Round Up: Custom Setup Tricks from World Cup & EWS Races

Feb 27, 2021
by Ed Spratt  
Every rider has their setup quirks, whether it is a certain width of handlebar or a specific tire choice. We decided to look through the Pinkbike bike check archives for the more unique setups that we have spotted at World Cup and EWS races over the years.



One of the first things people often noticed about Jesse Melamed's race bikes is his cut down grips. Jesse says that he likes to run his hands right at the edge of the bar, and with normal-sized grips, he can't run his brakes in his preferred position.



Pole Proto
For the 2018 Fort William World Cup, Isak Leivsson turned up with his prototype Pole Machine 200, possibly the longest DH race bike to date. Alongside his extended bike, Isak had also opted run an 830mm bar setup that included some extenders to ensure he could get the huge bar width.



One of the biggest talking points during the 2020 season was what was Loic Bruni hiding in the box over his rear shock? Was it some sort-of lockout? A different shock tune? Or was this all a mind game from one of the fastest racers?



Troy Brosnan Canyon Sender
Troy Brosnan fitted his Canyon sender with a custom CNC'd shifter lever that was designed around his hands.



Lenzerheide Randoms
For the 2015 Lenzerheide XC World Cup, Mathias Fluckiger was hunting for a way to make his front end lower so he decided to run a negative stem with his handlebars flipped upside down.



John Hall (Aaron Gwin's mechanic) drills out the dimples on the TRP brakes for Gwin at the 2019 Maribor World Cup. They have found this gives a little more grip on the finger with slightly sharper edges.



Lenzerheide Randoms
Another unique setup option from Lenzerheide in 2015 was Sam Blenkinsop's HT pedals which he had modded with a metal plate to make it easier to guide his cleats into the pedal mechanism.



Kate Courtney uses a modified grip that features the blips from the SRAM Red AXS time trial road groupset fitted inside her grips.



Rocky Mountain Altitude
After spending a large amount of the offseason training on the Rocky Mountain Slayer, Jesse Melamed wanted to try and recreate its feeling with the new Altitude. Rocky Mountain went and made him a custom Ride9 chip to create the exact leverage curve of the Slayer.

bigquotesBasically we had spent a lot of time on the Slayer, nearly all of winter, we were planning on racing that for the first two rounds then we would be on this bike. Getting on this bike and any new bike it is very difficult to dial in and find your place on it really. We were kind of struggling to set it up so we asked for a position between 2 and 3 as we liked parts of three and we liked parts of two and then it just happened that it was the exact leverage curve of the Slayer so that's maybe why we quickly felt comfortable with it. Jesse Melamed



A little extra grip for Marcelo Gutierrez. While this was needed in the mud of Les Gets we assume it will be removed for more tame track in Lenzerheide.
A pretty classic setup change is the extra saddle grip race. Marcelo Gutierrez fashioned his own when he zip-tied an old piece of a tire to the saddle in 2016.



Another grip modification for Kate Courtney is the shortened grips just for her left hand to make it easier to get her fingers closer to the controls.



Specialized Enduro 2017 EWS 6 2016. Whistler Canada. Photo by Matt Wragg.
Pros will go to the ends of the earth to silence their bikes and this mastic tape inside the chainguide on Curtis Keene's bike is a great example of that.



This is maybe one of the finest touches anywhere in the pits courtesy of Canyon s Larry and likely only the eagle-eyed will have spotted it... For his riders he runs one metalic pad and one organic pad as he says it provides a better all-round compromise for feel and longevity.
For the 2016 Finale Ligure round of the EWS the Canyon riders were running one metallic pad and one organic pad for what they claimed to be an improvement in feel and longevity on the Italian slopes.



Cecile running a gripshift on the left-hand side of her bar...
...to lock out the Super Deluxe shock.
On Cecile Ravanels 2017 Commencal Meta she opted for a SRAM gripshift setup to actuate her lockout on the RockShox Super Deluxe shock.



Eliot Jackson Giant Glory
In 2018 Eliot Jackson was running his HT pedals with no pins and an extra spacer under his shoe cleat as he found he preferred his feet to float around with little to no contact between the shoe and pedal body.



