Florian Nicolai's Rocky Mountain Slayer - EWS Round 7: Valberg, France

Sep 15, 2016
by Mike Levy  
EWS amp 2016. Valberg France. Photo by Matt Wragg.

If it feels like it has been too long since the last Enduro World Series event, it's because it has. The Whistler round, which went down during Crankworx a full month ago, saw the debut of Rocky Mountain's new Slayer, a 165mm-travel carbon fiber machine that the Canadian company says is designed for everything from enduro racing to ''bike park laps and big mountain lines.' It's the former for their enduro team this weekend, with the seventh round of the EWS stopping in Valberg, France.

Rocky Mountain's Florian Nicolai chose the Slayer over the less well-endowed 150mm-travel Altitude for this weekend's racing, and we tracked down his mechanic to get the details about how the Frenchman is setting up his new bike.

EWS amp 2016. Valberg France. Photo by Matt Wragg.
EWS amp 2016. Valberg France. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Nicolai clearly likes a tall front-end, and the angle of his brake levers hints at a rearward riding style.

At 185cm tall, Flo has chosen to ride a large-sized Slayer, which is actually a step down from the extra-large Altitude that he was aboard last year. The move down in size is in name only, as the new Slayer is quite a bit roomier than the previous versions; it has a 444mm reach number in the slack geometry setting that Flo has chosen, and a 455mm reach in the steeper position. Compare this to an extra-large Altitude's 443 to 461mm reach numbers and a large-sized Slayer makes sense for Flo.

Florian also prefers to go tall and wide when it comes to his cockpit, with the 780mm handlebar and 35mm stem perched atop 20mm of spacers and a 170mm-travel Fox 36 fork. There's a good chance that his grips are farther away from the ground than what you'll find on many people's downhill bikes. His levers are also close to level, something that hints at a rearward riding style.

Rocky Mountain says that the Slayer works best with the Fox X2 shock's compression settings dialed to a more open position, so it's no surprise to see that Flo is doing exactly that with the low-speed and high-speed compression dials backed most of the way out. Rocky claims that they focused on creating support at the Slayer's sag point, something that can often make for a lively feeling and relatively playful bike, and it also means that riders shouldn't have to rely on as much compression damping, either. The bike's suspension is said to ramp up in a moderately progressive curve, with the idea being consistency over the whole stroke instead of a sharp ramp-up at the end of it, but Flo's mechanic did divulge that the maximum amount of volume spacers are used inside of his Float X2 shock.
EWS amp 2016. Valberg France. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The Slayer's Float X2 shock is set to work best with less compression damping, and that's what Flo prefers.

I bet Flo is hitting things just a wee bit harder and faster than the average rider, though, and he also explained that his rider prefers more sag at the back of the bike than some other riders.

It's the opposite story up front, with the 170mm-travel Fox 36 running a much less forgiving spring rate, although this is adjusted as required by the track, as well as just two volume spacers. That more linear stroke is different than the maxed-out spacer setup that we see other pros often using, but at 70kg, Flo is certainly running a firmer spring rate than what most 70kg average riders would be okay with.

EWS amp 2016. Valberg France. Photo by Matt Wragg.
The bike's Fox 36 is set up stiff but, with only two volume spacers, more linear than we've seen some racers run.

Flat tires automatically spell the end of any hope for a good overall result, so Nicolai doesn't mess around with mid-weight casings; he only ever runs Maxxis' dual-ply downhill casing tires, a set of High Roller IIs in this case. He also tends to prefer a bit higher air pressure than other racers, with his front tire at 27 PSI and his rear at 29 PSI, and both tires are mounted up to a set of aluminum rims from Stan's rather than carbon fiber hoops.

When it comes to tires and wheels, Flo is all about making reliable choices rather than rolling the dice with lighter weight rubber or carbon rims.

EWS amp 2016. Valberg France. Photo by Matt Wragg.
EWS amp 2016. Valberg France. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Aluminum rims and dual-ply downhill casing tires for Nicolai.

The bike's running gear is nothing out of the ordinary; a mechanical drivetrain from Shimano is used rather than the XTR Di2 setup found on some of his teammate's bikes, and a 34-tooth chainring drives a standard 11 - 42 cassette. Flo also runs Shimano's Saint brakes at every event, and usually prefers 200mm rotors front and back unless the track is less demanding or there's a lot of pedaling, in which case he might drop down to a 180mm on the back of the bike.

EWS amp 2016. Valberg France. Photo by Matt Wragg.
EWS amp 2016. Valberg France. Photo by Matt Wragg.
No batteries here; Flo prefers Shimano's mechanical drivetrain.

