DH Bike Tech: What's New For This Season? - Maribor World Cup DH 2019

Apr 25, 2019
by Mike Kazimer  
The start of the World Cup DH season is finally here, and with it comes a fresh batch of bikes and parts that racers have been getting used to over the off-season. Pinkbike's Ross Bell and Andy Vathis took a tour of the pits to see what's new for 2019.



Connor Fearon s Kona Operator.

Connor Fearon's Kona Operator

Other than a snazzy new red paint job, the biggest change for Connor Fearon is the switch to Canadian-made We Are One carbon rims, which are laced to Chris King hubs. He's sticking with flat pedals, and as far as overall bike setup goes, "Connor likes to keeps his bike pretty much the same all the time, but we can adjust the wheelbase with the rear. He'll run the shorter wheelbase for when he's at the bike park, and when it comes to racing he'll run it longer to keep the speed," says team manager and mechanic Mathieu Dupelle.


We Are One hoops and cush core on the inside.
We Are One rims with CushCore inserts.
Chris King hubs laced to We Are One carbon hoops.
Chris King hubs

Connor has opted for the Assegai up front.
Connor has opted for the Assegai up front...
Connor is on the new Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.5 wide out back.
...And the new 29 x 2.5" Maxxis Minion DHR II out back.

Flat pedal to the metal.
Flat pedal to the metal.





Sam Blenkinsop s Norco Aurum.


Sam Blenkinsop's Norco Aurum HSP

Sam Blenkinsop is running an updated linkage on his Norco Aurum that's meant to deliver more mid-stroke support. Other changes include making the switch to DT Swiss wheels, which are shod with a fresh set of Maxxis Minion DHR II tires. There's a CushCore insert in both tires, with pressures set to 23 psi up front and 26 psi in the rear.

Headset cups set to long for Blenki.
The Aurum's headset cups are set to the longest position for Blenki.
Norco have been playing with different linkages to see which best fits each rider s style.
Norco have been playing with different linkages to see which best fits each rider's style.

New Maxxis Minion DHR II featuring the ZK sidewall.
New Maxxis Minion DHR II featuring the reinforced ZK sidewall.
Norco s chainstay details.
Those rubber lumps are meant to keep things nice and quiet.



Atherton Bikes Gee Atherton


Gee Atherton / Atherton Bikes Prototype 5.0

The Athertons' announcement that they were starting their own bike company was big news over the winter, and all eyes will be on the prototype downhill bike to see how it performs at the World Cup level. According to Gee, "Starting Atherton bikes was something we've talked about for ages, we've been planning it for a long time, but it's never been something we've been in a position to do. This year it's all come together, and the bike's pretty sick to be honest." Eight different prototypes have been built up, and at the moment it looks like Gee will be on P5.0. Versions 7 and 8 are both on hand in case there's a need to try something different.

The initial testing took place with the bike running a coil shock, but more recently Gee has been experimenting with running an air shock to see how that feels out on the track, in this case a Fox Float X2.


Atherton Bikes Gee Atherton
Atherton Bikes Gee Atherton
Gee will be racing on prototype number five.


Atherton Bikes Gee Atherton
Atherton Bikes Gee Atherton
All the power. Trickstuff's Maxima brakes are extra-strong, and extra expensive.

Atherton Bikes Gee Atherton
Continental tires are mounted to Stan's rims.
Atherton Bikes Gee Atherton
FSA are a new sponsor for the Athertons, and Gee hinted that they'll be providing even more drivetrain components in the future.




Mark Sterland - Mondraker


MS Mondraker

bigquotesWe've gone on to Michelin tires and Mavic wheels. We spent a good six weeks out in New Zealand doing some testing with the tires, and we got some really positive results with that. The main difference is the structure of the tire is a lot more solid than what we were on before, so we found that we can run much lower pressures and get better grip. They seem to be lasting really well, gripping well, and rolling really fast; really looking forward to seeing how they do on the track.

