Catching up with Gwin

Jan 20, 2014
by Mike Levy  
 
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Aaron Gwin Original photo by Dan Severson


Anyone who followed Aaron Gwin's 2013 season is well aware that it didn't come close to matching either his or his fan's expectations, with it being the first year that his results were in decline since he began doing a full World Cup race calendar. This fact wasn't lost on many rabid race fans who immediately pinned the blame on his switch from the Trek World Racing program to riding for Specialized aboard their Demo 8 Carbon. It should be pointed out, however, that his two previous seasons were so dominant that it would have been extremely difficult for him to continue at the same level given the on-the-edge nature of elite level racing. In a way, he was only ever going to hold steady results-wise or the competition was going to get faster, much like you see in any sport, and it would be selling Smith, Minnaar et al. short if you don't believe in the latter. Regardless, the Demo took the brunt of the abuse from those who were convinced it was the root of his problems. But was it? Talking to the man himself about his equipment will have you convinced otherwise, and it's clear that he has the utmost confidence in his machine. And while that may sound like a sponsored racer only saying what he's been told to say, Gwin says he is 100% happy with his race bike and unperturbed by those who believe otherwise. ''It's definitely harder to win on something that's less dialled, says Gwin about equipment at the top tier of the sport. ''If you have something that you're really comfortable on, it's an advantage, but at the same time you'd be blown away by some of the stuff the privateer guys race at the World Cups, and they go really fast, or even stuff that I've ridden in the past. It is more rider than anything, but the times are so close at that top that you have to have everything.'' And it is exactly that - being really comfortable with your bike - that is one of the keys to success, which is why Specialized manufactured a set of custom longer chain and seat stays for Gwin's bike. And if you think that custom components, or even a custom frame, is out of the ordinary for a top World Cup racer, you're mistaken because it's far more common than the sponsors want you to think. Regardless of the updates, a big win still eluded the American in 2013, though.

So, if it's not the equipment, what happened that saw Gwin go from laying down runs that looked so in control, so composed, that they appeared to actually be slow before he broke the finish line laser beam with times that defied belief, to a 2013 season that saw him unable to notch a single World Cup win? ''I think the competition is getting better every year. Everyone is taking it more seriously and they're really putting in the hours,'' he explains, with the most obvious example of this being Steve Smith's steady rise to the top that has been built on hard, focused training combined with some serious skill. Gwin is also well aware that at the end of the day it all comes down to each racer's ability to lay out not just an incredibly fast run, but also one that manages to walk the fine line between control and raggedness, a balancing act that can result in turning those split timing lights green.


bigquotesI just straight up didn't execute race runs top to bottom last year. I was off the pace at Fort Bill, but every other race I just didn't ride to my potential. I was riding really good in practice, I felt faster and more relaxed than any of the previous years I've had, but the mistakes and crashes just kept coming for some reason. I was on race runs that felt perfect, runs that almost never happen but a few minutes in I'd wash the front wheel or something stupid and end up stopped out in the trees. They weren't huge mistakes but I'd make them in critical sections of the track and they added up to four, five, or six seconds on the clock. It was really frustrating, man, and I felt like I was handing out time all over the place. You can say that all you want though, it just sounds like an excuse, and people only see the end result and whatever few shots they happen to show online. A rider's thoughts of "If only I wouldn't have messed up I could have won", even though being sometimes true, don't mean a thing when you look at the results and you're out the back. But you know what, I did mess up, I made the mistakes, nobody else. Things don't always go as planned, and it definitely wasn't from a lack of effort or preparation from me or my team, I can promise you that. I had the bike, the equipment, the team, and I had the speed to win, but it just didn't come together. That's racing, and these guys are all extremely talented and driven, they throw it down when it counts and if you want to win you'd better have your stuff together. I've been on top before and I know what it takes to be back there now. I'm excited for the challenge. I don't know what the end result will be but I know I'll show up ready to race like I do every year and, if I ride to my potential, I'll be stoked. - Aaron Gwin

Remember, too, that when Gwin uses the words "come together", he is talking about something very different from when the same thing happens to you or I when we manage to hit that tricky gap jump on our local trail. No, he's talking about shaving tenths of seconds that add up to just a few ticks of the watch that separate the top racers at any given World Cup race, all while thousands of fans watch from the sidelines and live feeds beamed around the world. No pressure, though... And how does Gwin plan to make it ''come together'' in 2014? He's stealthy on that topic. Training like a mad man? Testing new product developments? A level of focus that borders on having an obsessive compulsive disorder? All of the above, obviously. The Fontana, California, race that we talked to Gwin at also plays a part in his prep, not to mention it's the place that Gwin started to turn some heads six years back. ''These are my roots. I started racing here at Fontana during the 2008 winter series, so it's kind of like home turf for me,'' he says. ''It's a good time hanging out with all my friends, and I have a junior team that I coach, so I'm just riding with the boys and helping them out. I'm also trying to get myself ready for the season, with the first race in South Africa, which is a pedally track, and this is also a pedally track so it's good off-season training.''


