Video: A Deep Dive on Neko Mulally's Lourdes Race Bike - In Depth Ep. 3

Mar 22, 2022 at 8:35
by Alicia Leggett  

bigquotesHere’s my race bike for the opening round of the World Cup this weekend in Lourdes. This bike is a refinement of my first two frames and is a reflection of where I am in the development process.

This frame uses a unique strategy: I choose a significantly higher main pivot for a bike without an idler pulley, and intend to exclusively use an O-Chain with a large chainring (38t). This allows me to have a more rearward axle path than any modern bike without an idler pulley, while maintaining the simplicity and efficiency of a low pivot design. This frame sits in the space between high pivot and low pivot designs, which is something that wouldn’t have made sense before the O-chain. I’ve ridden this bike a few days now and it rips!

My leverage ratio is 33% progressive in a linear gradient from 3.35:1 to 2.25:1; Anti-rise is around 50%; Axle path comes forward to +10mm at bottom out; pedal kick is pretty high at 11 degrees in the 14t cog, but the idea is that the O-Chain takes care of that.

This bike was modeled by Ben Arnott who was my mechanic for two seasons on YT and is great friend of mine. Ben is a mechanical engineer, has designed a few bikes, and knew exactly what I wanted. I did the kinematics in 2D, then Ben did the complete 3D model. The frame was hand built by Frank the Welder in Vermont.

Ben put a lot of time into refining the design of the CNC parts, retaining the bearings properly, and using production hardware. We leaned on the guys at Cascade Components for the rocker link, which they designed and cut at their shop, solving all my problems from the previous frames. 5DEV cut this one piece main pivot yoke for me that made alignment more precise. Ben designed the bike to use a complete hardware kit from a Transition Spire along with a SRAM UDH hanger to keep things simple, much better than designing something ourselves.

I’m lucky to have had the help of so many knowledgeable people with this project. Hopefully my finger is strong enough to hold on and show what this bike is capable of this weekend!
Neko Mulally



