Damien Oton's Spartan Carbon - EWS 6 - Whistler

Aug 10, 2014
by Mike Levy  



Damien Oton's name likely wasn't at the top of most fan's list of potential EWS winners before the season kicked off, but the racer from the south of France has proven that he has the fitness and skills to take wins on the world stage. His second place in Valloire was followed up by a big win in La Thuile and, if his casual confidence in Whistler is anything to go by, he's feeling very much at home on the unimaginably steep course that he's racing down this weekend. His weapon is Devinci's new 160mm travel Spartan Carbon, a bike that we first showed you from the last stop at Winter Park in Colorado, and that is actually a lighter, carbon fiber version on the machine designed for last season's World Championships in South Africa, although the EWS course in Whistler makes the South African downhill track look like a paved road in comparison. Damien's Spartan Carbon sports a number of interesting setup points to suit the near vertical sections of the Whistler EWS course.


Serious Sag, Super Slack

The Spartan Carbon's head angle can be adjusted via the flip-able hardware at the rearward shock mount, allowing Damien to run it with either a 66.4 or 65.8 degree head angle. Given how steep and Whistler EWS course is, it's no surprise that he's chosen to go with the slacker of the two options, but he also employs a trick from the downhill world to further dial-in the bike's handling: he's running a massive 40% sag out back for the first four stages of the day. This helps to lower the back of the bike and slacken out the head angle even further, and while that 40% number sounds a bit excessive, it's all about being comfortable enough on the many near vertical sections that make up the majority of the day's racing. Oton won't run the back of the bike that soft all day, however, with him using a shock pump to bump it down to a more conventional 30% sag figure for the final stage that begins on Whistler's famous Top of the World trail before heading down through the Garbonzo zone and onto the lower mountain.

The speeds during that final stage will be much higher than what the racers will be hitting during the previous timed sections, and the course won't be nearly as steep, meaning that a traditional setup makes more sense. It's also worth noting that Oton is running a Vivid Air R2C rather than the Monarch Plus RC3 that comes stock on the production bike, and he told Pinkbike that he prefers the more consistent damping of the Vivid over being able to take advantage of the Monarch Plus' pedal-assist lever. In fact, he feels that the bike pedals so well that he doesn't even turn the Vivid's low-speed compression dial inwards during transfer stages, preferring to just leave it as is instead. As for the front of the bike, Oton isn't making any drastic changes to his Pike's air pressure or damper settings, instead going with what he knows rather than running it any stiffer or with added low-speed compression. That said, the fork is sprung harder than what the average rider would feel comfortable with.

Damien Oton s Devinci Spartan Photo by Colin Meagher
Damien Oton s Devinci Spartan Photo by Colin Meagher
  The stock 160mm travel Spartan Carbon comes from Devinci with RockShox's Monarch Plus RC3, but Oton's production frame is running a Vivid Air R2C to better handle the long and rough descents in Whistler.


A Race Day Build

The drastic change in suspension setup isn't the only alteration that Damien is making to his machine during the day's racing, with the Frenchman also swapping out his handlebar before the final stage. Yes, you read that right, he's changing his handlebar between stage four and five. Oton is a relatively small guy and therefore usually runs a 750mm Truvativ handlebar that better suits not only his stature but also the tight trees found in stages one, two, three and four. Anyone who's gone pinball'ing through a bunch of cedar trees knows what I'm talking about and, from a racer's perspective, having to slow down even the tiniest amount to thread through the tight spots isn't ideal. Move on to stage five, however, and you'll find wide open trail, eye watering speeds, and rough ground, which is why Oton will be fitting a 780mm wide Stevie Smith BlackBox handlebar before rolling in. While a cross-country or downhill racer using a different width handlebar for a specific course isn't unheard of, this is the first time we've seen an enduro racer making such a change between stages.

Damian Oton s Carbon Devinci Spartan bike
  Oton will use a 750mm wide handlebar for most of the day before swapping out to a 780mm for the final stage, and plans on running a 36 tooth chain ring with an upper guide.

Oton has also spent his pre-race training in Whistler experimenting with the gearing on his Spartan Carbon, settling on a 36 tooth chain ring for race day. He used a 32 tooth for pre-riding the course, a choice that helped save his legs for the thousands and thousands of feet of climbing on race day, but prefers the taller gearing when it's time to get serious. Running such a large 'ring means that his chain will spend more time in the larger cogs, thereby increasing chain tension and lessening the chance of suffering a derailment, and he admitted that he'd likely be pushing any of the steeper climbing sections found on the transfer stages - remember, it only counts when the clock is running. There's another motive behind his tall gearing choice, though: ''"I ride with a lot of sag, so if I'm spinning an easy gear all the time I have a bigger chance of hitting my pedals," Oton explained. That 40% sag figure that we talked about above means that his bottom bracket sits quite a bit lower than usual, helping to slacken out his bike for the steep sections but also moving his pedals closer to the ground.


