Troy Brosnan rode this exact Canyon Sender to a second place at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup, just 0.321 off the win, less than a week ago. It was boxed up by Troy's mechanic shortly after that performance and then put back together for me to ride here in Whistler, BC, during Crankworx, and nothing's been changed since MSA. That means it has the same suspension settings, same tires and tire pressure, and the same geometry as it did during Troy's close call, only it's me piloting it instead of the Australian World Cup racer that's usually behind the handlebar.
''Don't bring it back broken,'' was my only instruction from Team Manager Gabe Fox, which made sense as Troy needed to race the rowdy Crankworx Garbanzo DH on this very 34lb 13oz bike
later in the afternoon. No pressure, though. And no changes, either; the idea was to experience a top-ten World Cup bike, and to see how it fared under someone with less than World Cup-level skills.
Intended use: World Cup DH racing
Fork travel: 200mm
Wheel size: 27.5''
Frame construction: carbon fiber, aluminum
Production frame, custom linkage, custom wheelbase
Head angle: 63° (adj. between 62° and 64°)
Size: medium, 440mm reach
Fork pressure: 150psi, four tokens
Shock pressure: 240psi
Handlebar width: 750mm
Weight: 34lb 13oz (w/o pedals)
Check out those bolts, the modified thumb paddle, and the Canyon direct-mount stem with Troy's initials on it. Special touches all around.
Of course, if Troy's Canyon can handle a World Cup race run down the infamous Canadian track, it can likely laugh off what I'm about to dish out. Ever seen footage of Mont-Sainte-Anne's 'Motorway' section? Picture a rough "dirt road" that's littered with baby head rocks - if babies had sharp heads that could slice up a four-ply tire - ruts, and holes. ''In my race run is the only time that I didn't brake check into it, and I was shitting bricks,'' Troy said with a casual laugh about the near-50 mph speeds.
It's more than just scary, though, as the Motorway's high speeds make it difficult to balance bike setup with the rest of the course, which is much slower and full of momentum-killing holes. ''It's really tough to set up suspension there because it's just so damn fast that you want it to be a rock,'' Troy explained. ''But because it's so flat and you're trying to flow the whole time you're trying to carry momentum.''
That still translates to a relatively stiff suspension setup, especially compared to what an average rider would prefer. No surprise there, though.
Troy weighs 68kg, or right around 150lb, which is 15lb less than what I come in at, and his rather special BoXXer World Cup had 150 psi in it, just like it did during his last race run. He likes a fair bit of progression, too, with four Bottomless Tokens to keep him from clanging off the end of the stroke during those inevitable brick-shitting moments.
Troy was a bit coy when it came to what sort of hardware is inside his BoXXer, although it does sound like it's mostly production-based: ''Yeah, straight off the shelf. We've got a little bit of a secret modification in there from RockShox, but we're not giving that away. The tune itself is stock, but it's just something else that's a little special.'' BlackBox stuff reserved for a chosen few, I suppose.
Troy's BoXXer apparently uses off-the-shelf internals, but he did admit to there being something special going on inside. With 150 psi and four volume-reducing tokes, it's far firmer than most 68kg/150lb riders would ever require.
''Everyone always jumps on my bike and goes 'Oh, the suspension is so stiff, but I still use all of it, so...'' Troy replied when I said that his suspension was so stiff. And with his high-speed compression set to just a single click from closed, and his low-speed about eight to ten out, it is a relatively firm setup for someone of Troy's size. But not for someone of Troy's speed, of course.
There's more suspension trickery out back, too, with a BlackBox-spec Super Deluxe RC World Cup shock that's put to work by a very custom, very team-only linkage on the otherwise production Sender frame. ''The link is more progressive. It's not our most progressive link that we've had made - that one was a little too much for me - this one is in the mid-range,'' he explained when I asked about the obviously not stock, very shiny links. It's not as ramp-up-y as it could be, though: ''Mark has used the more progressive link for a little while, but he's gone to the same link that I'm on now; the mid-progressive one. He just felt like it had a bit more mid-support where the most progressive [one] gets the support at the very end of the stroke.''
