A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

Sep 30, 2017
by Ross Bell  



The relationship between a rider and their mechanic can make or break on track success. Shaun Hughes has been the mechanic at the center of the Yeti EWS Team since the start and has seen championship success from two of his riders in Jared Graves and Richie Rude. Race mechanics are usually the unsung heroes of the race circuits, working long hours into the night prepping their rider's bikes for battle, but an EWS mechanic's job description stretches just a little further than fettling with bikes. We went on the road with Richie and Shaun at the concluding day of practice for the 2017 season to find out more:

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
Usually at the EWS Shaun will take care of two riders; Richie Rude and Cody Kelley, only Richie was present in Finale.

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
The day will begin by checking over last night's bike work before loading up the van.

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
Richie and Shaun doubled up with the Specialized crew in Finale to practice the stages.


First off can you give us a rough overview of your day?


First thing I do before we head out for a day shuttling is I double check everything that I’ve done the previous night, I’m usually doing a bit of bike work the night before, so I double check suspension pressures, tire pressures, a few bolts and bits and pieces. Then talk to Richie to see what else he wants changed before loading up the van whilst making sure he’s got food, water, and all the things he needs for the day like goggles, gloves, and back protector, before heading out into the stages.

On the way from the stages I’ll talk to Richie and it’ll be “change this, change that” or we’ll talk about bits on the bike that need to be replaced and whether he wants them replaced or not, if he feels comfortable with having a certain part replaced on the bike the day before a race. But the general procedure when we get home is make sure he’s all good, check if he needs anything changed, send him off to do whatever he wants to do—in this case he went to the beach.

Then I clean the bikes and do an initial condition report to make sure that I don’t have to go and see our sponsors to go and get any replacement parts, and then set off to do a bit of a strip down. This weekend I probably won’t have to do a full bearing replacement and rebuild because the bike was brand new a week ago. I’ll still be doing a good few hours work, I just won’t be having to pop bearings in and out of things.

What sort of time would you normally finish working on the bikes in the evening?


With just the one bike and depending on how prepared I’ve been, since I’ve already got wheels built for racing, but if I don’t that adds about an hour for a couple of wheels—I’ll hopefully be finished by 6pm (in three hours), putting new tires on with the Cushcore takes a little time. With Cody involved as well it’s basically double. So I can be anywhere from 2–3 hours each bike to 4–5 hours each bike depending on the level of strip and rebuilds and the conditions we’ve got. For example, it’s nice here, we’ve just got to deal with some dust, sometimes dust is bad but the mud is always bad—it’s always double the amount of work, not just for me but them as well because they’ve got to clean all their gear. But I’d like to be sitting with a beer around 6.30pm tonight!

At an EWS you have limited time in the pits, a lot of the work you do on the bikes will be on the road in practice/at tech zones. How much of a challenge is that?


After doing this for a few years I’ve got a pretty good system down. I normally don’t need to go and visit my sponsors apart from Fox as we work very closely with them. Even though I do know everything about the suspension and how to work on it, that’s their thing and there are a few parts in Richie’s fork and shock that they are working on at the moment. So I’ll spend a little bit of time on most days talking to Jordi and Kolja down at Fox but I’m generally pretty self-sufficient, I carry all my spares as we’re travelling along or I’ll have worked out that we are spinning past the pits or our base at some point so I don’t have to carry everything.

As you saw in the back of the van I had a spare wheel, in that bag I had tires, bars, stem, the lot. I could rebuild the bike if I had to and then I have my entire toolkit there. A few times there’s been a trashed wheel or something like that and honestly, the best situation is that I’m riding with them so I can just replace the part on the bike and make my way to the pits or something, that’s good when we’re based somewhere and we can’t shuttle. When we can shuttle I’ll carry everything in there. If there’s ever a problem he’ll get to the bottom of the stage and worst case we’ll work from there.

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
One last bike check before letting Richie loose on the first stage of the day.

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
After each stage Shaun listens to the rider feedback for any potential changes to problems with the bike.

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

You worked in downhill in the past, what are the major difference and biggest challenges when it comes to enduro?


This is more exciting! We get to go a lot more places here. In downhill you know they’re going to practice from say 9 till 12, then you’ve got from 12 to whenever to fix the bike and get it ready. You’ve always got a couple of different wheels ready or different bikes to swap over. We’ve kinda got to work with one bike in this game, so it’s all about maintaining the bike and keeping that one bike running, or working with my rider to know he has to keep that one bike running. So the challenges I guess between EWS and downhill is there’s a bit more time management stuff, we need to make sure we’ve got enough time in the day to do the runs and shuttles but also make sure the bike is going to be fixed as well.