G Ride

Aaron Gwin's Fontana race bike may look like a standard Demo, and even an up close inspection won't reveal too much about the blue and black machine beyond the fact that its pilot is fond of carbon, titanium, and some Kashima treatment, but you'd certainly be mistaken if you think the 2012 World Cup overall downhill champ is rolling on a completely stock bike. His Demo flies just under the radar, with slight changes to the frame, RAD-spec suspension from FOX, and some prototype clipless pedals that you might otherwise miss if it rolled by you in the lift lineup. ''These races are just small preseason stuff for me, so my setup doesn't change a whole lot when I race these,'' Gwin admitted to us, "and I just race what I'm usually riding.'' His weapon of choice for Fontana certainly doesn't hint that he'll be on anything other than a 26'' wheeled Demo come the pedal intensive South Africa opener, but we also know that Specialized isn't a company to sit back and relax when it comes to the arms race that is World Cup downhilling.
Details

• Production Demo 8 Carbon front triangle (med)
• Chain / seat stays are 19mm longer than stock
• Rear wheel travel: 215mm (15mm more than stock)
• FOX RAD 40 Float fork
• FOX RAD DHX RC4 shock
• Avid Code brake calipers / X0 Trail levers
• SRAM 8spd drivetrain
• Prototype HT clipless pedals
• Specialized Butcher tires (27 PSI/30 PSI)
• Weight: 36lbs

bigquotesThe longer rear end was a small change, but people definitely made way too big of a deal over that. I actually have you guys at Pinkbike to thank for that, so thanks, haha! The rear ends on Demos are really short, which is awesome at pretty much any track that the average dude would ride, and the bike really does does turn amazingly well with its low bottom bracket. For me, though, when I got to a World Cup, some of the really fast, rough straights on certain tracks had me wanting just a little more stability. I'm also used to riding stuff that is a bit longer since I first started racing, although I do enjoy the shorter rear end more than my current longer setup for practicing and riding my local trails, but the World Cup courses are changing. They're kind of dumbing some of them down a little bit; they're getting flatter, with higher speeds and more berms, so the bikes have to change with it. - Aaron Gwin


Aaron Gwin Specialized Demo at Fontana Photo by Dan Severson

Suspension: Gwin is known for preferring a stiff suspension setup, even relative to other World Cup racers, and his setup for Fontana is no different. ''It's pretty much running exactly how it was at Mont St Anne, he told us. ''I've been riding this bike all year, so same setup, same everything. I'll put a couple more pounds of pressure in to try and make it roll faster on the 'wall' (Fontana's notoriously tough finish line sprint), but that's about it.'' So while Gwin might not be on anything out of the ordinary for this winter race, even his standard suspension is far from stock, with the RAD designation signalling that there is surely some internal trickery going on. We had a chance to ride a RAD-spec FOX 34 recently and were very impressed with its performance, and we can only guess that there are similar things going on inside Gwin's FOX 40 Float fork - a custom valved damper is a given, likely employing a mid-valve (essentially another set of shims and a check valve that sits behind the rebound piston to provide added low-speed compression damping) to help it stand up in its travel, as well as more progressive damping at higher shaft speeds. It also wouldn't be out of line to assume that Gwin prefers a more aggressive ramp-up to his stroke that would come from less air volume on the spring side but, much like the damper talk, this is pure speculation on our part. There is also a good chance that there is more gold hidden within the fork as well, with FOX giving both the damper and air piston rods with the same Kashima treatment as the stanchions.


Aaron Gwin Specialized Demo at Fontana Photo by Dan Severson
Aaron Gwin Specialized Demo at Fontana Photo by Dan Severson

The Drivetrain: We've seen Aaron utilizing a few very special drivetrain components during the past World Cup season that fall under SRAM's BlackBox development program, some of which may lead to production items in the future, but his Fontana machine features far less exotic bits for the most part. 165mm carbon X0 cranks turn over a Renthal chain ring, which is worth noting as many SRAM sponsored downhillers have begun to use their X-Sync chain rings for a touch of added security, and an e*thirteen LG1+ guide has been bolted in place. Out back, a standard X0 DH derailleur moves the chain across a relatively conventional, trimmed down eight speed cassette rather than the wild custom X-Dome spread and BlackBox derailleur that we spotted on his bike during last year's race season.

