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Bike Check: Dylan Johnson's Drop Bar Factor Lando - 2023 Leadville 100

Aug 9, 2023 at 10:00
by Betsy Welch  
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The Leadville Trail 100 MTB race may get a lot of flak for not being a 'real' mountain bike race, but it is still best raced on a mountain bike. That said, most pro Leadville bikes are notoriously void of things like rear suspension, dropper posts, and any iota of extra weight. Despite the fact that there are some flat dirt and paved road sections, and race speeds average 16-17mph, Leadville is just technical enough and has way too much vert to ride on a gravel bike with 40c tires.

That isn't stopping some riders from trying to strike a balance. Dylan Johnson, a pro for Jukebox Cycling with a successful YouTube channel, is one of the 70 riders in the Life Time Grand Prix series, of which Leadville is the fourth race. There are seven races total — three mountain bike and four gravel — and riders take their best six of seven for a stab at a $250,000 prize purse. Johnson was part of the inaugural series last year, which is when he said he started thinking about doing Leadville on drop bars. Since then, he's been tinkering with his Factor Lando hardtail, recently racing it with a Fox 32 Taper Cast gravel fork at the third Grand Prix race, Utah's Crusher in the Tushar.
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Name: Dylan Johnson // Jukebox Cycling
Age: 28
Hometown: Brevard, North Carolina
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 150 lbs
Instagram: @dylanjawnson

Before Life Time banned all aero bars at Leadville, Johnson said that flat bars with mini aero bars was the ideal set-up. This year, he's decided that drop bars will give him the back that aerodynamic advantage despite it feeling "a little sketchier on the descents."


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Factor Lando hardtail details
Frame: Factor Lando hardtail
Fork: Fox 32 Step-Cast Factory, 100mm travel
Wheels: Black Inc Twenty Seven
Tires: Continental Race King 2.2, Tubolight EVO SL inserts
Drivetrain: SRAM Eagle XX1 AXS, Quarq Eagle XX1 power meter, 36t chainring, CeramicSpeed OSPW
Brakes: SRAM Force AXS
Cockpit: "Handlebars 400mm wide, stem 70mm"
Size: Medium
Weight: 22 lb / 10 kg

bigquotesLeadville falls in this gray area between a gravel and a mountain bike race where you can choose to underbike with your gravel bike or overbike with your mountain bike. Or, you can create a bike that falls perfectly into this gray area and actually have the right bike for the course.Dylan Johnson

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A special drop bar lever to control the Fox Transfer SL dropper post.
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100mm of travel and 2.2 Continental Race Kings.
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36t and 10-52 for 12,000 feet of climbing.


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Johnson says that his Powerline and Columbine descent times on this bike are similar to his race times last year.




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96 Comments
  • 134 0
 Down-gravel
  • 3 0
 edit
  • 16 1
 22 pounds is pretty heavy for a bike like that
  • 3 1
 @Franken-Bike: Agreed. Many full suspension XC bikes are coming in that weight snd even lighter.
  • 1 0
 @Franken-Bike: As long as it gets you to the Golden Burro.
  • 69 5
 I kinda like it, I bet prime Tomac could descent faster on this than 90% of guys on Enduro bikes at the park....
  • 9 0
 Prolly at about 82% right now.
  • 7 1
 Hell, Johnny T was flying down the Kamikaze, Doing 55 miles an hour with drop bars. Also, using V-brakes.
  • 15 0
 @omegalung: ha ha. V brakes were invented about six years after he did that!
  • 1 0
 A 1990 DH bike, indeed.
  • 3 0
 @omegalung: not using his (V-)brakes you mean. Those guys apply the "brakes only slow you down" principle.
Then, I ride the same trails on a 160mm fully and wonder whether I should replace the 203 rotors for 220 to get more braking power...
  • 2 0
 @RadBartTaylor: He would be faster than 82% of of guys on Enduro bikes at the park right now.
  • 2 1
 @ReformedRoadie: I didn't understand "82%"
  • 2 0
 @RadBartTaylor: I just know that a few years ago he was still beating Eli downhill...
And he's only 55 now.
  • 2 0
 @Mac1987: Yes. Went to Mammoth last year, and flying down on my Transition, and thinking. They John Tomac had some serious balls.
  • 47 1
 All mtn bikes can be gravel bikes, but a gravel bike will never be a mtn bike
  • 13 1
 ^This guy hucks!
  • 2 1
 @handmedowncountry: To Flat.....
  • 2 0
 @trudare: and wins a medal...
  • 2 0
 @mountaincross: and puts his pants on with both legs simultaneously
  • 47 0
 Backwards hat Dylan would ride a TT bike.
  • 31 2
 I've raced Leadville 9 or 10 times and I'd have to agree a more "road bike" like setup is a winning formula. 90% of it is on high quality dirt roads you could travel at speed in a family car.

