The XC race season was due to kick off this weekend at one of the all-time classic venues, Nove Mesto. The Czech course always attracts rowdy local supporters who come out in droves to make it an extra-special round for the racers, but its traditional position near the start of the season makes it interesting for bike tech dorks too. We've been attending races at Nove Mesto since 2014, and the speed at which the bikes have evolved since then has been staggering. Let's take a look at some highlights from 6 years at the venue.Unusual Dropper Posts
Matthias Fluckiger first started experimenting with his own dropper post at the 2015 World Champs when he couldn't find a post to fit his 27.2mm seatpost. He used an aluminum stanchion and carbon tube to make it then used strips of pre-preg carbon fiber for reinforcement. For more info on that post, check here
By the time the 2016 World Champs rolled around he had a much more refined version that can be seen above.
This JBG dropper out of Poland is another inverted design that we spotted just last year. Weighing just 315 grams with 60mm of travel, it's advertised as an XC specific dropper post and can be yours for a cool €750. The one we found in the pits used a Bontrager lever, but it looks like JBG have had their own produced since then.
The Evolution of Schurter's Bikes
Unsurprisingly, Nino Schurter has won at Nove Mesto more than anyone else, with four World Cup victories and a World Championships title under his belt in the Czech Republic. We've had plenty of opportunities to check out his bikes each time, so here's a rundown of how his set up has evolved through the years:20142015201620172018
Nino was running the Syncros Fraser iC SL Special Edition one-piece bar and stem for the first time in competition in 2018 plus an updated prototype of the SRAM AXS (or as we were calling it then, Eagle eTap) shifter that looks pretty much like the finished production version to us now.2019
We didn't get a bike check of Nino's bike in 2019, but if you look at the photos of him racing you can see some prototype Maxxis XC tyres
Bike ChecksJaroslav Kulhavy's Specialized S-Works Epic - 2014
Kulhavy is known for his wild setups and his 2014 bike was no different. Check out his saddle angle and stem length!Jose Antonio Hermida's Merida Big Nine - 2014
Jose Hermida was one of the last riders to still be running bar ends in XC racing and they've completely vanished now (although some riders do have thumb rests inboard from their grips). He was also one of only three riders to be running the RockShox RS1 inverted fork at Nove Mesto in 2014.Julien Absalon's Team Elite 01 - 2015
Julien Absalon had both this BMC Team Elite hardtail and a Fourstroke full suss set up identically for him to A/B test on the Nove Mesto racecourse, which is just one of the perks of being reigning World Champion. He ended up racing on the full suss but we thought this hardtail was the cooler of the two bikes. BMC use two aluminum shafts and bushings to soften up the ride yet keep rigidity at the desired level.Catharine Pendrel's Orbea Oiz - 2017
Catharine Pendrel's 100mm/27.5" full suss not only had electronic shifting thanks to Shimano Di2 but also electronically controlled suspension from Fox. Vlad Dascalu's Protek 29 FS - 2018
There's not much clever to say about this one... just look at it! Protek use T800 carbon fiber with a 12k weave, which is what gives the frame such a distinctive look and it a low weight (1.7kg without shock).Chloe Woodruff's Pivot Mach 4 SL - 2019
Much like Catharine Pendrel, Chloe Woodruff also had some electronically controlled suspension, although hers was a bit more sophisticated thanks to Fox's Live Valve. She won Live Valve its first-ever race in the Nove Mesto short track, which becomes even more impressive when you consider she did it on a full suss, not a hardtail with a rock-solid fork.
An accelerometer and input cable on the fork