Belgian Waffle Ride paves the way for equipment evolution
It doesn’t really matter what you call it: Allroad, mixed-surface, adventure-road, or roadirt, the fact is, rides and events that combine both paved and dirt roads are at an all-time high in popularity. This type of riding has become all the rage in the U.S. and is spreading abroad as more and more events are popping up that offer over-the-top challenging courses that deliver an entirely unique experience.
The Belgian Waffle Ride is just one of a number of events that seamlessly blend dirt and pavement together into one single course, and it’s quite possibly the most notorious of the bunch having provided a turbo boost to the world of mixed-surface riding. This past week 1,200 riders lined up in San Diego County to experience the sixth edition of the Belgian Waffle Ride and its reputation as one of the most difficult courses found in any one-day event.
At 132 miles in length and 11,000 feet of climbing, by the numbers the Belgian Waffle Ride is more than likely the hardest day on a bike the majority of entered riders have faced. But that doesn’t tell the full story. It’s the 41 miles of dirt, rocks, and sand that really complicate things. There’s even a few stream crossings just to ensure that no element of challenge, for man and machine, is left out.
So why would anyone want to do something that sounds so brutal for the body and the bike? Well, nearly everyone there is looking for a new set of challenges that the pavement alone doesn’t deliver. And fortunately, we’re at a point where the industry has caught up to this segment of riding and is delivering equipment that can perform efficiently on the pavement, while at the same time provide security and durability when the road surface changes to dirt.
At the first BWR six years ago, when all that was talked about in frame design was stiffness and weight, most riders were on road bikes that limited them to a 25mm wide tire. How much tire clearance a frame had was hardly a consideration. Even finding a 30mm wide tire that was designed for anything other than commuting was a tall order just a few years ago, and getting it in tubeless? Good luck with that. Now, priorities have shifted and an increase in tire clearance has become a selling point.
When Mavic introduced the Ksyrium Pro Disc Allroad wheelset and Yksion Elite Allroad 30mm tubeless tires two years ago it provided a much needed equipment solution for riders wanting a Belgian Waffle Ride type of experience, but who were seeking something wider than 25mm or 28mm tires that were still lightweight and didn’t come at a cost to performance on the pavement.
Taking a look at the equipment out there this year showed a clear evolution in frame, wheel, and tire advancement. Very few riders were on what would be considered a “road racing” setup, with most opting for tubeless tires starting at 30mm and going up from there. And by all accounts, my own personal setup this year could have benefitted from those aforementioned tech innovations.
What Mavic Ambassador Janel Holcomb rode was probably the most balanced bike for the course. Her disc brake-equipped Focus had Mavic Ksyrium Allroad wheels and tires, which allowed it to be light enough for the climbs, fast on the pavement, and more than capable on the dirt.
My own personal setup was a little less ideal since Allied Cycle Works’ new Alfa All Road disc brake bike (with clearance to easily run 38mm tires) wasn’t yet available; so I rode my standard Alfa that, like most road bikes with traditional racing geometry, was limited to a 28mm tire. Considering how much time I spend in the dirt on my road bike I’m rather comfortable with a setup like this when just simply riding in the dirt, but in an event where you’re pushing the pace more than you might normally be, having a couple more millimeters of rubber to offer puncture resistance, comfort, and traction would have been a very welcome addition. Making the best out of my equipment situation, I swapped out the Yksion Pro tires on my Cosmic Pro Carbon SL C wheels for the more durable Yksion Elite Guard tires. That proved to be a good move as they kept me off the ground and never flatted.
Oh how times have changed...and for the better, if you’re up for adding a little dirt into your road ride. As more riders are looking to this type of riding for their next challenge, the number of events fashioned after the experience that the Belgian Waffle Ride delivers will continue increasing. Fortunately for all of us, those who braved the dirt and rocks on 25mm tires a handful of years ago helped pave the way for the modern allroad setup that delivers an abundance of versatility.
Words by Neil Shirley