The only technical sections are so short that any time lost there are very easily made up on the easy sections.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the sky high VO2 max also required for success!
  • 7 0
 I debated using a drop bar rigid for Leadville (I had a "monstercross" bike back in the day before people called them gravel bikes that I did the Tahoe 100k on) but I would really not want to descend powerline or sugarloaf on it especially in traffic. Probably makes sense for this guy who may be in the lead riding into the wind alone in the flat sections, but for everyone else you're going to be in a pack anyway, I'm skeptical you would gain more time than you would lose descending powerline/sugarloaf/columbine
  • 1 0
 except the winner rode this on a pretty orthodox xc hardtail build and also set a new course record.
  • 22 0
 Says something about the leadville course when this is actually viable. Leadville is hard because of the elevation but its pretty debatable whether it should be classified as a mountain bike race in the true sense of the classification. It'd be cool if they put more single track into it.
  • 5 0
 Exactly. Most of the course is gravel roads
  • 10 40
flag no-good-ideas FL (Aug 11, 2023 at 13:28) (Below Threshold)
 It’s a race on bikes in the mountains.

Mountain.
Bike.
Race.
  • 77 0
 @no-good-ideas: I didn't know the Tour de France was a mountain bike race.
  • 12 5
 @ridedigrepeat: GAWD! how dare you point out the glaring flaws in his argument.....bigot!
  • 3 0
 Would you personally ride it on a gravel bike? Probably not. Then its a mountain bike race
  • 1 1
 @no-good-ideas:
True. Lots of historic races were like this, and there is nothing wrong with this.
Down voting fools.
  • 3 0
 I've done Leadville and can definitely say it's a mountain bike race. I'd hate to ride it on a gravel bike. It can be done, but it would be terrible. Mountain bike is definitely the best tool for the job on this course, and that definitely makes it a mountain bike race. I'm no longer a lycta racer guy either - I like my baggy shorts and lift assist riding the most nowadays.
  • 24 0
 Levy Bait
  • 14 1
 I did this with a Niner RKT 9 RDO and it's such a stupidly fun bike. A lot of the XC around here can straightup be ridden on a gravel bike if you're brave enough, and a bike like this next to a proper MTB in the garage adds a pretty massive fun factor. I wish this sort of thing were more common. Tons of fun on gravel and commuting too, can really just take whatever extra credit stuff you find along the way and send it.

ep1.pinkbike.org/p6pb25337684/p6pb25337684.jpg

The bike in question.
  • 3 1
 What’s the benefit of the drop bars? I’ve always thought just to have more options to place your hands over longer rides. Comfort sort of idea. Maybe some aero as well?
  • 4 0
 @tacoma22: big aero advantage
  • 3 1
 @tacoma22: The aero is a plus I guess, but when you're sat that upright with that large of wheels, you don't really notice it. It really is for having multiple hand positions for longer rides. I had considered a few of the alt bars that are online, but ultimately I've used wide drops before, they feel comfortable, so I stuck to something I somewhat knew. It's wrapped with 4.6 DSP, so pretty danged comfy.

It's honestly good fun.
  • 2 0
 @sherbet: that bike has a low enough stack that I think he can get pretty aero on it, I doubt his position is any more upright than a lot of endurance road bikes.
  • 1 1
 Problem with slamming the stem is with that short stack, when the fork is bottomed or going downhill, the front end is VERY low. Makes descending anything above a blue pretty sketchy pretty quickly. She's fairly upright and comfy at the moment, and with my normal averages sitting below 25km/h, the aero doesn't seem like something to pursue toooooo much to me.

Don't get me wrong, dropping down on it in headwind does make a noticeable difference. That said, it's definitely the wrong bike altogether when looking at aero. Maybe with a deeper wheelset and a lower bar it would hit that niche better.
  • 4 0
 @sherbet: good to see you still around! I used to drool over your bmx builds bike in the day on the old "post your bmx" threads
  • 10 0
 I think it looks fun, for fit people looking to go really fast. I am only halfway of either, but I still have a soft spot for drop bar MTBs... Pinkbike isn't really that crowd. I've tried it a few times, can't make it stick, but I've got Discord stem on order... will try it again on one of my goof off bikes at some point.
  • 10 0
 To answer the question on the article header "At what point does a mountain bike become a gravel bike?" - The answer is "at this point".
  • 3 0
 29 x 2.2" tyres, suspension, dropper? Surely this is def still an mtb
  • 1 1
 @overconfident: what's an mtb?
  • 1 0
 @mountaincross: this but with flat bars apparently.
  • 1 0
 @overconfident: That must be the threshold then, my gravel bike can only take 29x2.1" tyres
  • 11 1
 DylanJawnson is a badass bike nerd. His youtube channel is great for other bike nerds like me. He also reps us WNC folk very well. Crush it Dylan!
  • 9 0
 Wait, Leadville is a gravel race now? Always has been.
  • 1 0
 Nope. I've done it. Definitely a mountain bike race
  • 4 0
 Betsy Welch? I see Outside is bringing their writers over from their other bike pubs now.