Sometimes we can be shuttling until 5pm, I haven’t touched the bike all day and it has to be ready for racing the next day so I'm working until midnight on it. So I’d say the main difference is the time management stuff, the bike work is well… it’s a bike. It's got gears, brakes, everything has to work the same as a downhill, I guess. But it’s easier when I can just slap new wheels on like at a downhill race, or if we break a frame or anything else we can just slap it on, but here, with the restrictions of racing I can’t just do that.

Would you say one of your riders is more dependant on you than the other?


Let's say when I had Jared on the team, Jared was definitely more dependent on getting the setup. I think Richie learned a lot of that and has made some mistakes along the way, but has learned from those mistakes. I’ve got a little black book out here with every setting I need to know and we’ll very rarely deviate off those settings by more than 1 or 2 clicks or a couple of psi. I know his setup but he can be pretty particular with his stuff, he knows exactly how he wants it to roll.

Cody is pretty similar, they both bounce off each other when it comes to that stuff. Cody is probably a bit more picky when it comes to things like the position of his brake levers, he knows if I accidentally slip a 170mm crank on his bike rather than 175mm—he just knows that stuff straight away. Richie is pretty good with it all, he’s done it long enough and I’ve worked with him long enough to know how his stuff goes. It’s only really when he’s looking for those seconds in a race run that he’ll get a little more picky with his suspension and we’ll have to work on that.

When it comes to race day the riders are pretty much on their own, what do they usually take with them in the way of spares?


It’s funny you mention that. This is the first race in Finale in about four years that my riders haven’t gone for the overall. Say Jared the first year then Richie the following two years. They were going for the overall and needed to finish a certain position if a particular rider won. So previously they’ve had derailleurs, rotors, chains, I’ve had them with a lot of parts they can replace–either one of them or both of them had that stuff. Generally speaking their spare kit is pretty minimal, but it’s got a derailleur hanger, cable, chainlinks, plenty of plugs for their tires, patches, enough stuff to work on their bike if they have to. Especially a gear cable, that’s a must for these boys as that can snap at any time.

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A lot of the day is spent waiting on riders as they hone their lines on track which is where hanging out with the Specialized crew comes in handy.

You do get to check up with the guys in tech zones during race day though?


Not tomorrow. (Saturday race day in Finale). They’ll be out there for six or seven hours without seeing us. Set them off in the morning and come back at the end of the day, hoping everything is okay. On Sunday they do 4 and 5 before coming back for a time check where they are allowed to come into the pits and get mechanical support before heading out to stages 6 and 7. This is one tech stop which is probably the least we’ve had all year.

What can you actually change on the bike without incurring a penalty?



So the stickered parts are the front and rear frame triangles, the fork, and both of the rims. I can change tires, I can change spokes, swap out hub bearings if I have to, change seats, bars, and stem. If they snap a derailleur I can change that and not incur a penalty but the main structural items of the bike we can’t just swap out.

Have you ever had to change any of the stickered parts and take a penalty?


I haven’t had to change any of those parts, we haven’t got any time penalties from that stuff. The best part of having alloy rims on our bikes, the DT Swiss 511s, is that I can beat them into shape pretty well. There have been a few races when he’s essentially wrecked a rim but I’ve been able to re-tubeless it after a good bit of massaging with a hammer. Forks, it’s pretty rare that you’re going to blow them up. Front and rear triangles, if they break—we’ve seen it this year—but good on them, if they aren’t injured after that then they can afford to take the day off I think! We can change a lot of stuff but there’s those main five that we’ll be stickering up later that we can't change.

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
Discarding the SB6c of Finale dust before a partial stripdown and rebuild prior to race day.

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes

Has Richie made any specific setup changes for Finale Ligure this weekend?


He’s gone higher in the front end, as in his bar height that he runs. We’re still running 30mm bars, we did actually drop his stem length a little. He has been running 60mm the entire previous seasons, he’s changed to 50mm this week. We are also running a slightly different fork cartridge this week. I think he’s really liking that as it’s keeping him in the position he wants to be on the bike. Depending on the terrain we’ll normally run an 11–42 cassette, sometimes I’ll put a bigger 11–46 on there but the rest of it remains the same.

