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Bike Check: Phil Atwill's Propain Rage 3 CF

Jul 6, 2023
by Nick Bentley  



Before we delve into the bike check, I want to mention that due to a massive rainstorm that occurred on Friday night when we were scheduled to shoot Phil's bike check, we had to shoot it in the Propain Positive pits. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances arise, but with the collaboration between myself, Phil, and the Propain Positive team, we managed to make it happen and I'm really grateful for their help.

Phil's bike is truly unique, as there aren't many Propain bikes racing at the World Series. This fact alone makes it quite special. Moreover, Phil's setup is filled with personal touches, and it's evident that each component has been thoughtfully chosen by him. It's not often you come across riders with such deep knowledge and understanding of their own setups. It's also interesting to see Phil trying some new stuff throughout the race weekend, constantly looking for that optimum setup.

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Phil Atwill // Propain Positive
Age: 28
Hometown: Berkhamsted, UK
Height: 186cm
Weight: 70kg
Instagram: @phil_atwill

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Propain Rage
Frame: Propain Rage 3 CF
Shock: Öhlins TTX22 m.2
Fork: Öhlins DH38 m.1
Wheels: Silt AM Alloy 29/27.5"
Tires: Vee Tire Co. Snap WCE
Drivetrain: TRP EVO 7 with a O-Chain
Brakes: TRP DH-R EVO
Cockpit: Sixpack Millennium 805 handlebar, Sixpack Millennium DRM stem
Size: XL
More info: Propain Rage

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Possibly the most notable feature of the Rage 3 CF is its shock position, which is located in front of the seat tube. Propain say this placement allows for better weight distribution, resulting in a low and central center of gravity for the bike. This is done to enhance the bike's stability and handling, particularly in challenging trail conditions. The Rage 3 CF is compatible with both coil shocks and air shocks. Phil goes with a coil. In terms of suspension performance, the Rage 3 CF utilizes PRO10 kinematics. PRO10 is a specific suspension system designed to optimize progression and traction. It aims to provide a balanced suspension feel throughout the bike's travel, allowing riders to maintain control and traction on rough terrain while also providing a supportive platform for jumps and drops. The PRO10 kinematics contribute to the bike's overall capability and performance on the track.

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Phil's personal touches on his frame include unique cable management and additional weight distribution. For cable management, he utilizes electrical tape around the outer part of the cables and secures them with a split gear cable outer end cap tied to the frame. This method helps prevent any movement or noise caused by the cables passing through the frame, ensuring a quieter bike during his race run. This cable management technique is applied to both the rear swing arm and the front triangle of the bike.

In addition to cable management, Phil adds approximately 500 grams of weight to his bike. He wraps this weight in gaffer tape (also known as duct tape) and securely cable ties it to the bottom bracket of the frame. The purpose of this additional weight is to help the bike maintain speed through sections of track where minimal rider input is required. By adding extra weight in this strategic location, Phil believes it improves the bike's ability to carry momentum and maintain speed in those relatively effortless sections.

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The Propain Rage 3 CF offers ample opportunities for adjustment to cater to individual rider preferences. One of these adjustments is the ability to change the chainstay length. In the long position, the chainstay length is set at 460mm, which is the configuration that Phil is currently running in Val Di Sole. However, there is also a shorter option available, with a chainstay length of 445mm. Regardless of the wheel size, riders can choose their preferred chainstay length to optimize the bike's handling characteristics.

Another adjustable feature on the Rage 3 CF is the flip chip on the rear swingarm. This flip chip allows riders to switch between dual 29" wheels or with a smaller 27.5" rear wheel. Phil has chosen to run the bike in the "mullet" configuration, as he has not used the full 29er setup for the past two years. This indicates that Phil feels more comfortable and confident with the bike's performance in the mullet configuration.

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Like many riders, Phil is a fan of a quiet bike and takes additional steps to reduce noise and vibrations. One of his methods involves using VHS tape on the drive side chainstay's top and bottom faces as a form of sound deadening.

