Throwback: The Best Tech From the Fort William DH World Cups

Jun 4, 2020
by James Smurthwaite  

There may be some World Cup mechanics that are secretly glad we're not heading back to race at Fort William this year. For those who bust a gut in the pit, it's a near-constant battle to keep bikes running on a track that doles out beatings on bikes for fun. With that being said, it's also one of the biggest showcases of the sport as tens of thousands of rabid fans pile in from around the UK to check out the latest gear and the racing that never fails to be thrilling.

We've been heading to the Highlands for nearly 20 years and we've had plenty of opportunity to snoop around the pits in those years. Here's a look back on some of the best tech we've seen from our visits to Fort William.

2006

After breaking his duck at Fort William in 2005, Peaty returned in 2006 with this custom helmet that featured doodles of his Santa Cruz team at the pub.



2007

2007 was a World Champs year and that means custom bikes. Steve Peat's (left) featured a silhouette of the London skyline, while Rennie's featured Aussie gold and a boxing kangaroo.

It wouldn't be the World Champs without the Boxxer Worlds sideshow. We can't find any record of the winner, but that's not really the point in this fork servicing race that ends in a hectic chug off.
It wouldn't be the World Champs without the Boxxer Worlds sideshow. We can't find any record of the winner, but that's not really the point in this fork servicing race that ends in a hectic chug off.



2010

Sam Hill took a case in practice in 2010 near the Deer Gate and this is what remained of his bike. The prescription was 2 new wheels and a fork lower swap too.
Sam Hill took a case in practice in 2010 near the Deer Gate and this is what remained of his bike. The prescription was 2 new wheels and a fork lower swap too.

4 gears are all you need when your name's Jared Graves.
4 gears are all you need when your name's Jared Graves.

Steve Smith and Luke Strobel living the less glamorous side of World Cup racing - a broken plane, missed flights, sitting on the floor next to bike bags floor and lots of airport lounge booze.
Steve Smith and Luke Strobel living the less glamorous side of World Cup racing - a broken plane, missed flights, sitting on the floor next to bike bags floor and lots of airport lounge booze.

The privateer pits are a large part of the atmosphere at Fort William. Here's Thomas Braithwaite enjoying the classic privateer delicacy, charred sausages on a portable BBQ.
The privateer pits are a large part of the atmosphere at Fort William. Here's Thomas Braithwaite enjoying the classic privateer delicacy, charred sausages on a portable BBQ.



2011

Roger Rinderknecht's 3 speed casette with a guard ring to keep his chain out of his spokes.
Roger Rinderknecht's 3 speed casette with a guard ring to keep his chain out of his spokes.

There are actually two pits at Fort William. The first is at the bottom of the hill, but there's also a marshal who sits at the deer gate with inner tubes and spares to help riders struck by a puncture to get to the bottom of the hill.
There are actually two pits at Fort William. The first is at the bottom of the hill, but there's also a marshal who sits at the deer gate with inner tubes and spares to help riders struck by a puncture to get to the bottom of the hill.

The mechanic's secret to a shiny lid.
The mechanic's secret to a shiny lid.



2012

Out with the green and in with the pink Sam Hill s Specialized Demo Carbon will be auctioned off after the race to raise money for breast cancer research. Anyone want a Carbon demo months ahead of projected availability This one may get expensive...
Sam raced in 2012 with a pink bike and kit to auction off for breast cancer research. It was a carbon Demo that hadn't yet been released to the public so we've no doubt it got expensive fast.

Funniest damn thing Sam Hill pulls off to check a section of track and almost instantly gets accosted by a fan with a bike frame on hand for an auto graph...
He was a hard man to miss on the hillside in his matching yellow and pink kit, and was accosted at every opportunity.

Boobs bellies butt cheeks... and dogs On the list of strange things to autograph here at the Fort Danny Hart takes the pole position by autographing a dog...
Speaking of signatures, here's a Jack Russell proudly bearing Danny Hart's squiggle.

It wasn t only people getting broken. Put your pedal in the wrong place and you can kiss it goodbye.
Another victim of Aonach Mor, this time a pedal caught on one of the many protruding slabs of granite.

Every year you hear photogs and racers bitch about the midges. Most years they really aren t too bad. But an exceptionally mild winter saw them out in clouds on the tracksides particularly down low. Long sleeves long pants and a midgie net were the only ways to stay sane.
Alongside broken bikes, midges are the other constant at Fort William.

Short bus Midgie Net...
Covering up is pretty much the only way of evading them...



2013

GT 2014 Fury World Cup
The GT Fury got its grand unveiling under the Athertons in 2014.

