DH Bike Setup Changes - Vallnord World Cup 2018

Jul 13, 2018
by Mike Levy  

Have you ever wondered how much World Cup racers change their setup from weekend to weekend? The last stop was the fearsome and fast Val di Sole course, but this weekend's track in Vallnord, Andorra, is different in that it's steeper than the VDS track, and with plenty of bomb holes to plow through, but not as rooty and rough overall.

Pinkbike's Ross Bell tracked down a handful of World Cup mechanics to figure out what's different about their riders' bikes between the two weekends.

Dave Garland - Danny Hart
Dave Garland - Danny Hart
Dave Garland - Danny Hart

Having wrenched for Danny Hart for many years, and now doing the same thing at the Madison Saracen Factory Race Team, Dave Garland is one of the most experienced mechanics on the circuit. He explained that Hart's bike (pictured above) is actually quite a bit different than how it was in Val di Sole, with a bit lower tire pressure up front (exact pressures weren't shared) but a touch more spoke tension as well. Danny had a 38-tooth 'ring in Italy, but he's moved down to a 36-tooth here in Andorra.

A common theme in the pits is a taller front-end combined with a softer rear-end in an effort to deal with the steepness here in Vallnord. Danny's Fox X2 shock sees a bit less low-speed compression to have it sit a touch deeper into its stroke, while the fork has a little more "sit up," Garland said, presumably referring to more low-speed compression.

Grant Sides - Marcelo Gutierrez
Grant Sides - Marcelo Gutierrez
Grant Sides - Marcelo Gutierrez

Grant Sides wrenches on Marcelo Gutierrez's Giant Glory (shown above), and it's a bike that's also seen some changes from Val di Sole, the most notable of those being a switch to different rubber. Gutierrez is a big fan of Maxxis' DHR II, so it was no surprise to see him use those in Italy, but he's gone for the new Assegai on both ends here in Vallnord.

Marcelo's suspension sees some updates, too, with a firmer compression tune on the fork and the shock, but a lighter spring rate on the latter to have it sit into its stroke a bit more. Again, that's to deal with the steepness of the Vallord track, as is Gutierrez's handlebar height that, while taller than usual, is actually the same that he ran in Italy.

Jesse Wigman Greg Williamson
Jesse Wigman Greg Williamson

Jesse Wigman is the lucky duck who works on Greg Williamson's drool-worth Unno Ever (shown above), which is probably the sharpest looking downhill bike in the pits. Williamson has made an interesting change from his setup in Val di Sole, with Wigman explaining that his rider his moved from the 780mm wide handlebar that he usually uses to an 800mm width for Vallnord.

He also prefers the 31.8mm diameter clamp to the 35mm size for a "different feeling," according to Wingman. Williamson is back on an air shock, too.

Pierre -Alexandre Roche - Loris Vergier
Kevin Joly - Finn Iles

Pierre-Alexandre Roche spins wrenches for Santa Cruz's Loris Vergier, with Roche explaining that Vergier's V10 29er (above left) is back to its 'Lo' suspension setting for a slacker head angle and lower bottom bracket height. The change in shock mounting would usually call for a slightly higher spring rate, but he's stayed with the same spring as he used in Val di Sole to get the rear-end to sag a bit more than usual.

Finn Iles' Specialized Demo (above right) sees the same treatment as the other bikes: Finn's mechanic, Kevin Joly, said that his rider is running a softer rear-end combined with a firmer front-end.


  • + 104
 PB if it possible, we'd like interviews with the team staff. (Mechanics, nutritionists, bus drivers, etc.)
Those are always fun and will have many clicks Wink
  • + 72
 Noted - we'll get on some of those.
  • - 105
flag thesharkman (Jul 13, 2018 at 19:47) (Below Threshold)
 Who's we? Speak for yourself.
  • + 22
 @mikelevy: I would LOOOOOVE to hear from nutritionists. And bus drivers, of course.
  • + 24
 @anchoricex: the bus drivers are the nutritionists.
  • + 22
 I need to know what toilet paper is used and what compression settings.
  • + 7
 What about the bus mechanics? I would love to hear from them, I bet they would have some stories to tell.
  • + 14
 @qldmtb: what about the bus nutritionist?
  • + 5
 @mikelevy: maybe ask what their take on ‘down country’, and maybe some set-up tips for down country bikes.
  • + 8
 @mikelevy: Or the logistics behind a WC and how they set it up, speak to the trail builders, timing guys and other key guys. Could we see a day in the life of your media team at the WC too?
  • + 5
 I would love to hear from the bus mechanic's nutritionist as well
  • + 19
 Interestingly enough, I prefer 31.8 clamping as well. I am not, by no stretch of the imagination, at World Cup level but my 31.8mm Vibrocore just feels better than my 35mm SixC.
  • + 4
 I agree. After numerous warranty issues with carbon bars and finally cracking one on a stupid off I'm back to 31.8 aluminum bars. 31.8 to 35 might be more of a preference but I'm happy to not be worried about my bars snapping off anymore.
  • + 4
 The 35 is generally too stiff. Amaury is on a 31.8 as well.
  • + 11
 Specific spoke tension is a thing?? That’s the one thing that I thought was set and leave. Oops
  • + 8
 Well, with all these wiggly 29 wheels you gotta stay on top of it!
  • + 8
 @bikebike69: Danny’s on 27.5.
  • + 12
 That Unno is so clean
  • + 5
 That the Norco and Commencal with the weight nice and low and central just look so right. Brilliant looking bikes.
  • + 2
 reminds me of Foes Fly a bit
  • + 2
 I've been rolling something about our bikes and racing around in my head, and I'm not sure where to discuss, so this seems at least somewhat related.

