For the second round of the EWS we traversed the globe to County Wicklow, Ireland, to follow Trek World Racing's Justin Leov as he prepared to take on the world's best. After putting in a solid fourth place on home soil, the ex-downhill racing Kiwi was looking for a podium. A second place in Scotland last May proved that a good result could be in the cards for him upon returning to the Northern Hemisphere. For this chapter of Pinkbike's EWS Pro Rides, we ride the Trek Remedy that propelled Leov to multiple stage wins and his second trip to the podium. Frame and Cockpit
Compared to Nico Vouilloz's comprehensive approach
to setting up his race bike, Justin seems like the rider who wants to let his riding do the talking, with less focus on the bike. There's a lot to be said for that, as having a clear mind on race day may be more beneficial than a perfected bike. All the same, his Remedy 29 has a few interesting things going on.
The 180cm tall Kiwi uses a Large-sized, 19" frame with a standard carbon front triangle. Justin has been trying out some prototype carbon rear triangles (the other team members still use the production aluminum version). His swingarm/chainstay design is a one-off that is much more symmetrical than the heavily offset production pieces. This means there's no option for running a front mech, but it increases stiffness and has a cleaner line. There's no word on whether this will make it to production or not. Suspension is stock front and rear, with a 160mm FOX 36 fork at the business end and a FOX Float X shock with the EVOL air-can upgrade. This is driven by a custom rocker link that has extra space around the mount to accommodate the bigger can. Reportedly, this will see the production line next year. Also from FOX is the D.O.S.S. dropper post. Your handlebar looks quite narrow for a tall guy.
Justin mentioned he had been trying out different carbon Bontrager bars. I questioned if it was for more or less compliance.
|I use a 750mm bar - probably a little bit narrower than my downhill days. I used to ride a 775mm, but that's down to the type of racing we do now. The narrower trees suit a smaller bar. That's matched with a 50mm stem with no spacers underneath. I try to go as low as I can at the front before the controls start hitting the top tube.| SuspensionYou have the bigger FOX 36 fork up front now.
|I've been trying out different prototype handlebars. They have all been the same shape, but we're changing the recipe of the carbon layup, trying to improve the damping, trying to take a little more of the shock out. I get some tendinitis on some long stages, so it has been good to work with Bontrager with a combination of bars and with their gloves to try and remedy that. I also like to use the Bontrager Rhythm grips, without a locking ring on the outside. That's a little personal thing - I like be able to hang my hands over the end of the grip when I ride and I don't like to have that metal sensation rubbing during a long day.| Is that to get the front end higher to rake it out a little, or for extra travel?
|Yeah, I had that last year, but running 150mm travel, I've now jumped up to 160mm for this year. That's a bit of change.| And now you have the EVOL air can to match the fork.
|It's not that really. The fork just tends to work better with more travel and now with the FOX setup, you can tune it in a little more and get it sitting where you want it in the travel. I've got it to a point now where I'm happy with the ride height and have that little bit of extra travel, so it means I can push a little harder in the rougher sections.| Do you have any special tune on your suspension?
|That's been a big difference for me over the last year. I was pretty impressed when we got to try that in Rotorua - just how supple that thing is - but also how it holds you up really well in the travel. Last year was good, but that's the thing about FOX - the factory developments they bring out each year just keep on surprising me, and the EVOL is definitely another step up.| How much sag do you run?
|I worked with FOX in Rotorua and, y'know, we just worked on the feeling and the ride height of the bike. Other than that, nothing dramatic - it's pretty much how it comes out of the factory.| DrivetrainJustin uses a Shimano XTR Di2 drivetrain, with single ring at the front and a 170mm crankset, 5mm shorter than stock, for extra pedal clearance:
|For me, it's not a measurement. It's more about the feeling. I know it's roughly 20%, I guess, but that's just a guide. I mean, sometimes I have more or less.| Where's the Di2 battery?
|Di2, that's been really good. I've just been using that at race weekends, but I also use it a lot on my road bike. I'm really used to it now, and happy with it. Other changes from Rotorua? I've stepped up from a 32t to a 34t ring - basically because the the gradient of the liaisons here are more gentle than in Rotorua, and the stages themselves have a bit more pedalling in them, so I opted for the 34t to try and make the most of my training, to be able to put the power down without spinning out. I don't mind pushing a gear that's maybe bigger than theirs [Rene and Tracy] on the hills. I'm used to that - all my life I have pushed a bigger gear like that and I like how simple it is just with a small chain guide. Also, now with the 11 speed 32/34t up front and 40t at the rear, that's plenty for me to get up the hills.| More electronics with the Stages power meter?