There is something interesting to be spotted in the shape of what appears to be prototype DH pedals, likely from HT, Gwin's long time pedal sponsor and the brand that he would fit to his bike when using platform pedals. Gwin doesn't race on platforms, though, and he's often been pictured using Crankbrothers' Mallet DH pedals in the past, but it is looking like he'll be clipping into something different this year. The pedals, which definitely have an unfinished prototype look to them, utilize a one-piece body with a number of adjustable height set screws for traction, and it looks like some extra material has been left on the lower leading edge (the section most likely to make contact in a pedal strike) for added strength. The clip mechanism on each side, which is bolted onto the body from the face, uses a wound coil spring, and there is likely a screw that can be used to adjust entry and release tension. No word on how far along these are in the development process, but it will be interesting to see if Aaron is using them come South Africa.


Aaron Gwin Specialized Demo at Fontana Photo by Dan Severson
Aaron Gwin Specialized Demo at Fontana Photo by Dan Severson

Controls: Renthal's 138 gram Integra stem has been mounted directly to the FOX 40's upper crown via steel hardware, with no riser spacers for a bit of added bar height as we sometimes see, and in the longer 50mm reach position rather than the optional shorter 45mm setting. The handlebar is also from Renthal, a 780mm wide aluminum Fatbar, and if you look closely you'll be able to spot the white witness mark from a paint pen on both the stem and bar that make it easy to achieve a repeatable setup if the handlebar should have to be removed for any reason. A set of thin ODI Ruffian grips and SDG's I-Beam post and seat combo round out Aaron's contact points.
bigquotesI definitely have to have the bike not making obnoxious noises. That's something that I like about the Specialized bikes, with them being the quietest bikes I've ever ridden. If I have something that's making noise, it drives me insane. I'm also really picky about my bar and lever setup, but it's all stuff that I adjust when I get on the bike, and once I set it I don't ever change it around. - Aaron Gwin


Wheels and Rubber: Gwin's Demo is rolling on what appears to be a set of DT's 28 hole EX 471 rims that weigh in at just 475 grams - a smart choice given that the race finishes with a long sprint beside 'the wall' - and shod with Specialized's own Butcher DH tires. The Butchers use a stiff 70a base compound with much softer 42a outer layer applied over top, and the 60 TPI dual ply casing features butyl inserts low along the sidewall that Specialized says helps protect against pinch flats. Air pressure is sure to vary depending on the course and the conditions, but Fontana saw Gwin run 27 PSI up front and 30 PSI out back.




www.specialized.com
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118 Comments

  • + 156
 Aaron! I know you are reading this. Sign the pact with the devil and grow a mustache!
  • - 21
flag joaquin-andreas (Jan 20, 2014 at 8:27) (Below Threshold)
 Or just go back to Trek
  • - 28
flag lalodh (Jan 20, 2014 at 8:34) (Below Threshold)
 Or buy a Yeti DH9 if you want a good long stable bike!!! ha ha.
Thats where he started no??? with Yeti, thats why
  • + 10
 I hope he gets back on pace. the more competition and the more excitement the better.
  • + 15
 The beard - the mustache instantly elevate you to champion status... proof is here.. elevate yourself back to the top Gwin: www.inceptioncyclery.com/7/post/2014/01/why-the-beard-is-important-to-cycling-performance-roadies-take-note.html

Enjoy!
  • + 8
 lalodh, Yeti doesn't race downhill anymore!! just sayin....
  • + 2
 ^^ He raced with Yeti before, been there done that !!!
  • + 0
 What about Jared Graves?
  • + 2
 Haha Touché!
  • + 5
 I know Yeti is not doing DH, and DH9 is an old bike, it was just a joke.
And I like Aaron a lot as a person and as a racer, its a shame Yeti is not there anymore, remember the big Australian guy that left Yeti and became world champion?? and Aaron left Yeti and became world champion???? and Blenky is almost there???? Yeti should keep preparing world champions.
Cheers
  • + 1
 lalodh - I am not sure if telling some person what he should, could, would do is a good thing. It is nothing personal to you, there is of much of it around... We cannot know the circumstances that the person/company is at the moment, that made them make the decision different from what we would like them to do. Maybe our advice would be catastrophic for them in the greater scheme of things? But you said it so let me have my own "you should" for Yeti - Yeti could send me a SB66c or ASR-5c frame in Large, free of charge
  • + 1
 Dear Waki, I am glad you finally replied to me. I hope Yeti send you one of their bikes, to me is the best bike all around that have owned.
I had 5 different Yetis and with my DH9 won 4 national championships in my age class in México, went in person to buy the last frame from them at the factory in Golden and they gave me a tour of the place, I met the welder that is a son of mexicans and that made me feel also very good.
Of course I didnt mean telling a world champion what to do, only a joke about the bike. I know own a very nice specialized now so nothing agains the brand either.

