While those in the northern hemisphere wait out the winter months for racing to return, New Zealand's national downhill series kicks off this weekend at the Fourforty Mountain Bike Park, located just outside of Auckland. Pinkbike contributing photographer Cameron Mackenzie cornered Wyn Masters and Brook Macdonald to talk about how each set up their GT Fury DH bikes before the two Kiwis try to kick off 2017 in winning fashion.
Wyn's large-sized GT Fury on the left, and Brook's medium Fury on the right. Wyn also runs an angle-adjusting headset in reverse to steepen the front-end by one degree.Frame and Geometry Differences
The two racers are both on GT's 210mm-travel Fury, but at 185cm tall, Wyn rides a large while Brook, at 170cm, chose the medium. The 615mm stack measurement is the same across all four sizes that GT offers, but the reach on Wyn's ride is 456mm, which is 26mm longer than Brook's. Masters also makes a surprising geometry change to his frame, choosing to run an angle-adjusting headset in reverse to actually steepen the bike's front-end from the stock 63-degrees (which Brook prefers) to 64-degrees. ''A bit more grip on the front for myself; my riding style is probably quite a bit different to Brook's,'' said Masters of his reasoning before going on to describe his over-the-front riding style as the ''seagull positon.''
And how does Wyn describe Brook's style? ''Brook is a central dawg, you know. He stays in the center of the bike, and sometimes he hangs off the back if he's getting a bit wild.'' Don't we all?
Wyn's bike (left) uses an angle-adjusting headset in reverse to steep his Fury's front-end by one degree, and he prefers the carbon fiber SIXC handlebar from Race Face over the alloy Atlas model that Brook runs (right). Both are 780mm wide.Suspension Setup Differences
While there's about a 15cm difference in height between Wyn and Brook, both racers weigh roughly the same at around 85kg. It's no surprise, then, to see that both go with similar pressures in their fork and shock. Wyn says that he's usually running between 83 and 85 PSI his Fox 40, but also that he can go as low as 81, depending on the track. His Float X2 shock sees between 190 and 200 PSI, with him going with the former on the Fourforty Mountain Bike Park track this weekend. ''New Zealand tracks are a bit smoother so you can run it a bit softer,'' he said, no doubt to help with traction. Brook runs a comparable 82 PSI in his fork and about 195 PSI in shock.
Both Wyn and Brook prefer how the Float X2 shock's air spring provides added progression compared to the coil-sprung X2, but they still fill it with volume spacers - six for Wyn, seven for Brook.
World Cup racers often go to town with volume spacers in an effort to add as much progression as possible, and it sounds like this is especially important for Wyn and Brook. ''I prefer to put a few spacers in the shock; I've got six in there, so it ramps up a bit. I've got six in the fork, too, so it ramps up pretty hard,'' Wyn said of his setup. Brook also runs what the average rider would likely find to be a too progressive spring rate, with seven volume spacers in his shock and six in his fork.
The two rarely chose a coil-sprung shock on the bike due to the relatively linear (for their needs) suspension rate, although Wyn did fit a coil-sprung X2 for the Val di Sole World Cup simply because of how rough the track was.
He went with a 450 in/lb spring that weekend, whereas Brook chose a 475 in/lb spring despite being nearly identical in weight. ''I like it softer at the back of the bike because I put more weight up front,'' Wyn said of his preference for a more forgiving rear-end. But, Val di Sole notwithstanding, the two nearly always prefer the Float X2 shock over the coil-spring option. Brook describes his reasoning: ''Air on the bike I'm riding now, just because it's super linear, so we need an air shock on it to ramp up. But I have run a coil on it; I didn't like it because it'd just blow through the travel too much.''
Brook has 82 PSI in his Fox 40, and Wyn is usually running in the neighborhood of 83 to 85 PSI.
Neither Wyn or Brook go overboard when it comes to specific changes for the different courses that they race on during the season, but Wyn definitely sounds the more content of the two when talking about suspension: ''If I'm comfortable, I'm happy. I don't fiddle around too much; if you play with it too much, it'll fall off.'' Wise words from Masters that some of us have surely heard before.
''I'm a little picky. I like my stuff to be pretty supple at the start and then farther into the stroke to ramp up on the front and rear,'' Brook described, obviously the more particular of the two GT racers. ''I kind of like to actually feel what my bike is doing, and if it's sticking to the ground or not. But I'm not necessarily overly picky. I get a base-setting at the start of the year and then work off that through the different tracks we race.'' What sort of changes are we talking about? ''Not a hell of a lot,'' he said, ''but it'll be two or three clicks of high- or low-speed compression and all that, but nothing drastic.''
Drivetrain and Cockpit Differences
Both racers have gone with a 36-tooth chain ring, the size they'll stick with all year, as well as a 10-speed Shimano drivetrain, but Brook only makes use of his bottom eight cogs: ''I stick to 10-speed and then just lock my two top gears out. I don't really play around [with gearing] too much,'' he said of his fairly common modification designed to greatly lessen the chance of his chain jamming in the wheel's spokes.
You'll also find 780mm handlebars on both bikes, although Brook has chosen Race Face's aluminum Atlas handlebar whereas Wyn runs the lighter weight SIXC option. ''I should just say 900mm to trip people out,'' he said. Would you have taken the bait?
Shimano Saint 10-speed for both racers, but Brook has his two largest cogs locked out.
There's also a big difference in tire choice. Wyn is running the 2.35'' wide Magic Mary rubber from Schwalbe, with a DH casing on the back and the lighter Super Gravity model up front, whereas Brook prefers the full width 2.5'' Magic Mary tires. Brook is also using Procore, but only on the rear wheel: ''I never really run it that much, but I'm just giving it a go and seeing what it's like.''
Wyn also had some important bike setup advice for aspiring World Cup racers: ''You need a fixed gear for tracks these days. They're getting quite pedal-y. And the ol' Saint brakes are pretty good for when you need to haul up that fixie.'' He didn't limit his guidance to gearing choice, either, delving deep into the murky world of suspension setup: ''Put your suspension on, probably. Don't run too much compression damping and not enough air.''Photography by Cameron Mackenzie