PB's Matt Wragg interviewed Team Specialized's Troy Brosnan and Jared Graves at La Thuile to talk about how they prepared their bikes for EWS Round Four in Italy. Brosnan, who is currently second in the World Cup DH series, is taking a "break" from his day job to race enduro. His weapon of choice is the 27.5-inch-wheeled S-Works Stumpjumper, while Graves, a former World Cup DH pro and EWS champion, chose the 29-inch-wheeled version. With both men coming to the EWS from successful DH careers, it was interesting to learn about the similarities and peculiarities of their race bikes, suspension setups, and component choices.
Troy Brosnan's S-Works Stumpjumper FSR 650b
says he normally rides a medium-sized frame when he is back home, but he chose a large for this event to give his Stumpjumper a more downhill bike feel to match the severity of the terrain. To that purpose, he chose a 170-millimeter-stroke RockShox Lyrik fork to slacken out the front end of the 150mm-travel chassis, which is suspended by a conventional-looking Monarch Plus RC3 shock. At 143 pounds (65kg), the diminutive downhiller says that he runs his fork at 25 to 30 percent sag - a bit softer setup than he uses for his Demo - with two, maybe three air volume spacers to prevent bottoming. Brosnan admitted that they were still working on the shock tune, so he could not give us any useful numbers.
Brosnan runs 2.3-inch Specialized Butcher tires, presently with the Grid casings set at his DH race pressures of 27psi for the front and 30 to 31 for the rear, because, "Butchers take a fair bit of pressure to work. ...You can lower the pressure to get more grip, but then they don't roll that good..." If he needed more grip, Brosnan mentioned that he was leaning towards downhill casings for the race. "I'm wondering, going between the Grid casing and the downhill casing. That's my main focus on tires right now. ...With the downhill casing the knobs are a bit taller and you got a bit more deeper tread, so you probably want to keep the same pressures."
"My brakes, that's the main thing that I like to have really good. I have little hands so I gotta run my levers in real close, but then I also like them to bite real soon. So, my poor mechanic has a hard time trying to bleed them and doing pad advances, but we've definitely got them dialed right now." Brosnan uses SRAM Code calipers for their braking power, paired with Guide levers, which he prefers for their feel. Rotors are 180mm in the rear and 200mm up front.
For enduro racing, Troy like his handlebar a bit lower for better pedaling. He uses a 38 millimeter rise for DH and 30-millimeter rise for his EWS bike. And, he is particular about his rims. No carbon, please. He likes the lighter feel of carbon (he rides Renthal Lite carbon bars), but doesn't trust the durability of carbon rims for descending, so his race bike gets 30-millimeter-wide DT Swiss EX 1501 aluminum wheels - the same rims he uses for his DH bike. Troy wants his saddle slammed for the steeps, so he uses a 150-millimeter RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper - which would not have been possible if the seat tube of his large-sized frame was any taller. At full insertion, the post exactly matches Brosnan's extended pedaling position.
Troy's drivetrain components are pretty much out of the carton: an eleven-speed SRAM XX1 ensemble, including a 32-tooth chainring, backed up by a Specialized top guide. Pedals are HT, which Brosnan reportedly has been using since the Gwin era. Overall, Brosnan's bike is a straight-forward build, but the devil, as the cliché goes, is always in the details. The only unanswered question was; "Why he chose a Stumpjumper over the Specialized Enduro 650?" Perhaps Jared Grave's answer applies to Brosnan as well.
Jared Graves' S-Works Stumpjumper FSR 29
Why the Stumpjumper 29?
"I had one at home since January, and I had been meaning to try it out. When I got home from Ireland, I had a couple of days off. I was sort of pissed off with the trip in general and just decided to push the reset button on the season, so to speak. My bike was still sitting in the box, and I wanted to go for a bit of a spin, and this was sitting there, so I jumped on it and, honestly, from the instant I first got on the dirt on it, I absolutely loved it. I wanted to hate it. I've always been kinda’ against 29ers. But, I think there are all sorts of stereotypes about 29ers - they don't corner well and they're not good in the tight stuff - but that was from years ago when geometry was not figured out yet. I can honestly ride it just like a 650 or 27.5, or whatever you call them. It's fun, its playful and the sizing of this bike in particular - it just fits me really well. It's spot on and I'm loving it right now."