Cheers
  • + 2
 dear lalodh - I did not want to school you, I just needed a background for my stupid joke for Yeti to give me a bike. They are in top 3 of my favourite companies ever. They are one of very few who believe in long front ends. If money were no object I would be riding an ASR-5c.
  • + 0
 I don't know if I want to jump in and say they are discontinuing the sb66 also..... Sorry guys. It is all about 27.5 and 29er it seems.
  • + 32
 Great article, the best I've seen in a while!
It's all fine and well to blame the demo for all his issues, but it seems that Gwin was upfront about liking a longer rear end for most racecourses. Those HT's are interesting, the clip system looks more like time than the crankbros system that he ran in the past. Also, is the 16mm extra travel just from his custom rear end being longer, or...? (The session's is 210, for anyone who wants to claim that he's trying to make another session)
  • + 9
 Yup, the extra travel comes from the long rear end. More here from 2013: www.pinkbike.com/news/Aaron-Gwin-Prototype-Demo-Race-Bike-Andorra-World-Cup.html
  • + 18
 I get that he just had a couple unfortunate errors on each track, but I can't help but wonder if he used Spesh tires on all the courses last year. That seems like it would be a lot more significant than the demo frame...
  • + 3
 I was thinking about those tires to. I suck and I still can tell that the minion works better in most conditions than the butcher. And I ran butchers for years.
  • - 7
 Butchers. They work well, but they are as soft as butter. I got them on my demo as stock tyres and they had last for one whole week on Maribor Pohorje and then the side knobbys got torn off.. Now I ride Kenda Nevegal for last 2 years and they still grip and they hadn`t lost a knobby.

Go Gwin, you`ve got some catching up to do in the WC.
  • + 2
 What about brakes?
  • + 21
 Anyone pick up he didn't actually say it wasn't the bike?

Just you need everything to come together including the bike. I personally think gwins issue was his off season last year was on the wrong size frame for worldcups and he spent most his time in California I believe which doesn't have the wc quality he needs. He was essentially setting up and then riding this new size and custom CS bike in the race season on bike tracks for the first time. I'm not saying the bike stopped him what I'm saying is I personally don't think he had enough time pre-season on the actual rig he would be racing on to get it fully dialed. Most riders don't need to deal with this mid seasons its done pre-season.

At the wc level even a 1% drop in performance can mean 2.4 seconds down on a 4min track. Its highlighted at that level. You need it all to come together, making these changes and adaptions mid season just adds to the difficultly. Gwin was training straight after the 2012 season ( I believe Pinkbike did an article on that) so his dedication and training would not be the issue.

I say his location and the wrong bike preseason was the cause, it put him behind the field for preparation.
neg or prop me my opinion Smile