In terms of wheels, we're on the Mavic Deemax wheels now, still very similar inside rim profile and the hub's similar to what we were on before.
Mark Sterland - Mondraker team mechanic



Mark Sterland - Mondraker
Michelin's new downhill tires are still for racers only, but they're pulling in some impressive results so far.




Dean Lucas SCOTT


Dean Lucas' Scott Prototype

While some riders are on nearly identical setups to last year, Dean Lucas' entire program changed, and for 2019 he's on a new team with a new bike and a new mechanic. He spent the off-season getting the bike dialed in and says, "It took me a little bit to get used to, but I think it was not so much the bike as the brakes, the wheels, everything was kind of different. Just to get my head around that took a little bit, but once we got that sorted it's been fine, it's been good." Dean placed 6th at the Crankworx Rotorua downhill, which he says was the first chance he'd had to really push the bike.


Dean Lucas SCOTT
Dean Lucas SCOTT
Dean's running TRP's new DH-R brakes, which are designed to work with thicker, 2.3mm rotors.

Dean Lucas SCOTT



Vali Holl Mat Gallean


Vali Holl's YT Tues 29

Vali Holl didn't have any trouble staying ahead of the pack last season, but this year she'll be aboard a 29" wheeled YT Tues. According to mechanic Mat Gallean, "We spent four weeks on the bike before the first team camp in Windrock in February. After the first week she was super happy with the size of the frame. She seems to be happy with the bike, and the results prove it."


Vali Holl Mat Gallean
Vali Holl Mat Gallean
After winning last weekend's iXS Cup race, it looks like Vali Holl is picking up right where she left off.





Thibaut Ruffin Commencal


Commencal / Vallnord DH Team

The Commencal / Vallnord DH team's racers are running ENVE wheels and bars this season. That may seem out of place given Commencal's all-aluminum lineup, but "the stiffness is something the guys were looking for. Especially with our frames, we're not the stiffest on the market. Now with the carbon wheels and the carbon cockpit as well I think we found the good combination of comfort and efficiency," says Thibaut Ruffin. "The Pinkbike haters say we'll break wheels every run, but we've only broken 4 rims over six months between six riders, which is nothing. The mechanics haven't had to tighten spokes in months, and we're definitely stoked on the products." Those ENVE rims are laced up to Chris King hubs, and Chris King is also providing custom Buzzworks headsets.


Thibaut Ruffin Commencal
ENVE carbon rims.

Thibaut Ruffin Commencal
Custom headsets from Chris King.




Nigel Reeve - Canyon

Canyon Factory Racing

Mark Wallace, Magnus Manson, and Kye A'Hern are all on versions of the Canyon Sender that have been modified to accept 29" wheels. Modifications include a custom link and custom headset cups, along with a slightly shorter shock that delivers 190mm of rear travel. Troy Brosnan spent time testing the big wheeler, but he felt more comfortable on the 27.5" version due to his shorter stature.

DT is the team's new wheel sponsor, and they've worked closely with each rider to build them exactly what they want when it comes to rim and spoke choice.

Nigel Reeve - Canyon
The custom silver links go well with this season's chrome color scheme.

Nigel Reeve - Canyon
The 29" wheels fit, but only in the longer chainstay setting.






118 Comments

  • + 128
 In order of sexual prowess (Most important factor of course for racing):

