Shortly after the hype dies down in the finish area of a World Cup, the photographers typically grab the winning bike to snap a few quick shots to file later in the evening. In Lousa, that wasn't possible. Amid all the excitement of Loic Bruni's win, his bike had been quietly ushered away and put back in its pits, away from curious eyes.
The reason is likely because Loic Bruni was running his bike a little differently than everyone else in Lousa, and the evidence of that was clear to see on the live feed. We have already seen his frame-mounted carbon box that seems to be concealing something connected to a switch on his handlebars
, but in Lousa he seemed to be pressing another switch, this time on top of his fork.
It takes some serious guts to take a hand off your bars midway through a World Cup race run to flick a switch, and speculation is rife about what he might have been doing. Below is what we know and what we can guess from the evidence we have. The modification was new for Lousa
Look at any picture of the top of Loic Bruni's fork from the past 12 months and you'll see that the cap on top of his left fork leg is gold, and the one on top of the right is blue. In Lousa, this was the other way round. This tells us that something was definitely different on Loic's fork for the races last week. Bruni had been testing in Lousa earlier in the year, and while Louzanpark closed the track so that it would be fair for all the riders, we've no doubt Loic will have got a pretty good idea of its layout. This seems like something he could have been cooking up with Ohlins for 6 months or more.Loic pressed the switch at the same point in both runs
In both races, Loic popped the switch as he fired out of the woods and down onto the road pedal section. It definitely seemed like a press, not a twist, as you would expect with a normal fork dial, which makes us think that it's an on/off, two stage system.
Given the position on track, we're assuming it's some sort of compression adjustment that made pedalling on the last straight along the road and the over the final few jumps easier for Loic. Looking at the footage, his fork seems supportive, but it still clearly moves, meaning this isn't a full lockout but more like a pedal platform. This suspicion is further confirmed by Loic later talking about it with Wyn Masters in Wyn TV
. Loic said, "It's a bit of hydraulic for the pedalling, so it was a bit sketchy to take the hand off but I thought it was worth it. Pedalling and not having so much pumping on the front."
We think the fork could be borrowing the climb mode feature from Ohlins' single crown RXF 36 fork. The RXF has four clicks of HSC adjustment - the first three clicks of HSC change the high-speed compression, but the fourth acts as 'climb mode,' turning it to the fourth position actually shuts off parts of the LSC circuit to create a firm LSC pedal platform.
This currently isn't a feature on the DH38 fork, but seeing as the double crown fork took a lot of design cues from its skinnier sibling, including the same TTX damper and piston design, it is more than possible that Ohlins have fitted a similar feature on Loic's bike.Was it faster?
Possibly. Loic activated the switch mid-way through the fourth sector and didn't seem to switch it back before the end of the course. Loic was 2nd fastest through sector 4 and 6th fastest through sector 5 in race 1, and fastest through both splits in race 2. Take that with a pinch of salt though, this is Loic Bruni we're talking about, and he could have won these sectors with or without compression adjustment.What will Ohlins tell us?
We reached out to Ohlins to see if they would give us any more information, and Terje Hansen, Racing Manager at Öhlins Racing, said:“We are a brand committed to racing and making the fast even faster. A big part of our R&D is made within racing. It is an ongoing development process to make sure Specialized Gravity riders have the highest level of suspension performance at the starting gate. We do not get into details on their suspension equipment or set up, but winning features will be integrated in our products as a running change or a new model.”
Given that the fork now has a win racked up already, it may not be too long before we see this on Ohlins' consumer offerings.