Greg Minnaar V10
Despite already having one of the longest bikes on the circuit, Greg Minnaar wanted to go even bigger and was using dropouts to add a further 17mm to the back end of his V10 for the 2019 World Cup race on the steeps of Vallnord. He said this was to get more centred on the frame and apparently he initially wanted to go further but 17mm was as long as they could go without risking failure.



One of the more unique setup quirks on the racing circuit comes from Joe Barnes' EWS race bike where he likes to have the brake lever almost touch the bar. He even goes as far as filing a part inside the lever assembly to get an extra few millimetres of pull.





135 Comments

  • 223 2
 I just did all of them! Sandpaper on the seat? Check! Old tire glued to the inside of the chamois?? Check! Blips on my break levers? Double check! Seat post backwards, BMX bars pushed all the way forward, even taped an old Amazon box to my down tube and wrote secret in big red letters. So fast now!
  • 49 0
 What's in the box? C'mon, broski. You can tell me.
  • 41 1
 @Stoaks: you gotta join Prime to find out
  • 9 61
flag andrewbikeguide (Feb 27, 2021 at 11:18) (Below Threshold)
 @Chief2slo You are funny but you cannot spell! Say after me: "Braking with broken brakes will lead me to break my bike or myself!!"
  • 23 0
 @Stoaks: what’s in the box?

I thought that headed toward a Seven reference.
  • 2 0
 @bdub5696: I tried to play husband.....
  • 21 0
 My magnetic saddle and steel chamois is working out great.
  • 2 0
 What’s in the fu@!in box!?!
  • 21 1
 Step 1: cut a hole in a box...
  • 3 0
 @VtVolk: I thought that was step 2. Ha ha.
  • 7 0
 @bdub5696: google “UHF what’s in the box”. You can thank me later.
  • 1 0
 @Stoaks: Probably the cat if he left it on the floor.
  • 3 0
 @Victoriamike: favourite all time movie
  • 3 0
 @Victoriamike: Phyllis Weaver should have taken her weight in red snapper! ???? so stupid!
  • 1 0
 @Victoriamike: I was calling a coworker stupid today in Kuni's voice.
  • 55 1
 Platform clipless pedal, without ... touching ... the platform ?? I am wrong
  • 10 0
 Yeah, that raises a lot of questions.

