Martin Maes is always a podium contender in the Enduro World Series with multiple wins and has even won a World Cup Downhill race, but sometimes his bike setups have a few quirks that most people wouldn't consider normal. He's been known to run shorter travel forks, cut-down mud tires on the rear wheel in any conditions, and smaller brake rotors. It would seem that his stature and precision riding can attribute to an original choice of components.
The Belgian enduro wizard has been running Fox suspension and Shimano brakes on his GT bikes for almost a decade, however, he doesn't always jump for the latest and greatest.
Martin has also dabbled with mixed wheel configurations, like this previous generation Force
, but is currently running dual 29" wheels, the way the bike was intended to be set up.
Martin likes a reactive suspension feel that sits deeper in the sag and uses the full range of travel more frequently. This would mean less compression and rebound damping with a softer, more progressive air spring to give support at the end of the travel, but also more grip on tiny trail bed ripples and roots.
One of those quirks I mentioned is the fact that Martin not only chooses the more forgiving Fox 36 chassis, but also prefers a 160 mm spring length, despite the bike's geometry being designed around a 170 mm fork.
First thing's first - The front wheel is the first thing to contact trail objects. Martin is particular to the front end height and handling.
With a BMX background, Martin likes a higher rise 35 mm bar and short stem, but a 50 mm length leads to more weight on the front wheel and therefore more grip for his body positioning.
The idler has 16 teeth and Maes choose a 34 tooth for La Thuile, but that can vary depending on the race venue. The lack of a lower chain guide roller reduces drag.
Quirky or tactical? A 10-45 tooth cassette pairs with a shorter cage derailleur, mitigating damage.
Martin still prefers the actuation of the Saint levers over the new generation of XTR. He positions the levers at a fairly steep angle around 45 degrees.
180 mm rotors provide enough stopping power when you barely use your brakes. The shorter 435 mm chainstay setting allows the rear wheel to whip around corners.
Michelin rubber is new for the team this year - a DH 22 up front and Wild Enduro Front tread out back.
Although Maes has tested carbon rims, he opts for the softer feel and flex aluminum rims deliver, like the Stan's NoTubes Flow EX3.