Patrik Thome on the Scott 27.5 DH prototype.
Scott quietly debuted its 650B Gambler at the Leogang World Champs in 2012 and gave it a World Cup debut in Fort William.

Steve Smith
Cedric Gracia
Aaron Gwin

Cam Cole
Luke Strobel
Sam Blenkinsop
Some more bike portraits taken at the top of the chairlift

Reg Branch the mechanic for Jill kintner and Bryn Atkinson tuning into is the braek true Or do I need to tweak it
Reg Branch, the mechanic for Jill Kintner and Bryn Atkinson tuning into "is the brake true? Or do I need to tweak it?"

Emmeline Ragot double double checking cockpit length on her new Lapierre DH sled.
Emmeline Ragot measuring up to get her cockpit length spot on.

World Cup precision isn t just from the mechanics. Marcelo Gutierrez setting up his cockpit to the millimeter.
Marcelo Gutierrez taking it a step further and setting up to the mm.

Beth Reid Ben Reid s mum doing a bit of custom seastress work for hire... what started as a bit of nip and tuck on Ben s jerseys to get them to fit a bit better a few years ago has blossomed into a bit of a cult following craft business amongst the racers in the know... they hire her to customize the fit of jerseys shorts etc that frequently come from sponsors that are designed with a one size fits all mentality.
Beth Reid, Ben Reid's mum, established herself as the World Cup's seamstress for hire. What started as a bit of nip and tuck on Ben's jerseys to get them to fit a bit better blossomed into a bit of a cult following/craft business amongst the racers in the know. They hired her to customize the fit of jerseys, shorts, etc that frequently came from sponsors and were designed with a one size fits all mentality.



2014

3 World Champ titles 16 World Cup wins 61 podiums and a partridge in a pear tree. Greg Minnaar is 100.

Want to ride 100 world cups kids Wear a helmet. Wear a Kabuto. Says Greg.
Fort William 2014 was Greg Minnaar's 100th race on the World Cup circuit and got this custom helmet as a reward. His stats up to the century are totally mind-blowing - 61 podiums, 16 World Cup wins and 3 World Champ titles.

Peaty and Minnaar know all too well about the midges here in Fort William. The Santa Cruz pit got the shaft on location with their tents located in midge central.
Images from the 2014 Fort William UCI Dh race.
The Syndicate go full Bear Grylls in the fight against the midges

Proper and probably the most efficient midge repellant.
Smoking the midges out is another method that some racers try in the pits.

Wire snips or nail clips Nigel Reeves at Devinci believes that all tools should be multi purpose.
Wire snips, tire trimmers or nail clippers - Nigel Reeve showing off the ultimate multi-purpose tool.

Data acquistion hadn t been seen for years on the World Cup DH circuit until last year when Remi Thirion slayed it in Andorra. Since then Lapierre has taken that technology and applied to to their racer s programs. Here we see Jack running the numbers on Blenki s DH sled--not the new one Blenki will have to wait a race or two for his pre production model to show up.
The Jack Racing data logging equipment is still being refined and used by the Specialized team to this day.

Not DH tech but new tech just the same over in the Schwalbe Pits--the new Nobby Nic wider casing more widely spaced nobs and different side knobs for a more predictable break away from traction when cornered hard.
This was the first time we saw a prototype Nobby Nic on the World Cup circuit.



2015

e13 carbon rims
e13 were brave to debut new carbon rims at Fort Bill.

Pink is in
A custom pink Five Ten shoe for Tracey Hannah.

steve smith custom shock
Some sharpie notes to make sure Stevie's shock doesn't get mixed up in the servicing truck.

Tahnee s Copparide Charity bike giveaway
Following Sam's lead, Tahnee also brought a pink bike up to the Scottish Highlands to raffle off for breast cancer.

The first of many many many wheels that will be built through the weekend as the rough Fort William track dishes out abuse.
Wheel building is a near-constant task in Fort William.

Welcome to the Radon Factory pit complete with sunbathing area... also known as the Zambezi Delta
2015's race was such a washout that qualifying had to be postponed until the morning of race day. Radon found out about Scotland's famous weather the hard way.

Brendan fresh paint from TLD. The story goes something like Brendan used to have a toy tank as a kid that said DS-69 on the side which he always interpreted as a rude code for two sexual positions. Not quite sure why. England s a strange place to grow up...
Brendan Fairclough's custom helmet paid tribute to a toy tank he had as a kid and something a bit less SFW. We'll let you connect the dots.



2016

Sik Mik equipped with one beautiful tribute stache.
Red Bull made Finn Iles a replica of Steve Smith s helmet to pay tribute here in Fort William.