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Alongside his Öhlins TTX22 m.2 rear shock, Phil has also been focussing on fine-tuning his suspension, particularly the fork, in collaboration with the Öhlins team throughout the weekend at Val Di Sole. To address specific needs on the track, Phil's fork setup has undergone adjustments. The Öhlins team rebuilt his shim stack, transitioning him from a C40 setup to a firmer C50 build. This modification was aimed at preventing the fork from bottoming out excessively, providing better support and control during his race run. In addition to the shim stack changes, Phil has been adjusting the air pressure in both chambers of his Öhlins fork. He increased the pressure in the ramp-up chamber from 220 to 250 PSI, resulting in a more progressive feel to the fork's initial stroke. This adjustment allows for improved sensitivity over small bumps while maintaining ample support towards the end of the fork's travel.

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Phil also reduced the air pressure in the main air chamber from 128 to 119 PSI. This change aims to enhance the fork's sensitivity and improve its ability to respond to smaller impacts. By fine-tuning the air pressures in both chambers, Phil can achieve the desired balance of sensitivity, support, and control, optimizing the fork's performance on the Val Di Sole track. When it comes to compression settings, Phil has his low speed compression set to 4 clicks from fully open and then the high speed compression set to 1 click from fully open.

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Phil, like many DH riders now, runs the O-Chain Active Spider. This is their 12-degree model which Phil says is great when he cases jumps.

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For the rest of the groupset, we have the brand-new TRP EVO 7 DH groupset, which includes the new TRP 7-speed cassette.

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Phil has a unique cockpit setup. One of the first things you notice is how flat he has his brake levers rotated. It seems to be a personal preference of his, as the position is scratched into his alloy Sixpack Millenium 805 handlebars.

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In terms of brakes, Phil uses a set of TRP's DH-R EVO Gold brakes. Interestingly, he has set them up so that the rear brake's bite point is much closer to the handlebar than the front brake. This is a trend that I've noticed more and more on DH bikes.

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Val Di Sole is a tough track on brakes and to combat this Phil uses their brand new laser cut 220mm diameter brake discs front and back.

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Phil, being a tall guy, has added 18mm of risers below his 50mm direct mount Sixpack Millenium DRM stem mounted to the flat Öhlins crown on his fork. Additionally, his Sixpack Millenium 805 aluminium handlebars have a 40mm rise. Phil also cuts his bars down to a width of 785mm for his personal preference.

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Phil's cockpit is completed with a set of ODI Longneck V2.1 Lock-on Grips.

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Phil's bike is equipped with a set of Silt AM Alloy wheels in a mullet configuration. In the rear, there is a Technomousse Red Poison insert installed with a Vee Tires 27.5" x 2.4" DH-cased Snap WCE tyre running at 27 PSI. The front tyre does not have an insert and features another DH-cased Snap WCE tyre, this time in a 2.6" width, running at 23 PSI. Phil recently switched to the 2.6" tyre on the front and is loving how it feels.

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Phil uses clipless pedals for racing, provided by his sponsor Sixpack Racing. Specifically, he uses their Millennium X pedals with the clip mechanism tightened up to its maximum setting. To ensure his feet stay securely in place, he fits a full set of pins on the pedals, ensuring there is no movement in his feet while riding.

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Phil's bike is finished off with a Sixpack saddle.

Author Info:
Mandownmedia avatar

Member since Nov 28, 2019
291 articles

85 Comments
  • 182 0
 Great review of Phil's propain and propain accessories
  • 8 1
 Gold
  • 116 1
 “Phil has also been focussing on fine-tuning his front suspension, particularly the fork”. I like this sentence a lot. Thanks
  • 13 0
 Haha yeah and brake lever position 'seems to be a personal preference of his' !!!
  • 29 0
 @YukonMog: "Phil has chosen to run the bike in the "mullet" configuration, as he has not used the full 29er setup for the past two years. This indicates that Phil feels more comfortable and confident with the bike's performance in the mullet configuration."

