Florian Vogel will be racing on Focus' brand new, 100mm-travel O1E cross-country weapon during this weekend's World Championship event in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. The last time racers were here was the opening stop of the 2015 calendar, and it was an all-out battle for the win between Kulhavy and Schurter that saw Florian finish in fourth behind Julien Absalon. Flo was riding a then-prototype Focus hardtail, but it looks like the Swiss racer has decided to take a different approach in 2016. F.O.L.D is Focus' single pivot, linkage actuated suspension design that delivers 100mm of travel on the O1E.
The 29'' wheeled O1E employs Focus' new F.O.L.D rear suspension design that, while odd sounding, stands for 'Focus Optimized Linkage Design.' Yes, the nomenclature does refer to the action of the bike's two short links that activate the shock, but talking about folding and lightweight racing bicycles in the same sentence does seem like an odd marketing strategy, doesn't it?. Anyways, Focus claims that the bike's travel can be viewed as two phases: along the first phase of travel, the system is said to be regressive to create a sensitive beginning stroke that can absorb small bumps while increasing traction. Then, once the bike enters the second, deeper phase of its travel, it ramps up to keep you from clanging off the bottom of the shock's stroke. The shock also receives a custom tune to help all of this.
The Focus team is a SRAM-sponsored outfit, so Flo's bike is sporting a Monarch XX shock to control the 100mm of travel, and the new SID is up front. Both can be locked out by pushing the single XLoc Sprint button on the handlebar, something Vogel will no doubt be doing for the race's start and any time he'll be hammering out of the saddle.
And like all top cross-country racers, his handlebar height is lower than most riders would ever feel comfortable using, and is compensating for the 29" wheels - it's all about keeping the front-end down while hammering, quick handling, and the most powerful position for an hour and a half of all out effort.
Flo is also another top cross-country racer who's begun to use a dropper seatpost when he believes that it's worthwhile, and that's apparently the case on the Nove Mesto course. These guys don't need the saddle drop that most of us prefer, however, so he's using KS' LEV Carbon (carbon outer tube, carbon head, carbon remote) that would usually offer 65mm of travel. However, Vogel has had the upper part of the post's stanchion wrapped with tape to keep it from ever using full travel, an arguably ghetto but effective solution that appears to limit the LEV Carbon to roughly 30mm of stroke.
Why would he do this? Vogel says that with this setup he can still pedal efficiently when the seat is lowered and he's sitting, meaning that he might not have to raise or lower it as much as he would if it offered full travel. One less thing to think about when he's pinned, I'd imagine.