Track Walk - Fort William DH World Cup 2016 images
Track Walk - Fort William DH World Cup 2016 images
2016 was an emotional one, and the first World Cup since Stevie Smith's passing; riders came out in force with plenty of tributes to the great racer.

Minnaar and Blenky sending it on Stevies memorial run.
A tribute train was held on the first day of practice and the ghost run on race day left not a dry eye in the pits.

Track Walk - Fort William DH World Cup 2016 images
Steve Peat led the tributes after the memorial lap.

2016 Fort William World Cup

Peaty s special Scottish D3.
2016 was also Peaty's last ever World Cup and he was treated to a tartan painted bike and kit.

Troy Brosnan s Specialized Demo - Fort William World Cup 2016
Pink bikes seem to be a theme up in the Highlands.



2017

Fox Coil remote lock out.
A double lever system on this Fox coil lockout with the smaller one presumably being for releasing.
Fox Coil remote lock out.
The housing was freshly 3-D printed.

The Nicolai of Jack Reading leady to go.
Jack wouldn t tell us the weight of the lead but just said he s been working with Chris Porter from Mojo and through testing have found that by placing the extra weight behind the stem and at the bottom bracket helps to calm down the forces and roughness from tracks keeping the ride planted.
Jack Reading experimenting with lead weights behind the stem and at the bottom bracket to help calm down the forces and roughness from the track, keeping the ride planted.

Semi-slicks are nothing new at Fort Bill but with the rain falling now it ll be interesting to see who risks running them.
Semi slicks are a regular sight at Fort William but you're always playing a risky game of chicken with the almost inevitable rain.

Ernie coordinating the Boxxer stickers on Nik Nesteroff s Union Jack M16 ride ready for GB s most legendary of races.
Nik Nesteroff's custom Union Jack Intense M16.

World Cup predictions from the UCI Gwin Minnaar then Brosnan... with considerable gaps
Some pretty bold predictions from the UCI.



2018

Joshua Barth from Germany and his Solid Strike.
Frida Ronning from Norway and her Canfield downhill prototype.
We took some time out to check out privateer bikes in 2018 including Josh Barth's Solid Strike and Frida Ronning's prototype Canfield

Monika Hrastnik from Slovenia and her Giant Glory.
Monika Hrastnik had been pretty under the radar to this point but would pick up her first-ever World Cup podium just over a week after this was taken.

Propain have popped 29 wheels in their Rage this weekend.
With the chainstays in long mode and a shorter eye-to-eye shock they ve made enough room for the big wheels without having to drop the rear travel.
The chainstays in long setting and a shorter shock just about allowed Propain to squeeze in some 29er wheels into the Rage frame

Custom airline carryon for you custom suspension anyone
We've seen plenty of custom toolkits from mechanics, but how about this? A carry-on bag that keeps all the important suspension bits safe in transit.

Pierron Winning Bike
From seemingly out of nowhere, Pierron blasted to the win in 2018 on the Commencal Supreme.

Amaury Pierron
The Frenchman was running a prototype stem and a 5mm reach adjust headset.



2019

Luca Shaw takes the reigns from his mechanic Dougie Fresh shifting his saddle position forward to avoid the dreaded bottom-out buzz.
Luca Shaw shifting his saddle to avoid a bottom-out buzz.

Precision in the transition pits. Tahnee Seagrave s cockpit gets it s final touches.
Tahnee Seagrave's cockpit gets dialled in with super-high precision.

Mixing potions that are said to keep tires inflated.
World Cup mechanics can sometimes mix up their own secret sealant formulas to try and keep their rubber inflated.

Makeshift eight speed cassette fitted on Loris s V10.
A makeshift 8-speed cassette for Vergier.

Canyon s Nigel Reeve cleaning the debris out of Mark Wallace s pads. It s a high speed course and those heat up fast.
Nigel Reeve cleaning the debris out of Mark Wallace's brake pads after qualifying.

Neko Mullaly s grips protected from greasy paws at IFR.
These guards stop mechanics' oily hands from contaminating the grips.