Tire Swap

Deciding what kind of rubber to run is often one of the most difficult setup choices of a race weekend, with rolling speed, traction, and reliability needing to be looked at much differently than if it was your usual downhill or cross-country race. After all, one flat is all it takes to kill the chance of an overall victory, but you also don't want to be turning over 1,200 gram downhill tires all day, do you? As it turns out, the Whistler EWS course is one where a lot of racers, including Oton, are running heavier duty tires than what they might use on a less challenging course. Schwalbe's Magic Mary Super Gravity tires will be mounted on both the front and back of Oton's Spartan Carbon come race day, but he says that he'll likely use a Hans Dampf out back for the final stage that sees rolling speed play a bigger role.



74 Comments

  • + 363
 40% sag 60% swag
  • + 22
 I wish I could give more props
  • - 7
flag hodakaracer96 (Aug 10, 2014 at 21:33) (Below Threshold)
 He is not changing a part, he is making a suspension adjustment that happens to require a tool (air pump). Might as well ban pro-pedal levers if you think this should be banned.
  • - 7
flag hodakaracer96 (Aug 10, 2014 at 21:35) (Below Threshold)
 whoops meant to hit reply on Dmeruphy48
  • - 5
flag wuzupjosh (Aug 11, 2014 at 0:13) (Below Threshold)
 it dosnt make sense .... stifffer than normal in thre front and softer than normal in the back? must be super fun to ride....
  • + 0
 wuzupjosh doesn't seem logical to me too, and we see 'stiffer suspension' a lot, where it's thought the springs are stiffer. I still think the springs temselves are supposedly the 'normal' stiffness, giving you proper sag, while pros ride stiffer damping (or maybe more progressive springs where that is/can be the case).

Where can we check that?
  • + 1
 Having a stiffer set up in the front will keep his head angle from steepening up as well, but it does seem kind of weird because he barley will get full travel out of it.
  • + 3
 @Wuzupjosh- It makes complete sense. The steeper the grade the more the weight taken off the shock and transferred to the fork instead. It's the same reasoning as to why you put a bigger brake rotor on the front and smaller one of the back.
  • + 39
 Next season, pneumatic "spreader bars", widen or narrow your bars at the push of a button...
  • + 23
 I am surprised the rules allow such changes between stages. Seems like it defeats the purpose of enduro racing where you have to balance between downhill set ups with uphill ability. Does anyone know how far you can take it? Can you change out forks, wheels, gearing, etc.....
  • + 6
 I imagine he'll have to carry the bar with him?
  • + 14
 You can change every component on your bike except the fork, wheels, and frame
  • + 1
 I'm also pretty sure that if you break a derailleur that you can get "permission" to have it replaced but it doesn't usually happen. @Dmurphy48 , I agree with you! It's kinda strange how he can make such changes especially with how they normally enforce the rules at an EWS race!
  • + 19
 There is a term us car racers say when its race time. "Run what you brung" Just my opinion but swapping parts is weak. Enduro should be about best balance for all terrain.
  • + 18
 If he carries the parts with him and does all the work himself I don't see the problem with it.
  • + 1
 #spiritofenduro my ass!
  • + 5
 Will work for him the Odi bars with the extension caps at the end of the grips, he can just swap caps and the bar change from narrow to wide and back.... But for my opinion Enduro should keep you bike from start to end the same.
  • - 5
flag hodakaracer96 (Aug 10, 2014 at 21:33) (Below Threshold)
 He is not changing a part, he is making a suspension adjustment that happens to require a tool (air pump). Might as well ban pro-pedal levers if you think this should be banned.
  • + 12
 @hodakaracer96 Pay attention to what we are (and the article) is talking about! He switched out handlebars for stage 5. That is a component!
  • + 8
 I think we should all spend even more time thinking and writing about how the world SHOULD work. How EWS rules SHOULD be made so that it is ethical and common with the spirit of Enduro that I thought everyone is laughing at, making pathetic enduro specific jokes. I could agree with you, the described situation is simply not ethical, and if one was religious, he could be even consider such component swap as a sin, not allowing you to take communion on the closest sunday without redempting yourself in confession. We should not waste time and write a letter of complaint to EWS, that we (trolls and geeks) believe that this and that should work like this and that, not this and that according to those and those rules of this and that specific race. We want to make rules as people who buy bicycle parts.