How hard a challenge is Finale Ligure as a mechanic compared to other rounds? There are some big liasons and a maze of country roads to negotiate...


It’s pretty hard to work at, but it’s fun. Where we were driving today, I really like driving cars. I find it funny when I see people freaking out when they are coming towards you and driving through. It’s a hard race to be a mechanic at, apart from the physical work, I do worry about him and when Cody is here I’m always worrying about the guys, worrying about their bikes. I’ve walked the trails and ridden some of them in the past and know what they’re like, so I do worry that they’re going to break something but there’s nothing I can do. Once they leave for those time checks it’s their race to run!

A Day in the Life of Yeti EWS Mechanic Shaun Hughes
Race ready.


MENTIONS: @yeticycles / @rossbellphoto




90 Comments

  • 53 1
 Takes a dedicated mechanic to be able to set up their spare tool pouch to be identical to their primary set.
  • 3 23
flag pigboat9 (Sep 30, 2017 at 20:06) (Below Threshold)
 It's the same photo
  • 10 0
 www.pinkbike.com/photo/15220323

I think this photo was supposed to be there too.
  • 42 1
 Richie is thicc
  • 11 1
 Thicker than a bowl of oatmeal
  • 29 3
 Probably won’t have to do a full bearing rebuild because the bike was new last weekend.
Hahahahahahahahaha.
Haha.
Ha.
  • 19 4
 Was thinking the same. It's about time that to prove longevity for the public, that a frame and it's bearings should have to last a season, or get penalties.
  • 3 0
 Yeah.... Checked my sb4.5c bearings after a year - all of them were toast. Wonder how long I'd been riding like that? Hopefully they lasted more than a single weekend of riding!
  • 3 0
 @h33t: does this not highlight the fact that the bearings are almost insignificant too? Always thought this when replacing bearings in FS bikes....

You hop on after and it feels, well, the same? Perhaps any extra friction from a DU bushing with less maintainance and free running is a better idea? Rocky Mountain do it & do it well.
  • 1 0
 @cunning-linguist: DU require more maintenance typically.
  • 1 0
 @kmg0: I've had bikes and pedals with all sorts of bearings & bushings, and DU seems to be the best I've had.
  • 8 0
 Out of curiosity, anybody packing a spare gear cable because it could "snap at any time?"I suppose it is possible in a catastrophic rip-the-rear-mech-off kind of event, but really what is the feasibility of routing a new cable through the shifter/rest of the housing in a race situation? seriously, not trolling.
  • 3 0
 More for the end of the stage I think. These guys are out all day. So if you rip one on the stage I think they suffer and then change it out at the end of the stage. So they can continue racing
  • 5 0
 I used my spare on my friends bike two weeks ago in the backcountry in the San Juan mtns in CO. It woulda sucked big time to have pedaled out with one gear. That was the second time I've seen one break on a ride in 30 years of mountain biking. I don't have a spare on my bike for local spins but I certainly carry one in my pack when I'm going far out or racing enduro.
  • 5 0
 I always have one in my bag, weighs bugger all, and it's not hard to do trailside if you are halfway competent on the tools. I don't recall using it myself, but donated it to a fellow rider at the bottom of stage one, day one of Trans NZ, think I've seen a buddy use his spare before once as well.
Suppose it depends where you are riding, is it a 15min roll to the car, or are you 3hrs deep into a 6hr back country mission?
  • 2 0
 I always carry one on longer rides. Countless times Ive had to help people. It also works for some droppers posts, not as big a deal but still when your on a long ride it sucks to not have a der or dropper working correctly.
  • 1 0
 @feazel: Was that on the luge?
  • 1 0
 @Kiwisb6c: yeah it was!
  • 7 0
 If there's a failure with the shifting in any way other than the cable head (in the shifter) shearing off, a lot of the situations are still fixable. A riding buddy's failed shifter (stuck in the hardest gear, luckily on the descent) was fixed by tightening the cable on the derailleur so much that he had middle of the cassette gear for the rest of the ride (i guess having a 2x system would be beneficial in a situation like this).

