With the enduro circuit seeming to stretch ever increasingly across each corner of the globe, athletes and bikes have to be prepared to cover a broad spectrum of terrain and conditions. Now on the Trek Factory Enduro Team, Scottish pinner Katy Winton can choose between two very different bikes when tackling the world’s toughest EWS stages: the Slash 29 or Remedy 27.5.
Being a smaller rider at 159cm (5’ 2”), Katy has chosen to run the 15.5” frame, which is the smallest Trek offering. Besides the difference in wheel size between the Slash and Remedy, there is a whole host of smaller and more subtle variations that produce two rides with distinct personalities. After racing on three different bikes over the 2016 season, including the Remedy, Slash, and eventually the new Remedy 27.5, Katy is looking to put in some winter laps to discover which ride suits her needs and demands best for another grueling season of racing.
I caught up with Katy during this testing to find out her thoughts on each bike, and to take a look at the setup differences between her Slash 29 and Remedy 27.5.
Ross Bell: The geometries of the two bikes are quite different, but what are the major differences in the feel you have out on the trails?
Katy Winton: The Slash just feels like a much bigger bike, because it is. Just in terms of being a bit more of a monster on the downhills, there's a little less regarding feedback just because eats everything up with the big wheels and longer travel. I feel like you can ride them both consistently, and they put you in the right position to be able to throw them around. They share a lot of similar traits; you don’t notice in terms of cornering which always seem to be the thing with people going to bigger wheels, I don’t find that’s the difference I feel the most. I feel like I can get round just as tight corners on the 29er as I can on the little bike. It’s more just how it responds to the trail as it’s coming towards you. It’s just stability.
The Slash just seems to iron stuff out, so you feel like you’ve got a lot more time to set up for things because you’re not fighting, just riding and riding hard. I like that style of riding when you’ve got time to set up; there's less feedback because you’re just plowing through whereas the Remedy is a lot more responsive to inputs, but that's just personal preference.
Bell: As a smaller rider, how do you find the bigger wheels?
Winton:I feel pretty good on them considering I’m so small. I think you have to give Trek credit for making a bike that works so well for smaller riders. It's not just been ‘midgetized’ (Katy’s term for herself!), it's actually been thought out so the geometry still works and the bike still responds as well as everybody else's. I’m going to do some testing to see whether they’re really working as well as they feel or not. For me, specifically as a smaller rider, it can be deceiving with your feel, so I need some raw evidence.
Bell: Where do the strengths of the bikes lie in terms of pedaling efficiency vs all out downhill blasting?
Winton:Well, they’re both brilliant bikes at both. I’ve been riding these ‘all mountain’ bikes for a while now, so you don’t notice the difference between that and an XC bike anymore; you don’t feel like you are losing much on the climbs. I find the Slash 29er can be hard going uphill when you’re at a slow speed and you’re just trying to get the big wheels to turn over, but if you’re just going up a fire road and trucking away you can just cruise along quite happily at a good pace. The 27.5 on the Remedy is good all the time, and I’ve got the double ring on that, so that helps too. The Slash feels like a bigger bike, but I don’t feel like I’m compensating in the climbs for it. I can lock the rear out and truck away just as well as the small bike.
Bell: Do you see yourself swapping between the Slash and Remedy over the races next year?
Winton:I want to try and avoid switching between the two because last year I raced three bikes because I needed to get used to the components and the bikes, and find out what I liked and what I didn’t. So this winter is about choosing which bike works for me and sticking with it so I’m fast all the time, rather than getting used to new stuff all the time. The Richie Rude effect!
Bell: The Slash and Remedy both have the changeable geometry position. Is that something you’ve been utilising?
Winton:So we’ve got the Mino Link which allows us to change the bike from steep to slack. I had it steep on the Remedy for the first few rounds I raced, then I changed it in Whistler to the slack position and moved myself up a spacer at the front of the bike, and that just slotted me into the right position. It's all personal preference but having that option allows you to get the bike setup and react in a way that suits you and your riding style, making it quite a personal bike.
Bell: In terms of cockpit setup between the two bikes, do you keep the contact points consistent from the Slash to the Remedy?
Winton:Yeah, I run my handlebars at 740mm but the stems are slightly different. I’ve not spent enough time on the 29er so haven’t thought out what stem length I’ll end up running. The stack height right now is as similar as it can be to one another, so the height of the Slash is the same as what is on the Remedy, it just looks different on the Remedy as there is more of a stack, but it brings the bars to the same height.
