Shimano’s New Gravity and All-Mountain Pedals and Shoes

Shimano are announcing the release of a whole stack of new shoes: SH-AM901, AM701, GR900, GR700, and GR700-WOMEN

SH-AM901

The flagship All-Mountain AM901 shoe is designed for Downhill and Enduro riding and, with a revised Upper, offers reduced water ingress, quicker drying times and greater protection over previous models. The added moulded toe cover offers protection and the quick lacing cord further reduces water ingress and improves adjustability in all weather conditions.

The ultra-grippy, high traction rubber sole makes walking easier and improves contact with the pedals. A handy pedal channel on the sole behind the cleat creates a stable pedal connection when clipped out. At 400g (size 42) the shoes are best paired with the 546g SAINT M820 SPD pedals.

Below the AM9 is the AM701 (408g), which is now also an SPD shoe. Unlike the AM9, the AM7 removes the lace shield, offers a harder sole and uses an ankle gaiter to offer protection and keep out debris. The AM701 has a stiffer midsole (stiffness rating: 6) than the AM9 (rating: 5) for trail riding. It also comes in a super loud lime green option to stand out on the trail.

SH-GR700

Completely new for 2018 are two dedicated Gravity shoes. The top-level GR900 shoe shares many of the outstanding protection attributes of the AM901, such as the asymmetric raised ankle collar, armoured lace shield and molded toe cap, but the difference comes with the GR9’s simplified sole construction. Not only do you get superb grip and improved walkability from the Michelin rubber outsole but the GR900 is 35g lighter than the AM901, weighing in at 365g (size 42). The GR9 is best paired with the SAINT M828 493g at pedals.

Much like the All-Mountain line-up, the gray/green or blue GR700 (366g) ditches the armoured lace shield for increased heat ventilation and a more multi-purpose looking shoe. The GR7 is also available in a dedicated women’s version.

NEW PEDALS: PD-M820, M828, M8040, and GR500

SHIMANO’s revised Gravity pedals feature one SAINT-level SPD option, three at pedal options at SAINT and DEORE XT-levels, and a non-series option, all designed to t perfectly and offer the optimum pedalling connection with Shimano’s Gravity and All-Mountain shoes.

The SAINT-level PD-M820 is one half of Shimano’s most advanced Downhill and Enduro-specific pedals offering ultimate bike control, contact, grip and durability with SPD efficiency and stability.

YOUR CHOICE: PEDALING DYNAMICS OR PEDALING PLATFORMS?

The M820’s wide alloy body is system engineered to match perfectly with the AM901 shoe providing a very solid pedal/shoe interface. The double-sided durable alloy pedal body protects the SPD mechanism from impacts whilst the low pro le design lowers the stack height and the weight (546g). Four adjustable pins per side offer grip when you’re not clipped in.

PD-M820

Its compatriot, the SAINT-level strong and durable PD-M828, is an eight-sided concave platform pedal offering excellent grip and support. Twelve stainless steel pins per side (optional 3mm or 5mm) deliver the aggressive downhill or free-rider the ideal balance of connection to the bike and pedalling stability, with the best balance of weight and durability across riding conditions.

PD-M828

“I’ve been testing the PD-M828 at pedal with the GR900 at shoe and I’m really happy with the developments. These pedals are bombproof. The support under foot is excellent due to the large platform and my feet feel really well connected to the pedals. They’ve handled everything I can throw at them and really live up to the SAINT name.”

“The GR900 shoe is a perfect match. The new sticky rubber compound from Michelin provides a tonne of grip and we worked a lot on the sole stiffness to nd the right balance of support and pedal feel. Additionally, Shimano incorporated some nice features like a rubber toe cap for added protection and quick drying construction so that you don’t wake up to wet shoes!” Thomas Vanderham, freeridee athlete and Shimano test rider.

The DEORE XT-level PD-M8040 comes in small-to-medium (shoe size recommendation 36-44) or medium-to-large options (shoe size recommendation 43-48) for optimized support and rider-tuned performance. With 10 pins either side and a slight concave design for comfort and efficiency, these Trail and Enduro pedals offer the legendary off-road performance associated with Deore XT. Sold with optional 3mm pins or 5mm pins. Weights: 460g (S/M) or 503g (M/L)

PD-M8040

Finally, the PD-GR500 builds on the strong reputation of its predecessor (PD-MX80) as a Shimano-branded durable at pedal for entry-level Trail and All-Mountain riding. The PD-500 features height-adjustable pins and low- maintenance sealed cartridge bearing chromoly axles, available in black or silver options at a weight of 533g.

 http://www.shimano.com.au/

Like a Local: Tropical North Queensland


Beyond biking, these riders share their enjoyment of the food, leisure and lifestyle opportunities nearby. A quick swim at the top of a waterfall, a palm tree trunk climb challenge, a search for sea turtles and some time out to offer their thoughts on why they’re proud to call the region home. 