As long as the cable doesn't break with like 3 cm left from the head or the head shearing off, you could do the same directly on the derailleur, thread the head into the start of the cable guide on the derailleur itself and just tighten the cable to the gear you want.
  • 1 1
 @Primoz: oh I like that bodge
  • 1 0
 I did a heli drop a few weeks ago; packed a spare cable with me. Loaded up on KML quick links and even brought a new set of Shimano pads in there (I was having some brake issues earlier in the week). Weight is a non-issue for it and easy to fit in my pack as well. What I need to get now is a small tyre plug kit.
  • 1 0
 Yeah that stage would be a write-off but they often have another stage or two to pedal to and not much time to spare, carrying something basic like a 20gm cable might be the difference between finishing the day or not.
  • 1 0
 I was doing a XC race about 10 years ago, and saw a dude replacing his rear d shift cable! Couldn't believe it! Pretty badass even though he didn't win.
  • 8 1
 I carry one, I have never broke one but have been with people that have. Losing your gears part of the way on Mag 7 in Moab with literally all day left to ride vs what a gear cable weighs. Seriously probably weighs less than an energy gel.
  • 10 0
 You must be a good riding buddy.
  • 5 0
 "So previously they’ve had derailleurs, rotors, chains, I’ve had them with a lot of parts they can replace–either one of them or both of them had that stuff. "

So none of these guys ride with backpacks, but they somehow have derailleurs and brake rotors on them...?
  • 6 1
 I think it would be interesting to have a race series where the rider was the only one allowed to work on his or her bike. Similar to the seven days race for dirt bikes you'd only have a limited amount of time to work on your own bike at the end of each day it would add another dimension to the racing.
"Be prepared".
  • 1 0
 Well, I'm sure this series will be won by someone on an Orange, Nicolai (gearbox one) or a steel full suss or hardtail (Starling Swoop / BTR Belter) and riding SR Suntour and Hope.

If I buy a bike, it will be a combination of the above, because the bike will be nearly impossible to break…
  • 6 2
 I think there should be far less opportunity at race weekends for mechanics to get near the bikes. I didnt realise that you can change the spokes and the hubs and still not fall foul of the not changing the wheels rules. Personally I dont think you should be allowed to change anything unless your carrying it once you leave the start ramp til the end of the race. If the race is over 2 days then bikes should be locked in a park ferme type setup.
  • 5 1
 How complicated can these forks and dampers be that the pro mechanics/teams still need help from Fox? How are we mortals supposed to set them up correctly, if the pros can’t do it?
  • 4 0
 Fox were always comlicated. Wanna get your shit done by yourself without major shock reapir skills? Then Rock Shox is your choice.
  • 3 0
 It's more that FOX shows up with a full service rig and techs to large events for their athletes. SRAM does the same As far as I know the only thing stopping a home mechanic from opening up a FOX air spring or damper is the lack proper tools on hand i.e. vacuum bleeder.
  • 1 1
 @b-wicked: or DVO...
  • 1 0
 @Lagr1980: if you got more quid ofcourse Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @Lagr1980: and Marzocchi!
  • 1 2
 @therealtylerdurden: but Marzu is dead?
  • 2 0
 @b-wicked: where did you read that? Because it's bullshit. Fox owns them now as a more budget oriented brand.
  • 1 2
 @therealtylerdurden: so it's same as dead...
  • 1 0
 @b-wicked: No.
  • 1 0
 @therealtylerdurden: They say the same about Elvis... so it's a subject of faith I guess.
  • 5 0
 "Forks, it’s pretty rare that you’re going to blow them up"... Didn't Jared blow his in 2014? And still win?
  • 3 26
flag mollow (Sep 30, 2017 at 19:02) (Below Threshold)
 I dont know... Did he?
  • 1 0
 @yeah in an XC National Race in Aus
  • 21 3
 @mollow: Oh great. Mr. Personality is back.
  • 5 26
flag mollow (Sep 30, 2017 at 21:16) (Below Threshold)
 ? What's wrong with you why would you viciously attack some stranger like that ?
  • 7 0
 @aushred: I didn't know about that one, 2014 too! He also blew his fork in SP2 of the Whistler EWS and still won, insane. www.pinkbike.com/news/jared-graves-incredible-comeback-at-whistler-ews-2014.html
  • 1 0
 Demanding job for sure. They got to work fast. Job needs to be flawless. Their customers are very demanding, for obvious reasons. And the riders do more wear and damage during one week-end than average Joe during the entire season. A dream job, no joke
  • 1 0
 One of the best articles I've read in a LONG time. More great stuff like this please PB. In almost every paragraph I found myself saying "oh, wow, I don't realize that." Thanks to shaun as well for being so candid and open. Absolutely fascinating.
  • 4 1
 Rad article and cool to read. Also, that Griffin looks like a good tire, I may have to grab that as my DHRII is fading.
  • 1 0
 Running a Griffin front and rear, interesting.
  • 3 2
 @Beez177: You are? Because there is a Minion DHF on the one above...unless I have to look through all the others again to determine if there is another bike with 2 Griffins.
  • 1 0
 @Beez177: definitely a Minion DHF up front.
  • 4 1
 should do the same for a Specialized mechanic, see how many spare tires and chains he carries.
  • 3 0
 I don't know what nationality Shaun is but I read all his replies in a kiwi accent
  • 2 0
 He's from straya
  • 2 0
 i was born in NZ but grew up in Australia, and have zero Kiwi accent left in me. But after reading this i re read the article and read it all in kiwi.
  • 1 0
 @shaun7005: and there was me thinking you were local the whole time I was working with you ha ha sorry bud
  • 3 1
 What do they do with all the replaced components? I bet to 99% of us they are still in good condition. It does seem very wasteful
  • 3 1
 Most will get used on training bikes or staff bikes, basically as you say they are plenty good enough to ride but can the worlds best have the full confidence needed that it won't let them down mid-race? No need to take a risk that can be avoided.
  • 3 4
 @mchacker: True but all that avoidance of minimal risks cost you and I money as ultimately its the customer that pays for it all.
  • 4 2
 @CM999: then whine to the manufacturers instead of on a message board for enthusiasts, hoping for an echo chamber.
  • 3 0
 we run the parts until they start acting up, chains i replace for every race, but the rest of the stuff lasts pretty well. the other replaced components will usually make their way to my bike, or back to the sponsors for a bit of R&D if something strange happens.
  • 1 0
 Great report. More of this please. Had my Norco range for two years not one bearing change lol. Would be nice to read about how they got in to the job in the first place and how it affects their family life etc.
  • 4 0
 If he's clamping the dropper I'm clamping the dropper
  • 5 4
 You realize it is irrelevant to him, right?