Do these riders only do this to say they're running so and so's product (sponsorship reasons)? Or do they do this because those certain products allow them to make these modifications and they actually enjoy the modified product more than other stock options
  • 10 0
 I’ve tried a spacer under the clear before, for 5 minutes.. literally feels like you are on ice, definitely no bueno.
  • 4 0
 Maybe it helps if he needs to clip back in fast? I dunno, but Elliot seems like a smart guy, I'm sure he's tried with pins etc etc before ending up with that setup
  • 9 1
 A pedal cage on a downhill bike still makes sense as it protects the cleat mechanism to some extent. Whether this is relevant is probably up to the individual rider though.
Another reason is the cage will help you orient the pedal in the correct position more easily. It´ll also help in those situations where you accidentally unclipped or couldn´t get clipped in fast enough for the next section.
Again, i don´t know how relevant those are to a pro rider, but i have tried non caged clips on a dh bike and liked them a lot. Still went with the caged variant on my own bike.
Anothert reason i can think of, although i do not know if this applies to the HT lineup, is that different pedals have different spacing from the crank. Especially with more robust downhill shoes this has caused some issues for me on certain pedals, so these may simply be the one Eliot felt were the best fit in that regard.
  • 1 0
 @Loki87: I run HT exclusively and they are the best I’ve used yet, but cage/spindle width wise they are all pretty much the same. You are right about just getting back onto the pedal in a hairy situation for sure, saved me a few times.
  • 1 0
 What do you stand on when you're not clipped in?
  • 1 0
 @Loki87: Don't ignore that the shoe is the other half of this setup. That can change a lot.
  • 41 6
 It would scare the hell out of me riding that XC bike with an upside down stem and upside down bars. Absolutely ridiculous!
  • 6 1
 Syntace made a low5 and low10 negative rise handlebar at one stage. Their 12 deg back sweep bars are extremely comfortable. Unlike ergon’s enduro grips
which people(including Pinkbike staff) run backwards to get them comfortable ( I like ergon but not those grips)
  • 14 0
 He could have put on road bike drop bars.
  • 9 14
flag DavidGuerra (Feb 27, 2021 at 2:44) (Below Threshold)
 No, it's quite exciting actually. People are scared of a lower bar position for no reason. That distance from grips to floor would be common on a 26" bike, or even relatively high. You get perfectly good control, even better in many respects. The attack position is only influenced by stem length, not bar height (a lower height actually improves the attack angle). You can "hit the gnar" just as well, it just takes a bit more effort to raise the front, depending on chainstay length.
  • 12 1
 Yea I get the idea of low bars but aren’t the angles completely f*cked if you run a regular bar upside down?
  • 8 0
 Would be easier swapping to a 20” bmx wheel at the front
  • 4 6
 @sino428: Actually no. It's exactly the same. Upsweep + backsweep = one single angle, which remains the same if flipped 180º along its axis.
  • 1 1
 @sino428: By axis I meant plane. Can't edit it now.
  • 4 1
 would scare me more riding Greg's rear dropout setup. I'm sure they've figured it out but no way I could trust that thing going off the jumps he does
  • 13 0
 I always prefer a higher bar-height, but its mostly because of my shitty stiff lower back... if I could bend like a yogi, i'd probably prefer a low bar on flat courses.... More and more often I suspect that the best upgrade I could buy for my XC bike will be Pilates lessons...
  • 20 1
 It looks like a bike assembled by a walmart employee.
  • 2 0
 @Dan278: Maybe it does, just like the negative rise carbon stem/bar combo that virtually every featured XC bike has nowadays, like the Syncros one a few shots below.
  • 3 0
 @two-one: my wife swears by Pilates. She does a class weekly and the additional core strength and flexibility are very noticeable. She really noticed the difference when she couldn’t go for a few months because of Covid.
  • 3 1
 @mattg95: lol. do you not trust the bikes doing the jumps, or yourself? :-)
  • 3 0
 @two-one: For me, it is the right shoulder that pinches a nerve to sleep. At least on a bike you can raise the bars. I had to sell my Ducati as even with risers (can get about 1.5”) for the bars, it got to where I couldn’t ride it more than 20 minutes. Getting old sucks.
  • 1 0
 Have you seen Nino Schurter's custom Syncros bar stem combo
  • 5 0
 @DavidGuerra: It's not the bar height to floor that's scary, its the hand-height to ass-height ratio. A BMX bike is probably has even lower bars to the ground but those get hucked off buildings.
  • 1 0
 @DavidGuerra: yea I think I get it. You would simply roll them around, you’d actually flip the bar over so the right/left grips are on the opposite sides.
  • 1 0
 @sino428: Yes, I was considering doing that on my enduro bike but didn't get around to it.
  • 2 0
 @Deoratwo: running a dropper kinda eliminates that tho. I like to run my bars relatively low. You get more pressure on the front wheel and it can actually make lifting you front wheel easier for some reason
  • 2 0
 @carym: I had a similar problem with left shoulder blade, pinching nerve causing numbness and severe pain in left index finger and thumb. Wider bars helped and a fully split keyboard for work eliminated the source of the problem.
  • 34 0
 “Now this is a story all about how my bar got flipped turned upside down”
  • 30 0
 I'm guessing Gutierrez used an Assegai tire on his seat.
  • 2 0
 Mountain bikers can end up in traction from an injury...but this traction can cause an injury =P
  • 23 0
 that saddle screams "infertility"
  • 5 0
 That saddle screams balls of steel, which would infer infertility...
  • 3 0
 @Sscottt: balls of necrotic tissue =/= balls of steel
  • 8 0
 I was thinking " Damn, that's an intense way to deal with hemorrhoids!"
  • 2 0
 He was going to name it the “S&M Saddle,” but S&M Bikes already had the trademark.
  • 19 0
 That lever reach makes me cringe. I'm the opposite. I need them ALL the way out and to bite immediately. Different strokes for different folks...
  • 12 0
 Blenki’s pedals look more like protection for the forward facing retention bar on the underside of the pedal to prevent rock strike damage. Time have a similar guard built into the pedal body.
  • 8 0
 Glad I'm not the only one who likes short grips. I'm not sure why some grip manufacturer make grips which are meant to be held close to the inside collar/flange but extend outwards way further than necessary. Curious, anyone knows?
  • 12 12
 I think the bigger problem here is the nonsensical new brake lever clamps from Shimano.
  • 9 0
 They are for me, my mitts cover 100% of any grip.
  • 6 1
 Good for doing tricks that involve removing your hands from the bars. Easier to catch the bars since the grips are longer.
  • 1 0
 I have short grips on my computer bike that scare the hell out of me but I don't want my full length grips was I hold them quite close to the inside. Or my bars are just too wide.
  • 5 6
 @fullfacemike: The new clamp from shimano actually helps with this problem, since the clamp is further inboard, it allows you to run your levers further outboard before the clamp interferes with the grips. The only thing nonsensical is your comment.
  • 5 2
 @wohwee: You need to take a one more look at the lever, look hard, really hard.
  • 6 0
 @Mondbiker: Yep! Just clocked it. My bad, apologies @fullfacemike. I’ll leave now :thumbs:
  • 5 0
 I like to have some grip further out than my hands so if I clip a tree my little finger doesn’t get smashed
  • 1 3
 What is it you think is nonsensical about the shimano lever? Looks like a perfectly valid design to me...

