This bike check is unlike most I have done. Not only is the bike itself unique, but Sam is also quite unique in himself. After 8 years with Norco, Sam has chosen his own path this year by building his own program, working with the brands he wants to collaborate with, and creating his own team. Most importantly, it allows Sam to have his own bike set up his way.
In my experience with bike checks, riders vary in their level of involvement. Some are hands-off when it comes to their bikes, letting the team handle everything, while others meticulously examine every detail, ensuring that each part is optimized to the best of its abilities. Of course, there are plenty of riders who fall somewhere between the two ends of that spectrum. Sam, however, falls into the highly involved category, and he absolutely loves it. He is constantly seeking ways to improve his bike and find any performance boost that can give him an edge on the track. I'm not sure I have ever done a bike check with a rider of this caliber who has been so enthusiastic about every aspect of their bike. As I mentioned before, both the rider and the bike here are truly unique.
The Crestline RS 205 VHP carbon DH frame was developed through a partnership between Crestline Bike Co and Cascade Components. This particular frame is a limited edition, with only 50 units being produced by Crestline Bike Co - Sam has frame number 3 of the limited edition run here in Lenzerheide.
The idler pulley on the Crestline RS 205 VHP plays a crucial role in controlling chain growth. It effectively limits the chain growth to just 3mm throughout the full travel of the bike. Additionally, it provides the flexibility to make slight adjustments, which can lead to improved pedal characteristics and optimized bike performance depending on the idler position chosen.
Although Sam didn't mention whether he had moved his idler, based on what I observed, it appears to be in the stock position.
The partnership with Cascade Components indeed brings a lot of flexibility to the Crestline RS 205 VHP. The availability of aftermarket links from Cascade allows riders to fine-tune the bike's suspension characteristics to their preference, providing a customized feel. 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.
The lower link on Sam's bike, on the other hand, is a custom Cascade-made Blenkinsop link. This custom link alters bike leverage rate, making it lighter during the initial portion of travel and progressively ramping up as it moves through the travel. Sam finds this characteristic more to his liking, but he is still considering further changes. The team at Cascade Components is able to manufacture new links for him with a quick turnaround time of about a week.
The relationship between Sam and his sponsors appears to be highly fluid and dynamic. Sam is constantly seeking every possible advantage and believes that there is still more potential to unlock from this frame. Over the course of the season, he plans to make these incremental changes that will ultimately add up to significant improvements, allowing him to fine-tune the bike to his exact preferences.
Sam's SR Suntour Rux Fork is far from standard. He has made significant changes to the setup, particularly to adapt to the high speed and rough conditions of the track at Lenzerheide. Normally, Sam prefers a softer and smoother feel in his fork, especially in wet conditions, and he typically runs only one volume spacer.
However, for the dry and hard conditions during the race weekend he has chosen to stiffen up the fork. He has added two volume spacers and increased the air pressure from his usual 94psi to 97psi. Before the semi-finals, he was still contemplating whether to further increase the pressure to address the loose feeling he experienced during the qualification runs.
In terms of high-speed compression, Sam prefers to run it fully open, allowing for maximum sensitivity and absorption of impacts during high-speed sections of the track. As for low-speed compression, he has it set at +6, which provides additional support and stability during slower, more technical sections.
Sam has a strong preference for an extremely fast rebound, to the point that he has a custom-built cartridge specifically designed for him by Kevin at SR Suntour. This customized cartridge allows for an exceptionally quick rebound, giving Sam the desired light feeling in his fork.
The Crestline RS 205 HVP has 205mm of rear travel, which is controlled by a fully bespoke SR Suntour shock specifically built by Kevin at SR Suntour for Sam's Crestline. This custom shock features pre-set internal high and low-speed compression settings that have been fine-tuned during testing to suit Sam's preferences and riding style.
The rebound on Sam's shock is set to its fastest setting, allowing for rapid return of the shock after compression.
When it comes to wheels and tires, Sam has opted for a fairly standard setup. He uses a set of DT Swiss FR541 wheels paired with Maxxis Assegai 29" x 2.5" DH casing tires both in the front and rear. Despite the growing popularity of the mullet setup, Sam, being a larger rider, doesn't feel that it would provide any significant advantage for him, so he sticks with two 29er wheels for now.
However, Sam does have CushCore inserts both in the front and rear wheels. These inserts serve not only to protect the rims but also provide a damping effect that Sam likes. He also prefers the feel of heavier wheels as he believes they offer better tracking capabilities.
In terms of tire pressure, Sam typically runs 23psi in the front and 26psi in the rear. Given the bone-dry conditions in Lenzerheide, he might consider adding an additional 1psi to each tire for his race runs, ensuring optimal grip and performance on the dry and dusty terrain.
The drivetrain on Sam's Crestline is a combination of SRAM and FSA components. SRAM supplies the XO DH 7-speed shifter and rear derailleur, as well as the cassette. Additionally, Sam utilizes FSA Gradient cranks and an FSA chainring.
To ensure a quiet and smooth ride, the bike features VHS chainstay protection, which helps minimize chain noise and protect the frame from chain slap and potential damage.
When it comes to pedal choice it's a set of HT X3's for Sam with a full set of pins fitted to them.
Sam's cockpit is composed of Deity components. The handlebar of choice is the Deity Raceline, which has a 25mm rise and a 31.8mm diameter. Sam personally prefers this handlebar because it provides him with the ideal amount of flex he wants when riding. He trims down the handlebars to a width of 790mm. The handlebar is mounted on top of his SR Suntour Rux fork using a Deity Intake direct mount stem with a length of 50mm.
When it comes to grips, Sam is particularly selective, as he prefers to ride without gloves to have a better sense of the bike's feedback. Grip choice is crucial for him, and he relies on a pair of Deity Knuckleduster grips.
Sam has opted for a set of Hayes Dominion A4 brakes on his bike, which are renowned for their performance and are increasingly popular among downhill riders. These brakes are equipped with 203mm Hayes rotors both in the front and rear, ensuring ample stopping power.
Aside from the sheer power these brakes offer, Sam appreciates the precise and consistent feel they provide when he applies the brakes. Sams's brake set up means you need very little lever pull to get full braking, which some people can find a little twitchy, but Sam likes it this way.
Sam's bike is completed with a Deity I-beam saddle and seat post. Sam has his saddle positioned with the nose pointing upward.