He will just ask the sponsor for another one, but you will keep rebuild services in business ;-).
  • 3 0
 it is fine
  • 2 0
 Why wouldn’t Cody be at all races Richie is at? I saw that he wasn’t there at Finale but didn’t appear to be hurt or anything according to his IG feed.
  • 1 0
 Does anyone have any feedback as to why Richie runs the Griffin over the DHR? I get that it's all personal preference, but, I thought the Griffin was awful compared to the DHR. . .just my opinion. Obviously I'm no RR.
  • 1 0
 Good article, top mechanics can teach the rest of us a ton, thanks for the in-depth look. Had the pleasure of seeing the Yeti Team race BME this year, good stuff.
  • 3 0
 What is that stand pictured washing the bike?
  • 1 0
 Also want to know!
  • 1 0
 @Mvanhoorn: cool and thanks
  • 1 0
 @Mvanhoorn: Know of a place state-side that sells these? Their site does not like my address and will not give me a shipping option.
  • 1 0
 @meesterover: something is wrong, you can't add to the cart in the site.
  • 2 0
 @fserrajana: Oh well, I ordered the Scorpion stand by Feedback Sports instead.
  • 1 0
 @meesterover: I don't... only seen them on that website
  • 1 0
 @meesterover: Wish the Scorpion folded, Feedback you listening???
  • 1 0
 @Leethal-1: Moot point for me. It sits in the bike room in the basement.
  • 2 0
 So to summarize this news the mechanic is like a mother preparing his child to go to school.
  • 2 0
 Cool behind the scenes stuff!
  • 2 0
 Rude is a tank. Has a future in rugby or Aussie Rules.
  • 1 0
 I swear the next photo of Richie will be one of him tearing through his jersey like the hulk.
  • 2 0
 Why didn't Cody race this weekend?
  • 1 0
 Is it right that riders shuttle all through practice?
  • 1 0
 Dapper looking kit on Grubby and Rude in that parking lot photo
  • 3 2
 Richie got back
  • 2 28
flag mollow (Oct 1, 2017 at 8:07) (Below Threshold)
 Suck his dick while you're at it
  • 17 0
 @mollow: haha. Dude, you sure do come across as someone who is really bitter. Maybe go ride your bike and try not to be a dick on the trails as well.
  • 1 0
 Great story and photos

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