That doesn't make any sense is the dud cutting his grips down, but then running his levers an inch away from the end of the grip. He coulda just left them full length and run the levers butted right against the end of the grip.
  • 4 0
 @gabriel-mission9: The new design forces the brake lever inboard and puts the clamp where the shifter usually lives, which is exactly why his levers still appear so far from the shortened grips. Now you either have to push the shifter further inboard too or use I-spec shifters which isn't always an option or economically feasible. It wouldn't be a big deal except all current part numbers I can find with the regular clamp are B01S-level while everything Deore and up is the new style so it makes mid-level bread-and-butter brake upgrades that much more of a pain in the ass.
  • 1 0
 @fullfacemike: I haven't seen a bike without i-spec or matchmaker in years.
As for the lever appearing so far from the shortened grips, I get that. I run my levers an inch or so from my grips too. I just think its a bit silly that he claims to need to cut his grips down, but then leaves a gap between them and the lever...
  • 2 0
 @gabriel-mission9: You don't seem to understand; the new levers have a bracing foot at the outboard end. Jesse's lever IS up against the grip, or very nearly so. As for all bikes being I-spec or Matchmaker: I don't know what you do for a living but I fix bikes and a staggering number don't utilize I-spec or Matchmaker. I'd go ahead and say the majority don't. Moreover the new brakes are just so that Matchmaker doesn't always solve the problem and you can't just convert any regular Shimano shifter to I-spec nor can you get all Shimano shifters in a native I-spec configuration.
  • 2 0
 I seriously can't comprehend doing this. I already feel like mountain bike grips are vastly too short for me and my hands are pretty normal-sized. I have always wondered how anyone with large hands could ride the industry standard sized grips, given that I feel like my hands just barely have enough room to avoid the lock-ons. I have largely opted for flangeless push-on BMX grips for this exact reason, as you can get them as long as 165mm, which gives you some room to adjust your hand position a bit while riding.
  • 12 0
 gimme more of these.
  • 8 1
 I also put mastic tape in my chain guide. Not good. Just all gummed up and went horrible after a short ride, and then was an absolute bitch to get off.
  • 1 0
 Try Nitrile or Viton o-rings. EPDM will swell with chain oil. 70 to 80 durometer works best. Looks like he is running one on the upper bolt.
  • 2 0
 Mastic sucks. Is great when first put it on but then turns into a mess.
  • 1 0
 @CantClimb: I got some stuff called "slapper tape" from Marshy a few years ago. Absolutely does the trick of keeping things quiet and protected on chain guides, chainstays and down tubes.
  • 1 0
 @Dropthedebt: ok, interesting. Thanks.
  • 1 0
 I used velcro Has been working great!
  • 2 0
 @stormracing: the soft bit of velcro is the bomb!!
  • 2 1
 @Dropthedebt: It's just 3M Scotch 2228 rubber mastic tape sold in 1m lengths for £12, instead of 3m lengths for £24.
Marshguard also sell cable ties at double the normal retail price too.
I rather save my money so I can later squander it on slightly less lazy marketing ploys.
  • 1 0
 @Malky79: I didn't say I parted with any money for the tape, simply that I got it from Marshy. tup
  • 2 0
 Yeah, for some stupid reason we can't get 3M Scotch version here.... although we have every other 3M product. So I bought the Marsh Guard slapper tape, great for the chainstay, although I now run a STFU.... but horrible to put on the inside of your chain guide.
  • 1 0
 I could be wrong but the picture looked like friction tape, not mastic tape. Friction tape would be better in a chainguide and doesn't gum up too bad.
  • 7 0
 I’m not sure I’d even be able to turn that Pole with the extended bar length.
  • 8 0
 They missed Joe Barnes' heated grips & wind deflectors.
  • 8 1
 Sand paper on shifters, kills brand new gloves in one ride
  • 4 0
 I tried out the drilling out the dimples and it works a treat, being able to feel the edges of the holes gives more grip feel with or without gloves.
  • 2 0
 My gravel bike levers are slippery and 3M grip tape like you'd put on stairs works great too, no drilling required.
  • 6 4
 So big news everyone. People have lots of grip preferences. Could someone please explain why we pretty much only sell one type of grip and one type of handlebar sweep configuration??

