We recently listed some tricks and hacks World Cup downhill mechanics use to eke out milliseconds of time on the race track, but what about on the XC side of things? While the downhill mechanics go for precision tuning, for cross country riders, it's much more about weight. Most of the tricks in this list are aimed at jettisoning as much weight as possible so the riders' power is focused on forward momentum. Whether those few grams actually matter is hard to say but if a racer believes they have the fastest bike, it goes a long way in their mind being set on the best result possible. Let's take a look at how they shave those all-important grams.
Custom dropper remotes
With gears, suspension lockouts, and now dropper post remotes all vying for space on XC racers' handlebars, sometimes mechanics have to get creative with controls to help their riders out in the race. This custom Reverb remote belongs to Kate Courtney who has had a remote rewired to fit underneath her grips. Kate has small hands so it means she has to move them less to operate the post and a squeeze of her fingers is all she needs to get her saddle where she wants it. Kate's Scott teammate Andri Frischknecht has taken this one step further. When Mike checked out his bike while filming for Humbled
, he noticed that Andri has a button in both grips - one for shifting up, one for shifting down. Both buttons pushed together operate the dropper.
Removing Rotor Bolts
What does a rotor bolt weigh? Ten grams, maybe. For XC racers, that's ten grams too many and we've seen them taking out a couple of bolts in a pound-pinching bid for milliseconds on the track. While we wouldn't recommend you do this on your own bike, three or four bolts out of six are probably enough to secure a rotor over the course of a 75-minute race.Removing dust caps on headsets
Speaking of weight saving, how about dust caps? Some of us probably take them off (or just lose them) on a tyre valve, but some XC racers will take them off their headsets too. One of the perks of being in a pro team is you get plenty of spares so if you do get your headset contaminated you can swap it out from race to race.
Taking the dust cap off also had an added benefit for Manuel Fumic, allowing him to slam his stem even lower than normal so he could get well over the front on the climbs aboard a retro-inspired Cannondale FSi
Negative rise stems
Anyone who has been watching the track World Championships in Berlin at the moment will have seen the aero benefits of a low riding position but in XC it's far more about getting your weight over the front wheel to maintain traction on steep climbs. Some riders have specially built stems and others simply mount a riser stem upside down. we've even seen riders mount bars upside down to get a few millimeters lower on the front end.
On longer climbs, riders like to switch their hand position to give their hands a rest. To give riders another option, TOGS (Thumb Over Grips System) allow them to bring their thumb above the bar, shift their weight, and still retain some control. Think of them as an alternative to bar ends but you can still use all your controls and you don't have to shift between hand positions.
Rather than the rubber lock-ons we see many racers use in downhill or enduro, a good number of cross country riders use foam grips as their main contact point. Like most things on this list, there are weight savings on offer here but for some riders, it's simply a comfort preference as they ride for over an hour each race over rough terrain on bikes that have far less suspension than your average trail bike.
Mud blocking foam
Any recess in a bike is an area mud can gather and bring with it some extra weight to have to lug around for the next hour of racing. To combat that, mechanics will fit foam in any area the mud can gather to keep it at bay. Yes, it's not pretty but can make a difference if you end up with a race such as Albstadt last year that ended up being sloppier than an explosion in an ice cream factory. The foam also keeps mud out of pivots and critical areas to keep suspension performing at its best.
No sealant in tyres
Sometimes riders will run tubeless setups with very little or no sealant in another effort to save weight. It's a gamble for riders as a single thorn could see you limping round to the tech zone for a wheel change and losing time but if you get lucky, especially on a course where punctures are unlikely, the time savings could be significant.