Whistler local Claire Buchar lives and breathes mountain biking. Ex-downhill racer – including a bronze medal at the World Champs in Champery in 2011, a fifth at the South African World Cup in 2009 and multiple Canadian National Champs titles – Claire is now a coach, brand ambassador and graphic designer at Chromag Bikes. And of course she is INTENSE to the core.
Claire first got hooked-up with us here at INTENSE well over ten years ago when our Founder and CEO Jeff Steber gave her a raw gold Socom frame. Since that time she has never been out of the INTENSE family – whether that is on the racetracks of the world or at home on her local trails.
"We started working with Claire in 2007, and it’s been a true honor to be part of her dynamic career… her role as an ambassador is unrivalled. Claire is not only an incredible rider, she is a talented graphic artist and a prolific coach, having taught hundreds of MTB clinics to riders of all ages and levels of talent. Above all else, Claire is a truly quality person with amazing character. We are proud to call her ‘family’." - Jeff, Jenn and the whole INTENSE crew.
For a little more insight we asked Katrina Strand (another ex-World Cup racer and Whistler living-legend) to help describe one of her closest friends:
“Many of us can look at Claire and be inspired by her bike accomplishments, but certainly for me what is more inspiring is who Claire is as a human being. She has this incredible capacity to not only sort through her life and her challenges, but to offer unwavering support to those around her at the same time. She’s kind, compassionate and open minded. So thanks Claire, for holding the space to lift us up.”
You ride a size Large Primer, so how tall are you?
I’m 5’11.5”, around 181cm.
Is there a specific reason that you choose to ride the 29” Primer over the 27.5” or ‘mullet’ (29” front, 27.5” rear) set-up?
I do enjoy 27.5” wheels but I’ve actually have not tried a mullet set-up yet. While I am sure it would feel amazing for descending I am interested to experiment with how it would climb, only because the climbs here in Whistler are very steep… and I mean, STEEP. And I like climbing, so I was going for something that I know both climbs and descends efficiently. I know that the geometry of the Primer is designed specifically for each wheel size combo that is offered, but I guess I’ll just stick with what I know for now.
How would you describe your riding style?
Smooth (most of the time) and calculated (most of the time).
So your Primer 29, can you tell us a bit about the riding you do on it?
As I mentioned, the climbs around here are always steep, mostly technical and sometimes janky with tight switchbacks. The descents are generally steep, slower tech and sometimes quite gnarly and committing. There can also be some fast flow mixed in. The Primer 29 also comes with me on some long 6-8 hour alpine days and overnight trips. It really can do it all. Basically it’s my best pal… besides my dog.
You have the bike in the LOW setting.
Yeah, I run the bike in its LOW setting, as it already feels slack enough for me to get the most out of it on the descents while still climbing efficiently enough to get to the top of the descent or those few climbs that are mixed into the ride. It feels to me to be the best of both worlds in most situations. But there are a few rides that I plan on doing this season with longer descents where I will flip it into the LOWER setting just to get really comfy and really let it ride. This is when that option comes in handy.
How do you set up your suspension?
I don’t mind it on the stiffer side for my weight because of how I ride and the terrain we have here. However, what is really important is having it supple enough in its initial stroke for optimal traction. So it’s a fine balance between too much air pressure and enough sag.
Do you change this set-up at all depending on where and what you are riding?
I basically set it and forget it, as once I dial it in it performs well on most all the trails we have and even in most all conditions. But since we have four distinct seasons here in Whistler, I do adjust my rebound to suit fluctuating temperatures. I also try to get my suspension serviced pretty regularly, as I do try to ride as much as I am able.
Do you have any odd set-ups on your bike?
I think I run a pretty normal set-up. I do run my saddle as far forward as it can go, as that helps me get a bit more power over the pedals on steeper climbs.
Have you always ridden clipped-in?
I started off on flats and switched to being clipped-in when I got more serious about racing. When I won my bronze medal at the World Champs in Champery in 2011 I was on flats. I don’t think any one of us made it down that track without incident, but I’m not sure I would have made it down at all without flats! But, in general, I ride clipped-in as I find I am stronger that way. Just flats on my dirt jumper.
Do you have a favorite part on the bike?
My Chromag bars, they’re just the perfect fit, sweep and rise. And my Magura brakes, the modulation down steep terrain is almost like having an extra sense of feel.
What about your tires, do you change them up at all depending on conditions or where you are riding?
My favorite combo for everything, and what I’m running right now, is a Maxxis Assegai Maxx Terra EXO front and a Minion DHR Maxx Terra EXO rear. I really like that combo in terms of tread and weight. But I am keen to get my hands on some Maxx Grip in an EXO casing. Then I think I’ll be in heaven. Depending on the weather and what kind of trail I’m riding I usually run somewhere between 19-23 psi in the front and 25-28 psi in the rear.
