Downhill Tech Primer: What to Expect at the Lourdes DH World Cup

Mar 18, 2022
by Mike Kazimer  
Collecting big data at Scott

The lead up to the first World Cup of the year is always full of speculation as fans and racers alike try to figure out what the competition was up to over the last six months. In some cases, companies will cheekily let out a few photos as a way to build hype for an upcoming product, a way to stoke the fire for fans of all things bike-related. In other cases, an over-eager influencer will accidentally film something they weren't supposed to, sharing a blurry image of the next high-pivot machine, or an unreleased fork that definitely has 35.99mm stanchions.

We'll have a full crew of photographers and videographers on the ground at Lourdes next week to gather all the latest DH tech bits they can find, which means it won't be long before you'll be able to see images and videos that don't look like they were shot on a potato and don't require any creative squinting to figure out if that's actually an extra pivot, or just a greasy smudge.

In the meantime, here's a round-up of what we're expecting to see when racing begins.

Revised Frame Designs

The latest version of the Trek Session racked up a string of World Cup victories last season underneath Loris Vergier, Reece Wilson, and Vali Holl. It looks like there's been some tinkering and tweaking going on since that last race of the season – several of Trek's athletes have been spotted on a version with a different chainstay configuration. The idler pulley is no longer enclosed inside the chainstay, an update that likely makes it easier to experiment with different pulley tooth counts, and improves its ability to deal with muddy conditions.

A more refined version of Commencal's unreleased DH bike was seen at the Portugal Cup. It uses the same six-bar layout that we covered last year, but doesn't appear to have quite as many linkage adjustment, possibly a sign that it's getting closer to production.

The latest version of Commencal's new DH machine.
Looks like a…

It wouldn't be a World Cup tech article without a mention of Intense's new DH bike, would it? The hype has been building around Jeff Steber's latest aluminum creation, which uses a high-pivot, four-bar suspension layout and an extra-long rocker arm. The appearance is polarizing, to say the least. To me, it looks like the love child of an Ellsworth Dare and a Cannondale Jekyll, but that's not going to matter in the slightest if it gets ridden to a podium position come race day.

Speaking of Intense, former Intense team member Neko Mulally is now on his own program, and will be riding a bike that he designed himself, and had built by East Coast legend Frank the Welder. Neko's been documenting the entire process, and it's been fascinating to watch the designing and testing progress. An injured finger looked like it was going to put a damper on Neko's plans, but things seem to be healing quicker than expected and Neko's planning to be in the lineup come race day.

Amaury Pierron Commencal Muc-Off Team

New Helmets

I'll admit, I'm not the best at noticing new helmets. Amaury Pierron could be three feet away from me and I probably still wouldn't notice that he had on some new, never-seen-before full face. Thankfully, Matt Beer, my eagle-eyed co-worker, is much better at the helmet game, and in recent months he's noticed what appear to be new lids from Bell and Giro. Both brands are owned by the same parent company, which means the helmets likely share some similar technology, although they don't looks the same (even I can spot the differences).

Pirelli are sponsoring one of the three Canyon CLLCTV teams.
Kenda are working on a new downhill tire of their own.

Fresh Tires That Aren't From Maxxis or Schwalbe

A Sharpie is a mechanic's best friend on the World Cup circuit, especially when it comes to hiding the hot patches on tires that aren't sponsor-correct. Maxxis and Schwalbe currently rule the roost when it comes to DH podium appearances, although there's a handful of other brands working to come up with competitive tread patterns and rubber compounds of their own.

Continental, Pirelli, Kenda, Specialized, and e*thirteen have been not-so-subtly hinting that they have new tires in the works, and I'm sure that all of those brands have dreams of kicking off the season with some solid results.

All the Idlers

The high(ish) pivot party is still in full swing, and it looks like Mondraker and Cube are planning to join in. Danny Hart was spotted riding an aluminum-framed Cube with a higher main pivot location than the current model, while Mondraker took a slightly different route and bolted an idler pulley onto their existing Summum. Now, it takes more than slapping on an idler to get the much-touted rearward axle path that true high pivot designs deliver, but the idler could help reduce the effects of the bike's fairly high anti-squat values.

