Interview: Martin Maes on His Switch to Orbea - I Don't Really See The Advantage of a High Pivot Bike for Enduro

Dec 22, 2021
by Alicia Leggett  

Martin Maes has had quite the year. After becoming a father in June, he started the EWS season at the second race week in La Thuile, Italy, where was in the mix with the other top podium contenders, even taking a stage win, before a crash on the final stage set him back 40 seconds and into 9th place. Unfortunately, he suffered a minor concussion and sat out of the next race. Upon returning to the race tracks, he steadily picked up speed all season before finally taking the top step of the podium again at the season ender in Innerleithen, Scotland, returning to the form that we all knew he could achieve.

Ever since a handful of incredible EWS performances, a World Cup DH win, and a DH World Champs podium in late 2018 into 2019, we've suspected that his best is yet to come. Now, with that recent EWS win under his belt and some momentum heading into 2022 with a new team, we just might see him back on top. When we heard about his recent switch from GT to Orbea, we reached out with some questions to learn more.




First off, congratulations on becoming a father! How did you feel going into the 2021 season?


Thank you. It was the best moment of my life. It was a bit tough at the beginning, trying to adapt our new life rhythm and doing my training & recovery properly.


You suffered from concussion symptoms following a crash in La Thuile. How was your recovery?


It was a small concussion fortunately. It took me a week to recover and I was back to training. However, I still think that brain injuries are still underestimated for a lot of riders / racers.


Has becoming a father changed your approach to racing at all?


Totally. You know, all of a sudden your life priority that is racing becomes priority number 2. I’m now a bit calmer & smarter when I jump on my bike. Just because I want to enjoy those precious moments at home after training.


You made the bold decision to race an enduro bike at the downhill World Cup in Maribor. What was behind that choice and how did that go?


It was not the best idea to be honest! I gave it a go because my enduro bike had a newer geometry than the downhill bike. However after a couple of training runs, I soon realised that the stiffness of the frame wasn't adapted to the need of DH racing. It was rough & tough especially with the blown out conditions that we had.


Mid season, it seems like you hit your stride and you took your first podium of the year in Switzerland. Then, at the final race in Scotland, you returned to the top step. How did that progression happen?


Yes, the first races brought me to a good shape. I felt the confidence into my riding slowly coming back. We also had a new bike and I feel that it took us a few races to optimise it. Winning in Scotland was emotional. No one knew it was my last race with GT but I can tell you that I gave my personal best that weekend. It was just meant to be I think… the best way to say a massive THANK YOU to GT bicycles for everything they did for me the last decade together.


You've been with GT for nine years since you were a teenager, and you grew up in the GT pits with your father riding for GT. What precipitated the team change?


Together with GT, we have achieved great things together & unforgettable memories. I will forever love the brand. It was time for me to look for a new challenge, find a new motivation for the next part of my career.


How did you end up choosing to ride for Orbea?


Orbea and I share the same passion for racing. We want to win and keep progressing towards our goal to win a championship together. When we first met, I soon realised that we had the same vision. My final decision came naturally.

What are your 2022 season plans?


Racing as hard as possible.


We heard you'll likely keep racing a bit of downhill, even though Orbea doesn't currently make a downhill bike. Is that true? Are you able to speak about what bike you'll ride?


Correct. I can not tell you all the details but I’ll be racing a couple of DH in 2022 on an Orbea. ;-)


What is it about the Rallon (assuming that's what you will race) that makes it your bike of choice for the 2022 Enduro World Series season?


It’s quiet different than my previous bike actually. I tried it and I really like it. The quality of the bike is the most important for us, racers. I’m still discovering the bike and there’s some work ahead of us to extract 100% of its potential.

High pivot enduro bikes have made quite the entrance in the last few years. How do you feel about high pivots? Do you feel you perform better on a high pivot bike or on a more standard setup?


