Nico Lau's Cube Stereo Race Bike
Nico Lau is a man who isn't afraid to do things a bit differently, as the setup of his 160mm travel Cube proves. While the majority of us, and likely a lot of the EWS field, would build a 160mm travel bike up in a predictable way - picture a fork with similar travel, probably a single chain ring and chain guide combo, and a relatively low handlebar position - Nico tends to, ahem, think a bit more outside the box. This approach even applies to his suspension setup (more on that later), and it results in a pretty unique riding bike, as I got to discover at last year's EWS race in Whistler.
Lau's suspension setup for the first race of the 2015 EWS season mirrors what he rode for much of 2014, with one exception: his custom tuned Float X is equipped with the new EVOL air can that we've seen on other FOX sponsored athletes at the Rotorua race. This is the large-volume air can that provides a more linear feel and requires higher pressures, and Lau explained to us that he prefers the more consistent feel through the stroke that it provides - he's referring to a more linear spring rate that doesn't ramp up drastically in the later stages of its stroke. If his spring rate and rebound settings are anything like what it was when I rode his bike last year, there's a good chance that most of us would find it surprisingly soft and quick to return.
Yes, this makes for an odd feeling on flat ground, but the bike turns into serious animal on steep or fast trails because the soft rear end helps to both keep the back end low and the head angle a bit slacker than it would be if he was running a more traditional setup. As always, he uses a remote to control the shock's CTD function when on the move.
His 180mm travel FOX 36 has 20mm over what most of his competition is running, further helping matters when the things get serious. It's worth noting that the 180mm FOX has a pretty respectable axle-to-crown height that doesn't slow the bike's handling as much as one might assume, although 'balance' might not be a word in Nico's vocabulary - the fork was much firmer than the other end of the bike in Whistler. It's an unconventional setup, but it's also one that he uses to go very, very fast, and he's often regarded as one of the quickest downhillers on the EWS circuit. Maybe we should all be having a go at a setup from left field? Shimano XTR Di2 Drivetrain
We showed you Justin Leov's Di2 equipped Remedy yesterday, but he's not the only guy with batteries bolted to his bike. Lau is another racer with Shimano's top tier off-road drivetrain, but, unlike Leov, Nico is running two chain rings... but still only using a single shifter on the right hand side. His Di2 has been programmed to shift between the small and large chain rings all on its own, which is pretty damn cool, and it means that his cluttered cockpit setup from last season is a little bit cleaner this year. That said, there's still both the D.O.S.S and CTD remotes, both with two levers each, beside his left grip. This setup, with 36 and 28 tooth 'rings, lets him save his legs for when it really counts, and he said that we really likes the gearing range that it provides. In fact, he wants to go even higher on the top end by using a 38 tooth 'ring as soon as he can get his French paws on one. He's also running a small chain tensioning device zip-tied to the bike's chain stay, but not the milled down XTR large chain ring that we saw him employ as a guard last season. He told us that his chain retention has been ''perfect'' so far, and he's clearly confident in it if he's rocking it at an EWS race.
Nico's handlebar looks to be higher than the average nineteen year old visiting Amsterdam for the first time, but while the positioning is certainly tall, it's not as drastic as it might look. Those spacers and the tall, conical cap of the FSA headset look odd, but keep in mind that the Cube's head tube is a bit shorter than what's used on many other bikes, so some compensating must be done. Lau is also aiming to create a cockpit that resembles a downhill bike, which isn't out of line given that an EWS event is basically a handful of downhill races that you have to pedal to the top of. The bike's 180mm travel fork, combined with the two tall headset spacers under his stem, gives him the DH bike-esque front end that he feels allows him to push hard when things get hectic.
His Di2 drivetrain makes it obvious that Lau isn't afraid of batteries or technology, and he's mounted up a GPS unit to keep track of his progress throughout the day. Also, the Di2's computer head is tucked up behind his handlebar and right up against the stem in order to protect it if things go south at speed.