While at the Cannondale Factory Mountain Bike Team Camp in Finale Ligure, Italy, we got a chance to interview their new enduro team about their bikes and training regimen. And, per usual, we brought the scale.
Besides talking with them, we rode two days in a row, putting the Jekyll through it’s paces in a mock enduro race one day and the Flash 29er carbon hardtail around a short segment of the Finale 24 Hour race course. Both were great, but the enduro ride/race was certainly higher on the fun scale in terms of pure riding enjoyment. It’s no surprise the format is exploding in popularity around the world – it really does embody what mountain biking is all about.
As major brands start putting together fully sponsored, professional teams, and as most of us start putting an event or two on our race calendar, we thought it’d be fun to see what four of the best enduro racers in the world had to say. What’s interesting is the difference between youth (Cruz, Clementz) and experience (Moeschler, Weir) in both the responses and the methods. It’s also quite comforting knowing that enduro doesn’t seem to be quite as much of an event for the young as some other disciplines.
Click through for some opinions from Jerome Clementz, Ben Cruz, Jason Moeschler and Mark Weir, along with photos of their bikes at the bottom…
BIKERUMOR: Any mods you’ve made to your bike to make it your own?
JASON MOESCHLER: Frame and shock are stock, fork is a Fox 34 160mm, which is stock. I use WTB Frequency tubeless rims and full XTR. We run the bikes pretty stock. For tires, it depends on the track, but it’s usually a Wolverine TCS 2.2 on the rear and either a Bronson or Moto 2.3 TCS on the front. And we’ve been riding prototypes of some new stuff we have coming.
MARK WEIR: I run a 180 fork that’s chopped down to 170mm travel. I always run a single ring, and sometimes I run some custom shocks from Fox. I try to make it as light as possible while still being functional. I use all Shimano PRO stuff with a 50-60mm stem depending on course. Seatpost is the Fox DOSS dropper post. I run some adjustable headset spacers to change the height on my stem if the course is super steep. Wheels are the WTB I23 Frequency rims, which are really stiff and light, and wrap them with their TCS tires. If it’s enduro, I’m usually running the Vigilante on the front and Weirwolf or Wolverine in the rear.
JEROME CLEMENTZ: Grip shift 2×10 front on the left to control the shock and Blackbox signature handlebars from Truvativ 750mm carbon.
BEN CRUZ: Prototype Lefty SuperMax 160mm and Jerome’s handlebars.
BIKERUMOR: What’s a typical training day for you?
JM: I wake up about 5:30, make breakfast for my family and eat with them, then I’m generally on my bike as the sun comes up. I ride for 2-3 hours, then clean up and go to work. WTB has a branch office with about seven people there, where much of the product design and marketing is done. There are better (legal) trails there compared to the main HQ near Marin, CA.
I still train like I’m a cross country racer, which I still do a lot of during the year. If I train like that, I know I’m fit enough to handle any enduro race. Some riders are worried if there’s a lot of climbing in a course, and some races are timed in the climbs or have significant pedaling sections, so it helps.
MW: In January I was riding about four hours a day and totaled almost 1,500 miles and about 102,000 feet of climbing. It was mainly road, I was trying to lose a little weight. Now that it’s coming into the season, I started riding the trails around the ranch and focusing on skill, turning and going fast downhill. And that means a lot of climbing, too.
JC: Going for about a two hour ride, up the hill and finding a good downhill trail. Just shred.
BC: I have a pump track in my yard, so I usually do that in the morning then go ride for 2-3 hours, just mess around in the hills.
BIKERUMOR: Give us a specific workout:
JM: I think the best workout is a ride that’s 90 minutes long with a series of all-out, 100% intervals on a slight hill. Go 20 seconds on, then wait to start the next one until your heart rate’s back to aerobic. Do five, take a longer rest, maybe five minutes, then do another set of five, then ride home. Those types of intervals give you amazing speed out of a corner or on a short climb.
MW: I do some interval stuff on the road for more focused aerobic performance – 30 to 60 second punches with lots of base endurance stuff beforehand. I do a lot of that on the road because it’s safer. On the mountain, I do timed runs specific to the type of racing we’re doing, and I’ll mash it as hard as I can on any little climbs between downhill sections. That way, I enter the techy sections totally blown and anaerobic, which is what it’s going to be like during a race, so it’s good preparation.