61 Comments

  • 26 1
 brought in Cascade, the right people for the job. I dig it!
  • 16 0
 And 5Dev for the machining the main pivot and cranks. Cool to see all of this happening in North America via aluminum instead of Asia/carbon production.
  • 6 0
 @salespunk: Those cranks though.
  • 14 2
 Cascade- 'Uhh Neko, we were looking at the suspension curve of your bike, and decided it wasn't progressive enough. So we made you a new link.
  • 2 12
flag garrisond5 (Mar 22, 2022 at 20:12) (Below Threshold)
 @mb23: what a stupid statement.
  • 3 0
 @BenPea: 5dev cranks rock
  • 11 0
 Niko, Good Luck this weekend and I'll be rooting for ya. I can't wait to see how well this bike does. What an awesome concept, a dedicated racer building his won dedicated race bike. Hope your hand holds up well.
  • 11 4
 I dont know why everyone is so obsessed with pedal kick wich is virtualy non existent (unless it is realy realy high) at actual racing speeds and can really be felt only under extreme cirmcustances like low speed huck to flat or under braking. The reason ochain works is not because it eliminates or helps eliminate pedal kick but because it helps dampen the chain slap, that at least in my theory is more severe in bikes with more rearwards axle path.
  • 1 0
 Nice explanation.
  • 3 0
 Kickback induces harshness under braking but a bike with less kickback isn't faster. With O-chain hard braking simply feels smoother.
  • 5 0
 @MulallyNeko it would be awesome if you could do a video about this phenomenon, because it's obviously a parameter you considered during your design and testing, and I think it's pretty misunderstood or mysterious to most of us. What's the relationship between pedal kickback on a graph, chain growth, O-Chain, etc. I haven't ridden O-chain myself, but I'm super curious what exactly you're feeling in the suspension- Are you feeling it in your feet, or are you feeling general harshness at the rear wheel?
  • 4 0
 For everyone interested, Steve from Vorsprung made a nice vodeo about it.
  • 1 0
 I always wondered if the ochain make a bike feel smoother because it also isolates the feet from the chain, allowing a bit of "free float"
  • 1 0
 I have had vivid discussions with all the usual suspects about this subject. My take is, that even while riding fast the wheel will lock up for a (mostly) short period of time. I think the worst thing in such a situation is a suddenly appearing harshness.
  • 1 0
 The first time I really noticed it (pedal kickback) was on a 120/100 "downcountry" bike several years ago with a high engagement hub on rowdy trails. Even World Cup race courses can have slow sections, a chunky entrance, tight chunky turn, etc., where speeds slow. It occurs when there is chain line "growth" on the top of the chainline, and a more rearward axle path greatly increases this because it tries to stretch the chain on the top of the chainline as the length between the cassette and crank grows. The chain won't stretch in that direction, and it bucks the cranks/pedals backwards. A really quick and big hit can make it happen and if there's much braking going on simultaneously it can essentially make the bike a hardtail for a moment. This usually happens in really techy stuff when most of your weight is going to be centered on the pedals, or you're trying to really shift the bike around. Again, most of the time that I notice it is coming from really fast sections into a techy set-up scenario where I'm slowing to make a big move. It can be disconcerting to have the pedals bucking back at you. The o-chain is basically built to isolate that bucking from displacing your footing or jolting you in those brief, but consequential, moments. High pivot bikes don't eliminate it, it's the use of the idler pulley that essentially negates the top of the chainline growth issue, because it moves that "growth" from in between the cassette and the crank to in between the cassette and the idler pulley.
  • 1 0
 @AnodizeErrthing: The slowspeed pedalkickback which occurs when your hub is engaged by pedaling which you likely experienced on your xc bike isn't altered by ochain.
The only relevant kickback on a DH bike which can be reduced by O-Chain is during braking on rough terrain. High pivot bikes can completely eliminate this if the idler is placed directly on the main pivot (or IC on a 4-bar if thats possible with the linkage design) but then they don't pedal well at all because you need chain growth for a full suspension bike to pedal well and feel agile.
  • 7 0
 this vid is going to blow up the marketing depts of all the HP manufacturers.... @teamrobot told me pedal kickback doesn't exist.
  • 2 0
 HP strong point is not the pedal kickback, that is just a somewhat common misconception spread by the fact that HP bike usually come with an idler. It's the axle path that makes them appreciated.
  • 3 1
 Looks like a Dare = good thing, IMHO. Great to see this story. Looking forward to racing season. I remember seeing Neko race at the Duryea Downhill in 2014. Super nice guy who was going way faster than everyone else while riding a single crown mid-travel bike.
  • 5 0
 I realy like that. keep it simple efficient. No bullshit.
  • 1 0
 Came to say this ^.
  • 1 0
 So awesome to see what design options open up when you are able constrain certain aspects like a larger chainring size that would not be so desirable for the masses. This is really an effort in building an entire system that works in harmony instead of just refining the frame as much as you can to work with many different set ups. Very cool to watch this process and thanks for sharing.
  • 5 0
 Such a cool series.
  • 2 0
 Badass videos. I’m not a tech junky but I love the candid approach to design, test and feedback from a world cup racer. It is awesome
  • 1 0
 I think this would also be a great platform and concept for an enduro bike. Sure you will need to do something with that seatangle but it looks doable. And with bikes sold with idlers, why not sell it with an o-chain ?
  • 1 1
 Someone should talk to Neko about Anti-squat. Should be on his radar for an important pedaling characteristic to consider and tune; his 3 bikes will have very different feel when pedaling, maybe not the most important for downhill racing but you still have to sprint out the gate.
  • 2 0
 i am curious how/why the o chainring thing would work better than a low engagement rear hub... anyone?
  • 18 0
 Because the low engagement hub will give you a random amount of back-pedal before engagement. It just depends on where the pawls are in between the ramps when the hit comes. The O-chain should always has the same amount to give versus suspension travel.
  • 1 0
 @justinc5716: was just about to type that. that is my understanding of it as well
  • 3 0
 Does this mean hydra hubs suck for DH
  • 1 0
 @Dogl0rd: ive honestly found the high engagement hubs paired with ochain to be an awesome combo! when pedaling, you dont feel any lack of engagement and still feels the same honestly, but the DH is when you feel a noticeable difference!
  • 1 0
 @Dogl0rd: i have onyx with ochain
  • 1 0
 @Dogl0rd: Not necessarily, but they will have definitely have more pedal kickback compared to a lower engagement hub. I went from Hydra to DTSwiss 370 with the star ratchet upgrade, and I notice a significant difference in the steadiness of the pedals on extended chunky downhills.
  • 4 0
 @andraperrella27: I'm a sucker for gadgets so don't tell me it's good!
  • 4 0
 The hub really doesn't have anything to do with the pedal kickback phenomenon that world cuppers are feeling. Anything above jogging pace and the freehub is already spinning faster than the wheels can catch up to it. The O-Chain is more reducing the effects of chain growth as suspension compresses.
  • 2 0
 Malca explained the O-Chain benefits pretty well down below.
  • 1 0
 @TEAM-ROBOT: makes sense
  • 1 0
 @Dogl0rd: its a pretty red and unique feeling I must say. I had no expectations coming into it but it sure does feel smoother under my feet.
  • 3 0
 Nicely explained, great video and awesome looking bike!
  • 1 0
 You say you didn’t focus on how the frame looks but I would argue that form follows function and this is elegant and stunning. Reminds me of Turners from back in the day.
  • 1 0
 Yeah Neko!! Looks amazing, get shreddy...gonna be a wild ride lookin' at those new course pics today!
  • 1 0
 Spoke setup on the rear wheel looks weird....where does the spoke on the low right go?? New standard?
  • 1 0
 That's not a spoke, it's from the large tiles at bottom of the wall.
  • 1 0
 Good luck! Also, @neko; try syn.bike It will hopefully open your eyes to a slightly bigger picture Smile
  • 1 1
 Kind of surprised he would go with something completly new for the World Cup weekend after spending so much time trying to compare the other 2.
  • 1 0
 Its not completely new. He explained that.
  • 1 0
 I would buy the bike the bike the way it is, however pass on those swiss cheese cranks.
  • 1 0
 Great video. Good luck Neko this weekend.
  • 1 0
 Awesome; i’m sure he will do great at Lourdes
  • 1 0
 Could also get a more rearward axle path by dropping down the Horst pivot.
  • 1 0
 Best of luck Neko. So sick what you're doing.
  • 1 0
 Psyched for the race this weekend.
  • 1 0
 Hopefully he can put it in the top 40 if his riding well
  • 1 0
 looks like an early Session test mule
  • 1 0
 awesome! Goodluck this weekend!
  • 1 0
 Frank the Welder the original FTW!
  • 1 0
 A FTW/ Cascade frame= take my money!
  • 1 0
 This is so cool! I hope he crushes it this season!
  • 1 0
 So high pivot is dead now, right?
  • 1 0
 Intense is jealous
  • 2 4
 Looks like Session... Razz





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