The success is in the studs: Pointers for dual slalom bike racers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There’s not exactly a way to practice or prepare for the Johnsie Memorial Dual Slalom Bike Race, which is held during Steamboat Springs’ annual Winter Carnival.
The race, which was renamed in 2019 after its late founder Chris Johns, pits a pair of bikers against each other in a downhill, slalom-style race. It’s not just a matter of guiding any old bike down the right path. The turns are tight, the snow is slippery and the hill is steep.
Click here to view a full schedule of events for the 2020 Winter Carnival, running from Wednesday, Feb. 5, to Sunday, Feb. 9, in Steamboat Springs.
Over the years of spectating and competing, Cole Wendland, service manager at Wheels Bike Shop, has found a few tactics and tips that seem to help racers. No guarantees, though.
Sure, many mountain bikers have done their fair share of downhill routes. However, speeding downhill on snow while maneuvering around slalom gates is a different story. A studded tire is optimal, but an “aggressive downhill tire” is a great second choice. Although fat bikes might seem like a great option, Wendland said they don’t work well.
“The fat tire bikes do work, but because the race is through slalom gates and the gates are usually pretty close together, it’s hard to make the fat tire bike make those tight corners,” he said.
What has proven to be the most successful ride in years past is a tire with self-made studs.
Wendland has made his own with quarter-inch sheet metal screws that go through the knobs on his tires but not all the way through.
Obviously, a new tire will perform better, but if someone isn’t looking to spend a lot of money, used tires would work just fine. Wendland then suggests installing screws into the corner knobs all the way around the tire to form a row on each side.
What: Johnsie Memorial Dual Slalom Bike Race
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7
Where: Howelsen Hill
Participants and spectators might think the challenge of the event is bombing down the groomed surface without falling, but the true difficulty is getting the bike and biker up the hill. The poma lift hauls riders up Howelsen Hill, but it’s not an easy task.
Wendland suggests one of two strategies.
The first would be to hold on to the lift with one hand, while using the other hand to grip the stem between the bike’s handlebars. Then, participants have to bound up the hill with their bike alongside them.
The second tactic would be to straddle the bike while pinning the lift between your legs.
Wendland prefers the latter.
“It’s the most difficult,” Wendland said. “But at the same time, it keeps your feet the most dry. It saves energy too if you can ride the bike up. Usually, you get the most tired trying to get up the hill.”
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