“You know when people travel and everyone tells them the tourist things to do? When mountain bikers travel, they want to know what the locals do. So we decided to make a film about that.” – Tokyo Swim Team

Trek’s All-New Session, Including a 29er Frame & Fork Package

The new Trek Session.
Trek Session 29.

The world’s fastest downhill race bike gets even faster.

For more speed, we’re offering all the benefits of new Session on a 29er chassis. Offered in limited quantity as a frame & fork package, Session 29 brings faster-rolling big wheels to the downhill scene. 

More Aggressive Geometry

Updated race-focused geometry is the least visible change to Session 9.9, but it’s the one that riders will feel immediately. This is where the Athertons and World Cup racing had the most influence. The reach grew by about 20mm on each size, putting the rider in a more aggressive position on the bike. The chainstays stay on the longer side to match the increased front-center length and keep the bike stable at speed, and also allowing it to plow through the rough stuff without getting the rear end hung up.

Another way we’ve increased the bike’s stability and cornering prowess is by giving it a slacker head angle and a lower bottom bracket. Session 9.9 is now 10mm lower and sports a 63 degree head angle out of the box.

Tunable Geometry

Mino Link geometry adjustment.

Hoping for a slightly different head angle? Session features an easily adjustable head tube angle, but it’s not the creak-prone adjustable type. The bike ships with zero-offset cups installed, but it also includes a set of 1-degree-offset cups that can be installed with a forward or backward angle for an additional 1 degree of head angle adjustment in either direction. Like all of our other full-suspension bikes, Session also gets further adjustability with Mino Link, which offers another half degree of head angle adjustment, as well as about 8mm of BB height adjustment. Between the Mino Link and the adjustable angle headset, riders can dial in their head tube angle to anywhere from 62 degrees to 64.5 degrees depending on the course or their own personal preference.

Though new Session sets its sights squarely on the finish line, it still works great for crushing laps on the bike park jump lines. Session is primarily sized by reach, which means that park riders can size down to get all of these suspension and stiffness improvements but with a more playful fit.

Livelier Ride

One of the most visible changes to Session 9.9 is the new Fox Float X2 air shock. What’s not so visible is the Float X2’s redesigned internals, which were developed on the same timeline as the Session. Trek’s Suspension R&D team worked closely with Fox Racing Shox to optimise the new bike and shock together in a high-performance package with more flexible tuning options than ever before. Updates to the new DH-focused Float X2 include progressive instead of digressive valves and enhanced spring characteristics, which complement new Session’s lower leverage ratio and longer shock stroke. These changes to the frame accelerate the shock’s compression speed and introduce higher spring and damping forces for a given amount of wheel travel.

All of that translates to the rider as a livelier ride with more control and more support, especially in the midstroke, where the suspension works the hardest. With the damper doing more of the work and dissipating more energy through the midstroke, the shock gets much more predictable bottom-out resistance for better control on even the biggest hits. The suspension is also more responsive at the beginning of the stroke, allowing the bike to respond to smaller bumps, so it tracks the ground better and improves grip. Achieving all of these suspension performance improvements at the same time without compromise might seem impossible, but we’ve managed to do just that with the new Session and new Float X2 working together.

More responsive, stiffer frame

Another visible change to new Session is the absence of Full Floater. We previously used Full Floater as another means of tuning suspension characteristics. With the massive improvements in air shocks, including more tuning features like air pressure, spring rate, and spring volume, we can now trade that Full Floater tunability to gain more strength and stiffness in the frame while saving weight and maintaining plushness. So Session is still one of the lightest DH frames available, but now it’s even stiffer, so it’s more responsive in and out of corners, and it holds a precise line through even the roughest, gnarliest terrain.

The Rest

While improved suspension performance, increased frame stiffness, and racy-yet-adjustable geometry are the most notable changes, Session still features the classic Trek tech technologies that make all of our bikes shine. Trek’s patented Active Braking Pivot keeps the suspension working freely under braking loads that can cause other designs to stiffen up and stop working. Its OCLV Mountain Carbon frame is light and strong thanks to a precise carbon layup that minimises weight, enhances ride feel, and maximises durability. Carbon Armor adds an extra layer of protection to impact-prone areas like the downtube, chainstays, and seatstays. Fork bumpers are built into the Control Freak cable routing guides, which allows for versatile and easy-to-use internal control routing for added protection and slick aesthetics.

