Beach bikes are a rare breed, which aren’t easily placed in a category (unless, of course, that category is ‘beach bikes’). With our curiosity well and truly piqued, we headed on the beach in Egmond aan Zee with the resolve to find out which bikes are setting the tone for this emerging discipline and just what is needed to get over the sand.
We caught up with Sjaaky, who rides a Wikkit Cycles Q-Bomb 2.0. Based in this small seaside town, Wikkit design all their bikes in the Netherlands before sending them to be hand-made in the Czech Republic. This is Wikkit’s latest model that is built around the fork, with the aim to create a longer bike that has the stability to be ridden at high speeds. Designed in the Netherlands and hand-made in the Czech Republic, this model has the standover height of a 26 inch wheel bike. A longer top tube (4cm longer than Wikkit’s regular 29er) and rear end, and cranks that are about 3cm lower. Dennis explains: ‘Some bikes struggle at 60km/h, they start to get a speed wobble so we started with the fork and then created the rest of the bike. We have found that it gives you about 7% more power so that means you can ride all the entries and exits to the beach easily.’
Sjaaky has gone for straight bars and grip shifters on his bike. As an ex-professional bike racer, he prefers a very aggressive setup, hence the negative stem.
Coming with the Q-Factor of a road bike means that you can ride bigger gears at the front and a straight-through rear cassette. This lends itself to a better performance in the hardest sections of the races, and most importantly when you ride with a tail wind.
Ex-pro turned flower shop and cafe owner, Sjaaky prefers an extreme set-up. Here, he is running a 26 inch fork, which gives him a much lower front end. As a pay-off it limits the tire clearence, something that Dennis says is not wise: ‘Imagine if he gets a stone caught in there? The tires we use are super robust so it is a risky set-up, but he’s stoked about it.’
Coming with a 71 degree head angle, this bike with its short stem and long toptube is steered more with the legs. This gives it better stability in the deep sand.
The Bazzuki is another model from the Wikkit range that takes the 29er as its basis, with a mountain bike Q Factor. The front end is noticeably higher because this bike is running a 29 front fork. Dennis argues that the best setup for this bike would be a 27.5 fork because you’d better stability and performance at high speeds thanks to the lower front end, but it also creates a more aggressive position, which not every rider likes.
Bars are down to the preference of the rider. As it’s classified as a discipline of mountain biking by the UCI, road bars are therefore not allowed. So out on the beaches, you’ll see everything from normal flat bars to the moustache bar seen here, right up to a dropper bar (essentially a road bar with a flare of more than 5 degrees on it). These bars allow you to sit a bit further back on the bike to get traction over the rear wheel.
Even though this bike has the Q-Factor of a mountain bike, bigger chainrings can be ridden thanks to the modified chainstays. This one, which belongs to pro rider Roos Hoogeboom, sports a 42 oval ring, which rides like a 44. It is single-speed at the front for ease of maintenance because the sand is harsh on bike parts.
‘The best gearing is 50 or 53 at the front and a 14-21 or 16-23 at the back. If you can have only one tooth difference between each gear it makes it a lot easier when you have the big tail winds,’ explains Dennis.
Tires and rims make a huge difference to how the bike rides over the sand. There are three popular tires that are all large volume (2.2) and come with file tread Schwalbe Big One, Vittoria Tattoo Light and Continental Speed King. When it comes to pressure, it’s a case of ‘as low as you dare go’. Riders at Egmond-Pier-Egmond warmed up with 1.1 bar but dropped it to 0.8 bar because of the sand conditions.
Dennis prefers to equip his bikes with 32mm rims, as they offer a larger volume and still ride fast. But they need to be well-built because the stress of hitting the soft sand can see some wheels have issues with cracked hub flanges.
The 29er fork gives a much higher front end.
The bikes all come with all different types of shifters. Normal road shifters are fitted to the dropper bars.
Those looking for the lightest setup choose either thumb, grip or old school friction shifters. These three options mean that you can run normal brake levers that can give you a better feel. All of the bikes used TRP mechanical discs because they come with two cables that activate each caliper, meaning they’re easier to adjust and there’s a reduction in rubbing when compared to their hydraulic counterparts as they can be set wider. Magura are now producing a twin hose brake caliper that some racers are starting to adopt.
Words & Photos: Emmie Collinge