There’s always a lot of talk about women’s specific bikes, geometry and sizing, etc. What are your thoughts on this?
I personally don’t think there is any reason for a women’s specific bike in terms of geometry and sizing as we all (men and women) come in all shapes, heights and sizes.
You’ve ridden for us here at INTENSE for a long time?
I was first introduced to Jeff and Jenn in 2000, I think. Jeff has always been a supporter of women in the sport and he gave me my first frame in 2007 (the raw gold Socom). I was beyond stoked, and at the time I lived for racing and wanted to see what I could achieve within the sport. I will always be grateful for the support and the opportunities that INTENSE has given me throughout my evolving mountain bike career.
You have had a long racing career, competing at the highest level, can you talk about some of the highlights?
I was a privateer for the majority of my career, besides the two seasons I was supported by the CRC INTENSE team. Being a privateer was insanely hard and could be so soul crushing, traveling all the way overseas on your own dime to get a flat or a mechanical in your race run. I was often exhausted by the time I was in the start gate. I started to see more progression in my racing during the two years I was with CRC INTENSE than I did all the other years of racing, but then got quite sick and couldn’t shake it. I was burnt out and this, as I found out later, translated into an autoimmune disorder that I am still healing from/managing today.
When the team moved to another brand and I was to be a privateer again, I lost a lot of steam. I dabbled in racing here and there as it still had a hold on me, and I still managed to achieve some great results, but my heart was moving away from it. To me, yes, I have a lot of medals and have stood on World Cup, World Champ, National Champ and Crankworx podiums, but each medal and podium has a story about how you got there that no one really gets to see. But these moments definitely help to offset the many more failures that are experienced.
And you are still racing now, your results last year in 2019 at the North West Cup series were amazing. What drives you to still want to race?
Mainly we are at these types of events because we are running the INTENSE Podium Payback Program, which is an amazing program that gives back to the sport. I actually don’t really care to race anymore, to be honest. But I still get a kick out of it when I do. And it’s hard for me to be at an event and not get amongst it. It is a fun challenge and a bit addictive for sure. But mostly I am just happy to see all the younger riders develop their talent and I am so amazed by the older riders that are still dominating. I just have a massive respect for DH Racing, having had a taste of what it takes. There are so many things involved. Like I said, I’m a big fan.
Can you tell us a bit about your graphic design work with Chromag?
I studied graphic design online while I was racing and traveling as I used to draw and even paint a lot when I was younger. So I thought I should learn the digital aspects of art and see if that could lead to any opportunities as a career after racing. I had worked for Ian Ritz when he owned Evolution Bike Shop and then he carried on to create Chromag. So around 2014 when Chromag started to grow, he hired me to take care of some graphic design projects and I have been there ever since.
It has been a progression into a full time role and has allowed me to gain experience and grow as a designer with the business. I now handle many projects including graphics for hard goods, packaging design, soft goods design and anything else that requires graphic design. Which is a full spectrum of things. I enjoy it and I enjoy whom I work with so that’s my main jam at the moment. And I am lucky to still be able to balance all of that with my role in the bike industry.
And your coaching? Is that something you just do in Canada or all over the world?
As I am now pretty firmly rooted in one spot (Whistler), I mostly offer my coaching services in the Sea to Sky region. I was involved in running a race development team for a few years and some rider development programs but now that I have my hands full, I mainly book in privates. I still enjoy teaching all ages.
Can you give us one ‘INTENSE’ highlight from your time with the brand?
So many good times over the years. So many ups and downs. So much growth as an athlete and as a human being. It is really hard to pick just one… so, as of where I’m at today, I’d have to say taking my INTENSE Primer 29 way into the wild of the mountains, into rarely ridden backcountry, where you are made to feel so small and humbled. An element of survival. When it’s just you and your bike.
What does INTENSE mean to you?
Racing, heritage, family.
2020 INTENSE Primer 29
|INTENSE Primer 29 frame, size L
|Fox Float DPX2 140mm
|Fox 36 Float Grip2 160mm
|Chromag OSX, 31.8mm clamp, 25mm rise, 760mm width
|Chromag Ranger 31.8mm clamp, 40mm extension
|Chromag Basis lock-on
|SRAM GX Eagle
|SRAM GX Eagle 12SPD
|Magura MT8 Raceline Carbon
|F/R 203/180mm Storm HC rotors
|Fox Transfer dropper 175mm drop
|e*thirteen TRS Race, 175 mm
|e*thirteen SL Guidering DM 30T
|e*thirteen TRS Race
|SRAM Eagle, 11 speed 10-50
|SRAM XX1 Eagle 12SPD gold
|Crank Brothers Mallet E
|Maxxis Assegai Maxx Terra EXO 2.5
|Minion DHR Maxx Terra EXO 2.4
|STFUBike Trail chain damper set
Photos by Rebecca Ritz