Bell: Coming from an XC background, does that influence your bike setup or choice at all?
Winton:Yeah, I’ve had to adjust my bike setup to push me further back in my riding position as I tend to ride over the front a lot as I’ve been used to having the seat up the whole time. So I raised the front end up quite a bit to try and push my weight back more to get me more central or just in a better position to move the bike around a lot better instead of the seat dictating where I was actually going.
Bell: Your brake setup is pretty intriguing on closer inspection. Can you give us the run-through on that?
Winton: I run my brakes back to front, I run them euro style which, for a lot of people, is normal but not in the UK! I run my front brake bite point further in as I don’t like it biting so quickly, I’d rather brake harder on the back than the front as I feel like I can modulate it better. When I was out in the Alps where the majority of the season was, I just wanted the Saint for more power and slowing down quicker, and they just responded well to that style of riding. Also, because they were that much more powerful, I got a lot less arm pump than before. When I’m at home, I don’t need that sort of power, but when you’re away and descending for so long you really need that.
Bell: Why is it that you’ve got the older Fox D.O.S.S dropper on the Remedy and the new Transfer on the Slash?
Winton: When I changed to the Remedy halfway through the season, I didn’t want to change to a 100mm dropper seat post as the new Transfer 125mm post doesn’t fit low enough for my tiny legs. It was enough to change a bike in the season, so I didn’t want to start changing my saddle drop in the middle of the season.
Bell: Does your suspension setup stay the similar bike to bike?
Winton: At the moment, yes. I’ve got a blue spacer in the fork; I changed it as I initially had an orange spacer and four volume spacers in the shock. I work a bit with sag, but I don’t know specifically what percentage it is, I just know from look and feel. I’ve worked with Fox doing testing and with my mechanics just to keep it consistent between the bikes and discussing changes to suit the courses along the way. So I have one base setting across the board with rebound, and high- and low-speed damping, then I adjust it slightly when I come home as 2 PSI softer, then a couple clicks slower in the rebound and a couple clicks higher in the low-speed compression as I spend a lot of time on steep and slow terrain.
Bell: With the step up in team last year you’ve had not only choice in bike but greater support and access to knowledge, such as the guys at Fox. How much of a benefit have you found that to be in terms of bike setup?
Winton: It's been a massive help, especially with Fox. I’ve been able to ride in a new place with new terrain and a different challenge and being able to understand my suspension to know why it's reacting this way; I need to change in this way which is something I was never sure about before. Just having access to these guys who know everything about the product means it's more efficient in making decisions and sorting it out instead of something being not quite right and just having to ride it.
Bell: You’re running a double ring on the Remedy but a single ring on the Slash. Why is that?
Winton: The Slash can’t actually run a double because of the way they’ve designed the rear end of the frame, so I’ve got no choice in that one! It’s to bring the chainstays in and keep them short at 435mm. I like the double ring on the Remedy because the synchro shift means I can run one shifter but still have a huge range of gears, as I like being able to spin up the climbs and really recover after each stage. Both setups are good, but I do find myself swaying to the double ring setup and synchro shift as it's just so smart!
Bell: There's a smorgasbord of rim widths, materials, tire compounds, casings etc… Where do your preferences lie?
Winton: I’ve just got my hands on a pair of prototype wheels with a 30mm internal width. Bontrager is going to be introducing new rims across their range, going wider across the board, including their XC bikes with minimal weight penalty. But it just changes the characteristics of the tire to give better support so the sidewalls don’t roll as easily. My standard go-to pressures are 23 PSI in the front and 25 PSI in the rear, then adjust from there. If it's dry or rough, I go harder; softer if it's wet. Since I’m small and don’t ride particularly hard on my bike, I can get away with a ‘normal’ casing. It's not a particularly light one, but I don’t need a downhill one.
Bell: And finally, what bike do you find yourself grabbing out the shed more regularly?
Winton: The Slash… It's blown my mind! It's so capable and makes me feel so confident. I can hit lines that I wouldn’t normally hit, do everything quicker, and push my boundaries as I know it’ll save me if I do something a bit sketchy. That really confidence-inspiring setup is amazing to have when you’re riding your bike a lot, or even a little! It's just such a good feeling to have, full stop!