1. Norco - by a mile, Norco’s trail bikes are nothing special to look at but this race sled looks like it belongs in 2025.
2. Commencal - Metallic red is strikingly beautiful (I must like red, it is the fastest color)
3. Scott - basic and black but looks all business. Nice amount of orange and yellow accent, not overdone
4. (Tied) YT and Canyon. Two sleek looking zebra bikes, too close to call.
6. Kona - Rocker arm is hideously thicc, black and red screams early 2000’s, at least it is color coordinated?
7. Atherton - indistinguishable from some barn made PVC tubing bike, at least the trickstuffs are nice looking. (I like the bike conceptually but appearance is...lacking.)
  • + 8
 Love the norco. Was just a tough choice between the m29 and that
  • + 8
 I'm glad my Aurum 29 that has yet to be ridden is already out of date Smile
  • + 6
 Gotta include the Intense in that list.
  • + 1
 soooooooo @dburpasaurus you're saying if you look good you're half way to victory???
  • + 5
 Atherton bike looks good. It is very UK-ish looking type frame. Simplicity.
  • + 12
 Ooh... I'd put the Atherton up top. Simplicity and clean lines. I guess tastes differ, some likes bbs, some like btts.
  • + 3
 I'm a bit the other way, yeah Norco looks slick but I like the way the Kona is staying kinda true to it's orginal designs and personally I really like the non swoopy and simple design of the Robot / Atherton bike
  • + 7
 Yup, you have to have a love for manufacturing, technology, paradigm shifts, and clean lines to put the Atherton's bike at the top. Which I do.
  • + 1
 Scott designers are wild lunatics, never seen such a progressive new suspension platform. Atherton's new toy might produce some results for Racheal but honestly who is lining up to buy one.
  • + 4
 You yanks are strange
  • + 1
 I agree with your list other than the Atherton bike which I think looks rad and would be at the top of my list Wink
  • + 4
 I like the Atherton Bike. The Kona is a Fugly peice of kit.
  • + 1
 the trickstuff's look nice but your looking at 8 months if your lucky so plan ahead if you give yourself 6 months, you'll will miss two months of riding that new bike when the season starts ouch.. for their direttissima brakes not the maxima
  • + 2
 I remember when Atherton was Robot Bike Co about three years ago, and everyone was GUSHING about how great it was, even if it was a little expensive. So now why all the hate for Atherton?
  • + 4
 @savmeister: Coming from a brit that's a bit pot and kettle now innit!!? Wink
  • + 1
 @yabbaDABdo: dream brakes though. Saints for now
  • + 1
 id spend a moment or two with all of the above. Close the door...
  • + 1
 Anyone have any idea if Kona has a setting to allow you to run a 27.5 rear w/ the 29" rear? Not sure how their flippable settings would allow

And no, I'm not asking because of the Maes & Bruni wins. I'm 5'10" and would much rather try that combo.
  • + 20
 loving the Scott prototype and looking forward to seeing how Gee's new bike does out there
  • + 17
 In just 2 years, 29er DH bikes have almost wiped out the 27.5s from the field..
  • + 16
 Except podiums last year were still 50/50, and a good chunk of the 29er podiums were on a single bike Razz (Commencal Supreme 29).
  • + 5
 Bruni's bike is 27.5 rear, 29 front, what d'you make of that?
  • + 0
 @Calkodawg96: They've "almost wiped out the 27.5" … "Bruni's is 27.5 rear […] what d'you [sic] make of that?"
Sounds like Bruni needs to wipe his rear better.
  • + 11
 If anyone hasn’t seen it. Loic Bruni’s new demo is the best looking bike I’ve ever seen.

That Kona look amazing though.
  • + 15
 2006 demo more like
  • + 9
 You mean the one that look like Banshee Legend? Razz
  • + 2
 The front tyre is a minion...Bruni no faith in da Butcher?
  • + 2
 @Calkodawg96: The don't make a 29" DH Butcher yet. He's has one on the 27.5" rear wheel.
  • + 1
 @JoshParsons87: Ah - you mean DH casing? Fair enough then.
looks like a hillbilly out back tho...
  • + 2
 @winko: You beat me to it! Looks VERY similar:

www.pinkbike.com/news/review-banshee-legend-29.html

And I may sound like a broken record, but the 26" carbon Wilson was and will always be the best looking DH bike of all time:

p.vitalmtb.com/photos/users/2/photos/61337/s1600_SS_n3x1172.jpg
  • + 2
 The only thing good about the 26" Wilson was chainsaw @hamncheez:
  • + 2
 @hamncheez: that looks awesome as well.
  • + 2
 @hamncheez: luckily I was at Fort Bill in 2013 and it was by far the best bike then and is still in the "best ever DH bikes" for me!
Sucker for V10's and Myst's though