When asked why he chose a Stumpjumper over an Enduro, Graves said that initially, he liked the geometry of the Stumpjumper over the Enduro, but the reality was that there was no choice - Specialized has no Enduro 29s left, and he intimated that he has yet to ride an Enduro 29, so he can't provide a comparison between the two bikes. Will Graves "convert" to 29-inch wheels? Not for the entire season, it seems. Graves says he will ride the big-wheel Stumpy for the next two races and probably switch back to his 27.5" wheeled bike for the Whistler EWS.
Graves rides a 160-millimeter-stroke RockShox Lyrik fork and its 135-millimeter-travel rear suspension is powered by one of RockShox's new metric shock, a Super Deluxe RC3, modified to work with the Stumpjumper's yoke-style shock extension. Graves says that there may only be two in existence, and curiously, the damper is reversed on his bike - which (considering how late it is in their development cycle) provides a strong hint that the next generation of Stumpjumpers and possibly, Enduros as well, will not use the extension at all.
Fork pressure is set at 92psi with three volume spacers. Graves says that he simply tells RockShox how he wants the shock to work and lets them do the magic - but his last pressure reading was 210psi. For comparison's sake, Graves weighs 178 pounds (81kg).
Tires of choice are Specialized Butcher 2.3-inch with the tougher-but-not-quite-DH-strength, Grid casings. Graves says they weigh about 1000 grams each and he runs 26 pounds up front and 29 to 30psi in the back. "They feel too squirmy when you start getting close to the 24psi range."
Graves is a fan of carbon rims on his 29er, but admits that he switches back and forth from carbon to aluminum rims when he feels that there is a chance he'll break a wheel. "You can't deny how nice carbon wheels run and how nice they feel."
"I'm running the old ghetto tubeless - that was my go-to setup. I had that everywhere in 2014 and 2013. I hadn't run it since tires and rims have become more tubeless specific. Hopefully it helps prevent flats. It also gives that buffer between the tire and the rim - it takes the sting out. What people don't realize is that for us, mostly it’s a case of we don’t get our flats by slashing the tire. Nine times out of ten it's pinching the entire tire, like we would a tube. It used to be a way for non-tubeless tires and rims to seal the air, but now, it's a way of making a protective buffer between the tire and rim - hopefully, less chance of breaking a rim, and less chance of flatting a tire. That's the theory. We'll see how it goes."
SRAM's Eagle twelve speed ensemble is almost as hard to come by as 29-inch Specialized Enduros. Graves' bike has the X0 version, backed up by a full-span MRP chainguide. There are whispers in the pits that the Eagle chainring's hooked tooth profile does a less than perfect job of retaining the chain, and while our experience does not substantiate that, we will keep a close watch to verify that rumor. Graves says that he runs a 36-tooth chainring on his 27.5-wheel bikes, but drops down to a 34-tooth on his 29er.
Graves is a big boy, and he speaks well of his brakes, which are also a combination of SRAM Code calipers, powered by Guide levers. On big courses like La Thuile, Graves runs 200-millimeter rotors on both ends - but will sometimes switch to a 180-millimeter rear rotor to reduce the possibility of bending one in the rocks. Conversely, he prefers narrower handlebars than present fashion dictates. He overhangs his grips slightly to extend the width of his Renthal Fatbar Lites to 750 millimeters. His Renthal stem is flipped upside down and the spacer is eliminated to mitigate the extra height created by the 29-inch wheels.
"To be honest, they [the aluminum Renthal bars] were the only ones we had in the van. I'm not really finicky about alloy or carbon. I run the carbon's usually, 'cause they're strong as hell and they're lighter, so why not? I've never had an issue with them. They have the exact same rise and sweep and they feel the same ...and consistency is all that matters to me."