MENTIONS: @RockyMountainBicycles / @shimano / @urgebikeproducts / @foxracingshox / @Royal-Racing / @Maxxis

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 115 2
 Dual ply tires:check
Alloy rims:check
Cable operated drivetrain:check
200mm rotors:check
Chuck Norris approved!
  • 11 42
flag bluumax (Sep 16, 2016 at 0:32) (Below Threshold)
 so 2000 and late.
  • 28 0
 *Huck Norris
  • 14 8
 Hope people realise that when you neg prop a Fergy quote, you're basically neg propping Fergy... monsters.
  • 40 3
 damn, that frame layout may be old, but the lines on this thing are crazy good...not shure about the 2 tone though. please do a canuck one Wink
  • 10 1
 Canucks theme would be sick @jzPV! Nevertheless, looking at that bike makes me feel proud like a new father.
  • 3 40
flag Marcusthefarkus (Sep 15, 2016 at 17:23) (Below Threshold)
 That would be ugly
  • 58 1
 @Marcusthefarkus: Markus don't be a farkus
  • 11 2
 @Marcusthefarkus: it wouldn't be ugly, but it might take you to the edge of gloriousness and then fall apart right before getting to the actual glory...
  • 7 0
 @jzPV: I reckon the key to a brilliant looking bike is to have the top tube and seatstay be in one straight line. Either that or have the seatstay at a smaller angle than the top tube (yt tues as opposed to a glory).
Rocky mountain nailed it with this, they even made it look like the downtube blends into the chainstays.
  • 2 0
 @VwHarman: But atleast it would go downhill fast in the years after....
  • 4 1
 @RockyMountainBicycles: I hear you. I'm not happy that they let us down sometimes. Your talking to guy who named his son Linden-I love that team and was raised cheering for them. They can be a huge bummer sometimes though.
  • 18 0
 It's always amazes me how much different a pros suspension setup is compared to an average rider like myself. My shoulders would probably blow riding Gwins bikes.
  • 5 3
 Yah, and that air pressure would feel like I had concrete in my tires instead of air.
  • 5 3
 @todd: I run 27 front a rear, but then again I am not a small guy. 210lb with gear I bet.
  • 17 17
 @todd: higher tire psi works amazing with stiff suspension and really opens up once you start going. Also running those DH casings having higher psi in the tires seems to give more stability in the corners since the casings have a bit more flex than the trail casings.

That bike looks sooo dialed 3
  • 5 4
 @Jokesterwild: Depends on the casing and trails too... on the normal riding near me (which used to be DH bike territory) if you don't run enough PSI you bust a tire, so on SnakeSkin Schwalbes I run 27 rear and 23 front. On more forgiving terrain I could easily run around 22 in the rear. Or when I run WTB AM casings.
  • 10 2
 I think a lot of people would be surprised how good a stiff setup feels at speed. It's not always the most "comfortable" feel, but it's confidence inspiring.

I meet so many people who run soft setups with low tyre pressures...almost feels like a trend more so than something people actually prefer.
  • 8 4
 @marcsb95c: I like how on pinkbike you get downvoted for discussion of tire pressure preference...

I ride mostly on the shore and similar im guessing to rugged terrain that can rip tires.
  • 10 4
 @Jokesterwild: PB is full of down voters who are offended by comments that don't fall in suit with the "average" weekend warrior rider
  • 17 4
 @nvranka: PBSJW? Pinkbike social justice warriors?
  • 1 0
 Weigh 120lbs and tend to run 25+ psi, pinch flatted at nearly thirty last week. Yay for hard tail lol
  • 5 0
 @nvranka: @nvranka: I'm always amazed how often people talk about ideal suspension setup and tire pressure like they are some fixed value. Even suspension makers pretend like the way they tune a fork is ideal for every rider. In reality they are so dependent on rider weight, speed, terrain, and trail surface. I got my fork set up so smooth and supportive on steep and rough ONLY on the days when I'm feeling fast and riding hard. On days when I'm just not feeling it, or I'm just cruising, taking it easy, it is rather harsh.

Same for tire pressure...discussion is useless without tire volume (and rim width); compound, casing and tread pattern also change things. Takes an absolutely obsessive geek (or a professional) to figure out the best combination of all these variables for a given rider+trail+bike...but it's way easier to just pump them up to 23f/25r every time (which is what I do).
  • 1 0
 @ecologist: you're absolutely right...and I can definitely relate to your setup feeling harsh on days where you aren't going full gas.
  • 1 0
 For what it's worth, i run 29 PSI (2.0 bar) front and back on EXO High Rollers 2,3, running tubeless on XM1501 (22,5 mm) rims on a Reign. I can't imagine running lower pressure, i've cut open the rear tire twice this year already (messed up a weird rock in both cases, snake bitten it in effect).

I tried 1.8 bar (27-ish psi) and hit the ground with the rims (no damage to the tires or rim though) three times in one ride (once pushing off a root for some air with both wheels, once with only the rear wheel on a rock). I quickly went back to 2 bar.

Granted, this is with a compressor manometer, so there's always the question of the reading itself and most people running low pressures run dual ply tires. But my tire looks kinda like a pancake as is, i can't imagine running 1,5 bar in it. It'd be a rim-ding-fest every day!

