-By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist
The question of the perfect Iceman bike is a favorite perennial debate. The reality that there is not just one ideal Iceman bike was illustrated in the past several years where the men’s race has been won on bikes ranging from full-suspension to full rigid with drop bars. I’ve split the difference over my five previous Iceman races- two on a full-suspension, three on a hardtail and this year is yet undecided.
I started out the sport on an entry level full suspension, 27.5 Giant Lust which was my Iceman bike in 2014 and 2015. In 2015 it was enough to hang with the leaders but ultimately end up fifth. In 2016 I upgraded to a Giant 27.5 XTC Advanced hardtail which was a factor in vying for the win and ultimately ending up second. I selected the XTC as a race rig for the Michigan fall classics as the simplicity, weight and versatility is hard to beat and it has represented well over the past three years. The responsiveness and quickness of the smaller wheels is definitely a benefit when trying to make the definitive moves necessary to break up a lead pack on the high-speed VASA highway. Although my fitness level was only high enough to do this (almost) successfully in 2016, the bike was definitely a factor in gapping the field on the Boonenberg climb that year.
However, this year with my partner in crime, Alex Vanias prioritizing ski training, his full-suspension Anthem Advanced 29er has been generously offered as a potential Iceman rig. Now it is my turn to weigh the pros and cons of full suspension versus hardtail. Although it rides very fast, much of the Iceman course is not particularly smooth, especially by the end of the day when many of the downhills are rutted from thousands of prior tires. Although the number of punchy climbs especially in the second half of the race are deceptively hard, there is not a lot of total climbing, negating some of the benefit of a hardtail setup. Given that my descending and handling skills remain my weakness and I haven’t clocked as many hours on the bike this year, the handling itself may be worth the costs in weight and stiffness.
Although I think they would be neck and neck when raced side by side, I’m sure there are many theories in both directions. I will decide in the coming week and be looking at Peak2Peak for a test run of the chosen Iceman bike!