We'll also likely see OChain's Active Spider show up on even more bikes. The actual influence of pedal kickback, especially during a high speed DH run is up for debate (Seb Stott digs into it here), but downhill racers can be a particular bunch, and even if the benefits of a product are more mental than anything else they're still benefits.

Fox's electronically controlled shock.
IXS Notarace 2021
Blackbox suspension from RockShox.

More Electronics & New Suspension

Last year we saw Myriam Nicole and Greg Minnaar aboard bikes that appeared to have electronically controlled suspension from Fox, likely some sort of remote compression adjustment that could be used to firm up the shock on the fly. The Lourdes DH track does have some smoother sections in between the rocky (and more than likely slippery) steep portions, so it could be a course where this feature might come in handy.

Fox isn't the only suspension brand with electronics up their sleeve – Loic Bruni and Ohlins have been experimenting with something on his Specialized Demo for the last two years, but we haven't been able to get a good look underneath that carbon shroud, at least not yet.

As for RockShox, while they already have a publicly available electronic suspension system available in the form of Flight Attendant, it doesn't appear that it's going to be used in the DH race world. However, it does look like an updated Boxxer is likely on the way, and the new coil shock that we first saw last year is back for more racing action.


  • 68 1
 Bruh, I ordered a Session last October, delivery due August and theres already a new model. Gotta cancel that order and order the 2023 model with delivery december 2026. Gotta stay on top of the game...
  • 12 3
 Same comment, replace Session with Supreme.
  • 34 2
 You forgot to mention the Specialized Cannibal tires on Loic and Finn's bikes.
  • 18 2
 Yep, that'll be another tire to look for - Chris Grice was running them at World Champs last year.
  • 28 3
 @mikekazimer: Thats just an assegai with a really elaborate sharpie job.
  • 5 1
 @plustiresaintdead: more like a DHr2 I would said...It has L shape knobs. That is what Loic is ridding all those years,so make sense to made a copy of the dhr2.
  • 7 0
 I love spesh tires, I'd be stoked to try this one
  • 3 2
 @homerjm: no great surprise spesh hired a maxxis tyre designer
  • 10 0
 I'd pay extra to ride a tire with "cannibal" on the hot patch.
  • 1 0
 @plustiresaintdead: Assegai T9? Take my money!
  • 17 0
 Can we make it mandatory every rider has to wear a cape
  • 11 0
 Make it mandatory and in less than two years they'll have reduced that to a tight fitting aero cape.
  • 32 1
 No capes!
  • 10 0
 @huntingbears: as a parent, i can only hope that's an Incredibles reference.
  • 4 0
 Kid w bib says these fools put my cape on backwards
  • 2 0
 You can bet Loic's would be the most skin tight
  • 13 0
 Me racing
  • 3 0
 Great! Can I add you to my fantasy team and if so, what's your name? Good luck and of course, enjoy the ride!
  • 13 3
 Pirelli assguy
  • 35 0
 I remember those calendars.
  • 2 1
 @Vudu74: and upvote and a round of applause
  • 6 0
 That awkward moment that both kenda and perelli tyres both look like evolution of intense intruder
  • 12 5
 Finn Illes is going to win. Book it.
  • 8 2
 If he makes it down the hill
  • 5 0
 What happened to the mechanical lockouts that where all the rage a few years ago?
  • 2 0
 Great to see more new tires. Continental tires on Bernard kerr bike looks quite good. Tons of Assegai copies, great all rounder tires of many brands coming! That Specialized tire for Loic is a DHR2,hope they made something more like the other brands,more all rounder tire. DH season is looking better than ever !
  • 4 0
 Why are vee not mentioning those tires ?
  • 1 0
 Official releases have been already done.
  • 3 0
 question for those of you who've seen a mountain bike magazine: has maxxis ever had a sharpie-themed ad?
  • 10 2
 "Fall 2021: New Job Opportunity available at (Pirelli, Kenda, Specialized) - Tire Sharpie Artist (Master Shartist)"
  • 2 0
 They had a joke for April fools about it on here iirc
  • 2 0
 The UR team often has some cool new Suntour stuff. Nothing new this time around?
  • 4 1
 Why are finn iles and loic running EX471 and not EX511?
  • 5 0
 A lot of racers actually like to run narrow tires better than wider ones. The EX471 has a smaller internal width than the EX511 and that helps with retaining the angle of the profile of the tire when mounted on the rim. Plus, the EX471 is probably the most durable and the most well proven rim money can buy. They are virtually indestructible and there have probably been more races won on EX471s in the last ten years than on all other rims combined.
  • 2 0
 Using a narrower rim to get a rounder tire profile so greater bite in the cornering knobs can be achieved
  • 1 0
 What's going on with the big cut-out and foam piece in the frame in the last set of images?
  • 3 0
 The foam is for mud buildup mitigation.
  • 6 4
 Is this actually an article? Come on
  • 1 0
 Is there a documented (in)famous example of a high-profile racer using the sharpie technique? I’d love to see that.
  • 1 0
 Loic Bruni just check his Instagram
  • 2 0
 Basically, new equipment..
  • 3 0
 Rain for sure
  • 1 0
 It’s 2022 where’s the LED screen equipped shocks that let you mess your settings up even more lol
  • 1 0
 My bad there’s probably an app for that also haha
  • 1 0
 Mondraker arent 'looking like' ... they were training on bikes with idlers last week in South Wales.
  • 3 1
 The ol Kenda Magic Mary
  • 3 1
 Ochain everywhere
  • 3 1
 New Saint?
  • 2 5
 looking forward to new saint breaks
  • 15 1
 @ernst42: Saint doesn't break.
  • 1 0
 @nozes: pardon. brakes of course
  • 1 0
 Lots of sharpied tires this year…
  • 1 0
 Did he mention the high pivots
  • 1 0
 How often do they break wheels in these downhill races?
  • 1 0
 Stuff breaks from time ot time, but they like to keep it on the dl for obvious reasons.
  • 1 0
 @Muscovir: well, I keep waiting for "breaking wheels is a thing of the past" so if they are breaking them, hopefully they're designing stronger versions to replace them.
  • 1 3
 Carbon rims are a common broken item, Carbon wheels dont belong on any MTB except for XC.
  • 8 10
 One thing I love about DH, I doesn't matter what tech you have, the riders skills are still 90% of this sport, it's also why drugs don't help in downhill!
  • 18 7
 The tech absolutely matters. Suspension=tech.
  • 84 6
 Technology does not win races. French people do.
  • 22 0
 advil and weed help me immensely in DH
  • 11 2
 Drugs seem to help the rat!

