To the casual observer, the bikes that Justin Leov and Joe Barnes will be racing at the final stop of the Enduro World Series look almost identical. Both riders will be aboard a Canyon Strive CF, the German company's flagship 160mm enduro race bike, and other than the fact the Leov is running a coil sprung shock, while Barnes has chosen air, the differences between the two bikes are difficult to spot at first glance. It's when you dive into the smaller details that things start to get interesting – the riding styles and physical size of Leov and Barnes have resulted in two completely unique race setups.OverviewJustin Leov:
Justin Leov stands 6' (180 cm) tall and weighs 183 lb (83 kg), and is riding a size large Strive CF frame with a reach of 468mm. Leov prefers a longer bike due to the increased stability at speed, and usually runs a 40 or 50mm stem to achieve the ideal body position.
His days as a World Cup downhiller no doubt play a role in how he likes his bike to feel, although up until the middle of this season the Kiwi's bike setup more focused on carrying speed on the less-rough section of trail rather than on being able to charge at full speed into technical sections. “My strengths in the past years have been in the physical aspects, and that's how I set up my bikes – they've been fast bikes that are set up more for carrying speed and maybe not so capable in the technical sections,” said Leov.
After being forced to take a break and miss part of the race season due to glandular fever, Leov started to experiment at the Whistler EWS round, and is now on a machine that's closer to a downill bike than a trail bike. There's a coil sprung RockShox Vivid in the back, and a 180mm Lyrik up front. “For me it's been a little bit of a breakthrough. The bike sits in a much better position, I've got a little bit more rowdiness in me. If I'm in a race situation I can go off a drop or get loose in a section and it feels to me like I can recover from that more like I'm on a downhill bike, where in the past it's been more like I was a passenger in those sections,” said Leov.Joe Barnes:
Joe Barnes checks in at 5'8” (173 cm) and weighs 150 lb (68 kg). He's riding a size small Strive CF frame with a reach of 422mm. There's been a push for longer bikes and shorter stems over the last few seasons, but Barnes hasn't completely bought into that trend; this season he actually downsized to a smaller frame size. He also prefers running a 50mm stem versus the 40 or 30mm options that have become popular, due to the slightly slower steering that it provides.
“I've never pushed into holes or compressions when I'm riding – I never developed that style. I try to skip over stuff, and when I race I don't push harder I just get more precise,” said Barnes. While Leov's bike is closer to a downhill bike, Barnes' precise and nimble riding style (as well as his lighter weight) means that his bike isn't quite as singlemindedly focused on plowing through the rougher sections of the trail. Suspension Setup
This is Justin Leov's first year riding for RockShox, which means that he's had to figure out entirely new base settings for his shock and fork. At the beginning of the season he was on a Monarch Plus in the rear and a 170mm Lyrik up front, but he's since switched to Vivid coil and a 180mm Lyrik.
Depending on the course, Leov runs either 3.5 or 4 tokens inside his Lyrik, which creates the greatest amount of bottom out resistance possible. This allows him to have a fork that feels supple initially, but then still has plenty of support and stability once speeds increase. The overall feel between the front and rear suspension is balanced, although riders that aren't riding at a pro-level pace would likely find it to be very stiff.
There's a 550 lb spring on the shock, and it's been custom-tuned with increased compression damping to prevent Leov from going through the travel too quickly. Leov and his mechanic have been experimenting with different rebound settings, but with only one race remaining they haven't gotten too crazy – the more drastic experimentation will take place in the off-season.
Joe Barnes is running a 170mm Lyrik, but he's also using an angleset, which slackens the bike's head angle out the same amount that a 180mm fork would. There are three tokens in the Lyrik, and the rebound is set on the fast side compared to what would be considered “normal.” Out back, the Monarch Plus is set up with 30% sag, and it's equipped with a custom shim stack to provide a faster rebound speed at the beginning of the stroke and slower rebound at the end. Overall, it's not that extreme of a setup, partially due to Barnes' riding style. If you're popping and skimming over the tops of holes and compressions you don't need quite as much support compared to someone with a steamroller-like riding style. Stem, Bars, and Brakes
There may be a four inch height difference between Justin Leov and Joe Barnes, but they're both running 740mm bars. Why? “There's so many stages we do that are through narrow trees, and if you ride a wide bar and have to cut it down for a race it feels unusual. If you're used to running a 740 or 750 bar you're used to it from course to course,” said Leov. But before you rush out to the garage with a hacksaw in a quest to gain EWS street cred, keep in mind that both riders ride with their hands hanging slightly over the outer edge of the bars, and the Ergon lock-on grips add about 5mm to each side.
The two riders also prefer low stem heights, although Barnes takes it the furthest, removing his head set top cap in order to get the stem absolutely as low as possible. It's a unique setup, especially considering that he's running a bar with 20mm of rise, but it's certainly not slowing him down.
If you were to walk around the pits grabbing the brakes of the pros in attendance at this weekend's race you'd find a wide range of settings. Lever angle, bite point – everyone has their own particular position that they prefer. Joe Barnes' lever bite point is on the extreme side of things – his brakes don't even engage until they're mere millimeters from the bar. “I have them really close in and then brake with the middle portion of my finger rather than the end... Everyone from Fort William runs them the way I do – we just never thought anything of it,” said Barnes.
Leov sets his brakes up with the bite point much farther out, and said, “I cannot ride a bike with the braking point close to the bar. If I have them there something feels completely off.” He's also switched to Code brakes in order to help fight the tendinitis that he's struggled with this season – the additional power means he doesn't need to grab onto the levers quite as hard. Wheels and Tires
As enduro race courses become more and more technical, tire choice is becoming critical, and choosing the wrong tread pattern or casing can make the difference between standing on the podium or the sidelines. Leov says he can't get away with running tires that weigh less than 1100 grams, and for some races he uses a special insert, similar to what's used in the moto world, for increased pinch flat protection. Tire pressure ranges depending on the track, but the maximum he runs is 30 psi in the rear and 26 in the front. For slow speed, slippery tracks he'll drop as low as 22 psi up front.
Barnes is especially particular about his tire pressure, going as far as carrying a pressure guage with him on course and checking his pressure before every stage. “I always make sure that's the same and then I can trust my grip,” said Barnes. For this weekend he'll be running 21 psi up front and 26 psi in the rear, and will be using new tires from Mavic that have a prototype casing, one with a slightly stiffer sidewall for increased support.
Rim widths have been increasing over the last few seasons as well, and both riders said they've been enjoying the 28mm internal width on Mavic's new Deemax wheelset. They're still experimenting with different rear rim widths, and once the season concludes there's plenty of testing to be done to determine the optimum race rim width. What's Best?
Justin Leov and Joe Barnes are extremely in tune with their bikes, but even though they can rattle off all sorts of geometry figures and shock pressures at the drop of a hat, their ideal setup is derived by feel. There's no magic formula that can be used to come up with a setup that works perfectly for everyone, and even the fastest riders in the world are constantly tweaking and refining their bikes in search of the ideal configuration, one that's comfortable and
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