To be very honest with you, I don’t really see the advantage of a high pivot bike. Especially for enduro racing where efficiency is key. Yes it’s a bit more comfy when you pedal through rough sections but I often question myself and do you really need to pedal when it’s rough?! I don’t think so.


What are you most looking forward to in the next chapter of your career?


I’m excited for this new chapter. My goal is to perform, have fun but most importantly keep improving every day the way I ride my bike.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know?


See you on the trails & thanks everyone for the support.


111 Comments

  • 245 6
 clearly whoever this martin guy is has no idea what he’s talking about if he thinks high pivot enduro rigs “aren’t necessary”
  • 56 4
 I agree. He's probably useless on a real man's DH bike too. Martin who?!
  • 25 148
flag jimoxbox (Dec 22, 2021 at 1:15) (Below Threshold)
 @nickkk: you remember the guy with the hurty cheaty leg thing?
  • 26 3
 With all these brands jumping on the high pivot train for enduro bikes, I wonder how long it will take for Orbea to release their own high pivot enduro bike.
  • 19 106
flag Smoothy55 (Dec 22, 2021 at 1:49) (Below Threshold)
 @jimoxbox: hahaha what's with the down votes?Mae's story was less plausible than Richie's drink bottle yarn!!
  • 50 4
 @Smoothy55: Did you really think that? He had the evidence to support his explanation and it made sense.
Rude's shared water bottle excuse has actually tainted the sport IMO.
  • 23 68
flag Smoothy55 (Dec 22, 2021 at 2:03) (Below Threshold)
 @chakaping: 100% I think that,rude could definitely have drank from a tainted water bottle, Mae's story that he was in danger of losing his leg is preposterous considering how soon he was racing with zero negative effects from a wound so bad there was risk of amputation.for what it's worth I think they are BOTH guilty and Graves was willing to be thrown under the bus for Richie's and Yetis sake,but I consider rudes story more plausible is all I'm saying
  • 42 0
 @Smoothy55: Thanks for your reasoned answer, it's refreshing to have a calm discussion about doping.
I don't think Martin was seriously worried about losing a leg, but the race Dr was treating him for the worst-case scenario - using a drug for a legitimate therapeutic reason (while unaware it was on the banned list and that he could have offered an alternative drug).
This seems credible to me, but the real clincher IMO is that if he were cheating, why would he get the drug from a race Dr that he didn't know beforehand? That's not how drug cheats do it (I'm a long-term road cycling fan).
  • 37 0
 @Smoothy55: It was the untreated infection that would have led to a possible need for amputation, not the size of the wound he had. That's the nature of treating infections though - if they aren't treated promptly and properly the symptoms escalate dramatically over a short period of time. However, with the correct antibiotics the symptoms can be relieved fairly quickly too. The UCI even acknowledged that the use of the antibiotics was purely medicinal, but because he didn't have an exemption to use it all they could do was give him the shortest ban possible. That wasn't the case for the banned substances that Richie Rude had in his system, hence the much longer ban.
  • 11 0
 @chakaping: 100% agree. Known and commonly used therapy for cellulitis which allows for a less frequent IV administration of cefazolin. The banned drug lists really should be assessed for which are banned for providing a performance benefit, ( Or masking use of one as is the case here). The athletes should not be denied therapeutic options for real medical conditions simply because of fear of being labeled a cheater.
  • 2 0
 Now he has no choice.
  • 2 1
 I bet he’s just saying that since he can’t afford one. Hater…
  • 2 7
flag jimoxbox (Dec 22, 2021 at 6:17) (Below Threshold)
 @Smoothy55: ha well imho I would agree but others have different opinions . It matters not!
  • 12 0
 High pivot enduro rigs aren't just necessary, they are essential. To sales, that is.
  • 1 3
 @chakaping: "why would he get the drug from a race Dr" IDK, it seems like there are plenty of examples of road bike team Doctors supplying banned or questionable substances??
  • 1 0
 @jimoxbox: ironically I didn't remember the allegations or knew anything about them. Was just riffing on Jake's comment.
  • 1 0
 onto something
  • 4 0
 @stiingya: This wasn't a race team doctor, it was just a random medic at the event.
  • 2 0
 @CleanZine: Gotcha...
  • 109 6
 Is there anything else you'd like us to know?

