One of the big EWS rider moves over the winter was Greg Callaghan's switch from the Cube Action Team to Unior Devinci Factory Racing after 5 years aboard the German marque's bikes. The Irishman has a new race bike for 2020 and onwards in the form of Devinci's flagship enduro model the Spartan, a pairing that'll be looking to return to the top of the EWS podium this season once we finally get racing...
Unior Devinci had been on SRAM & RockShox in previous years but for 2020 has made the swap to Fox and Shimano, which coincidently made Greg's move that little bit easier having been on the same set up at Cube. The only changes components wise, aside from the frame, were the wheels and tires and cranks and pedals. Greg mentioned that having continuity in a lot of components made the move easy and helped him get up to speed on the new bike quicker than normal, instead of starting with a blank canvas and getting used to each component individually he could focus more on getting used to the Spartan's geometry and suspension characteristics.
Here are Greg's thoughts on how the transition went and how he's set up his 2020 race bike:
Hometown Dublin, Ireland
Model Devinci Spartan
Frame Size Extra Large
Wheel Size 29"
Suspension Fox Prototype
Drivetrain & Brakes Shimano XTR
Cockpit Race Face
Wheels & Rubber Race Face & Maxxis
What frame size have you gone for?
I had both a large and an extra-large early in the offseason and spent some time on both. We did some back-to-back testing in California in December on both frame sizes and I found that the extra-large was a little bit faster but more important than that, it was more comfortable. I could pretty much do the same times on the large but it felt sketchier and twitchier just because it was a smaller bike. I settled on the extra-large because I felt like I could ride it and use a little less energy and feel a little bit more comfortable. I think it's a good size for me, it's 485mm in reach so I think for my height that's a pretty good number.
How does that compare to the bike you were on before?
I think the last Cube I had was around 470-472mm in reach. So it's a fair step but a good step, I think it's a step I needed to take. It's nice. It's the first time in quite a while I feel like I'm on a bike that is the right size for me.
How did you find jumping on the bike for the first time? What were the riding characteristics you felt?
It was pretty easy straight away. The large frame was pretty close to the large 150 Cube I was riding earlier in the season so in terms of size it felt pretty good straight away, it felt familiar. I feel like the suspension on this bike is a lot more active and it allows it to sit into the travel a little more so it a bit more confidence-inspiring, I felt like I had more grip. Then jumping onto the extra-large it felt super stable straight away, it just felt like I could relax and put the bike where I wanted to and just let it deal with whatever the trail was throwing up around it without having to really stay on my toes myself.
Unior Devinci had been on RockShox and SRAM over the past few years whilst you were on Fox and Shimano at Cube. For 2020 we've seen the team switch over and you've been able to carry those sponsors over. How much of a help was that?
Yeah, that was a big thing. When I jumped on the bike, all that was different was the frame, wheels, and tires. My cockpit was the same, still on Race Face and Shimano, still looking down on a Fox fork. Fox and RockShox work in quite different ways so it keeps a lot of familiarities there and I could really focus on feeling the difference in the frame and the bike itself rather than thinking, "ah, is that feeling down to the different shock or fork". That made the transition super easy. Straight away I was super impressed with the Maxxis tires and how supple they are on the ground, it feels like the carcass is really good at moulding to the ground so you have more contact with the tire. That was a big thing I noticed straight away, a lot of grip especially on slow speed, wet kind of stuff... so basically typical Irish tracks in winter!
Did you keep all the contact points the same size? Stem length, bar width etc...
Actually back in October when I was making the decision between Cube or Devinci I was sent a frame because I had a lot of Shimano and Fox stuff so it made sense that I built it up with the parts I already had. I actually did a straight frame swap from one of my race bikes so it was identical... Fork, cockpit, drivetrain, everything. I obviously put on the new wheels and tires. That just made the switch so much easier and it made it so easy to make a direct comparison between the bikes because the variables were so limited. I run the Race Face Turbine stem at 35mm, the shortest one they do, and a Next bar at 770mm in length.
I noticed your stack height is pretty slammed...
That's because the extra-large frames, in general, have a taller head tube. So, say on the large I think I had around 20-25mm of spacers below the stem. Then on the extra-large I have no spacers and it is the same axle to bar height. It's slammed but if I'd gone for the large it looks a lot higher, it's just the frame making the difference.
170mm Race Face Next carbon cranks and paired with HT pedals which have had the pins removed, both the cranks and pedals are new to Greg for this season.
Would you play with that through the season depending on track steepness and that kind of thing?
Not that often. For the likes of La Thuile, I'd tend to go up maybe 10mm when it's super steep but generally not really. I like to just find a setting that's comfortable everywhere and just run with that because races and even stage to stage vary so much, so you could set up your bike for one stage and then it's not good for the next one. You just need a good all-round setup and I'd never really deviate too much from that.
Does that hold true throughout the bike?
No, I wouldn't change too much at all. Only if some races are extreme conditions, if it's extremely slow and slippy or fast and rough or whatever then I'd change things. Generally, I'd like to go to a race with a setup I'm comfortable on and adapt myself to the terrain because we only get one practice run and the shakedown day, so we get a real limited time riding the terrain and the stages so I like to just focus on learning the stages and terrain itself rather than getting lost in setup too much.
Obviously you've got the new Fox kit on there, you probably can't say much but can you notice a big step, is there a noticeable difference between the old products?
