s a mouthful to remember, I’ve had this seatpost for over 5 years and equate much of my saddle comfort to the flex tech built into this seatpost. The Syntace HiFlex is designed to flex backwards under load, providing a bit more comfort than some of the stiffer carbon-fiber seatposts on the market. It also uses non-corrosive titanium adjustment bolts, which is a nice touch for seatpost longevity and quality.

Cassette Upgrade: Shimano XT 11-46 Cassette

Not a great picture with all the grime and muck on the cassette, but I guess that’s what it normally looks like anyway.

As all bikes come with a ridiculously small range cassette (mine originally came with an 11-36… yeesh), I elected to buy the biggest range cassette I could fit on my gravel bike, which ended up being the Shimano 11-46 tooth cassette. Paired with the 42-tooth front chainring, this provides juuuust enough of a granny gear (barely) for most bikepacking climbs.

The Rest of my Bike

Other notable components on my bike that came stock include the SRAM Force 1X system, SRAM force brake levers and hydraulic disk brakes, an AWESOME Easton carbon drop bar, the comfortable and affordable Ergon SMA3-S saddle (enduro-oriented MTB seat, which is weird, but it works for me!), and my favorite Lizard-Skin bar tape.

I also feel obligated to mention the Quad-Lock phone apparatus I use for biking.  The Quad-Lock comes with a phone case you can use to securely lock your phone to your bike’s handlebar.  I attach mine to my aerobars, and absolutely love it.

Body Upgrades?

Overall, I’m happy with all of the upgrades I’ve made to my bike, with the possible exception of my aerobars, which I may someday replace for a set that is more customizable.  With the bike all set up for success, the only question now is whether my body needs any upgrades leading up to the race.  I’ve been consistently putting in over 200 miles a week, doing hill workouts, interval training, and a whole host of awesome weekender gravel rides, so hopefully I’m as ready for success as my bike is. I guess I’ll find out in a couple weeks!

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4 replies »

  1. Great take on the pros and cons of the Lauf. Helps me see that for me the cons still outweigh the pros, though I definitely see where it’s the right fork for your needs. What tires are you running? (BTW, your review of the Why S7 had a lot to do with me getting one, and I absolutely love the bike).

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    • Hey David, glad to hear the S7 has been a good bike for you. I feel like it’s a bike that would fit most anyone’s needs, if they’re looking for a hardtail.

      On my R+, I’m running the 27.5X2.1 inch Maxxis Pace. I went with the tire because I have always loved Maxxis, specifically the Ikon and Rekon, and the Pace is basically a slicker-tired, slightly shorter-knobbed version of the Ikon. There’s not a whole lot of intel on the internet about them, but they’ve worked great for me. I’d basically equate them with the Vittoria Mezcal and Continental Race King.

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  2. 42-46 is pretty high gearing for mountains! And not much space for that seatpost to actually flex. What’d you use for the arm pad spacers? I need to do the same. Thank you for the good words on the Lauf – I’ve been thinking about getting one and those experiences answered my questions 🙂 Good luck on the Epic!

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    • Hey Josh, yeah, a 46/46 granny gear is not low enough for many riders, but it works for me. For spacers, I just bought steel rod spacers and longer screws to accommodate the spacers at my local hardware store. I found the same thread pattern for the screws by finding a nut that worked with my original screws and testing it on the other screws I bought. Not the most scientific way to do it, but it worked for me, and the spacers made a big difference for my comfort in the aero position.

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