|The bike was made before Di2 came about, so my mechanic, Ray has made some modifications. From the XC team they found a way to get the battery inside the frame safely without rattling. You have to take the fork out to get it in to the top tube and then use a longer bolt through the cable guide to secure it.| Finishing TouchesIrish ImprovementsHave you changed many settings since you came to Ireland?
|I use the Stages power meter in the crank arm. Everything I do in my training is done with power. My coach sets powers that I train to for time, or intervals. That's super important. We gather all the data from the race as well and that feeds back to the coach to help us train for other events. That's a key part for us. On liaisons I'm looking at it a lot, if I have the time I ride to the power ranges I have trained to. Although there are exceptions, sometimes you have to push or the gradient is steep and the power goes up, I've been keeping an eye on the data over the last few days. What I did notice on the first day of training here, was most people I was riding with were riding with a much higher power than me, it was noticeable to see everyone's power drop on the second day of training. On the first day I just let them go, and on the second, we were similar. I think it's a useful tool for this game.| Have you gone up or down with the tire pressures?
|Not really, for me pretty much it's what I've been used to for the last few seasons. I feel good on the bike and we have been working hard to make a bike that can be pretty diverse. Here it's quite similar to New Zealand in terms of trails. I've not really changed anything here, just tire pressure and a couple of clicks of low-speed compression really. The pressures in my suspension haven't changed.|Race DayYou had a good day today Justin, second place.
|I've gone up in tire pressure a little since New Zealand. In Rotorua, it was all those slippery roots and native forest, so I dropped the pressures to around 20psi there, and even a little bit below. For here, there's the risk of the rocks puncturing, I've had to keep that in the back of my mind. It's a little bit of a compromise. Ideally, I would like to run similar pressures to Rotorua, but the risks are too great here: 23 to 24 psi front and 25 to 26 rear. I use a Bontrager SE5 tire front and I'm using an SE3 on the rear for a little less rolling resistance.| Anything that you would have changed in hindsight?
|Yeah, nice solid day on the bike. I rode really clean. No big mistakes this weekend. Really good. The bike didn't miss a beat, eh? Tires held up good and no mechanicals.|
|No. I was happy with the settings. It's always a compromise with the tires. Sometimes you want good rolling and more grip. In the afternoon, I was tempted to go for more grip, but I was happy with how it was rolling. No regrets.|
Riding Justin's Race Bike
I had been racing a 27.5" wheeled Trek Slash at the EWS to get a feel for the trails and to draw comparison against Justin's Remedy. Just like Nico's bike in the previous article, Justin's Remedy felt more efficient, even when compared to my brand new Slash. I guess that may be part of having a good mechanic behind you.
The wheels spun effortlessly, like Nico's bike. Maybe there's a seal or two missing and light grease or oil, instead of the standard bearing lubricant. The breakaway on the suspension was extremely light and again, the mechanic may have some little tricks up his sleeve that he wasn't letting on. Cutting a lip or two away from suspension seals isn't uncommon at the highest level, and downhill racers have been known to bore out fork bushings to make suspension even more supple in the past.
The suspension didn't feel extreme in any way, with ample progression and bottom out resistance, rebound was middle of the road - a big bunnyhop would see it compress, rebound slightly past the sag point once, and then settle. The roll-over of the bigger wheels was instantly clear - every little root and rock seems to absorb a little less of your speed than when riding the smaller wheels. Adding to this roll-over effect, the bigger wheels mean more rotational weight and less deflection,
The bike holds its line through chunky rock without an issue, never getting bogged down or snagged. Turning and steering accuracy was good. Specifically, the stiff wheels helped maintain direction, and the custom carbon rear end and pinch-bolted front axle surely played a role in that. Grip at the front end was sufficient, but the bike was surprisingly sketchy at the rear with the low profile, 2.3" Bontrager SE3 tire, especially under braking. (I think there may have been more than 26psi in the rear for safety on race day.) Overall, Justin's Remedy was super quiet all around, and had solid tuned feel.
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