But seriously, increasing your output threshold with the help of PEDs would absolutely give an advantage to riders. Staying pinned is easier when you’re less exhausted.
  • 15 0
 I'd argue that if all the drugs were legal every single podium in every discipline of WC racing would be occupied by drug users.
  • 2 4
 @nickfranko: Duh,gee really Captain Obvious, I am talking about tech, not standard equipment!

If Loic's black box suspension helped a great deal we would have heard about it already, the tech didn't make Finn much faster because it's all a mental game at the top level, tech matters, but only if you don't have it. And that advantage only last's one or two race's when it comes to technology.
  • 5 0
 Lol, are you kidding me? Drugs have a massive benefit to almost any sport, but especially sports with heavy anaerobic requirements.
  • 2 0
 Do they test for amphetamines on race day? Seems like it could help get in the spirit of things.
  • 2 0
 @Bitelio It is curious, but the French do not have the record for WC wins, nor the maximum in a single season, 5 races out of 7 possible ;-)
  • 1 0
 @Aeyogi: yes amphetamines are absolutely a big one on the WADA list
  • 1 2
 @Rosstech: not yet.
They're just warming up.
  • 2 0
 drugs help downhill for sure. in the training and focus aspects. i forget how it goes, but for road racing, wasn't it common to pull a bunch of blood, store it, train while drugging to shit, then cycling in the clean blood? maybe i'm not remembering it right
  • 4 0
 @Bitelio I have seen Bruni win races thanks to Öhlins technology.
  • 2 0
 I take it you’ve never actually gone flat out on a descent?

It’s actually hard to think of a skill sport more suited to drugs. There are just SO many very high level physiological requirements (constant sprint and recovery, extreme unpredictable whole body strength demands, and long enough to utilize all 4 energy pathways) that it’s practically impossible to be elite in all the places you need to be.
  • 1 0
 @makripper: That’s called blood doping. It’s used to replenish a depleted riders red blood cells with fresh blood that is fully oxygenated following a hard training block or during a tour. Hard to detect since it’s typically their own blood.
  • 1 0
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