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
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.
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.
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.
Gee will be racing on prototype number five.
All the power. Trickstuff's Maxima brakes are extra-strong, and extra expensive.
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's running TRP's new DH-R brakes, which are designed to work with thicker, 2.3mm rotors.
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."
After winning last weekend's iXS Cup race, it looks like Vali Holl is picking up right where she left off.
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.
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.