Grips need at least two lengths, at at least three grip diameters. How are these options not available?

I'm ok with spending a lot more money on saddles, grips and bars if you provide the right options. Stop pretending we're all happy on the same solution.
  • 16 0
 I don't think you've been looking very hard. There are many different grip lengths, diameters, and types available. Some grips even come in multiple diameter options for the same model.
  • 2 1
 I dont agree with your assessment that we are short on bar and grip options. There are bars ranging from 7-16° sweep (and beyond, in the bikepacking & klunker worlds), and grips from 28-35mm diameter. Lots of options IMO
  • 1 0
 @dthomp325: you beat me to it haha, I started typing, got pulled away and didn't refresh the page when I came back. But yeah this is one are where we actually have a ton of options!
  • 1 0
 @AndrewHornor: There isn’t a single 12* sweep MTB bar with decent rise and > 780mm width, at least that I can find. Custom steel or ti doesn’t count.
  • 1 0
 @JustinVP: isn't that annoying? Wider bars *should* come with more sweep by default.

At 780/12°, I know of SQlab and Ergotec. Salsa Rustler is almost there at 11°.

I think somebody makes grips that add a little sweep. I'm forgetting, but maybe Reverse Components? Could be worth your while to look into.
  • 2 0
 Having something to help guide your pedal cleats into the clips in the mud or in rough terrain actually seems like a no-brainer, surprised something like that hasn't come to market or been experimented with more.
  • 7 0
 Look for Time Atac pedals, it’s essentially the same idea. Has been out for years, and maybe that’s what Blenki tried to replicate on his HT pedals
  • 1 0
 @Minikeum: I rode time pedals for years. Then on to mallets. They wear out fast so I figured it try HT because you can adjust them.

My cleat felt like it hung up and got snagged between the spring bar and the rear of the body. Right where his guide plate is.

