Tommy Wilkinson is a name you may well know. World Cup photographer, race organiser, agency-runner, and affable charismatic joker are but a few of his titles. In 2013, Tommy sustained a life-changing injury that pulled all the peripheral nerves out of his spinal cord. This meant he lost the function of his right arm entirely. In fact, they were detached with so much force that they actually damaged the central cord at the C3. Interestingly enough, a consequence of Tommy's injury, and a testament to the complications of the human body and its nervous system, is that whilst Tommy still has full mobility in his left leg, he no longer feels temperature and has lost much of its sensory function.
After the injury, Tommy wished to get back on his bike quite quickly. However, the consequences of the injury were far reaching. It took him around six months to learn to walk again and it wasn't until a trip to New Zealand many months later that things really clicked with bicycle riding again.
Tommy rode the Old Ghost Road on a modified Giant Reign by Paul "Pang" Angus, who's a friend from their days on the Clan DH team. For Tommy, this seems to have been something of a watershed moment. It got him back out there, enjoying the trails with friends. Although that bike did an admirable job, there's a large gulf between that setup and Tommy's current one.
With the help of SRAM, Tommy has worked out several key changes that have large knock-ons in terms of both ease of use and ultimately performance, and isn't that what we're all aiming for?The Build
A mid-travel trail bike offers a good compromise for Tommy and the technical trails he likes to ride.
The SRAM Code's master cylinder displaces enough oil to operate both Level calipers.Frame & Wheels
Tommy rides a size large Santa Cruz Tallboy CC. When I asked "travel?" Tommy "yes, it will happily do 15 miles on a Sunday morning". With the top draw dad-jokes out the way and onto the suspension, the comparatively micro measurements are 120mm in the rear of the bike paired to a 150mm fork. Ample for a trail bike. Tommy stands at 182cm and runs the bike in its low setting.
The main draw of the bike is the one-sided brake and the steering damper. Steering dampers are common in other two-wheeled pursuits although less so in mountain biking. They essentially mute the trail feedback and aid stability. Think of it a bit like hitting a curb with your wheel - the handlebars act as a lever to magnify this force and the Hopey headset will help resist that sudden jolt. Similarly, it will add a degree of weight and precision to rider inputs.
Tommy runs Zipp 3Zero Moto wheels shod with Maxxis Assegai and DH2 combination. Tommy uses the Tyrewiz and 22PSI front and rear. The Zipp Motos are a wheel famed for their vertical compliance, and it seems very fitting for this application.Headset & Cockpit
Tommy uses not only a steering damper but also a whole contingent of parts from SRAM. The AXS Reverb seatpost he uses is 150mm in drop.Brakes
The single-sided brake lever is the Code RSC and it manages to operate two SRAM Level two-pot calipers. Because of the Code's comparatively large master cylinder, it means it can displace enough oil to operate both calipers. A ramification, which is something of a double-edged sword, is that it's unlikely to achieve the piston pressure to lock either wheel. This, according to Tommy, works well but it is something you have to consciously set up for. He now spends less time with the bike undergoing hard braking and tends to brake for a longer duration at a lower intensity.
To have this system running optimally, Tommy feels it needs to be run with a lower amount of lever throw. This isn't just a preference for braking feel but also because, with just one hand having to provide both grip on the bar as well as operating the controls, the different bite point will affect Tommy's hand, wrist and subsequently body position.
There is a 200mm rotor on the front of the bike and a 180mm one on the rear. The Level T calipers use SRAM sintered pads.
The all important brake divider.Suspension
Tommy explains that because of his rather unique demands, fork setup can be tricky. He tends to weight the fork in a more passive manner, and subsequently find that there is quite a small window in terms of setup. The performance is there, it just takes some tinkering.Drivetrain
Tommy found that the lack of left-sided rear shifters to be a sticking point, let alone running both brakes and a dropper from the same side. Initially, Tommy ran an upside-down gripshift. Whilst this did help it also had two main problems. Firstly, it meant his outer fingers were having to do even more gripping on a shorter length of grip. It also meant that whilst braking and using his weight to drive the bike through compressions, His wrist could begin to rotate on the mechanism and it would also start changing gear. Neither of which were particularly helpful.
Instead, he now uses the AXS lever which controls his dropper and the Blips system to control his gears. The blip buttons, which are more commonly found on road bikes, have been incorporated to the cockpit and held securely with simple electric tape where needed.
To follow Tommy and his adventures, you can find him on Instagram.