JC: Be mentally prepared to spend a full day on the saddle.
BIKERUMOR: Enduro’s basically a mix of DH and XC, and a lot of DH folks are still running tubes in their tires. Are you running tubeless?
JM: Yes. Any enduro rider that wants lighter weight and better flat protection is running tubeless. There are rims and tires good enough for downhill that can be run tubeless, they just haven’t learned to trust it yet.
MW: I haven’t run a tube in 10 years. I was running ghetto tubeless back in the day, I hate tubes. Tubeless is only as weak as your system. DH guys don’t run them now and I don’t know why, but with WTB’s parts you can run them with no problems. Tubeless is more supple, and you can control the feel better. Of course, you have to beef up sidewalls and run a heavier casing, but I like heavy. My tires are 1,000 grams, but they’re on really light rims. I don’t understand why anyone racing enduro wouldn’t run tubeless.
BIKERUMOR: How do you pick a good Enduro bike?
JM: I think people are surprised to see me racing my Jekyll on XC courses. It’s 150mm travel, but when you put XC tires on it, you can get it down to 25 pounds. It’s the perfect bike for weekend adventure rides, and I can still race it on my favorite aggressive XC courses. I think 150mm travel is where it’s at for enduro.
MW: You need a bike that’s efficient, durable and controllable downhill in steep, sketchy situations. A good head angle and shorter stem with longer top tube, good brakes, a long travel fork that can be set up soft so you can ride loose. You’re going to come into a lot of stuff blind, so you need a bike that can handle surprises. You also need a bike that can climb. I think Cannondale nailed it (with the Jekyll), you can switch the travel and could even build it up worthy of racing XC. Being able to have 90mm travel and sprint out of corners and on the flats makes such a huge difference. Basically, you want an XC bike that doesn’t feel sketchy anytime you point it down something steep.
JC: A good feature is proper cockpit. Handlebar width and stem length.
BC: …and a dropper post, and good tires.
BIKERUMOR: How do you set yourself up for Enduro?
JM: I have the same seat height and position for enduro as I do for XC, but I do run a dropper post. My handlebars are wider and higher up in relation to my seat height, and I run a really short stem. That reduces flex in the front, keeping it stable, and puts weight further back on the bike. Normally, that might make the bike’s handling feel loose on the climbs, but with the DYAD, you can limit the travel and make it firmer. I don’t see anyone getting their XC climbing position on their all-mountain bike, so you need to compromise a bit and lean towards a more gravity oriented riding position. Unless they develop an adjustable length stem.
MW: I set it up so I can climb well, but I always run shorter stems so it doesn’t feel like I’m driving a bus. Snappy steering. I sit up a bit, a short rise in the stem and riser bars. Set it up with your weight 50/50, but make it so it’s easy to bias your weight to the rear. And get a nice wide bar. I haven’t changed my set up in years. Big brakes, big suspension – basically set it up so you can make big mistakes and not pay for them.
JC: I ride a medium frame (I’m between small and med), so it’s a bit bigger. So I advance the saddle a little bit and ride a 50mm stem.
BC: Same, short stem and saddle forward.
JC: I run a 170mm fork for a slacker head angle (10mm more than stock).
BIKERUMOR: Have you tried a 29er for enduros?
JM: I have, actually. For Downieville last year, I pre-rode on my Scalpel with a Fox 120mm 34, but I couldn’t get down the mountain quite as fast. It was really comfortable on it, and I could take some technical sections straighter, but I wound up flatting a lot more often, and I was quicker overall on the 26″ Jekyll. I could have run heavier duty tires, but I think the added weight would negate some of the benefits. At the end of the day, it could work for some events like Ashland Super-D, but it just didn’t work out for us.
MW: I haven’t. If you’re racing some of the Oregon series events, you’re probably better off on a 29er, but for the races I’ve done, I wouldn’t feel comfortable on it. In the US, you could get away with it on quite a few courses, but in Europe I don’t think it’d work.
JC: No, it doesn’t fit to my style of riding, and right now there is not enough tire choice to use it year ’round.
BIKERUMOR: What about 650B?