Orbea don't have a high pivot bike which is why I dont see the need. I'll be developing one and once it's brought to market it'll be 100% necessary to have a high pivot bike for enduro.
  • 10 2
 And, says the guy who's been on the bike with the lowest "high" pivot released in the last years, make less of a difference since it has the least rearward axle path!
  • 2 1
 @LDG: it has to have difference into proper enduro racing cause it´s rough and not always high speed like in DH racing... so carry speed is more important over long runs...
  • 3 0
 Actually the Rallon has one of the highest pivots around (i.e. a pretty regular height while most brands have a lowish one).
  • 4 0
 @DavidGuerra: Interesting. So I can't now decide if I need a High/Low Pivot or a Medium Pivot.
  • 4 0
 @losidan: Go with a large pivot.
  • 6 0
 Yah as soon as he said, "I need see the need to pedal through rough terrain" as an elite level racer who charges everywhere full gas, I'm calling shenanigans. He's being a cool brand rep but he shoulda stopped with "I dont see the need".
  • 3 0
 Maybe more his personal bike culture that lean on pedaling efficiency and popier bikes than the trend of plow tractor bike claiming to be magic carpet....
  • 1 0
 @Clem-mk: Sounds like reasonable conclusion to come to as a racer. There are multiple times on a race course where everyone feels the need to do the same as everyone else, it's normally not needed and sometimes not faster and can be more risky. Like I've always said "Stay off the cow trail"
  • 1 0
 @losidan: Orbea's high pivot provides more anti-squat, so it's more responsive when sprinting, and the drawback of that is the alleged bad effect of chain growth (associated with >100% anti-squat) on the suspension performance. I have no complaints about that with my Rallon though. Shock is adequately setup, so I don't think about suspension when I'm riding, which is the goal really, and I can accelerate without feeling that my power is being absorved by the shock. Most bikes are set up with less anti-squat to reduce these mythological effects of chain growth, and suffer from more pedalling bob as a result. It might be the case that the more vertical wheel path of a higher pivot makes up for the alleged bad effect of the extra chain growth. Note: I'm referring to a higher pivot point with no idlers, if idlers exist the pivot is only high or low (regarding the interaction with the transmission and the resulting anti-squat and chain growth) in relation to the idler, instead of the top of the chainring as in non-idler designs.
  • 80 1
 Picking Orbea was a natural choice, them being the only brand that has this incredible vision of "wanting to win" and "progressing towards winning a championship together". The other brands didn't have a chance!
  • 79 1
 Sure he must think blabbering some BS is better than stating the truth: I wanted a better paycheck and Orbea was willing to splash the cash.
  • 16 0
 Was thinking the same thing while reading this generic answers..
  • 33 5
 But all the marketing is saying we all need high-pivots and nothing else is worth riding! Who is this cowboy anyway?!? I
  • 29 2
 Sounds a bit like his suggesting high pivots are just marketing…hell freezes over
  • 21 13
 If you look at how successful the Supreme has been in the downhill world cup I think its fair to say theres more than marketing at play. However it might not be a sprint friendly mechanical solution and hence not better than other suspension solutions, for enduro racing.
  • 33 1
 @Jolinwood: he is specifically referring to enduro, there's no suggestion that high pivot isn't useful for DH.
  • 11 3
 However, I don't really see a good point in his statement. The intention of high pivot in my eyes seems to be, that the axle path of the rear wheel allows the bike to hold it's momentum better through rough sections. That's why it's used in DH (and nobody thinks about using it for XC). If the gain is greater than the downsides - that is most likely dependend on model and track / rider.
  • 9 9
 He said that the only potential advantage of high povot is when pedalling in the rough. Well, he is Martin Meas, but this is a bs really, because no one ever claimed such thing. So the question is why is is spreading this bs?
  • 15 2
 @lkubica: He isn’t spitting marketing wank. He rode a high pivot all year that’s what he felt on trail. He’s probably done back to back testing as well. It doesn’t matter what anybody claims their bike does better. It’s all marketing wank
  • 12 3
 He also signed with a brand that just released a new non high pivot enduro bike, of course he's not going to say the old one was better
  • 6 4
 Shots fired lol! Marketing would never lie to me. Without high pivot, how does one even ride the bike?
  • 3 0
 I think (some of) the euro EWS events with their tight hiking style switchbacks might not benefit as much from high pivots as Whistler and Northstar might.
  • 5 0
 The Industry: “Shhhhh, Martin! You said the quiet part out loud!”
  • 8 1
 Yup, marketing it is, anything else would be more widely adopted.