Reads like a 10 year old kid writing his first science project. Everything has a glaringly obvious conclusion drawn from it
  • 67 1
 Not to split hairs... BUT, gaffer tape uses cotton fibers and has a matte sheen, whereas duct tape uses plastic fibers and has a glossy sheen. jus' sayin'
  • 9 0
 TIL
  • 1 0
 Fellow film nerd here, glad someone else picked up on this
  • 1 0
 It's all about the details!
  • 6 0
 More importantly gaffers doesn't leave residue behind. It also works horrible on ducts.
  • 1 0
 Thank you! I did not know that. You learn something every day, and today it was something useful (hmm, or maybe just intereting) for once! I can now turn my brain off for the rest of the day.
  • 64 3
 This reads like it was written by a bot trained by reading grade school book reports.
  • 13 2
 agreed, it is way off. this 'Nick Bentley' for sure is a bot. this reads about as awkward as the other bike check he ChatGPT'd the other day, about Blenki's bike. it reads just as awkward, ie. 'Sam has taken full advantage of this flexibility to optimize the bike's performance according to his own preferences.

However, in this case, the upper link on Sam's bike remains in the stock configuration.'
so did he, or did he not take full advantage, huh 'Nick'?

the entire thing is so off it really stands out.

with this kind of writing it will be a while before they replace their editorial staff with bots.
  • 6 1
 or: 'Sam's bike is completed with a Deity I-beam saddle and seat post. Sam has his saddle positioned with the nose pointing upward.'
unlike all the other pro riders on the circuit who prefer to have their saddles pointing downward. sheesh...
  • 17 14
 @kopaczus: Hi I am not a bot I’m a person and this is just the style of how I write I’m sorry if you don’t like that but I’m working really hard to produce a lot of content from a very busy races it won’t always be perfect as much as I want it to be.

Also having ridden a lot of World Cup riders bikes around the pits and been doing this a while Sams bike really dose stand out for its nose high saddle it isn’t common at all

Thanks for your comments Nick
  • 21 0
 @Mandownmedia: Exactly what a bot would say... Skynet.
  • 13 0
 @Mandownmedia: Respect for repping yourself. But saying it's "just my style" will prevent you from doing better. Best of luck.
  • 3 6
 @sonuvagun: I'm not really the kind of person who doesn't stand up and defend themselves. Don't get me wrong, when errors get through, I properly beat myself up more than how annoyed you guys get with them happening. But I'm human, and so are the editors, and this stuff happens.
  • 5 0
 @sonuvagun: somehow reminds of when I was in the music stuff and anyone playing sloppy or badly would say - it's my style, this way it has more feel, etc. Only because the technical part of their playing was pretty poor
  • 6 0
 @Mandownmedia: We get that mate but I got halfway through and gave up. I know everyone's smitten with ChatGPT but it sticks out like a sore thumb and it's not "you".
  • 5 0
 @Mandownmedia: I've read quite a bit of articles on here and those two bike checks are by far the weirdest ones yet. my hypothesis is that Outside is putting pressure on Pinkbike to reduce costs and this is a trial run to eventually replace the editors with bots such as yourself. I'm raising my hand and calling you out.
  • 2 2
 @kopaczus: I’m sorry you all feel this way I’m doing my best here. I’ve written a lot in the site maybe then this one wasn’t one that people liked I’m sorry for that but I’m not a bot. Also I’m not useing Chat GPT to write my bike checks maybe I shouldn’t have engaged with the whole “comments section” but when your working flat out to do things stuff gets to you
  • 2 0
 @kopaczus: Not a bot. It is Nick's car.
  • 2 0
 @Mandownmedia: Conclusions are just opinions at the end of the day, you'll always be wrong...! Stick to facts is my advice.
  • 4 0
 I remember many PB "bike checks" that were incredibly sparse on details, so I'll stand up for Nick's bike checks here, maybe they have a little fluff and awkward moments but they are not lacking in detail
  • 39 1
 Propain and GasGas should do a collab. They should call it the Propain Gas.
  • 8 0
 or they could call the apparel section on their website "propain accessories"
  • 17 0
 What that bike needs is a few moar zipties!
  • 14 0
 Give Phil Atwill any bike; he will always be stylish and unique!
  • 11 0
 So, Propain (as many other companies) know that riders like silent bikes but they still fail to make them in 2023… Let the zip ties roll
  • 2 1
 Absolutely stoked on my Propain but I have tried every way to stop the rattling. There must be a reason they are oversizing their cable tubes or is it that the tube is straight but a few gentle bends might create some cable housing tension? I don't know but the bike is perfect except for the cable rattle but it is enough to question the brand in the future if this frame dies. It makes it even more frustrating when you run really good suspension that soaks up all the high frequency chatter and makes the bike ever more quiet which of course then makes the cable noise even louder.
  • 12 0
 This post written by GPT4.
  • 4 0
 My thoughts exactly, the writing is clunky af
  • 9 0
 I soooooo want him to win a race. That would make my year and be so much fun. Santa, can you make that happen for me? I've been good...
  • 11 0
 Dammit Bobby!
  • 9 2
 I love this bike but ... Propain, come on!!! How do you allow one of your factory riders on a factory bike to go around with frame guards made with zip-ties??? Where is the professionalism?
  • 2 0
 Love the looks of the propaine bikes but the cable entry with those rubber stoppers, which only stay in place with zip ties look so cheeeep.
  • 2 0
 Agree. I’ve always loved the look of Propain frames so purchased a Tyee (alloy version). The lack of refinement on the smaller details was clear.