I have been looking for the UCI regs on what restrictions there are on a DHI bike, and I'm not sure there are any. In automotive racing terms, well, there is no direct comparison because a COMPLETELY open class doesn't exist is any series I'm aware of.

I think if you want to push real development in mountain biking, and not just marketing-driven improvements, you need two things:
1. Standardize aspects of the race bikes, and
2. Homologation requirements.

Imagine if DH bikes were restricted to suspension travel not greater than 180mm, brake rotors no larger than 180mm, and measured tire sizes no greater than actual 27.5” x 2.4”. Then you would see actual, demonstrable improvements in tire materials tech, tread patterns, suspension design, and brake technology.

Maybe homolgation rules wouldn't work for DH, being the F1 of mountain biking, but in some series (maybe EWS), forcing brands to sell a minimum number of the exact same bikes that their riders race on would give us the same access as the pros to the good stuff.

It might not be popular, but I think that enforcing limitations in racing will actually improve the bikes the rest of us ride, even more and quicker than the rate of change we are seeing now. Also, if more aspects of race bikes are homogenized, then we get to see which suspension designs work best, whose tire work best, etc. I don't care if some particular interface is 3% stiffer than the last generation product if it actually slows me down in real world riding. I think that leaving the bike design wide open is actually bad for innovation, and a paradise for marketers who never have to truly prove their innovations in a more controlled comparison.
  • + 4
 Having a wide variety of DH bike configurations makes for a greater variety of parts and bikes to choose from as a consumer. Moar stuff for consumers to consume.
  • + 3
 @Sshredder: I've always thought that myself, until I started wondering why DH bikes have standardized (stagnated?) at 8” of travel. Is it because it's easy for the engineers and more travel than the rest of us realistically need? I honestly don't know. But that got me thinking, what if the engineers had to work in a stricter set of parameters? Maybe you could keep all the options, but like an IMSA or Le Mans race, have classes. Have a 29er class, a 650b class, and an overall.

I guess another aspect of this thinking is if you really want to prove who the best rider is, consider events with really strict equipment rules like stock car racing has.

I’m spitballing. Maybe the whole idea sucks, but I wanted to have some sort of discussion to work through it a bit.
  • + 1
 @toooldtodieyoung: Standardizing the DH bikes would put more emphasis on the riders and less on the bikes.
its a great idea to prove who is the better rider. but there would be no room for innovation with the diversity now being experienced.
Who would of thought that high pivot frames would be used again?
or that 29 inch wheels would take off.
is one desighn better than the rest?
A fat bike fully rigid DH race would be very cool to watch Smile
  • + 4
 I would disagree. I think most manufactures are already forced into Homologation of their race equipment. The cost of opening a mold for tires,frames,ect. is so expensive that no one is trying to do a one of for worldcup only bike. (no ones throwing Mclaren money at bicycles). If my WRC -> Subaru WRX was any where near my EWS -> SB5.5 performance, I would be thoroughly impressed.
  • + 2
 Interesting idea... Personally, after giving this a half a beer of thought, I don't think that the pockets in our favorite form of racing are deep enough to support the automobile racing world model of homologation. And I'll go a step further: I don't think most consumers *want* race-only tech and kit. I'm no Finn Iles but I don't think that it's lack of access to his suspension settings that's holding me back.

