Throwback Thursday: Jared Graves' World Champs Medal on an Enduro Bike

May 18, 2020 at 9:09
by James Smurthwaite  
Jared found good pace across the tacky jungle floor but sadly squashed plenty of ants on route to just 5 seconds back. Too many x-ups and tailwhips with the single crowns on the tabletops.

World Champs are renowned for custom bikes and one-off set up tricks and never has that been more true than in Pietermaritzberg in 2013.

The track had been a fixture on the World Cup circuit since 2009 and had quickly become a notorious venue thanks to a lengthy, uphill pedal section in the middle of the track. Riders were well aware of the section's uncanny knack of making or breaking a race run so they were doing all they could to power through it as fast as possible. Single-ply, fast-rolling tyres, power meters, dropper posts and more were spotted in the pits, although droppers ended up not being much use in 2013 as the pedal section had been packed with huge tabletops for the event.

Here's 2013 South African National Champion Tiaan Odendaal previewing the World Champs course, the pedal section starts at around 2:20.


Some riders went further than others in their search for speed though. Mitch Ropelato brought 29" wheels to Elite DH racing for the first time as he elected to race on a Specialized Enduro. It was a far from popular decision as 650B wheels had only just started to creep into the sport and the #26aintdead brigade began to notice their favourite wheelsize fading out of the sport. Josh Bryceland would go on to win the last World Cup on 26-inch wheels at the end of 2014 and they haven't really featured in downhill racing since.

World Champs 2013

One of the other men riding bigger wheels was Steve Smith on his custom 650B race bike. Instead of a converted Wilson, he had a one-off prototype flown straight from Devinci's factory in Chicoutimi that was designed by Dave Weagle specifically for the event as a 165mm travel mini downhill bike. Up front was a lowered Boxxer with 175mm travel, one of the first BlackBox 650B forks RockShox offered to athletes, although Smith was apparently prepared to race on a Pike with this frame.

n a Photo by Paris Gore

Dave Weagle said at the time: "One track, one weekend, and a couple of closely matched riders to design for, that's a really fun challenge, one that I really love being in a position to tackle. If I can help these guys take even a tenth of a second off of their time, then I'm ecstatic. In this case, I'm hopeful for seconds." That bike later became the blueprint for the updated Spartan but our feature on Stevie's bike can be read here.

There was only one other bike that managed to generate the same level of excitement, and that belonged to one Jared Graves.

Jared's Bike

Team Yeti

Graves had become a full-time EWS convert at this point and hadn't raced downhill since Fort William in June, which he used to qualify for the World Champs. He had found instant success in enduro racing though and picked up his first win at the inaugural Crankworx Whistler round at the start of August followed by a second-place at Val D'Isere just a week before the World Championships.

He flew over with the bike he had been racing at the EWS all year ready with the aim of putting some World Cup pedigree riders to shame. Of course, he didn't run the exact same set up that had seen him as a regular fixture on the EWS podium that year. The medium frame, contact points, and wheels (26" for those keeping score) remained the same but pretty much everything else was adapted to the demands of the Pietermaritzberg course.

Jared Graves Yeti SB66C

For suspension, a Fox 36 Float with 180mm of travel replaced Graves' usual Fox 34. This had the double effect of adding a bit more damping up front and also slackening the bike off to around a 65° head angle. He paired the fork with a Fox Float X that had apparently been tinkered with by Fox to give more ramp-up at the end of the stroke.

His drivetrain got an even bigger overhaul as he swapped out his usual 38T ring for a 40T and used the lower eight cogs of an Ultegra ten-speed (11-23) cassette in the rear. The biggest cog has been removed, and the teeth of the second-largest cog had been ground down, creating a guard to prevent the chain from coming off into the spokes. This was a simple, yet effective way of saving weight and only running the gears that will be necessary on a high-speed course such as Pietermaritzburg.

Given that a lot of the World Cup racers were fitting dropper posts for the PMB pedal, it is interesting that Graves went the other way and took his off. In his own words, "in my opinion, you should be standing up giving it all you have, not sitting on your bum." Jared also wasn't drawn into fitting low-profile tyres as some racers were, instead he stuck with a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 in the front and a High Roller 2.4 in the rear, both with DH casings and set up tubeless using a split tube. He said: "the lighter EXO sidewall tires were a bit too squirmy on the high-speed impacts and I couldn't push hard enough in some key sections."
Jared Graves Yeti SB66C

Jared Graves Yeti SB66C
A 750mm bar and 50mm stem for anyone curious for cockpit set up notes.

Graves keeping in visible range of Atherton across the misty wasteland from the shuttle to the start hut.
Grubby ditching the dropper probably had something to do with those calves.

Read more about the bike, here.

The race

What next... Graves winning Olympic BMX on a downhill bike The course has taken some criticism on account of his bike choice but mainly it reflects sky-high diverse bike riding skill.