One guess as to what isn't stock. The silver linkage provides more progression that Troy likes, but it's not the most progressive linkage that the team can use.
That support that Troy's looking for comes in handy at absurd World Cup speeds, especially with the air-sprung shock that the Australian is partial to.
''I've been on air since Fort William. We ran a coil in Croatia and it just wasn't working for my riding style, so we went to air and it felt like I can pump the bike a lot more, float a lot, and stay light on the bike. It allowed me to tune it to how I want it,'' he said of his riding style and suspension preference that calls for 240 psi in the Super Deluxe shock.
The back of the bike is more forgiving than the front, with 240 psi in his BlackBox-spec Super Deluxe RC World Cup shock.
Carrying momentum is a big part of Troy's dynamic and lively riding style, and he says that it's why he prefers higher than average tire pressure as well, with 28.6 psi in his Minion DHF and 31.8 psi in the DHR. Both are also sporting Maxxis' proper DH casing, as you'd expect, but you won't find any foam tire inserts here: ''Straight tubeless, and I run a fair bit of pressure. Just to keep rolling really good.'' For reference, I'd likely run somewhere in the neighborhood of 21 to 23 psi in the same tires, despite weighing 15lb more than Troy on a good day.
His rubber is on a set of Mavic's 27.5'' Deemax DH wheels that certainly felt like they had far less spoke tension all around than anything off-the-shelf. Then again, they went through a four-minute and twelve-second war only a few days prior. ''If you don't damage a wheel in a race run, you're not going fast enough. That's how we look at it,'' the Aussie said of how it is in his world.
''It's worse when you're starting to get up to pace, and you don't have your exact lines. So when you're still kinda searching for lines, but you're trying to go really fast, it's really easy to smash something that you didn't know was there. That's when you break stuff,'' he described.
A closer look revealed some ''missing'' dust seals at the hubs, very likely to help with that all important rolling speed. Don't think it matters that much? Troy lost in Mont-Sainte-Anne by just a third of a second, and this season has seen multiple races decided by similar margins.
And about tight margins, that brings us to the ol' wheel size topic that everyone loves to read about... With times so tight and the need to find any possible advantage, have Troy and Canyon looked into a 29er downhill bike? ''I did at the start of this year,'' he admitted, which shouldn't come as a surprise these days, even if it didn't end up working out for the Aussie. ''After the first World Cup, we gave it a shot... I have too short of legs. It's very hard for me to get over the back of the bike, and the rear tire was smacking me in the bum the whole time. It felt really good because you can just plow stuff, but that's not my riding style. For me, it's not any faster.''
So, with a poppy, playful riding style, and a vertically challenged inseam, there doesn't seem to be a big-wheeler in the immediate future for Troy.
Troy uses a 36-tooth chainring, an X01 DH derailleur, and a non-XD SRAM cassette.
Troy's drivetrain is rather conventional, with a 36-tooth chainring up front, a set of carbon cranks, and an X01 DH derailleur moving the chain over a 7-speed cassette. Not a matching X01 DH cassette, however, but rather a standard, non-XD SRAM block on a normal freehub body and with a custom aluminum guard between it and the spokes.
A set of Code RSC brakes grabbing 200mm rotors slows the bike down, and Troy prefers to have the levers sit pretty close to the grips. That would usually mean a bite point that's very close to the grips as well, but Aaron Pelttari, Troy's mechanic since 2015, has these bled to feel quite firm and with minimal free stroke - I like.
See that silver insert at the axle? The production bike's insert lets you pick between long and short chainstay settings, but this one allows Troy to run it in the middle of those two.
Aside from the custom linkage, Troy's frame is a standard, medium-sized production unit with the exception of one other special touch that allows for some extra tuning. The stock bike comes with a flip-able insert that lets riders choose between a 430mm or 446mm rear-end, but you'll find a set of custom inserts that allow Troy to run his axle dead in the middle of those two settings, at 438mm. Hey, when you start getting regular World Cup podiums, you can be picky and ask for special touches, too.
