Most of the time, walking through the World Cup pits can be like stepping into the future as they are stuffed to the brim with gleaming bikes and prototype kit, but look deeper and there are a few things that aren't quite as svelte. When speed is the priority, sometimes you can't wait for your sponsors to test and manufacture a specific part so you simply have to do it yourself. Here are some of the best ways mechanics have improved their racer's bikes using their own ingenuity from the past few years of racing: Mathias Flückiger's homemade dropper post
Dropper seat posts were a pretty rare sight back in cross-country back in 2015, so we were pretty excited when we first spotted this homemade creation on Mathias Flückiger's Stockli bike. Mathias was unable to find a dropper that would fit his 27.2mm seat tube so he took matters into his own hands with this inverted design.
The bottom half of this tube is am aluminium stanchion that fits into the seat tube and provides 4.5cm of travel. The upper half is made of a carbon shaft that is joined to the head from another seatpost then pre-preg carbon fibre strips were wrapped around it to reinforce the join. The weight of the final product was a very XC-friendly 230 grams and Mathias piloted himself, and the seat, to fifth at the World Championships he was trialling it at.
A Duct Taped Dropper
Speaking of cross country's funny relationship with dropper posts, here's a bodge that's a bit less sophisticated. The BMC team were running KS droppers but the posts they offered in 2016 had too much drop. To combat this, a mechanic added a few wraps of duct tape at the top of the stanchion to stop the saddle from dropping through all of its available travel. When we asked, this post was set to around 60mm drop. Very simple but totally effective.
One for the old-timers, tied spokes are nothing new on mountain bikes, but in the past few seasons, we've seen them creeping back into downhill World Cup racing. A wire coiled around two spokes is supposed to increase wheel stiffness as it prevents the spokes from flexing as much. We've mainly spotted them at the more bike parky rounds such as Leogang where you don't need as much compliance through the rough stuff... mainly because there isn't that much of it in the first place.
Alex Fayolle's Homemade Shock
One of the most impressive DIY projects we've seen on the World Cup in recent years was the Stemtee shock that Alex Fayolle's mechanic built for him in 2017. Hugues Postic is a long-time wrencher on the circuit and has helped Fabien Barel, Damien Spagnolo and Morganne Charre through the years. The Polygon team was sponsored by Suntour at the time but, as they were still prototyping a downhill shock, riders got free choice as to what damper they ran in the rear. Postic has built a few Stemtee shocks through the years for different bikes but this one was specifically for Alex Fayolle's Polygon Colossus.
He said: "It's hard to explain what the differences are between my shock and the others, mainly this unit is made purely for racing, not for production. It's made specifically to work with this Polygon bike, Alex Fayolle, and race tracks. The other companies have a difficult time trying to make one shock that can work with every bike on the market, they have contracts, objectives, and pricing to consider. Me, I only have the passion for winning races, it's not the same challenge at all."
And win it did, on its debut no less. You can read more about his unique shock, here
Cable routing can be a pain for even the most patient mechanic, but spare a thought for World Cup mechanics who are stripping bikes down almost weekly and swapping in and out parts by the hour as their racers hunt for perfect setups. To make their lives easier, some of them will take cable routing into their own hands. This example from the Orange Dirt team in 2015, where the cable is anchored to the piggyback of the shock, is one of the more unusual ones we've seen but a whole array of clips, ties and tubes can often be seen routing cables on racers' rides.
Flats? Clipless? Well if you're Matt Simmonds you can make yourself a bit of both. Clipless pedals with pins in are nothing new but when Matt's Saint pedals didn't have pins where he needed them, his mechanic took matters into his own hands and simply drilled through the platform where needed.
Brendan Fairclough's Idler
2018 saw Brendan Fairclough testing an aluminum mule that would later become the 2019 full production bike. The bike went through various iterations through the year with different wheel sizes, different linkages and plenty of data acquisition but the most bodged experiment was the high chainline version picture above.
A stack of washers were used to get the spacing right and then the whole thing simply screwed into the swingarm pivot. We've no official word on how well it worked, but given that the production Gambler we saw less than a year later had a standard chainline it probably wasn't the most successful trial of the year.
Ready Leady Go was a Chris Porter brainchild that was brought to the World Cup circuit on Jack Reading's Joker-themed Nicolai in 2017. Jack wouldn't tell us the weight of the lead, but through testing found that placing the extra weight behind the stem and at the bottom bracket helped to calm down the forces and roughness from tracks, keeping the ride planted. It was track specific, however, as Jack said the extra weight felt good on the fast and rough tracks but made the bike feel a little 'dead' on the tight and twisty sections.
Mechanics will use whatever it takes to get the job done and have come up with a fair few clever tools in their time. It can be as simple as the pad spacer above from Darren at Norco or more complex such as the brake bedding-in tool Nigel Reeves uses.