High pivots aren’t new, but the public’s perception of them as “new and better” is a new thing.

Expect high pivots to fade.
  • 1 0
 I was on the lift with a Norco sponsored rider and we got chatting about linkages. He felt that for him, who wasn’t an elite pro, the simple high pivot of the aurum was not the fastest due to the shock stiffening under braking (anti rise?). He suggested it was less of an issue for elite DH racers, who use less brakes over rough terrain. He felt that for him, and most riders, the Range’s linkage was faster, even in pure DH.
  • 28 3
 I really need a high pivot bike, the extra maintenance added idler and UK winter slop ,it really appeals to my non fun factor
  • 3 0
 Ha ha - gotta love your comment. Is high pivot really the next holy grail?
  • 25 4
 So much tongue-in-cheek. Elections soon in Belgium? Don't get me wrong, I like the rider but looks like an AI interview (just not the high pivot trashing !).
  • 12 7
 high pivot makes bike les reliable, racing is give and take, maybe the idea of having 0.5% faster bike in the rough but 5% les chance to finish a race because of mechanical unnecessary complication is too mouch to give.

bicycle is very good example of efficient simple machine, should be kept as simple as possible.
  • 15 3
 I agree, such a boring interview
  • 6 5
 @granjak: such a boring reply
  • 7 1
 @granjak: Maybe it was his fifth on tenth interview in a row, with a baby crying in the background or trying to change his baby's diaper !
  • 5 0
 @mi-bike: He's still right though....
  • 7 1
 @Ricolaburle: Martin Maes has always been laconic in his interviews. No useless bla blas if they're meaningless or pointless. Less is more, more is less, godverdomme!
  • 2 0
 @luriaguy: I thought the same. Racers are resistant to change and won't want the risk of dropping the chain mid-run when the bike is probably not the limiting factor for them anyway.
  • 3 0
 @danstonQ: And sometimes less is... less ! Anyway, let's the ride do the talking for God sake !
  • 1 0
 @danstonQ: nou nou, moet dat nou?
  • 17 4
 Yeah, I mean, what is he supposed to say when Orbea doesn't have a high pivot bike? The moment they make one he'll be al over it.
  • 11 0
 Actually a really nice interview from a guy that holds a lot of respect for a team that has supported him and his family for many years. Bit disappointing to see the "clickbait" title trying to make something out of nothing imo.
  • 20 7
 Bye bye high pivots, it was a pleasure meeting you.
  • 21 7
 Because one guy, with one opinion, one riding style, faster than anyone reading this and prioritising efficiency, who just moved sponsors to a company that doesn’t have a high pivot bike said so?
  • 11 0
 @justanotherusername: I thought this part of pinkbike is where the fun is, nevermind...
  • 3 0
 @urban3al: 100% serious all the time, fun is for happy people.