Enough with the details, though. Time to hit the lifts.
If you had asked me how I expected Troy's bike to perform before I did a handful of runs on it yesterday in Whistler, I probably would have told you that it was going to be sprung very stiffly, be very slack, and make me feel very not-pro. I've ridden more than a few of these kinds of bikes in the past and, to be honest, that's usually the gist of it. You probably didn't need a crystal ball to know that - these bikes are set up for the fastest, bravest, and most skilled racers in the world to ride at 110-percent during a race run, not for someone like me to skid his way down some rough and rooty singletrack in the dust.
But that's exactly what I did, and Troy's Sender was far from being the pro-only sled that I was expecting.
Alright, first impressions. Troy's 750mm wide handlebar feels surprisingly natural, so maybe my skinny shoulders don't need the 780s that I usually prefer, but I couldn't get along with how far back Troy likes to roll his handlebar. It's not a crazy amount, mind you, but just enough for me to feel like his Ergon grips were angled down slightly at their ends.
When it comes to his brakes, it's almost like he asked me how I like them before he set his up, with a close lever position and an extremely firm bite point that makes my own well-bled stoppers feel squishy in comparison. The power was there, too, as it would be with 200mm rotors and four pistons inside each Code caliper.
Troy has the standard headset cups installed rather than 1-degree slacker option, so his bike is sitting right around 63-degrees up front. That's a pretty normal number these days, and I'd describe the handling as surprisingly playful rather than the floppy flier I had readied myself for. The 440mm reach, which is around 10mm shorter than my go-to number for a downhill bike, certainly plays a role as well. ''When I'm barely touching the ground is when I'm going fast,'' Troy told me earlier in the day, so maybe his Sender's impressive agility shouldn't be a shock to me at all.
Rather than being a ground-hugging machine that's fast but not fun, Troy's bike wants to jump from line to line across the trail, and it's relatively easy to make it do whatever needs to be done. At my speed anyway.
I'm sure the difference between my speed and Troy's speed is also why I just couldn't gel with the high tire pressure that he likes. Sure, the bike rolls like the dickens, but the 30-ish psi and ludicrously dry and dusty conditions had me skating around a bit too much for my liking, especially on the dust-covered hardpack. Of course, if I was riding as quick as Troy does, I suspect that his preferred tire pressure would have worked better for me... But I wasn't. And I can't.
Of course, a big part of this special Sender's agility is surely down to suspension that's far, far firmer than I'd ever want, but that didn't translate to a rough and unforgiving ride like I expected it to. The trails in the Whistler Bike Park can be summed up in one word right now - massivebrakingbumpseverywhere - but Troy's machine didn't rattle me to pieces. In fact, it was incredibly composed and forgiving, even up front where I only used about 150mm of the BoXXer's stroke
, despite being 15lb heavier than Troy.
I suspect that it would have taken a second story roof and an uphill landing for me to squeeze out 200mm of fork travel, but I wisely decided against it despite Kazimer's insistence.
Troy's bike was set up quite firm, but it didn't pass any harshness through to my hands and feet.
With 150 psi and four Bottomless Tokens in his BlackBox fork, it ramped up quickly and kept me well off the end of the stroke. The stiff travel and aggressive ramp-up also create a firm platform for Troy to push against as he pumps and pops his way down a track. I wasn't exactly pumping and popping like the Aussie, but I can certainly see why Troy sets his Sender up like it is, and why that works so well for his riding style.
It's a similar story at the back of the bike, too, and although it was running a bit more forgiving setup than up front, I still never came close to using all of the Sender's 200mm of travel. And much like the front end, the back of the bike sits into its travel up until a certain point, and then works hard to keep you from going much deeper until it's really needed. But I can't stress enough that both ends of Troy's machine felt incredibly active, supple, and controlled, much more so than other downhill bikes I've ridden that were set up specifically for my weight. Interesting stuff.