Belgian Waffle Ride – The RBA Team Preview

We’re just days away from participating in what has unquestionably become one of the toughest one-day events on the West Coast. Started five years ago by hard-riding fanatic Michael Marckx, the Belgian Waffle Ride has grown from a small, local event into a premier event with industry sponsors and filling up with over 1000 entries, many coming from across the country to participate.

Marckx has made sure that this year’s course will be the most challenging yet (see below). Although Neil is a 2x winner, fitness is not on his side this year, so he is using the BWR as a training ride for the 200-mile-long Dirty Kanza gravel race on June 4. In fact, to best ensure that he gets his miles in, Neil plans to ride from the RBA offices in Valencia to the race venue two days prior – just a short 155-mile commute!

Here’s a quick look at the three bikes Team RBA will be lining up with on Sunday morning.


The latest Domane was released just a few weeks ago at Tour of Flanders and was ridden to a second place by Fabian Cancellara. The compliance features of the IsoSpeed front and rear-end are will be appreciated over the 146-mile BWR course. Other than the tires, the Domane as you see it is available through Trek’s Project One custom program for right around $9,000. Frame color and parts selection are all customizable through Project One.


Hutchinson partnered with BWR to offer their Sector 28mm tubeless tire as the official tire of the event. It works out well since the tire was designed around Paris-Roubaix, making it perfectly suited for what the BWR route will throw our way.


Since we ran out of capable dual purpose bikes that (FNG) Troy could ride, he had to pull a steed from his private stable – a 2015 Defy Advanced SL that he built up himself. The Defy uses Giants endurance geometry equipped with a SRAM Red drivetrain and hydro disc brakes. Troy relied on to build up his Zipp 303 wheels which are rolling on 28mm Zipp Tangente tires.

With BWR offering such a wide range of terrain and grades Troy’s 1×11 drivetrain may give him a slight advantage over a traditional system that uses a double up front. With his 50t ring in the front and a 10-42 cassette, the easiest gear is slightly easier than a 34t compact ring with a 30t cassette, and the largest gear 50×10 equivalent to a 55×11.


In his saddlebag he has 3 tubes, 1 tire lever, 1 tire boot pre cut into 2, 1 glueless patch kit, 2 25g co2 cartridges, a co2 inflator head, multi tool with chain breaker, and a master link (not pictured) that matches his KMC Diamond  Series x11 SL DLC chain. As a last resort and back up he also has a hand pump attached to his frame.


Never one keen on rides that stretch into double digit hours, while Neil and Troy are riding the torturous Waffle ride, “el queso grande” plans to follow the same strategy that he employed at last year’s BWR which is to ride the shorter 80-mile “Wafer” course and then be back home to watch the MotoGP race by the time he might just be finishing if he rode the long course.

Designed by David Rosen, the 3.25 titanium Sage Barlow is built with dual purpose riding in mind. Frame features include the bi-ovalized downtube and machined (driveside) chainstay yoke. The frame is electronic and mechanical drivetrain friendly. Shimano supplied the Ultegra drivetrain.

Zap’s bike of choice is the titanium Sage Barlow, designed in Oregon and handmade at the Lynskey factory in Tennessee. The complete bike sells for $7321 with the frame and fork selling for $3695.

The Barlow runs front and rear 12mm thru-axles along with fender and rack mounts.  From the machined 44mm head tube to the rear drops, craftsmanship is first rate.


Reynolds tubeless carbon ATR rims are mounted with 38mm Specialized Trigger Pro tires – a bit wide for the pavement sections, but ample traction and protection for the dirt. The 140mm rotors work just fine and look better than the big 160mm plates.


Notable Italian elegance and design courtesy of the Selle Italia SLR Cross saddle and 3T seatpost. The 3T stem was replaced with a shorter Cannondale stem mounted to a 3T alloy handlebar.

“This year’s route will be novel, and the additional number of entrants will have a bearing on the dynamics of the event—we’ll have four waves with the first starting at 7:00 am, and then the Wafer ride rolls at 8:00 am on SUNDAY, APRIL 24 from THE LOST ABBEY, located at 155 Mata Way, San Marcos, California 92024.

This year riders will enjoy a different ronde through North County San Diego with an out and back course that features a headwind in both directions. This difficult and challenging route has a bit of everything to please and displease virtually everyone. If it wasn’t before, it is now unquestionably the Hell of the North (County). Here’s the long course by the numbers:

– 146 MILES





– 3 KOMS



+ If the tires you are thinking of riding may not be wide enough, get some Hutchinson Sector 28s at the BWR Expo.

+ The winner of this year’s event will take around 8 hours to complete the course. This means for most it’s an 11-, 12- or 15-hour day on the bike.

+ There are many dirt sections where you need to slow down. There will be signs of CAUTION, but just take each one of these sections slowly.

+ There are 9 official Feed Zones, with tons of product from Clif Bar and beverages from GQ-6, as well as water. No one should go hungry or thirsty.

+  The weatherman says it might rain. This could alter the course a little, but don’t worry about it. Do worry about your bike’s ability to have mud accumulate in the fork or rear and still roll. Clearance will be critical.

+ Mavic will be providing neutral support on the road and gravel portions of the route. There will be 8 vehicles, plus additional support vehicles, filming and providing rolling assistance. State Wheels is providing trail support on the Lake Hodges and Mule sectors, both ways. VeloFix will be providing on-trail support at Saint Lucy and Saint Lusardi.

+ Each wave will have CHP officers escorting the riders.

+ All traffic laws must be obeyed unless directed by an officer. Riders should ride as far to the right as safe to do.

+ Be courteous to all your fellow riders. Point things out. Communicate. Be friendly. Share the work. Enjoy meeting new people and show them the best side of you.

+ Charge your devices and use Strava! Without this, it will be difficult to tell who completed the course, which you will need to redeem your finisher’s items. A phone may not suffice, unless you bring a charger.


Photo: Jake Orness

GiantNeil ShirleyTrek DomaneCervelo Belgian Waffle RideSage Barlow