Two unforeseen problems immediately made life a bit more difficult for Jared as he arrived in Pietermartizberg fresh off the flight from the French round of the EWS. Firstly, the Master World Championships had been held on the course the week before leaving the track beaten up and rougher than he was expecting. Secondly, was the series of huge tabletops that had been built to break up the longest pedalling drag of the course, cutting short the section of the course that would have given him the greatest advantage.

Team Yeti

It didn't deter him from racing on the enduro bike though and in seeding, he came down in fourth despite being early in the running order on a track still slick from overnight rain. We spoke to him after his run and he said, "I've always been a racer at heart whether it's a local race or World Champs... I have that same feeling of wanting to give the best you can so I'm sure it'll be no different tomorrow and I'll give it everything I've got."

...And that he did. Here's how he describes it:

bigquotesMy actual race run was a bit of a blur. The track had deteriorated quite a bit from the morning’s practice and was very dry and loose again, just how I like it! I knew that you had to be fresh to make the most of the jumps and pedaling at the bottom, so I made sure that I stayed smooth and clean up top to preserve energy. I took it easy on the pedaling and just pumped to maintain and gain speed on everything. When I got to the pedaling section my breathing rate was well under control and I still felt fresh and I got good backsides on the two main 60ft jumps. This was probably the most important part of the whole run; if you didn't get good backsides and pump from the jumps, you lost a lot of speed and momentum into the pedaling. I got into a good rhythm by not going too hard early and sustained my power over the whole straight. At the end of the pedaling and jumps, I still had a lot left in the legs and lungs. You just get another gear come race run, and I felt like I may have not given enough. I also found I couldn't pedal too hard. Pedaling any harder and I would’ve completely flat landed every jump on the straight. I was in a good position to finish strong.

I gave it all I had over the last minute, pedaling wherever I could and trying to stay off the brakes in all the high speed turns at the bottom. In the last 10 seconds, I knew I was on a good run. I just kept going with all I had and crossed the line over 12-seconds on the fastest time to that point. My time goal had been 4 minutes, and I just missed it by coming in at 4.01. I had set myself up for a long afternoon in the hot seat… just as I had planned!
Jared Graves


It took nearly an hour until his time was beaten as Mick Hannah crossed the line to go into the hot seat. Only one other man would beat that time on the day and that was Greg Minnaar in what may have been one of the biggest races of his life. Minnaar came into the race looking to become only the fourth man ever to defend the Rainbow Stripes but more than that, he'd have to do it on home soil with the weight of expectations of his country on his shoulders. If there's a man for staying cool under pressure though, it's the South African G.O.A.T who delivered a run with effortless style to finish at the top of the timesheet.


World Champs 2013
World Champs 2013
Carnage in the finish area as the result is confirmed


Team Yeti
A successful weekend for Yeti with Richie Rude picking up a gold medal in the juniors.



54 Comments

  • 42 17
 7 years later and Saints are still the best brake on the market.
  • 42 1
 I came here to make a similar comment. When you think about the changes we've seen since 2013, it's like ancient history in MTB terms. 26 - 275 - 29 inch wheels. 10 - 11 - 12 speed. Boost, super boost. Tubeless. Carbon this that and the other. Fox 38 for enduro - the article states he was using the 34 for EWS and switched to the 36 for DH. Steve Smith on the proto alloy Troy that he binned at the frst corner. That bke was the test mule for the first gen Troy. What gen are we one now? 2nd or 3rd?

And while all of these developments have been happening, riders, designs, standards have come and gone... and that Saint groupset is still on sale exactly the same as it was back in 2013. It just goes to show when you get something right and there is more of an emphasis on robust dependable performance, the lifespan of the design ca be a lot longer.

To be fair, we could all keep our stuff that long. We just choose not to
  • 5 1
 Spartan not Troy sorry.
  • 11 14
 Still riding my bike from 2010, honestly it's not much different than what is available now. The main differences are a 1 degree steeper headtube, longer reach, wider/bigger rims and easier gears. I might just upgrade my rims to be honest but I am thinking of upgrading the whole thing soon. Going to demo one as soon as I feel it's prudent to.
  • 13 9
 If by best you mean the most inconsistent bite point ever and lowest modulation.... You should try a pair of hope v4
  • 4 2
 @DMdh: not powerfull enough. Or maybe I'm too far.
  • 2 0
 I love Saints and I also dig Shimano's ease to bleed quite a lot, but last year a threw some Maguras on my bike while waiting for XT 4-pots and fell in love with them, even if that lever is ugly (as if that was a factor).