I hope and expect him to have a better season this year.
  • + 1
 It certainly is a combination of all the elements mentionned. With shorter chainstays you'll consequently have more rearward distributed weight. Add up different tyres, a differently working suspension maybe as well (less progressivity on the specialized, but would it play a role?).
Anyway one sentence is interesting and it doesn't come from Gwin. It's this one: "And it is exactly that - being really comfortable with your bike - that is one of the keys to success". Sure Gwin doesn't want to say that bike was bad not just cause Specialized probably dug in their pocket to make him come. It's just the baike has to fit to you and this was obviously not the case.
And if Levy said quite some factory riders don't ride stock bikes (meaning in the geometry) it might be much more difficult nowadays with plenty of carbon frames around.
  • + 15
 yea, ask a sponsored rider who is getting paid to promote the brand if its the bike hes riding that slowed him down. What did you expect him to say LOL
Facepalm
  • + 3
 You could just put it the other way around: Gwin made the Demo slower than Brosnan. It surely is not the bike only, surely is not the rider only neither.
  • + 6
 When is the last time anyone won on this bike?
  • + 13
 Alternative question: when is the last time anyone won on a Trek? How many wins for the Trek before Gwin gets on it? Last win for a Santa Cruz V10 (except Worlds)? It seems everybody forgot that for Gwin's last season on Trek he's been extremely impressive in the first part of the season, but "only" got good results for the last races. Declining success (relative) started before his move to Specialized. Wait and see what happens next year. It will be very interesting for sure! Bring the World Cup!
  • + 4
 I think what's important to remember though is it's about being comfortable on your bike, maybe not that the DEMO is a "worse" bike but it is certainly different from what he's used to.
  • - 5
flag cmkneeland (Jan 20, 2014 at 6:37) (Below Threshold)
 It's the bike. He can't say it. But it's the bike. Sorry, one, two, MAYBE three races, I'll give him not being able to 'put it all together'. But this is Aaron Gwin we're talking here. He goes from placing 3rd or better in 14 of 16 races, to struggling to put down a top 10? I'm not buying it.
  • + 3
 That's exactly why I don't think it's (only) the bike. It's in his head. It's hard to stay on top especially with the competition working so hard at being there themselves.
  • + 1
 Take a look at gee vs gwin..both had new bikes...one was redesigned for modern style dh tracks, one wasnt..then u have steves devinci, which is kinda a mix of the poppy, stable.
  • + 1
 Yeah, it's probably his confidence. But confidence comes from ability and the bike. His ability obviously isn't in question. And it's not like the competition just started to take World Cup seriously. There's no way they made up that much ground, and burried him like that, with one off-season of training.
  • + 2
 No but they stepped up for sure. It's all part of the equation. The bike is in the equation but I think not for the reasons people think. It's about being confident as you say. This could have happened switching to any other team. I would not be at all surprised to see Gwin doing much better this year than last.
  • + 1
 2012 val. Di sere. Brook. First place.
  • + 1
 If you're trying to answer the question "when the hell did a Trek won a race?", Brook won Val d'Isère on a Mondraker and joined the team Trek in 2013.
  • + 34
 Gwin is such a humble guy....he always has nothing but positive vibes. Kill it this year Gwin!!
  • + 1
 Well, rewind a year....

www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7fNWw2fBQ0

(fast forward to about 4:00)
  • + 4
 Yes, we need U.S.A back in the game for 2014 on the W.C! If gwin cant do it, will the rude ? Lets hope they both can,
  • + 7
 Even though it may have sounded a little cocky in the vid, what he said is still completely true. He undoubtedly was the best rider in the world at a given time and he did quite a good job to phrase unmistakably clear that he earned this actual title impartial, so I guess you just have to give him that. I guess the vid was kinda scripted anyway as most of the other sponsored vids are, too. Although I've never met him personally, I think he sure is a totally humble and likeable person at least from what I've seen and read. I mean, let's face it, he didn't even care about being filmed without having his dental prosthesis in... that doesn't seem cocky to me, at all. He is pretty much just being himself at all times. However, it was not easy for the rest of the world to like Gwin.. not because of him or his success, but because of those MURRICAH fans out there, in whose eyes it was not the achievement of Gwin himself to have won all those races but the achievement of America, considering his domination as a figurehead for America being superior to the rest of the world. Maybe that mentality is just difficult to grasp as a German, I don't know... but let me tell you, it was hard to not take advantage of it as he started losing.
  • + 4
 hamncheez - He was stating fact - nothing showboat about that.
  • - 5
flag hamncheez (Jan 20, 2014 at 14:48) (Below Threshold)
 I'm not Gwin hater, hes the one I root for, and I realize he was asked if he was the fastest, but come on. He was a tad cocky, and deservedly so. Think back to the whole circus when he left Trek. That was a bit prideful and it took him down a notch in my book.
  • + 0
 well, I just found out he won at bootleg this wkend, but its not a w.c.
  • + 2
 He did say based on standings though. Ive ridden the trail in the video and seen vids of other people on that trail and no one else rides it that fast.
  • + 28
 Hope Gwin has a good injury free season in 2014. Bummed to see last year keep knocking him down, but it looks like he's back on his feet.
  • + 10
 Gwin is definitely one of the best riders ever and so down to earth and real...Truely a great human being and ambassador for our sport...I just wish he had stayed on the Session 88, everything truely great is always about correct combinations and i just feel Gwin and the session were the perfect match for each other and i feel there was so much more history and records to be set with them...I have ridden moto since i was kid and trek's rear end feels way more moto familiar than FSR, just wonder if that had anything to do with Gwin's 13' season results..
  • + 9
 I actually looked into the race times of 2012 and 2013. He's actually gotten faster by an average of 4 seconds but it's just that people like Atherton and smith have gotten faster by an average of 19 seconds which is why they r winning. I recon if he train hard enough I get his worlds win no prob. But we should be watching out for his team mate fellow Aussie Troy Bronson he is going to be a legend someday
  • + 5
 Troy Brosnan is already a legend in my books mate.
  • + 1
 Even more impressive for Smith considering the DeVinci for '13 wasn't a new design like Gee's GT.
  • + 8
 A lot of those tracks were changed due to global bike-park-isation, shorter and less technical tracks
  • + 11
 You can't compare the tracks, they all changed from 2012 to 2013:
The bottom sections of Fort Bill, MSA and Hafjell had changed, VDS changed completely, except for the start, bottom, and the classic section with the natural berm with a rock sticking out where you have to get sideways. Leogang changed quite a lot in the woods sections, and PMB changed at the top quite a lot.
  • - 2
 Still, Smith and Atherton look like they are riding like no DH'ers ever before. I could tell the way Smith was riding toward the end of the season that I have not seen anybody ride a bike so good before. Just by visually watching him ride and paying no attention to the results.
  • - 1
 Yeah definitely, I can't argue with that, Smith is a machine (a diesel machine that is, but the motor is hot now, so it doesn't matter),
and will dominate until he gets injured.
By the way, please don't try to look like a smartass by adding cool adjectives in your sentences, putting "visually" in front of "watching" adds about (see how I did not put "approximately", because it is longer, but means exactly the same as "about" in this sentence) 0% precision to the action you are expressing(in this case, "watching").
  • + 10
 I think you guys are a bit delusional about Smiths pace last year. Yes he was incredibly fast and yes he was the best rider but i dont see how he was on a level that no one else has been before.