And who wants tires and wheels and brake pads that are rendered useless inside a few rides? Who wants pricier components? Who wants SHORTER suspension service intervals? Not me. But I'm just some dude with a keyboard.
  • + 0
 @slothracing: some good points. Funny you should mention the WRC. I've been thinking a lot about the comparison to rally. I feel like we are living in the Group B rally days of bike design. Impressive machines, but ultimately not as awesome as they could be with some refinement. It didn’t take long after the demise of Group B for the Group A cars to start beating the Group B cars' times on special stages dues to advancements in understanding of tire tech, tread patterns, aerodynamics, and suspension setup. I think having to do more with less forced improvemments rather than just being able to say “put more ponies under the hood”. Imagine how awesome our trail bikes could be in five years if DH bikes were restricted to 140mm of travel for the same courses!

(Also @sngltrkmnd) I think the homologation idea was a bit overzealous on my part. However, don’t I recall seeing custom geometry on race bikes? If so, maybe that should be: kept aside for strictly R&D purposes, made available to the general public, or have to compete in a prototype class so we all know that the frames the riders are on are not the same you and I can buy.

The money problems are real, and maybe that's why the idea might not work. Still, somehow SRAM has money to invent and market a 12 speed drivetrain before exhausting the potential in 11 speed. (Not saying Eagle is bad, but I don’t think we took 11 speed to its ultimate potential.) There clearly IS money in the industry for marketing-driven improvements. I want to see performance-driven improvements.

@sngltrkmnd for sure, the race-only parts would be expensive to buy and maintain, as they should be, but in the longer game of trickle down that would make all bikes and components better within a couple years.

I think.
  • + 1
 @Sshredder: fully rigid DH is a crazy notion, but yeah, that would be a hoot to watch :-D
  • + 1
 So you would rather have the UCI dictate what aspects of bike design companies spend their R&D budgets on??? What makes you think they have any idea what companies should be focusing on??
Sounds like a recipe for homogenized race bikes, I like options.

Just think, If it was done the way you are suggesting, we would probably just now be seeing a 27.5" wheel class open up and would be years away from 29" (think disk brakes on road bikes). Instead you can go buy a production 29er downhill bike for your local races. I think you're putting too much faith in the UCI.

The only thing that your suggestion would do is stifle innovation in my humble opinion.
  • + 1
 @hardcore-hardtail: not sure what to say about the UCI, because you’re right. I’m not convinced the UCI has been great for mountain biking. Since we're dealing in the hypothetical anyway, maybe it wouldn't have to be governed by the UCI, although any sanctioning body is going to make at least a few unpopular decisions.

As for dictating the R&D budgets, that has some truth to it too, but really, that's already happening implicitly with track designs. If all the tracks were like the Sea Otter DH course or even PMB from a few years ago, bikes wouldn't need to be able to get all that rowdy and that might dictate where development money is spent. Conversely, if every track were more like the Hardline course, maybe more suspension travel and thicker tire casings would be the next frontiers in innovation. Not saying that's good or bad, but there are already factors influencing bike design.

I guess we'll likely never know, but my experience working with creative professionals is that in order to encourage out-of-the-box thinking, you have to first try to put people in a box. It might work here too, but as you point out, there are definitely some challenges to deal with.

This discussion really helps me refine the idea further: what if these types of rules weren't applied in any existing series, but rather either a parallel series or a feeder series? I know DH1 died before it had a chance to be born, but maybe it could start as simply as a few local DH races imposing limits on bikes and seeing where it goes from there. No major changes for the race series we all know and love, but instead just a new option for enjoying different types of competition on a bike. I wouldn't say it's currently working out all that well for four-cross, but Enduro did okay independently of an existing race series.
  • + 2
 Considering the brown trace on his bottom during his run, for sure Loris Vergier wanted ``the rear-end to sag a bit more than usual``.... what a good idea to wear some white pants when your rear tire constantly licks your arse!!! Who does the clothes washing at Santa Cruz?
  • + 1
 Ask the bus nutritionist.
  • + 3
 So Danny Hart runs 36t front to 11t back in Andorra, but Pinkbike Eagles need this for their everyday rides. #morerange #ispent1000bucksongears give me a fkng break...
  • + 3
 So many nice bikes!!! Imagine that Unno with the Öhlins suspension Drool
  • + 2
 Also think it would be kinda interesting to see what kind of armor the WC guys are using, top and bottom.
  • + 1
 I would like to know what Amaury Pierron has changed on his bike since last week and i'm sure plenty of his competitors would like to know too.
  • + 1
 Giving a DH bike the chopper feel with a soft suspension tune. That's my kind of set up. Even if I do ride at half the speed of the pros.
  • + 1
 Looking at the suspension setups for Vallnord, they all seem to go business in the front and party in the back I see...
  • - 3
 I love my partner
  • + 1
 I see you've upgraded your username
  • - 3
 Softer front or rear end works as long as the balance works. Partner can confirm.
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