Every time I pulled a cable through you were literally shaving the outer hose on the hole burrs
  • 3 0
 its an add on weight! trust me , Phil cares not for a frame guard =D
  • 2 0
 Phil is not on factory Propain team Wink
  • 1 1
 @ciechan: yes he is .... check Propain website
  • 5 1
 What a bike! I have been lucky enough to have worked with Phil and the bike and gotten to know all the little tricks Phil uses to give him that little bit extra. We are also stoked to have the opportunity to work with Phil and the team to develop a rim that does the job, and then some! Phil and the team have been helping us design our new DH/Enduro rim that will be out very soon!!
  • 5 0
 Those 'new' TRP rotors remind me of another brand's rotor design, sans fins. Not sure that's enough to throw off the patent lawyers.
  • 1 0
 Let’s see if they come at the same price too
  • 1 0
 Literally thought they were galfer rotors haha. I run these brakes and just got galfer 223s front and back to try as TRP ones suck
  • 1 0
 @Jordmackay: you did not like the trp rotors? why?
  • 1 0
 @nicoenduro: They are ok but I've had numerous disk or pads glaze over and have really bad brake fade on tracks that aren't even long.

TRP brakes with Galfer purple pads and rotors are the one!
  • 1 0
 @Jordmackay: i'm just trying out trickstuff pads on the 2.3mm trp rotors on magura mt7 brakes, i was tired of the shitty mdrp, great performances but they just don't last
  • 1 0
 @nicoenduro: Defo try purple galfer pads. Best of the best. Or even green on the front for shorter tracks, but they wear quick.
  • 5 0
 Good to know that even the pros use zipties and jerry-rigged rubber on their chainstay. I guess I'm doing it right.
  • 5 0
 I change my fork oil every 3,000 miles or whenever I get bored. Whichever comes first.
  • 3 0
 Hopefully he doesn't get cut on those partially trimmed zip ties. Those are my pet peeve can't believe a pro mechanic wouldn't take the extra half second to trim them properly..
  • 3 0
 I wish Propain would offer Ohlins on their website bike builder. This bike looks mint but I'm done with Fox and Rockshox
  • 1 0
 The top cap might say Acros but I hope it’s a better one than came on my Commencal that lasted all of a week, it might have been user error but the cane creek has outlasted it by two seasons with the same user
  • 2 0
 I've added weight to my bike in strategic location...it's called a steel frame Smile
  • 1 0
 every time I ride my bike I and weight (about 80kg give or take) in a strategic position above the bottom bracket.
  • 4 0
 so f**king beatiful *.*
  • 3 0
 I won't rest until there's a world jib championship.
  • 3 0
 Is pinkbike trying to outsource bike checks to an AI?
  • 1 0
 Gotta say, the black and gold tugs at my heart strings. Reminds me of my first high end Kawahara bmx bike when I was a squirt.
  • 2 0
 Has anyone tried the technomousse inserts?
  • 1 0
 This whole article felt like someone trying to reach the minimum word count submission at school
  • 1 0
 VHS tape for sound dampening? Can someone asplain this to me?
  • 2 1
 It's a brand of adhesive chainstay protection. Google.
  • 5 4
 You could simply type it into the googler and find all the info,
as a self proclaimed "bike nerd" you should have heard about this...