this is almost exactly the setup that got most of the top places in the Tour Divide race.
  • 3 0
 Anyone saying Leadville is not a mountain bike race has never done it. It's most definitely a mountain bike race. Sure some of the pros can get away with drop bars so they get in a more aero position to win. But the mortals out there are best served on a traditional XC mountain bike with flat. I'd hate to do this course on a gravel bike. It can be done, but would be terrible. I'm going to be doing it again in a few years, and I'm definitely going to go for my full suspension XC bike. I might consider a hard tail, but any less than a 100 mm travel fork would be torture. Most of the time I'm not in Lycra. I like my baggy pants, my Santa Cruz Bronson, and lift assisted bike parks. But descending down these gravel roads at 40 Mph is definitely a mountain biking skill that needs to be built up and honed. It's scary, dangerous, and I'd hate to do it on a gravel bike. Just because you don't do that with your riding doesn't make this not a mountain bike discipline.
  • 2 1
 Gravel, road, straight bar, drop bar, what’s what? All shades of gray. Did gravel bike marketing even exist in 2015? Was Dirt Merchant an MTB trail? Was Barelli a Cross racer? Who gives a crap? Ride!

m.pinkbike.com/news/dirt-merchant-a-line-with-a-cross-bike-video-2015.html
  • 2 0
 We should know thw Q factor... It is like a Mtb or road? For me the most annoying... Realy feel better with less Q factor and MtB Zare too wife there ... Don't know why there isn't more options...
  • 1 0
 I don't have much interest in actually doing Leadville as a race, but I like the novelty and creativity in these weird hybrid bike setups. I'm curious about the tradeoffs between drop bars vs just a really really slammed stem with negative race flat bars. I guess this gives you just a bit more drop.
  • 1 0
 A similar borderline MTB/gravel event that Dylan rode this bike at is the Chequamegon 40. These types of courses can be ridden on a gravel bike but it has continually been shown a mtb is the best option. Stetina tried the same concept again this year at Cheq40 and admitted afterward that the bumps/ roughness took too much energy and was less efficient, and I would agree. My personal crossover point is that if you need 2.2 tires, then 100mm of suspension is also beneficial (the weight/benefit trade off on 40mm forks isn't worth it) and you should be on the mtb at that point.
  • 3 0
 Whats old is new again. Travis Brown did this in 2009.
www.bikehugger.com/posts/travis-browns-dropbar-mtb
  • 1 0
 180 crank!
  • 1 0
 @AltaSki: As in the article , very odd combination of parts. The 26 inch wheels seem the oddest to me, along with the long cranks.
Travis was a proponent of larger wheels (maybe just after this race).
He was tall and altitude favors a slower cadence on the climbs, so the 180 mm cranks might have helped to save his lungs for a portion of it. No rock strikes likely on this course.
The mix and match of the components is a real throwback to the earlier days of racing.
  • 4 0
 Dylan where are the 47 pathfinder pros?
  • 2 0
 or.....Niner's full suspension gravel bike...
www.ninerbikes.com/products/mcr-9-rdo
  • 2 1
 I have seen this, so I won't click just to have to find the eye bleach again.......*shudder*
  • 1 1
 @Mtbdialed: I clicked, it didn't reference to the full sus gravel, so I googled. Do you have some of that bleach left?
  • 6 6
 Anything Leadville is not MTB content (anymore). Lifetime has dumbed-down the course to appeal to the runners interested in racing the combo series, then moved the original course onto roads to squeeze in more riders.
  • 1 1
 To my knowledge the course has never changed. The first time I did it was the second year it was held, I've done it 8 or 9 times since and the course was identical every time. It was a running race before it was a bike race, so your comment doesn't make sense.
  • 4 1
 Dylan made it to the big time for sure now
  • 2 0
 Drops can be fine offroad, but those things are damn narrow with almost no flare
  • 1 0
 The bar choice seems obvious, the choice of a dropper for Leadville less so. I'm gonna say its primarily for the same reason: aerodynamic advantage (on the downs).
  • 2 0
 If you could mentally erase 30some years of what you thought a mountain bike was, you’d attempt outrageous things on it.
  • 1 0
 The only thing missing is a 53T/52T and a 34T/36T chainring. Why not create a flat bar with drops under then we are done with it.
  • 3 0
 Pinarello, take note.
  • 2 0
 Isn't the Leadville 100 mostly a gravel race anyways?
  • 1 0
 I'm so gravel curious. Definitely need to try one of these climbing machines someday!
  • 1 0
 When there are no tech restrictions (unlike motor sports), why wouldn't you create the best tool, for the course?
  • 2 0
 TransBike... TransGravel..?
  • 1 0
 MLGBTQ+
  • 1 1
 It's just an off road bike for an off road race. Why does it matter whether it's a gravel bike or a MTB or anything in between?
  • 1 0
 rofl it is barely either of those things
  • 2 0
 Upduro
  • 1 1
 I would ride the ugly mountain bike from the other day instead of this ugly contraption.
  • 1 0
 the serious gravel bike disease
  • 2 1
 I'd ride it.
  • 1 2
 Is he running road calipers? I don't believe those brake levers work with Levels but I could be wrong
  • 1 0
 RaceKings!
  • 1 0
 Beast Mode!
  • 1 0
 Hypergain
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