Matti certainly leaves some big shoes to fill on the team. How did you go about doing that?Hill on the 2012 Nukeproof Pulse during filming and testing of the new bike.
Nigel: I made a list of riders that would be available for the 2013 season and the riders we thought would fit into the team to step us up to that top level. Back at the races, I spoke to the riders on that list to let them know we where looking to hire a guy for 2013. I was really pleased with the response that I got from most of them, and they all mentioned that the team looked great and that the Nukeproof bike both looked good and was a bike they thought they could win on. Once the race season was over and everyone went back home for some down time I got speaking to Sam a bit more. His contract with Team Monster Energy-Specialized ran out on December 31st and he was keen for a change. I didn't go into all the details with Sam of why he fancied a change, I just wanted to make it happen for him to ride for Team CRC/Nukeproof. Negotiations started and I was able to come up with a package for Sam with CRC that everyone was happy with, and then it was a case of Sam trying out the bike to see if he thought he could win on it.
And how big of a factor did the new Nukeproof Pulse play in Sam's decision to sign for the team?
Nigel: Before we shipped a Pulse for him to try, Sam said that riding the bike would be the deciding factor. I think that a few of his continuing sponsors wanted him to have a go on the bike before he made any big decisions, which I agree was probably the right thing to do. I was quietly confident that he would like the bike, especially because he had mentioned to me that he thought they looked great when they were first revealed mid-season. However, I must admit I was still a bit nervous because the only guys that had ridden the bike at that time were the team riders and a few designers. Plus, Sam was coming off of a great bike that had essentially been custom made for him. The Pulse has some different geometry and characteristics from what he has been riding, so we were fully aware that we might need to tweak a few things for him, and we had already looked into how we could do that with the current design.
Getting Sam on the Pulse for testing must have been a challenge given that his current contract had not yet expired and there were so few examples of the new bike in existence.
Nigel: Yes, these things took a lot of time to plan and work out, and Sam needed to try out a Nukeproof Pulse before the end of the season. He is a very professional guy and respects his previous contract so he made sure to test the bike at a secret location and on a quiet day when no other riders would see him. As we only have a few Pulse frames (they are still prototypes for 2013 production) the only medium frame we had to spare was my personal bike. SRAM were very good to get us some BlackBox parts to put on it before we shipped it off to Sam to try out.
The Pulse pictured above is still in the prototype stages, but Hill is reportedly a fan of how the bike performs. This will be the first single pivot design that he has raced on during his professional career.
How did that initial testing go?
Nigel: I had an email sitting in my inbox from him first thing in the morning the day after I knew Sam was going out on the bike for the first time. He said he had ridden the bike, loved it, and couldn't believe how much speed it carried through the rough sections, which is something I also noticed when I rode the Pulse. He also said he felt like he could win on the Pulse, and so the deal was agreed upon.
Talk about waking up to good news! Did Sam ask to change anything at all?
Nigel: After a couple more rides on a pretty different set up, a new frame, different bars, different tires etc..., Sam asked if it was possible to try out a few tweaks to the bike to make it feel more like what he was used to. Of course we were willing to do this. RockShox sent him a slightly shortened shock that dropped the bottom bracket a touch to give Sam a lower position, and we sent him a higher rise set of Nukeproof bars and told him it was easy to change both the sweep and bend. The Pulse has a 1.5'' head tube and we have our own angle-adjusting headset cups, so the bike's head angle is easily tweaked to suit a rider. Ali and Dale, the designers back at Nukeproof, were looking at how to make these changes for Sam when he e-mailed me after some back-to-back testing with the stock and modified Pulse bikes. What was really cool to hear was that he had decided he preferred the bike as we had it originally; he liked the stock bottom bracket height and loved the higher rise stock Nukeproof bars. So that was great to hear and confirmed we are all doing the right things at Nukeproof. Happy Days!
That must have been a huge relief. There has been a lot of internet chatter comparing Sam's previous bike to the Pulse that he'll be on for the coming season.
Nigel: I love reading all the forum comments from the 'experts' that know everything about everything. Everyone who is involved with the team at CRC and Nukeproof are all passionate and experienced riders and racers who love bikes and the sport. We all have input into the design of the Nukeproof bikes and what we want. It is a great position to be in because we can make a bike exactly how we want it to be and what we want to ride. We don't start off with a bike and then change things. I think because we have such great people working on everything, things happen quicker and better than they may with other bike companies, but the Pulse frame that the team rode for the second half of the 2012 season is a first prototype and it came out pretty much 99% perfect. Amazing really! Although a lot of the design was done and tested with the Nukeproof Scalp frames.
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