While we hope that most of our readers will be welcoming in the summer with a Memorial Day out on the bike, here’s a round-up of some of that unique gear that we inevitably stumble upon at the races. At the early season mountain bike XC World Cups that usually means a lot of cross-country prototypes (and we saw no shortage of those this year), but it also means all kinds of lightweight tricks and those small details that help get both rider and support teams through a tough race season, even if a podium placing is a far off dream…
It doesn’t get a lot more trick than a full lightweight carbon and machined alloy setup from the Italian weight weenies at FRM. Argentinian U23 race Luciana Roland was on this nice looking bare carbon Anakin Full 29er with a very tunable Formula 33 fork.
A lot of times a masked off bike signals some unique new prototype hiding below. But other times it is just covering up the branding when you aren’t riding something sponsor-correct. The CST Sandd American Eagle team probably had the most liberal application of making tape. They have the new American Eagle Atlanta 2.0 hardtail, but it seems it wasn’t ready in the smaller sizes to fit some of the large team, so several were still racing on Superior bikes from last year’s team sponsor.
We always love to see custom bikes. But this one isn’t to commemorate some championship or title won. Instead it is the latest in a fundraising project from Romanian elite XC racer George Vlad Sabau. Sabau lost his mother to breast cancer several years back and decided he could do a bit more through his racing campaigns to raise awareness.
Since the 2014 season he has been racing on special pink bikes from sponsor Cannondale, plus a host of other customized components from Tune & others. Then, at the end of the season he auctions off his race bikes with the proceeds going 100% to a hometown foundation helping women fight breast cancer. This year looks like the first time Sabau has gone full-suspension with the customized Cannondale Scalpel-Si Carbon. Check out the details of his bike, and how to support his campaign at: VladSabau.ro.
SQ Labs makes a lot of contact point components for your bike to make sure you dial your fit ergonomically. And while bar ends may be dead, maybe Innerbarends aren’t. We spotted these on a Cube rider’s bike looking to mix-up their hand positions on the bike, especially useful getting tucked in and aero on the flat asphalt run-in to the Nové Město finish.
Another customization we spotted on several bikes at the race were toptube guards. With ever lighter carbon frames these days, with thinner-and-thinner tubing, the last thing you want is a simple mid race crash to derail your chances when an alloy brake lever tears into your toptube. Whether it is the own-branded, stick-on stainless steel plates on this Cube, or the rubber strap from Skean on this Massi that you just stretch into place and can remove much like a watch band, there are plenty of options that shouldn’t add back too much weight.
XCO race pits essentially let the pro mechanics change out anything short of a complete bike mid race. Realistically though, that means that anything other than a flat tire, damaged wheel, or broken chain is going to take too long to repair to be worth the hassle without losing any chance at a victory, a podium, or even points. We have noticed a lot more dropper posts on bikes, and as most dropper riders can attest, they are not without the occasional unpredictable failure. So we see more saddle+post combos in the pits now too. Curiously some teams/racers are convinced enough of the dropper that they actually bring spare droppers to the pit instead of the faster fix to just swap in a standard post if there is a failure during the race.
Flats are a real concern though. How many spare wheels can you carry while also lugging a full set of race tools to the pit area nestled deep in the forest. Some mechanics get creative. And of course thru-axles have made this mechanic’s life a little easier.
It’s hard to argue with the old stand-by of just strapping a bunch of wheels to a backpack, or slung over your shoulder on some tie-down straps. Sometimes easier than wheel bags, sometimes not. Of course hydration is key too. This isn’t our favorite 6-pack, but we figure most of the racers at the World Cup level will be reserving the beers for later, whether to celebrate or commiserate depending on how the race pans out.
There’s always UCI officials chasing riders around after the finish. No vampire here, this one was innocuous enough with the remnants of a lunch platter? and a pair of snips getting those race timing chips back.
Hometown Czech champion & pre-race favorite Jaroslav Kulhavý didn’t have the day he was hoping for in Nové Město na Moravě on his S-Works Epic (or over the weekend in Albstadt). But he was still a good sport and spent a good time with the local media and the local fans who turned out for the WC season opener to cheer him on.
We’ll leave a parting shot of an e-bike for everyone who is totally into those these days. I personally have a soft spot in my heart for this type of eMTB, or I guess rather eMX really. For the last several years at least at Nové Město, a rider on an electric KTM Freeride E-XC leads the racers around the course, letting fans know when the lead riders are about to show up and how many laps are left. It’s hard to argue against this quiet and powerful motor bike over its loud predecessors.