This video will explain all

www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ
  • 1 0
 Would love to know geo stats on bike checks
  • 1 0
 even the pro's have issues with VHS tape not sticking
  • 1 0
 Glad I didn't buy it now and went with the old school wrapped inner tube. Works a treat.
  • 1 0
 @betsie: great! it works. it's cheap. quick solution
  • 1 0
 One of the nicest bikes atm
  • 3 5
 weight addition is a bizarre thing I've never seen before only in a drift car!
  • 7 0
 It's been tried for DH racing in various forms for many years now. The first time I heard of it was around 15 years ago, Mojo Suspension team, led by Chris Porter.
  • 3 0
 @mammal: I didn't know it was common.
  • 3 0
 @Shahriar: I don't know about common but you see it occasionally.

Orange even had a prototype frame with bolt holes on the underside of the downtube to attach weighted plates:

www.bikeradar.com/news/add-weight-go-faster-orange-bucks-the-lightness-trend/?image=1&type=gallery&gallery=1&embedded_slideshow=1
  • 5 0
 @Tanglefist: And not a coincidence, the Mojo team that first tested out the idea rode Orange bikes (Cathro a part of that team at the time).
  • 3 0
 @mammal: Not to mention the aero catsuits! I don't always agree with Chris Porter, but I respect his will to innovate and he's right more often than he's wrong.
  • 1 0
 @R-M-R: Way off topic. Has anybody every made spacers for direct mount stems that work like riser on skateboards. IE they can absorb some feedback?
  • 1 0
 @R-M-R: Agreed. I love listening/reading long interviews with CP. He's got a great mind and always a strong conviction.
  • 4 0
 @Tsoxbhk: I feel that's a yes. Could swear I remember some polymer handlebar shims and stem spacers over the years - not to mention suspension stems, pivoting handlebars, and rotating grips. It would be a simple and cheap task to cut out spacers from various polymers to test the idea.

As I often say, I believe this is the wrong approach. Skateboards are simpler, with few options to add comfort and fewer ways to control the vehicle. Bikes have many more options, and not all are equal - i.e. increase the best sources of comfort and minimize the least beneficial ones. For example, tire compliance cuts off the vibrations right at the source, while flexing bars allow the entire chassis to move. The worst system is one that maximizes "see-saw" rocking of the handlebar, while minimizing linear, synchronous movement (the latter like the movement of a suspension fork). Such a system produces a high detriment to control, with a relatively low benefit to vibration management. A better solution would be a larger tire on a wider rim (to increase lateral stability of the larger tire). Even if we insist on addressing vibration at the bar or stem, a thinner bar with thicker grips is a better solution - the most extreme example (too extreme, but just for example) would be a bar that flattens to a plate on the underside and affords many times the current amount of rubber between it and your palms, which would be more comfortable than a bar that moves.

@mammal: I think Porter's shortcomings come from excessive reliance on his own experiences and preferences. Every designer should realize they are only one person, and everyone has their own quirks, unique experiences, and unpopular preferences. Applying his insightful thinking to a broader scope of observations could further elevate his insights and improve his solutions.
  • 2 0
 @R-M-R: Ah good call! Always appreciate your feedback.
  • 1 1
 .....
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