I've since gone back to mallet and just replace twice a year.
  • 3 0
 Those dropouts on Greggs bike look like they could hold up a truck, I don't see how a couple of mm would make any difference in strength, and the bolts WTF.
  • 10 0
 I’m guessing that more offset equals more leverage which would mean more load applied on bolts and rear triangle.
  • 6 0
 Distance from axle to mounting bolts. The farther the axle is away the more torque applied to the rear triangle at the mounting bolts. It’s also a good story to keep Greg from going down yet another setup rabbit hole...
  • 2 1
 I think they have it wrong here? I thought I remember them saying they couldn't go any shorter than 17mm because they needed the pieces that they were machining to have enough material. Not that they couldn't go any longer.
  • 1 0
 @jaredmh: I think you're right. I think they couldn't go shorter than 17mm in this configuration.
  • 13 10
 Joe has the right idea with the brake levers. Can't stand a wide bite point! Bleghh.
  • 10 0
 Depends on your preferences. I tried it once - felt awful!
  • 7 0
 Every time I've tried it, there comes a point where I pull it all the way to the bar, even with non-Shimano brakes. I haven't tried Hopes, which I understand are the most consistent, but I've found I actually prefer the lever to be quite a ways out anyway. You know what they say, big hands, big bite point.
  • 8 0
 I think it just depends which part of your finger you prefer to pull with. If you like to pull with the lever under the second bone of the finger, you need the lever closer to the bars. If you're a distal phalanx puller you need it farther out. Someone once said to me that if you're deathgripping for jumps or high speed sections of trail, running the levers closer in makes it easier to get your finger back on the lever after, which makes sense if you do that..
  • 15 0
 I find it helps reduce arm pump
  • 2 0
 @stubob: I've found the same thing, and easier to modulate in very slippery condition
  • 2 1
 @stubob: I agree. More of a 'fist' gripping the bar than replying on just 3 fingers and your thumb. Couple that with a flatter brake, bingo. I ran my Guide RS like that since the start, a spongy brake.. but nice feel, sometimes would touch the grip when they werent warmed up and now the Hopes just don't fade at all, so even better.. no grip touching when you need them most.
  • 5 0
 Biomechanically you have more grip strength the closer the lever is to the bar, so braking should take less effort with a setup like that, but of course you need to avoid the levers bottoming out on your bars or adjacent knuckes.
  • 10 0
 @n734535: i really enjoy the idea of riders identifying themselves as distal phalanx pullers. This is going to be my new car park chit chat bullshit."Nice bike, i see you're running your levers quite far out - you a distal phalanx puller?"
  • 5 0
 @rmkerr: sir, this is a family establishment.
  • 2 2
 I don't get why Jesse Melemed cut his grips though. I like to run my hand at the end of the grip and I am able to achieve this without cutting my odi elite pro grips. Running my hand this far on the bars does have its drawbacks though because I broke my pinky being that it is very exposed like this.
  • 2 0
 #tenatyre , stick that strip of tyre to your gooch & everything you sit on becomes anti slip .
  • 1 0
 Why did Marcelo Gutierrez strap a tire to his wheel? Was this his way of testing the butt buzz everyone else was getting from their 29ers?
  • 2 0
 I run my brake contact point damn bear on the bar too. I mean who needs brakes anyway
  • 1 0
 Fixed a kid's huffy the other day. Upside down bars and a backwards fork. Should have left it i guess. Climbing machine! (If it weren't like 40 lbs)
  • 1 0
 Currently trying to source a replacement reach adjuster bolt for Hope brakes to achieve the complete opposite of Joe Barnes setup.
  • 3 1
 How does Kate shift and brake at the same time?
  • 14 1
 I dont think I have ever done that on a bike
  • 1 0
 If I remember correctly, the Sram button is paired with the AXS dropper so it works with the Scott lockout.
  • 2 0
 i do all of that and more and i'm still slow...sigh
  • 2 0
 Who drilled their brake levers after this
  • 2 0
 Cecile Ravanel could do with using the trimming you gripshift trick.
  • 1 0
 Why did you crash? My brake levers snapped where I drilled holes in them..........
  • 1 1
 I also use double pawl springs in my Hope rear hub to give the freewheel a louder click.
  • 1 0
 That pole is like the grim donut of downhill bikes in the reach department
  • 1 0
 He added carbon to make it lighter. Don’t you know anything?!
  • 1 0
 I'm feeling the close lever thing. Keeping all the action close!!!
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