But....the 20th place rider was on average far closer to Smith last year than he was to Gwin in either 2011 or 2012.

So by your logic every rider in the field has suddenly learned how to go much faster over the space of the winter break in 2012-2013? Racers who have been training and racing all their lives are suddenly far superior to what they were 6 months before that? It doesnt make sense. Think about it logically how is Gee Atherton going to suddenly become that much faster over the course of a season? He is always in peak condition and his skills are not going to be improving much at this stage of his career. Smith is definitely faster than he was a year ago but he is not at the same stage of his career that Gee is.
  • + 1
 Dude, I totally get what your saying. But I don't know how Rampage progressed so dramatically in just one year either. Gwin set the bar so high in 2012 and completely dominated some races. Maybe it scared the rest of the field into riding faster? I would like to know what Gee would say if someone asked him if the riders got faster than in 2012 or did Gwin get slower.
  • + 2
 Rampage is not racing. It's completely incomparable. Finding race pace is nothing like learning a new trick or riding a really dodgy line. Also rampage has been held at the same course for years now so they know it better and have better features year on year.
  • + 1
 Yeah I no but looking at footage gwin dosnt look as fast as when he was champion on his yeti and trek. I think u can tell that gee and co. R just leagues faster than twin at the moment
  • + 1
 I hope they are not taking some weid drug. If they ruin our sport I'll kill them all!
  • + 8
 Great article? Come on, I'm all for gwin getting back to form but this article was like a bunch of excuses on why 'it wasn't about the bike'. Obviously the truth can never be told in the press, but you can be sure he would never reveal anything that makes his sponsors look bad.
  • - 2
 Especially if all his sponsors were bending backwards last year,
and now realize that he isn't dominating anymore.
I bet SRAM isn't too happy that they let him just use their drivetrain, which clearly means "we'll do whatever you want, just wear our name on your jersey", and now he isn't getting any significant results compared to the last 2 years.
  • + 2
 I totally agree. It's like damage control from Spesh just before the season starts. And all the references in the article about "while that may sound like a sponsored racer only saying what he's been told to say" just makes it seem more disingenuous. Just because you said it's not true doesn't make it untrue. This is all AG needed to say: ''It's definitely harder to win on something that's less dialled"... everything else is fluff and backpedal. It's funny to me that so many readers fell for this. For the record, I am a Gwin superfan - just don't like how Spesh presents themselves.
  • + 3
 I didn't even receive the impression that Gwin was trying to find excuses. He says he messed up, and that may or may not be true.. we will know more after the 2014 season. For sure the bike needs to perform well and hating on Specialized was fun for some time after the harsh buyout move, but fact is that DH racing has a huge mental aspect as well as fitness plays a serious role... the overall constitution of those athletes has to be at peak and if the preparation didn't work out the way it was supposed to, it's not surprising that success fails to appear. After winning pretty much everything, maybe the drive to give his absolute best was just not the same as before. But if that was the case, he surely got schooled for that. Anyway, I'm excited to see the 2014 season... it looks set to become spectacular. Gee is eager as ever and has earned it to win as well. And then there is this young frenchman as a hot contender. Minaar is somewhere in the top rows anyway. Also Gwin, Hart and Blenky have to prove something. And Stevie doesn't even think of giving up the crown.
  • + 2
 Don't forget Mick, who is getting better and better, and is perfectly suited for almost every track this year (except Meribel, which I don't know)
  • + 1
 Right you are. I guess I forgot many other riders worth mentioning... Brosnan, Hill, Ratboy and of course BROOOK just to name a few. (Come on Bulldog, I know you can do it!)
  • + 1