Now seriously Chill out boys, it is not you racing, just enjoy watching it. Just please email me a copy of it. I am a Schaden-Freude junkie.
  • + 0
 Thats not the "spirit of enduro"
  • + 0
 Even if EWS did want to enforce a certain suspension setup for the whole event, how would they enforce it? Measure sag and control all the compression and rebound dials for each and every rider before each and every stage? Should they also check tyre pressure? Brake lever positions? They've chosen to draw the line at switching out components entirely which is straight forward, easy to put down in writing and easily enforced. Sounds about right to me.
  • + 2
 Whoops, completely missed the handle bar switch so I'll guess I'll get to eat some shit now. Big Grin
Yeah okay, I'll admit I was surprised that was allowed.
  • + 1
 FWIW I tend to agree with the opinions being expressed here - adjusting the set up between stages is one thing, bringing major spare parts with the sole intent of changing the kind of bike ur riding is another. Seems to me that you should only be able to replace parts mid-race if something breaks and you can somehow fix/replace it. (Either because you brought it or someone is willing to loan it to you.)
  • + 1
 Rally drivers can change tyres and shocks etc between stages, when at the service area. I think EWS should be like WRC. If you can exploit the rules then you should - that's racing!
  • + 9
 Tired of bikes being referred to as weapons...
  • + 4
 I'd like to know what you refer to your man tools as
  • - 1
 Agreed, I prefer the word "Tool"....
  • + 10
 It's a weapon if you beat someone with it.
  • + 4
 Does anyone know anything about the Easton havoc wheels, I've seen them on a few bikes now but can't seem to find any info on the net about them
  • - 3
 Rear hub = shit
  • + 3
 Ok, can I borrow your crystal ball? I'd love to have your knowledge of a product that isn't on the market yet! Or are you someone who lives in the past?
  • - 4
flag Pr0-Moo5e (Aug 11, 2014 at 3:17) (Below Threshold)
 They are on the market. I dealt with one set when I worked at the shop I worked at. TBH you'd be better off going with another manufacturer IMO. They got brought back because the rear hub failed!
  • + 1
 I wish someone would tell Easton that they are on the market then! or are you talking about the old wheels and not the ones pictured on the above bike?
  • - 1
 not holding breath for their new wheels based on the well known issues with the hubs of their previous season wheels both mountain bike and road bike Frown
  • + 7
 The hubs can be easily sorted by speaking to your local Easton dealer. They will give you the upgrade kit for free plus the bearing press. Since doing this to mine I have had zero issues in the year or so since. Personally I highly rate the Easton wheels since the upgrade.
  • + 4
 Yea first batch of them definitely had hub issues. Easton owned up, supplied a kit with bearings and press when necessary. Otherwise they're great wheels. Since that issuem. And new ones being made in partnership with race face, qc should be better.
  • - 1
 I still get road bikes into my workshop with easton wheels from 2012 and 2013 that have had nothing but trouble with rear bearing and free hub. There is a reason these wheels are being blown out at knock down prices by non-line retailers Wink
  • + 6
 I'll ask the question again, just for you lot who haven't quite grasped it! Does anyone know anything about the Easton Havoc wheels pictured above? I'm not interested in models from 2/3 years ago and I am absolutely not interested in road wheels!
  • + 3
 Don't know anything, but would also love to know. I've already asked the same question back in the new Steve Smith new ride article. Radio silence.
  • + 7
 Medacus - Those wheels will be launched at Eurobike / Interbike. Front is available as either 15x100 and 20x110 (convertible between each other) Rear comes 12x142, or as a seperate wheel as 12x150/157. Internal rims width 23mm, full sealed UST rim bed. Weights are: 845g Front 20x110, 980g 12x142 Rear, Total 1825g. Available at your local Easton dealer Sept-Oct.
  • + 2
 Thanks Easton :-)
  • + 2
 Thanks for the update Easton
  • + 1
 Interesting how much heavier the new ones will be compared to the previous incarnation which was aimed below 1500.
  • + 1
 jboom - not sure which previous incarnation you are referencing. The only other Havoc is the Havoc 26" which is still offered, they were never aimed below 1500g as the 26" version is 1750g with 20x110 front and 12x142rear.
  • + 1
 uuoahh... [1 slow step backward]... Is this new Havoc only available in 27.5?
  • + 2
 Marsupilami - We will also be offering 26"
  • + 1
 My bad. I thought he said Haven, not Havoc.
  • + 1
 :-) Thanks again
  • + 6
 beauty
  • + 9
 Graphics are dope and the bike looks huge next to Damien. Tweeners look like niners to me
  • + 5
 I think he should get a smaller bike and I can have that one
  • + 1
 hehe true, bike seems to be just on ....an effin' beauty
  • + 2
 I thought bike components/weights had to be the same throughout the race? Pretty sure that was a rule for the European rounds anyway, could someone please clarify!
  • + 4
 this is a crazy amount of change between stages...
  • - 2
 yeah, does not really reflect the spirit of the sport. btw changing handlebar during same day does not seem a good idea to me
  • + 4
 I met Damien on the lift just a few days ago. Nice guy.
  • + 4
 It's only enduro, so calm down everybody.
  • + 4
 Umpa lunpa
  • + 3
 A very very fast umpa lumpa
  • + 1
 Does that mean next years spartan models will have internal cable routing as well?
  • + 1
 That's a smart looking bike, I like it. Ya he's gotta me no more than 5'6" ish and the bike looks tall in front of him
  • + 1
 He is a dual sport threat, enduro mtb & horse jockey! :I
  • + 1
 I thought part of enduro was about keeping the same bike...
  • + 0
 I hear this bike's excellent standover clearance allows you to hop off and walk technical parts of the trail!
  • + 1
 weight?
  • - 1
 He's tiny. How tall is he?

Not to be an ass, just interested in knowing.

He can't be much more than 5'6".
  • + 1
 I too would like to know how tall he is and what size bike. I'm 5'6 and am wondering what size spartan to get. I'm always in between sizes. Pinkbike should add rider stats to pro bike checks.
  • + 0
 NNNDurOOOO!!!
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