I firmly believe that Shimano have done quite a lot for the brake game in terms of affordable stopping power and ease of maintenance, so they are a good standard, but they have been trumped in the mean time. I think they are just as important to the general picture like Hope were (as pioneers), like Hayes were (as affordable stopping power for THAT day), like Avid were (brakes that worked for those times' standards with parts that were easy to find and mix everywhere) etc.

I write the above while having mostly Shimano brakes on most of my bikes, that meaning DH, DJ/street and enduro rig, plus the bikes I borrow to my friends when they need one. On two of those I have the cheapest Shimano hydraulics and they are better than a lot of the older top-end brakes from other brands. The best Shimano brake I have owned, though, is the M785 XT, an amazing product - light and powerful, able to stop my 100+ kg at the time, albeit on 26” wheels.
  • 1 0
 The new XTR (and XT) are a step forward in feel, but I recently had an issue with mine and put my saints back in with the new semi organic pads and they were just unreal - more modulation than with the older pads, but usefully more power than the XTRs. The only downside is they only come in the finned variety, so make some noise.
  • 3 0
 @GBeard: I hear you GBeard; I was out today on my 2011 Banshee Spitfire... Maybe it's just that I have been riding it for so long, but all other bikes just don't seem to 'fit' me as well..

Love the bike you ride eh...
  • 3 0
 @GBeard:

ignorance is bliss graybeard! just don't demo a comparable modern bike w/ updated geo. don't do it.
  • 2 0
 @WasatchEnduro: I’m riding a carbon nomad. Going to demo a trance 29. Oddly the geo .5 degrees slacker and about 2 more inches of reach even though im dropping like 45mm of rear travel
  • 1 0
 @DMdh: Yeah nah not if you can do a proper bleed.
  • 13 0
 We need the Sick Mick run too!
  • 6 0
 This was a great piece, thanks PB. I remember the gutted feeling after Stevie dumped the proto Spartan in the first or second turn. Off to the right in some dust if I remember.
  • 5 0
 Yeah, it was right after his MSA win too. Pagey definitely gave him the commentator's curse on that one: www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-FF7hb0CHI
  • 3 0
 It is easy to say that this track had nothing to do with downhill , and it is true , however , the pace of the men just before the 2 big jumps is just unbelievable ! I wonder how Jared could match that pace on an enduro bike
  • 2 1
 The track is more reminiscent of a 2019 track than old school tracks. The LesGets or South Africa!
  • 3 0
 Glad our livestreams have more camera's these days. Looked like the DH course only had 3 corners with the 2 cameras they had.
  • 1 0
 Its funny how you guys go on about brakes, listening to the first course preview with his squeeling brakes its amazing how seldom you needed to brake on this course. I miss some of these fast open courses that mortals could ride but as the speeds go faster and faster they become so much more difficult.
  • 8 4
 That track is considered a XC track now. Not even Enduro.
  • 4 5
 "but but but, the old tracks were so much better??!!" at least according to some comments in most race reports these days Smile
  • 6 0
 @striveCF15 uh...said no one ever about this particular track.
  • 3 0
 Actually thought it looked ok in the course preview - better than I remember!
  • 8 0
 A 60' sender is an XC track... okaaaaay.
  • 4 0
 You have to hit like 70km/h to clear those tables with a big af step down before, no XC racers have been seen doing that...
  • 1 0
 @SonofBovril: I dunno, I used to ride with a dude who boosted 40+ft tabletops on a Scalpel, and that was a scalpel from 2008/9.
  • 2 0
 Last pic with North Carolina local Jay Fesperman. The only local kid that could beat the Shaw brothers. Its a shame he quit riding. He was a boss.
  • 1 0
 Along with Gerritt Beytagh, so much potential but seemingly lost interest in the sport (or at least racing).
  • 1 0
 Have there been any other World Cup/World Champs podiums not-on-a-downhill-bike?

Sam Hill laid down a good one on his enduro bike at Cairns World Champs 2017, but finished the day 6th.
  • 4 0
 Dead.Set.Legend
  • 7 5
 Back when DH bikes weighed 32lbs (Greg's V10)... now enduro bikes weigh 37lbs (Privateer). Progress!
  • 9 0
 You're comparing apples to oranges: a top level carbon WC DH race bike to an alloy EWS bike engineered for durability.
  • 1 0
 I hazard a guess that Jared Graves could do the same again on a gravel bike, he is an absolute machine!! Multi disciplinarian was meant to entitle this man!
  • 1 0
 The video of that lap went by so fast that is seemed even faster than 4.01!
  • 1 0
 So... what you're saying is... being underbiked is better.
  • 1 1
 And pink bike still didn’t add him to the list of the most important and influential mountain bikers of the last decade
  • 2 2
 Graves has never done as well as he did on those teeny tiny wheels.
  • 1 0
 Proper content pb
  • 1 2
 All round bikes were still called trail bikes though in 2013
  • 6 7
 Mega talented rider, shame the need for results got the better of him...
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