 Let's not forget that he switched frame sizes from one WC race to the next. Then he switched chainstay lengths a week after that. All during the season. What pro dowhiller - who's happy with their bike setup - does that? Of course he can't say it's the bike, especially if he gets paid to say he wins because of the bike. While it's true that everyone else did get faster in that time, it could also be true that Gwin just wasn't 100% happy with the bike. Just because his competition improved does not mean the bike was dialed.
  • + 1
 A while back there was a romor about a completely diffrent geomotry specilized downhill bike for gwin. If de Vinci did it for stevie in world why can't s works. Watching video u can see that's its the bike that's holding him back
  • + 5
 Winners will enjoy the glory and losers will make up excuses. It's how things have always been. I don't cheer for single individuals anymore. Hill, Gwin, Minnaar, Gee, Smith etc. i don't think any single one of them is better than the others. They are all amazing riders but eventually only one of them will be on top in the end. Watching them riding as fast as possible down the track, trying to win is great enjoyment for me. I cheer for the competition. If Gwin thinks he was unlucky this last season, i hope him the best of luck for the next one. His being unlucky didn't degrade the quality of the amazing battle we saw between Gee and Smith in 2013 one bit though Smile .
  • + 7
 Gwin is awesome. Hopefully we can see his speed again this year, it was incredible to watch
  • + 4
 A combination of not enough time on the demo preseason, injuries during the season, and lots of bad luck led to Gwinny's disappointing season in my opinion. Every racer has had at least one subpar season, its not uncommon by any means. I wish Gwinny the best of luck for the 2014 season and surely will be rooting for him to do well at the world cups!
  • + 1
 True. How many racers have had multiple consecutive success years? Vouilloz did and more recently Sam Hill but other than them it's kinda off and on. Win some lose some, no matter how cliche that sounds.
  • + 3
 Biggest part of the article to me was seeing that he coaches a youth team. Pretty awesome to see a top rider that's so young in his career taking an interest in progressing the next generation of riders! Hope he does well this year and will represent America with some good results!
  • + 3
 Hmmm..."I was on race runs that felt perfect, runs that almost never happen but a few minutes in I'd wash the front wheel or something stupid..."
"and I felt like I was handing out time all over the place..." It sounds like a man who is no longer at one with his machine and the track. His skill, vision, line choice, body position and calm, confident speed that gave him 5 second gaps over his competitors didn't line up last year. Let's hope he finds that combination again, but it starts with NOT having to think about your equipment. Go Aaron!
  • + 2
 I think all of us who ride have had those days where you feel super comfy on the bike, nailing every corner, clearing every root section just lliterally everything coming together...... BUT we have also had those days where everything just goes Pete Tong straight out the gate, you skid out, you crash, ya mates leave you for dead and the harder you push the worse things get. Now imagine having one of those days at the first World Cup of the season, the one where everyone is expecting you to destroy the rest of the field, infront of all your new sponsors, all the fans, all the media. Now that's gotta knock your confidence and mess your head up a bit. As we all do when we are having shit days you wanna blame ya tyres, the setup, the bike etc etc.. Being a sponsored rider you can't really do that but surely he was thinking it. I think the other riders had stepped their game up but I reckon after a massive blow to confidence which resulted in second guessing his equipment he never really recovered. I really do hope he's now comfy on the demo as it'll make for an awesome year of racing again.
  • + 1
 Same story with me man some days I go up like an XC rider and Shred like DH rider all the way down and there are a few times where I cannot even get past a rock totally agree with you
  • + 2
 Those split second mistakes he talks about... they can be caused by slight delays in brain function/miscalculations due to tiredness, lack of redbull etc... we all have bad days (or even years in gwins case) riding... or they can be due to the bike - suspension, tyres, geometry, linkage rates etc, those tiny differences can add up to making a slow bike feel fast and easily make the difference between crashing and not-crashing when riding right on the edge in a race run.

