Thinking about taking the Actif Epica bike challenge?

Actif Epica is more than a bike race; there are lots of ways to Get Actif.  But there is the bike race part of it.  Calling it a race makes it sound (voice drops an octave) “serious.”  And for sure, it’s not to be taken lightly.  But on the other hand, it could just as well be called a challenge.  Just like running a marathon, for many participants the reason for participating is likely to be achieving a personal goal.  Maybe that goal is to finish, maybe it’s to finish with a friend. To set a new best time.  To ride further than you thought you could.  In the spirit of celebrating resilience, the bike part of Actif Epica is about rising, under your own power, to a big winter challenge.

Think this might be fun to try?  Here’s some additional thoughts to consider:

  • What’s the route like?  Of the approximately 130km of racing, almost 100km of it is on roads.  Mostly gravel or dirt roads.  Most of these roads don’t see much use in the winter (read as: no car tracks).  They could be windblown bare frozen gravel, or they could be waist-deep snow drifts.  Likely, you’ll see both aspects during the race. In what relative proportion, I’m not sure.  But finding out should be fun.
  • What kind of bike do you need?  I really don’t know.  Last year when a bunch of local riders rode a section of the race course, there were parts that favoured a cross bike, parts that favoured a mountain bike, and parts that favoured a snow bike.  And a few parts that favoured snowshoes.  Again, in what relative proportion will these parts show up on race day? – we’ll have to see.
  • How long will it take?  With good conditions, it seems plausible to average 10-15km/h, so the whole race might be about 12 hours.  With bad conditions… well, let me put it this way, the cutoff time for finishers is 28 hours.  To finish in that time, you need to make continual forward progress at 5km (a little over 3mph) the whole time.  Sounds doable, no?
  • Will you freeze?  No. Because you are prepared, right?  That’s why we require a sort of reference check as part of your entry, and why a bunch of safety gear is required.  And why you sign a waiver.  But the prairie is big.  And open.  And windy.  A minus fifty windchill will take the heat out of you pretty quickly if you’re not prepared.  So be prepared.  Seriously.  Self-sufficiency is a must for Actif Epica.  But racers will have checkpoints where they can get inside, warm up, get water and put on dry clothes (that they carry themselves for the duration of the race).  There are anticipated to be five checkpoints, and the furthest distance between any two of them is about 25km (I’ll get specific distances soon).  So if it helps to think about it this way, the race is actually 6 segments of about 20-25km each.
  • Can you do this?  Probably.  If you ride regularly, and you train through the winter, there is time to build your fitness and work the kinks out of your gear. So let’s ride.  See you out there.
  • Should you enter?  If you have read this far, yes, probably you should. When was the last time you tried something so different, challenging and ‘out there’ as riding 130km in the snow?  Beyond challenging yourself, you’ll see some neat places and meet some new people.  Should be good times.  Please note that the entry fee covers dinner before the race, food and water at checkpoints, trophies for finishers and entry into a prize draw.


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