This weekend may have been all about the World Cup action at Mont-Sainte-Anne, but many minds have long been thinking about the vastly different World Championship track that racers will face in Cairns, Austrailia, this coming September. The Cairns course has its fair share of rocks and technicality, but it also finishes with a lung bursting, leg searing sprint that's long enough to call for some specialized equipment, including a remote lockout system to firm up the rear shock. The top three pro men were separated by just 1.420 seconds at this weekend's World Cup, a gap that highlights just how close things are these days, and also one that's small enough to show that equipment choices make a real difference.
Teams and racers will have already spent plenty of time and resources to give themselves the best possible chance when Cairns rolls around, and Pinkbike photographer Matt Delorme caught Evan Warner, SRAM's North American Race Technician (pictured at right), doing exactly that while hidden away in the SRAM big rig. Warner was getting his hands oily while converting a few custom RockShox Super Deluxe Coil shocks to accept their RT Remote system that lets racers firm the shock up to the 'Threshold' mode with the push of a handlebar-mounted button. Why would anyone want to firm up the back of their downhill bike? Well, this could prove to be exceptionally advantageous on that aforementioned balls-out sprint to the finish line in Austrailia this September.
''We're just getting reading for the Worlds in Cairns. A lot of guys have seen the enduro crossover with the lockouts on the rear shocks, and especially with the Super Deluxe it's fairly easy to swap the reservoirs over,'' Warner explained to Delorme while in the middle of the operation. ''Most of the downhill guys that are on Metric rear shocks have been interested in trying the remote reservoir on the downhill shock. So we have Intense, Norco, and a couple of other teams, but today we're just going to prepare two shocks for Intense and one shock for Norco. We're allowing them to test it out in Whistler next week before heading down to Worlds.''
The production Super Deluxe Coil RT Remote is not sold on its own, with it only being available on complete bikes, but the conversion is a relatively simple job that necessitates a reservoir swap - this is where the hydraulic oil flow is controlled to firm the shock up. ''It's very quick and easy, and it's just ensuring that we get the right tunes,'' Warner said. ''Our one concerns with the lockout, coil and air, is that it's pretty firm, and on a downhill bike this might be something to keep in mind. It should be exciting to see these guys in Whistler next week trying it out.''
Reading between the lines, it sure sounds like the testing might focus on just how firm that 'Threshold' setting actually is for Cairns, with some racers likely preferring a near full lockout and others wanting a more forgiving tune. Warner elaborates: ''Everybody is still pretty focused on that last little bit at the end of the Worlds track in Cairns; it'll be a big a sprint and locking out the rear shock, or at least getting a real, real firm pedal platform.''
Warner always has a few tricks up his sleeve for racers, and part of this day's shock conversions was rigging up a SRAM X0 2-speed shifter to control the shock's action rather than the stock RT Remote and its smaller paddles. The idea is that when up to race pace, the riders will have an easier time hitting the triggers on the X0 shifter than they might with the RT Remote.
One thing is for sure: we'll likely see some very specialized equipment and setups when Cairns rolls around in September.