I guess we'll never know!
  • + 2
 Some people forget that once you are on top there is only one way to go. He made a lot of off season changes and I think it put him behind the competition when the season started. It will be interesting to see if he can pull it together this year.
  • + 2
 i'm a great fan of Gwin. Was disappointed with his 2013 performance. If u ask me, I think too many prototypes on the bike may be the issue... after all, they are still prototypes under testing and aren't dialled in.
  • + 5
 Great write up PB! Good luck in 2014 Aaron.
  • + 1
 interesting reading ... I for one would like to see Gwin back up there winning races this year, maybe it got a tad dull after 2 years of dominance but some of those winning margins were so mesmerizing to watch . Bring on the season !
  • + 5
 those prototype ht pedals look so good
  • + 1
 This picture are from 2009, for how long will they prototype them ?
www.ridemonkey.com/forums/f19/relative-void-high-end-clipless-pedals-gravity-riding-246798/index2
  • + 1
 Those look completely different.
  • + 1
 The cage is new, but the system looks the same, from the point of view, the photographer is giving us.
  • + 4
 Really good insight! Roll on South Africa!
  • + 0
 Gwin killed it while on Trek. It doesn't matter what he says, it's his bike that's slowing him down. Specialized may have all the money in the world and can hire who ever but in the end the Demo just isn't the right machine to carry an athlete to the podium. Look at Sam Hill, he absolutely slaughtered the competition while on Iron Horse but as soon as he switched everything went down hill
  • + 2
 Hope he gets back on top. Got to take a few laps with him at Trestle Bike park,the year that he was dominating. Such a cool experience that I'll never forget
  • + 1
 I'd like to think I'm a man of science. So just out of curiosity, can somebody give Gwin his old Trek bike and let him race on that for one world cup round and lets all find out how he'll do on that race.. Smile
  • + 2
 I think this article should've been called "gwin trying to catch up" I wonder if he lost any sponsors or had to sign a new contract this year.
  • + 2
 So, troy has no problem running a stock frame but Gwin needs changes ,and troy had a better season. Specialized takes pride on giving you the same bike the pro's ride.
  • + 1
 Thanks to Gwin, he upped the ante for the past 2 seasons, and the other big guns responded to that, it is up to Gwin if he can match or surpass it.
  • + 2
 Tear it up this year Aaron. Hell of a season of downhill coming up. Gonna be some epic battles.
  • + 1
 Gwin is slower on the demo because the demo is not suited for his riding style...and now Spec is trying to change Sam Hill's bike to work for him
  • + 1
 Well may be the bike was the wrong colour last year, but is gets tougher every year competition wise, where will this go good luck
  • + 3
 Good Luck this year Aaron!
  • - 1
 I don't think it is/was out of line for people to speculate that he wasn't comfortable on the demo last season. He started out looking slow, changed frame sizes a couple times then had a custom frame with longer chain stays. How could people conclude anything else?
  • + 2
 I was less than 5 feet away from this awesome piece of beastly carbon and titanium. I was like having sex but cleaner.
  • + 1
 hahaah ^ this made my day
  • + 3
 Yeah, well....I SAT on it! And it was like dirty sex.
  • + 2
 Not fair. But, I would have broken some really expensive small part with my luck.
  • + 2
 Make me laugh SPZ ---- FSR on long travel bikes changes rebound characteristics while braking on rough stuff, period
  • + 1
 once bitten twice shy, we'll see how it goes on Specialized this coming season..
  • + 3
 Lovely bike.
  • + 1
 Can anyone tell me how many years i never payed attention to Gwin changing from Shimano Saint speeds to Sram?
  • + 2
 Gwin get back up there!! I would love to see you win it all again
  • + 2
 i wish you a great season!
  • + 1
 Yous are all for getting that its down to what suits a rider with geometry and stuff, same with tyres
  • + 1
 Those pedals look exactly like all of the crankbrothers dh mallets
  • + 1
 Shame he can't be running the Ohlins that's meant to be really good
  • + 2
 Racing is 95% mental.
  • + 1
 May jebus be with you Actually just a joke go steve and I think he reboots
  • + 1
 this is demession...haha
  • + 1
 Tebow it up Gwin
  • - 2
 Reasons and excuses !
  • - 2
 That bike looks amazing.

Also Aaron, your chain is rusted. lol
  • + 6
 That's not rust. It's some of that Fontucky silt that get's into everywhere, even your butt crack.
  • + 2
 pretty sure thats dust caked on that fresh outta the box chain grease.
  • + 1
 I second that. I was there, so I know what really happened. The aliens and the North Koreans are working together.
  • - 1
 No it's definitely rust- his stansions are rusty too. ;-) Ha ha

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