Yeah, big time. We went to California in December and I spent a bit of time on the bike on my old Fox stuff and straight away when I put the new stuff on I was seriously impressed. It's so plush off the start, it feels like you are running coil front and rear on the small slow stuff but then you can send it off the biggest huck to flat ever and it just supports you, it never feels like you're diving or you're blowing through the travel or you're bottoming it out. It's incredible how it can give you so much confidence in both the high speed and low speed at the same time. It really does what you want the bike to do and gives you the confidence to push on.
Have you deviated much from the settings you were running on the previous models?
Yeah, it's a new generation of suspension so the settings change. It's all working in a different way so the clicks, the pressures are all different. Generally year to year that will change, unless it's only subtle changes but if it's a big change, especially with new products the settings don't transfer over that well.
Anything you can mention to us about the settings you're running?
Honestly no because I don't really know them off the top of my head! I think I went up in fork pressure and down in shock pressure.
Do you like your setup pretty balanced front to rear or do you like the bike to sit into its travel a little bit?
To me, it feels balanced but I think some people might say I like to sit into the rear travel a little more. Recently I've been trying to set my bike up a bit softer, the more I race the more I realise you need to set the bike up for the second half of the stage, so when you're tired and fatigued you're putting less energy from your body into the bike so you need it to be softer so the bike is going to deal with stuff better. If you set it up super hard and stiff it takes a lot of energy from you to make that work and you really need to be putting power into the bike which is fine for a couple of minutes, but then when that fatigue sets in you're going to feel like you are riding a rock hard bike and that you're bouncing around the place. It's quite hard to set that up for enduro.
When you go testing you're normally doing a track you know really well, it's probably going to be 3 or 4 minutes and you're going to be riding it at full power. So you kind of need to find your optimal setting and then tone it back a little to what would be good for 10-12 minutes, again that might vary race to race. It's a tricky one! Because I'm just riding at home in winter I've got a soft setup, if I'm out training on a cold day and doing intervals and my body is a bit tired it's nice to have a comfortable bike you feel good on and not riding a race setup in winter. It's not going to give you the confidence you want, you don't want ride a bike all winter that is set up for summer and you're not that comfortable on it because that'll just create bad habits and bad ideas in your head I guess.
A Race Face cockpit is another familiar contact point. Greg runs his bars at 770mm, they are anchored to a 35mm stem.
Roughly where do you think your rebound and compression are sitting?
I think they're pretty in the middle. I wouldn't say my setup is extreme. I used to have a really hard front end but that was mainly because the bike at the time was so short that all my body weight was on the front, so I had to have it hard to support me being so over the front. Now I'd say if I loan my bikes to friends or whatever, you rode it this week, like they can jump on it and feel pretty comfortable. It's not super hard or unrideable for the average person, it's a pretty rideable setup.
One of the main changes that you mentioned was the swap from Schwalbe to Maxxis. Have you had time to test a decent range? Have you found your go-to tire?
I haven't had that much time to play around, maybe over the next few weeks as I start to do more downhill riding I'll probably change around between different tires and try to feel out what each one does, where it's good, where it's bad. At the moment I've been running the Assegai on the front and the Minion DHR on the rear which is really good, I'm really impressed with that Assegai in the mud. It's pretty damn muddy here at the moment and that's been hooking up really well, I haven't had any moments where I've thought I need something a bit spikier and beefier, which is pretty impressive at this time of the year.
And then there are a few more components from Race Face, the cranks and wheels. You're running alloy wheels, would you ever run carbon wheels for enduro racing?
Nah, carbon wheels do not interest me at all. I like a soft wheel, I feel like that gives you a good feeling, good contact with the ground and extra grip with having a compliant wheel. I don't really see the benefit in a carbon wheel, again if you get a puncture with an alloy wheel you can finish the stage and fix the puncture and carry on, whereas with carbon if you get a puncture and try to finish the stage chances are you're going to have to change the wheel and take that 5-minute penalty. So yeah, not for me. With the cranks it's awesome to have a power meter in them, it's been quite a while since I've had a power meter on my race bike and that's helped me so much with my training and giving my coach better insight into where I'm at and where I need to improve. It's going to be cool to see data from racing, like what your power output is doing on the last stage on race day and that kind of stuff.
Greg was one of the first racers that got to sample the latest 4 pot Shimano XTR stoppers. He runs his front lever a little lower than the back due to an old shoulder injury.
Any comments on the drivetrain?
I was pretty lucky with the XTR, I was one of the first to get that back in 2018 I think and I absolutely love it. I've had no issues whatsoever over the last few years. Generally my go-to has been the 10-45 cassette with the 34T chainring on the front. I’ve felt like that's enough in the past but I’m trying the larger 51 cassette at the moment. It’s nice having that extra gear to be able to really cruise up a climb and recover between stages. I used to run a di2 double ring and it was nice being able to spin up climbs and save the legs from walking too much. If I run out of gears now I'm quite happy to push and get some food in, you need to eat a lot whilst racing so we take the chance when we can.
Could you run us through your brake setup?
I run my front lever a little lower than the back just because of shoulder injury I had when I was younger so my shoulders are different shapes and that's just where my hands feel comfortable. I have the front brake biting a little closer to the bar than the rear, it just prevents me from grabbing too much front brake. I'm running 200mm rotors front and rear.
Any other customisations or peculiarities?
Generally, my stem is crooked but to me it looks straight as my right eye doesn't really work, so my point of view is a little off to the left. So the stem looks straight to me but then when anyone else gets on my bike they tell me it's crooked! It doesn't bother me! I'll set it up and be like that is bang on. Perfect. Nailed it. Then someone else will just look at it and be like it's way off. So I'm a bit wonky!