Long live Chainsaw
  • + 9
 Doesn’t bother to mention the new specialized demo....
  • + 2
 I really wanted to see some close up details of that bike.
  • + 6
 "The Pinkbike haters say we'll break wheels every run, but we've only broken 4 rims over six months between six riders, which is nothing."
  • - 16
flag JacobKmtb (Apr 25, 2019 at 17:49) (Below Threshold)
 A third of their rims have broken in the past six months. Good god that's horrible. I'd be pissed if I spent thousands on those.
  • + 38
 @JacobKmtb, not exactly. It’s not uncommon for racers to go through multiple rims in a weekend - if that number is indeed accurate it’s very reasonable.
  • + 6
 @mikekazimer: I wasn't aware. That's pretty interesting. That makes me wonder why we don't see more broken rims during race runs.
  • + 8
 @JacobKmtb: Rims don't break like they used to, gone (for the most part) are the days of rims folding in half. These days the broken wheels at world cups come from eyelets (or holes in the rims) that have been pulled through, massive dents, and cracked carbon. I would be willing to wager that most times when a rider gets a flat tire its likely rim damage that caused it. Not all the time (there will always be burps and rolled tires) but sometimes.
  • + 2
 @mikekazimer:
Spot on, I remember racing back in the NORBA days and it was pretty common to see a team athlete come rolling into the pits with bent/cracked wheels or blown shocks from practice runs.
  • + 12
 @JacobKmtb: if people really knew how many components and frames WC racers really go through over the course of a season...
  • + 3
 @Golden-G: the fatigue you put through a bike on one of those tracks in as little as 5 runs is insane
  • + 3
 @mikekazimer: Just curious, how many, say, 471's have been broken in that same increment? Wink Or comparing carbon to carbon, SC Reserve or We Are One?
  • + 2
 “The Pinkbike haters..” Well that’s not very inclusionary... What about the MTBR.com and VitalMTB haters.. don’t they get any love?
  • + 5
 Question - Why does every renthal athlete seem to run the alu fatbar instead of carbon?

Really interesting how almost every single renthal bike I've seen has the aluminum bars on it
  • - 6
flag kleinblake (Apr 25, 2019 at 21:34) (Below Threshold)
 Stiffer
  • + 43
 Aluminum no go snap snap
  • + 2
 Please note that pros get different colored carbon bars from Renthal than you or I.
  • + 2
 Usually down to a preference of feel. It’s one of the few things I can relate to as I couldn’t stand my carbon bars so went back to Renthal Ali ones.
I’ve seen a few interviews where they explain why they don’t use the carbon ones.
  • + 2
 @pimpin-gimp: Yes! My CF Renthal was killing my wrists and elbow, went to Al Renthal and better!
  • + 7
 sams norco looking super nice
  • + 9
 Id be 10k in debt if they sold that bike
  • + 5
 rims used by canyon team cost 5% of the rims used by commencal ...
wow that is a pretty impressive price difference for products that are both worldcup suitable
  • + 5
 "Ladies and gentleman......prototype number 5! One, two, three, four, five, everybody on their bikes and come lets riiide...to the liqour store around the corner.."
  • + 1
 Thank you for this. Made me legit laugh.
  • + 4
 season doesnt really start until June....strangest thing of any sport. what other sport etc starts then stops for over a month after 1st race/game?
  • + 5
 More bikes are using non shimano/sram brakes. That's good
  • + 3
 Scott and Canyon are amazing looking bikes. I like the Atherton too actually. Kona and Norco look a bit too burly/stout for me. Bring it on!
  • + 4
 Downhill bikes starting to look pretty good again these days.
  • + 4
 Jesus...that Kona is hideous :O
  • + 4
 Factory Atherton Racing Team(FART) is going to kill it this season
  • + 1
 Upvoted for the acronym
  • + 1
 The "super-quiet bumps" used on the chainstay - I've seen these around on pro bikes, and am wondering if they are available to the lowly public.