53 Comments

  • 46 1
 Sick Micks mustache Needs it’s own twitter page
  • 31 0
 * Pornhub page
  • 30 5
 Tomorrow is national donut day. Here’s to hoping it is grim donut day.
  • 22 0
 I would be super surprised if the top tube length of my bike changed.
  • 3 0
 I haven't experienced it personally either. Maybe it's been changing and I'm not noticing it due to my lack of measurements.
  • 1 0
 In some bikes youncan change the lenght by 5cm in the head tube, but you wont have the possibility to change the head angle.
  • 1 0
 It's colder in Fort William so the frame may have shrunk a couple microns, however I don't think the tape measure will do the trick
  • 16 1
 RIP Peaty's duck... Never forget the quack!
  • 1 0
 went straight to comments hoping for this!
  • 10 0
 Won't Quack Down
  • 10 1
 Love to see some timed runs with 2010 Demo on fresh rubber vs a 2020 version.
  • 4 3
 2020 would win. 2010 was short and good for super teck. Would do ok in vds probably
  • 3 1
 @makripper: Well it there's only 78mm difference in wheelbase, which basically accounts for the larger wheels. So hardly revolutionary. In fact the modern Enduro has greater variation in wheelbase between sizes than the Demo grew in ten years.
  • 5 0
 @ChazzMichaelMichaels: that's almost 3 inches. That's quite the growth.
  • 13 0
 @makripper: that's what I keep telling my gf but she's having none of it.
  • 5 0
 2011 Demo is still a proper bike park machine. You can get one for cheap. Reach on size Large is 447mm, pretty much perfect for me - 5ft10. 343mm bb height was really low at the time, works great. Short chainstay...what's not to like. Very serviceable bike still today, if you're under 6ft or so.
  • 7 0
 Sam's pink Demo is still fire
  • 2 0
 Anyone know where it is now?
  • 2 0
 Quick question about the guy listening to the brakes rubbing. Does it really make any difference? I mean, you can put your bike upside down and spin the front wheel, and even if the pads rub a tiny bit (and it must be tiny if you need to get your ear an inch away to hear it) the wheel still spins for ages. Like, two minutes. So, is that a little bit OTT? I don't believe it would make any difference to your time. Maybe like, 1/100,000th of a second.
  • 1 0
 It means the pads aren't engaging evenly which can result in a bit of power loss. In practice I think you're right though, might just have been messing around for the camera.
  • 2 0
 This and generating heat.
  • 5 0
 @n734535: Agreed, this is a joke for the camera.

No one in their right mind would put an ear so close to a spinning rotor.
  • 3 0
 @brit-100: I never leave my bikes on the stand or upside down for fear one of my kids will give a wheel a spin and stick his fingers in around the rotor. Doesn't bear thinking about it.
  • 2 0
 @Ritgut: I actually slash cut about 1/3 of my finger nail off one time washing the bike upside down!
  • 1 0
 @jaame: aww that would've been sore.
  • 1 0
 @Ritgut: It's still not growing back exactly like it was, and that was about five years ago. It's the kind of thing you only do once.
  • 5 0
 Oh man Finn Iles looks young now, he looks even younger here!
  • 3 0
 Probably spending all the Money on Adrenochrom
  • 4 1
 Crazy the evolution of bikes from 2006 to now. An '06 DH rig looks like a modern mid travel trail bike.
  • 2 0
 v10 used to have a 67def HA.
  • 3 0
 @Ron-C: Then again SC geometry has always been a bit behind the curve, hasn't it? Orange was way closer to what we have now.

Also, Sam Hill's 2007 Sunday had a 62.7deg HA though fair enough the production model was much steeper. Orange was 64 in 2001, 62.5 in 2005. The PB audience may still have been lamenting the lack of pivots at the time though Wink .
  • 3 0
 I tough "breaking his duck" is just another typo, but then Google told me it's an idiom...

Haha...
  • 3 0
 It’s from cricket. A duck is zero ‘runs’.. breaking the duck is when you have one under your belt.
  • 2 0
 Sick Mik mstch is a great tribute and a great fit in my honest opinion
  • 2 0
 Ben Reids mom got it going on... (in the tune of Stacy's Mom)
  • 2 0
 Maxima SC1. I put that shit on (almost) everything!
  • 8 0
 Quiets down brake squeal pretty well.
  • 1 0
 So many great memories! Can't wait till racing is back! PS: Sam Hill goes hard.
  • 1 0
 I'm pretty sure I took that photo of Sam Hills big wreck in 2010. He was more than a little shaken up post crash..
  • 1 0
 It fucked him up good. Season was over. Too until final race to get back to it.
  • 2 0
 Damn that pink demo was sick!! Surely it didnt look like a session
  • 2 0
 Can you sign my dog please? Lol.
  • 2 0
 What no pics of Honda from 2007 or Sam Hills black & green Iron horse?
  • 1 0
 Buddy 2007 is 13 years ago and it's time to move on
  • 2 0
 Pushbikes are brilliant.
  • 1 0
 Just completely gutted rn. 2021 feels like a long way away
  • 1 0
 What protractor app is that?
  • 1 0
 Cathro's skin suit?
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