Good point…
  • 1 0
 @justanotherusername: Nah, it’s a widely held belief, but because it’s not popular to say so, folks just keep mum.
  • 14 3
 2015: I don’t really see the advantage of 29” wheels for enduro racing.
  • 5 0
 2013: This Enduro World Series thing will never take off and forever be fringe
  • 2 0
 @mi-bike: LOL, I don't know what there was to downvote about my comment but I am glad someone got it!
  • 9 0
 Can’t wait for orbeas 2023 high pivot bike that martins helped develop
  • 3 0
 It seems like a bit of a weird rationale he provides around pedalling in the rough. I have a Norco Range (so I am equally biased in the other direction from Martin, lol), but I’ve never considered the benefit being pedalling in the rough. I agree with him, who does that? 9 times out of 10 you’re going to carry more speed pumping and popping than pedalling through rough sections. I think the benefits are the rear wheel moving out of the way better, so the bike carries more speed (coasting) through rough sections and transmits less feedback to the rider, so you are able to track a line smoother and not get kicked around. I would totally understand if he said he wanted a bike that pumped better, or was more efficient pedalling without idler drag, (etc) but this seems like a weird criticism.
  • 3 0
 My Rallon went through its main pivot bearings every couple of months.
Then my downtube protector started to peel away. I removed it and found a straight crack along the downtube about 6cm.
I'm not a big guy, 70kgs riding standard trails.

Orbea were dismissive from the start and said it wouldn't be covered, claiming it was the result of a crash (despite this not being the case and no mark on the dt protector). 6 Months later they finally scanned the frame and concluded it was crash damage. They and the vendor Tredz (www.tredz.co.uk) gave me no support what so ever on a £6k.

After threatening legal action they eventually offered me a crash replacement frame for £1000.
I rejected this as I didn't believe I should have to spend more money on a manufacturing defect.

Key learnings - AVOID Orbea, their warranty is meaningless.
  • 1 0
 Orange bikes FTW mate. Simple, bulletproof, ride amazing, and customer service is absolutely top notch.
  • 4 2
 Exactly as he mentioned. Wherever you pedal up, efficiency is key. I don't see the benefit of a fractionally faster bike down, when you exhaust yourself more on the way up and loose your edge anyway. The best thing on high pivot bikes is, that they can run that LAL-bikes thingy. That is a real game changer and I am glad that one part of the equation is already solved with high pivot frames now being mainstream.
  • 4 1
 The other aspect of them not being better is you’re mostly riding with the suspension in sag point area, past the point of rearward axle path where they say you get all the benefits from.
  • 2 0
 Uh News Flash, nobody is pedaling in the rough stuff that's just silly! For sure Sam Hill isn't. Gravity Mtn biking is primarily a momentum sport and carrying speed in the rough is where a High Pivot shines. What Mr Maes is saying is that EWS courses are not rough enough.
  • 2 0
 Orbea and I share the same passion for racing. We want to win and keep progressing towards our goal to win a championship together. When we first met, I soon realised that we had the same vision. My final decision came naturally.

#noshitsherlock, what other brand and/or rider doesn't want to win? I assume in other camps is like, oh shit nah bro, lets slap 100mm bad boy travel on this bike and call it super enduro, shit we don't want to win, then we will have to sell tons of bikes, whos gonna make them and ship them.
  • 5 0
 Funny how upset people are at that comment with their overpriced and over engineered high pivot bike.
  • 2 1
 “ To be very honest with you, I don’t really see the advantage of a high pivot bike. Especially for enduro racing where efficiency is key. Yes it’s a bit more comfy when you pedal through rough sections but I often question myself and do you really need to pedal when it’s rough?! I don’t think so. ”