And no, i'm not fast Razz
  • 22 4
 OMG that isn't a 170mm dropper post. He must not be a bike reviewer.
  • 11 3
 Its not a bike review. There are tall people out there, but no, industry is just fucking us over with more options. Miserable cunts.
  • 2 7
flag lkubica (Sep 15, 2016 at 22:26) (Below Threshold)
 You think that a setup with a post with minimum possible insertion makes sense ? Why do those bike companies make so short seat tubes in their bikes ? An average rider would greatly benefit from having the saddle down as much as possible. Florian is simply not an average rider and maybe he gives a F, but this does not mean that 170mm posts are not useful.
  • 14 1
 I am REALLY looking forward to a review of this bike.
  • 14 1
 Excluding my current bike, this bike is my new favourite one
  • 8 1
 I love these bike checks but it's a bummer we never get even an approximate weight.
  • 54 2
 I enjoy when they weigh the bike without pedals, because nobody uses those.
  • 10 2
 I don't think he cares about weight the bikes going to weigh what it needs to to get the job done
  • 23 2
 @singdinger: If he doesn't care about the weight of the bike, give him a 40lbs bike and then let's see if he cares. They all care about bike weight.
  • 7 1
 31.4159265 lbs....
  • 9 1
 @davidsimons: Graves has been quoted on multiple occasions he hasn't weighed his bike in some time. He sets it up the way he needs to to get the job done, and low weight is not priority.
  • 1 0
 @davidsimons: I'm sure if he thought it'd get him down the trail faster he'd be just fine with it.
  • 2 0
 @Lagr1980: : that bike has had too much pi Smile
  • 1 0
 Yeah I know, same for me!!

But I can tell you this bike is really light, especially for a 165/170mm bike!! Don't really have any numbers but it is..
  • 4 0
 Gotta love the Pinkbike critics giving pointers to the factory sponsored pro! I, for one, don't have my own personal mechanic or any bike manufacturer giving me stuff since I'm such an awesome rider, so I'll keep my opinions to myself. Chances are this guy can smoke anyone here on any bike anywhere... but maybe we can help him out, eh?
  • 9 2
 looks like a trek...

oh wait; it actually does!
  • 8 2
 Titty tight!
  • 6 3
 Well. I have to demo an SC Nomad, Evil Insurgent, Yeti SB6/c, and NOW a RM Slayer before I can decide on a new bike. Once the new standards stop rolling in of course.
  • 2 1
 I love my nomad to death but you can't go wrong with any of those options!
  • 9 1
 Let's be real you'll never decide on a new bike cause those new standards will never stop rolling in.
  • 7 3
 Capra too, IMO
  • 2 1
 Im an SC guy but that flip chip on the Slayer has me interested.
  • 2 1
 Coming from an Altitude with a very capable build, I can and will say that the Insurgent is a whole different animal. As sure as I am that the new Slayer is a great ride, I'm hard pressed to imagine any bike riding better than my Insurgent. You can choose to ride it lazy and loose, it's fun. You can choose to ride hard charging and fast, it is freakishly fast. It's like magic how it can feel so at home regardless the terrain or how I want to ride it. If you're an L/XL and anywhere near Park City, PM me and I'll consider letting you throw a leg over it and experiencing what I mean.
  • 1 0
 @bluntaaronr: I appreciate the offer!
  • 2 0
 I'm in love with these map-pattern grips ! RF Half Nelson right ? Oh and it's "Valberg", anyways great work as usual @mikelevy and @mattwragg ! Hope the weather will be better for you tomorrow !
  • 6 2
 A dirty bike for once. Dig it.
  • 3 1
 I too prefer a progressive rear end and more linear front...i must ride just like Flo!
  • 3 4
 If the suspenion is much like the rocky mountain maiden. Then it will probably fall short compared to some other bikes. I have a maiden, and between a devince wilson, nor co aurum ( 26 version), tr 450. The maiden has in my opinion the most to improve on in regards to suspenion. It feels overly damped, especially if it doesnt have the perfect tune on the rear shock. And seeing flo run his shock full of spacers might indicate some improvment needed with this bike as well. Not trying to be negative, just giving some first hand experiance with rocky mountain's newer suspenion layout. Its pretty good, it just doesnt quite measure up against alot of other bikes.
  • 3 1
 Wow I have to disagree... My Maiden has the most composed yet still playful feeling suspension, without giving it all away in the braking dept, than any other dh bike I've ridden. Most recently the 27.5 Phoenix, Mondraker Summum, and the v10.6... Maybe spend some more time with the shock, you're running the stock Bos?
  • 2 0
 Someone please tell that guy about the k-edge stem mount... makes me cringe to see the garmin rubber bands mount
  • 2 0
 well after awhile all bike now look the same
  • 1 0
 Very clean Rocky. I love it. That's the way to do it. Somebody in 'is bidnits gotta do it. :/
  • 4 3
 I need a second fulltime job. Too rich for me
  • 1 0
 Exactly the way I would have set it up! Damn that's nice looking.
  • 3 2
 Dang I miss my old slayer. That bike could really shred!
  • 1 1
 Canucks...are you kidding...Now a more brawny vicious Bruin theme would be better.
  • 2 1
 Where's the 26+ wheel tyre combo I have been longing to see...
  • 1 0
 Geez, I really LIKE bike checks.
  • 1 0
 beautifull bike
  • 3 2
 Nice Truax!
  • 2 1
 Do. It. All. Bike.
  • 1 0
 nice bike
  • 1 0
 Tubes or no?
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