Does anyone know of aftermarket "bumpy" chainstay protectors?
  • + 4
 What's with the grip tape on the crank arm of the Kona?
  • + 5
 So his feet stick the the flats pedals?
  • + 5
 when you come off the pedal and happen to place you foot on the crank arm while working towards the pedal, you don't slip off as easy is my guess
  • + 1
 @mastergee: I got an old tube and wrapped it round my cranks for that
  • + 3
 "We are not the stiffest on the market" - I like that honesty.
  • + 2
 first pic of Gee's bike has blacked out Bontrager tires, I guess he was experimenting away from the conti's
  • + 3
 i got boner for the KONA.
  • + 2
 Atherton prototype 5000.0

- just like the first one ????
  • + 2
 Yup, because you can’t see all the minor geometry or linkage tweaks that a world class rider wanted and had built into his own design frame it must be the same as the previous 4.
  • + 1
 Of course anyone can run any color anything they want captain obvious. The retro red is a bit enduro looking.
  • + 2
 Tony stark working on Vali Holls bike
  • + 2
 The first two are fully!! Commencal ftw!
  • + 1
 Lots of lovely looking well designed bikes with great ideas for their frames and suspension. Then there's the Atherton bike!
  • + 3
 Commencal FTW
  • + 1
 PB thank you for the coverage and mentioning tire specs. Michelin F U for a multi year prototyping schedule.
  • - 2
 'DT is the team's new wheel sponsor, and they've worked closely with each rider to build them exactly what they want when it comes to rim and spoke choice.'

"You can choose between silver nipples or black ones. Alloy or brass- sorry what's that? OH ok! Your mechanic says only brass so you can choose between silver or black nipples and silver or black spokes. Speaking of spokes you can have straight gauge or butted, and we are only offering you 32h rims."


DT Swiss orders must be muuuuuch easier to fill than some other brands...
  • + 8
 Lol what? Have you looked at how many options there are in DT swiss's lineup between rims, hubs, spokes, and nipples?
  • + 0
 @clink83:
Fair dig but do you think any of them will choose differently from FR560, FR570, or EX511?? Ok maybe something from the new E-Bike category??
Have you ever seen a DH bike with blades spokes?
How about straight pull?
  • + 1
 @Phill-R: yes. Straight pull spokes are common in dh. Bladed spokes are used frequently, although they are not the norm.
  • + 1
 @gabriel-mission9:

I will keep my eyes open for them. Not sure how I missed them this long. ????
  • + 1
 It's going to be a big weekend for Canyon.
  • + 1
 the rear tire from gee atherton don't looks like a continental!
  • + 0
 is there any information specialized new 29er demo?
it's design going to past...
  • + 1
 What is Gee’s rear tire? New Conti tire?
  • + 3
 Looks like a blacked out Bontrager G5.
I've also seen them using blacked out Hope Cranks on instagram. (guess it didnt all end up on ebay?)

Must have a decent chunk of kit left over from last year they're using up.
  • + 0
 Not to be dickish but Blenkis bike clashes so bad w a red fork. Black people... black
  • + 2
 Good thing you can ride all the "murdered out" black you want on your own bike.
  • + 1
 Brosnan is running a Vivid Coil?
  • - 2
 This wasn't as Intense of an article as I thought it would be. I think they could have specialized some more given it some more Cube like dimension.

Thanks Guys & Gals for the coverage!
  • + 1
 so Vali is comfortable on teh 29er but her forks are slammed? hm
  • + 4
 Those two things are not contradictory
  • + 1
 Carbon commencal parts? :/
  • - 1
 lol holy shit Kona regressed in design. That's some fisher price looking shit
  • + 1
 No man, just old school!
  • + 0
 basically if Gee podiums they gonna sell a LOT of bikes
  • + 1
 Well looks like they're not going to sell a lot of bikes.
  • + 0
 All of them are drop dead gorgeous Drool
  • + 1
 The Norco looks amazing
  • + 1
 Some sick sick bikes!
  • + 0
 Kona!!!!
  • - 3
 Enough aguments for metric shocks.look at the vivid on the Canyon and you can understand.
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