Yup, that’s why I got rid of my high pivot bike.
  • 1 0
 NGL those were some of the dullest, most uninspired answers given to an interview I've ever read. 90% of it straight up reads like as if it was generated by an AI out of the most generic corporate-talk reference material imaginable.
  • 2 1
 Definitely agree with him. I love my commencal supreme. The high pivot absolutely has it's advantages on rough DH tracks that require no/minimal pedaling. But do I want it on a trail/Enduro bike? Heck no. Rather have something playful, snappy and easier to pedal.
  • 1 0
 My 2 cents- I just think Maes's style is better suited to a responsive, trail bike-ish platform like the Rallon. It's a great fit. His riding style almost floats over the trail, just pops from one side of the trail to another. I always thought it was a weird fit for the bruiser bike like GT Force. Other guys who like to stay glued to the ground and smash through rocks might benefit from the high-pivot bikes. Styles make for fights, I personally love seeing the differences.
  • 3 0
 Curious to know if he will run the mullet link like before on gt or stick to 29 front and rear…
  • 3 0
 He might be opposed to high pivots, but he's all aboard the yellow jacket band wagon!
  • 1 1
 “Blah blah blah…Interesting stuff Martin, but enough about you and your life and history. What are your thoughts on high pivots? The pinkbike readership is of a singular mind and won’t open articles unless they include a handful of clickbait buzzwords like ‘high pivot’. Care to trash them? It will get more views…”

This feels like a straight up tabloid article
  • 1 1
 I really needed a high pivot when they were released last time... So lucky I didn't buy one. Will be interesting to see where Martin ends up in 2022 races. Inners was a strange one to win with Richie out and Jack not sleeping and doing a victory lap.
  • 2 0
 Looking forward to the heavy '22 EWS schedule and some close racing between Maes, Moir, and Rude. I am sure Mr Maes will be as fast as ever on his new ride.
  • 1 0
 22 is gonna be an awesome season. Also expect Melamed to be in the mix. Year 2 on the new Altitude, I think he'll be ripping.
  • 2 0
 Did he just hint that Orbea is about to make a DH bike for him...?? It will be awesome to see Orbea participating the UCI DH WC!
  • 1 1
 Says pedalling efficiency is key, and also no need to pedal through the rough...
So the design which is more efficient rolling through the rough while not pedalling is unnecessary..?
I understand the uphill is harder/slower, but downhill on a high pivot is just amazing!
  • 2 1
 How do we know that's even the real Martin Maes, when we can't see his face in any of the pics?
But seriously, it's not great for an interview piece.
  • 1 0
 Your are right for the pics, in the Orbea video you can see him: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhfOk4bJ98s
  • 6 5
 Every Rallon should be sold with a complimentary pair of earplugs. Haven't heard rattling as bad since my 2007 orange patriot
  • 4 2
 Mine must've come with earplugs installed as my Rallon isn't any noisier than most bikes
  • 3 1
 He will be racing a high pivot prototype at a few of the DH races he is doing. Orbea in the process. Heard it hear first
  • 1 0
 The more pedaling, the less favorable a high pivot due to drag. If Enduro doesn't need it, guess it's completely unnecessary for trail bikes by that logic...
  • 1 0
 Siiick... So @intensecyclesusa is getting back in to the licensing of their frames for others to rebrand, right? Right?! Wink
  • 1 0
 Richie and Jack both proved that a low pivot 150 bike is a great Enduro tool. Also a lot of the stages this year looked pretty XC smooth.
  • 1 0
 I’ll take an Orange Alpine any day of the week and call it good. Bomb proof, easy to service and their customer support is second to none.
  • 5 3
 Until his sponsor puts him on one, then it's critical.
  • 1 0
 Shut up Martin, my wallet doesn't want to hear your opinions on high pivots!
  • 1 0
 Another yellow jacket. Yellow seems to be trending and the color for 2022.
  • 1 0
 He switch because of money .
  • 1 1
 Maybe it’s not good overall for enduro racing but it is still good overall for downhill racing.
  • 1 0
 Congratulations Martin! Stoked for you
  • 1 0
 ZING!
  • 4 7
 as generic as Orbea´s Videos
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