JM: I think it’s coming, nobody’s going to stop it. 29er is going to become the XC norm and 650B is going to completely wipe 26″ off the map. And I’m not against it. I think the wheel size rides good. It gives some of us that aren’t using a 29er for everything a wheel size that really could work for everything.
MW: I’ll definitely try it. I’m definitely interested. I’d like to see what it feels like. I’ve done a little riding on it, but not enough to get a handle. Seems like it’s not a big enough difference to be a negative. Who knows, in a few years maybe there won’t be much 26″.
JC: I think it would be a great improvement to the type of riding we do. But first we need to get the geometry dialed.
BC: I’m open to it. I’ve never tried it, but I’d like to.
BIKERUMOR: What technology would you like to see come about for enduro?
JM: That’s tough, I feel like so much has happened recently. Mark and I used to race Downieville a lot, so we’d try to build up the lightest bike we could for the XC day, but we had to race that same bike the next day for the downhill. So it had to strike that perfect balance. Bikes now, though, have gotten so good. Really, my biggest complaint, where I’d like to see improvement, is in the chain, derailleur and cassette interface. On the really gnarly sections at speed, there’s a lack of chain stability in the back. Even with the clutch derailleurs, which improved it a tremendous amount, there’s still so much ruckus going on back there that the chain will skip over the cog occasionally.
MW: Making the ride more intuitive. Electronic shifting could be nice, but whether you need it or not, who knows. More integrated controls would be cool, but there’s a lot stuff that would need to change. As it is, it’s a big cluttered mess on the handlebar. If companies could figure out how to consolidate more of that, it’d be nice. Suspension technology is really good. Tire technology could be better. If you never had to worry about flatting, that would be nice.
JC: No more cables.
BC: Wifi shifters.
JC: And Wifi brakes!
BC: And a dropper post that lowers on it’s own.
JC: And knobs on the tire that can automatically be lowered for more XC sections, then pop them back up for the downhills.
BC: And a vibrating saddle! No, just kidding.
BIKERUMOR: What about electronic shifting – any desire for that?
JM: I think electronic shifting could deliver that chain stability I want. You have a mechanized motor holding the derailleur in place so it can’t wander. I see where it could work really nicely with electronically adjustable suspension. And even more of a pipe dream is an electronically controlled dropper post. Having fewer buttons to do more things would be really nice. The only downside is that an electronic system is a bit heavier, and I really want the bikes to get lighter.
MW: I’d like to try it. I’d like to try anything that keeps me from doing broader swipes (of the shifter). Anything that simplifies movement. If it works, why not?
JC: No, because it’s always with a (wire).
BC: No wires would be awesome. Just clean. Telepathic would be cool, like a bluetooth in your ear but to control your bike.
Moeschler’s bike is probably the most straightforward of the bunch.
Shimano PRO cockpit and XTR drivetrain with Fox fork.
Gravity Dropper adjustable height seatpost and a quick release clamp.
Total bike weight: 29.54lbs.
Weir’s been sponsored by Fox Racing Shox for quite a while, and he’s running a custom 170mm fork.
Shimano’s elusive chainguide holding the chain on a Saint ring with XTR crankarms.
PRO cockpit with Fox’s huge DOSS dropper post controls mounted underhanded on the left. No doubt this makes them easier to reach and use in a pinch.
Total weight: 30.14lbs.
Ben Cruz’s Jekyll is decked out with SRAM parts and drivetrain, including XX1.
Cruz said he just got his XX1 group in before the camp and had to scramble to find a hub with the new Driver Body. Kore’s new XX1 option was the only thing he could get his hands on quickly, but he says he’s liking it.
No top cap on the steerer once it’s all tightened down. He’s testing the 26″ Lefty Super Max during pre-season.
Total weight: 28.44lbs.
Normally, Clementz runs a Grip Shift front shifter to control the DYAD rear shock’s setting. Unfortunately his camp bike didn’t have that set up yet, but one of the team mechanics said the cable pull is close enough to mimic their lever. Note the Reverb’s hose going into the cable port normally reserved for the front shifter cable…a nice way to use the Stealth routing without drilling another hole!
Total weight: 28.48lbs.
TEAM CAMP VIDEO:
Mostly totally unrelated, here’s a little video they shot at the team camp, which shows a bit of the riding we got to do. Big thanks to Cannondale for the invite, it was awesome!