It all adds up to a downhill bike that performs better in every way. It’s stiffer, more aggressive, more adjustable, and just plain faster with suspension that’s more plush and grippy off the top, more supportive and controlled in the middle, and better able to absorb big, bottom-out hits without losing its cool.


FAQ

Is Session still compatible with coil shocks?

Yes. Updated metric shock sizing allows riders to run most aftermarket coil shocks.

Is this a new headset standard?

No. It uses the common 56mm/49mm cup size, so you can still run your favourite headset if you’re happy with the stock head angle.

Can the new X2 be tuned with volume spacers?

Yes. Float X2 offers additional air spring tuning by adding or removing volume bands. Visit www.foxracingshox.com for more information.

What is the rear hub spacing?

157×12

What about alloy Session?

While new Session’s changes focus squarely on racing speed, Session 8 returns as a carry forward model that retains the same frame as years’ past. This frame features a more all-around geometry that works well for racing, but also feels equally at home playing around the bike park.

Who’s the right rider for Session 27.5 and 29? The Session 27.5 will be the overwhelming right choice for most riders. It’s fast and nimble. The Session 29 is for the accomplished rider looking for every bit of speed possible.

What are the differences between the Session 29 and 27.5? Aside from wheel size and ride, the Session 27.5 and 29 feature the same frame features. The Session 29 geometry differs in that it has a slightly longer wheelbase due to the bigger wheels and the BB drop is greater giving it more stability.

What’s included with the framesets? The Session 9.9 27.5” frameset includes the FOX X2 air shock and fixed angle headset cups. The Session 9.9 29 will include the FOX X2 air shock, fixed angle headset cups, and the FOX 49 fork. We include the fork on the Session 29 since it’s such a unique, relatively scarce fork.

Urs Huber claims Crocodile Trophy title number four; Alice Pirard is the Women’s Champion in Port Douglas

The 22nd Crocodile Trophy finished after eight days of racing through its home in Tropical North Queensland in Port Douglas.  The legendary event started last Saturday in Cairns with a lap race at the Smithfield MTB Park and continued onto the Atherton Tablelands on Sunday. It was the climb onto the Atherton Tablelands and the tough undulating course of the second stage was the hardest, the riders all agreed. Three stages were raced in the Atherton MTB Park and also in the Herberton State Forest and surrounds, very technical and demanding on the riders. huberarrival_08_croc16_hr-3431 sebcarabin_urshuber_finish_08_croc16_hr-3438 urshuber_alicepirard_crocstaff_08_croc16_hr-3760

From the rainforests in Cairns into the bushlands of the Tablelands and via the so iconic Outback to Skybury Coffee Plantation was next on the stage plan. The racers enjoyed two nights in the tropical Skybury estate and raced through the Mareeba Wetlands on Thursday.

Yesterday the race stopped over at Wetherby Station after a marathon stage via open Outback Highways – a fast race in glistening heat. Riders were in for a treat – a 30km timetrial down the infamous “Bump Track” from Wetherby Station into the holiday paradise of Port Douglas with the final finish on the beautiful Four Mile Beach.

Urs Huber wins his fourth Crocodile Trophy title

The Swiss Marathon National Champion claimed his fourth Crocodile Trophy victory after winning before in 2009, 2010 and last year. Only one man before him has won this legendary race four times, Jaap Viergever from The Netherlands (1997, 1999, 2001 & 2002). 

He said the race was a tough mind game for him this week clocking in a total of 23h52:51.6.

“The week was really tough, not physically but mentally because the gap [to Sebastien Carabin] was always really small and I had to stay concentrated for the whole week. I couldn’t make any mistakes – I could manage that really well and so, the win is here. 

He complimented his biggest opponent Sebastien Carabin as being equally as strong. “We both were very strong. He just had one bad day and I didn’t. And in the end, that was the difference.”

The “bad day” was stage two from Cairns to Atherton, which pushed most of the riders to their absolute limits. A long stage in very hot and particularly humid conditions, so hard that even a world-class rider like Sebastien Carabin suffered and ultimately cost him too much time. 

Overall, only 1:48 minutes separated the top two finishers of the 2016 event with Huber taking the day’s stage in 52:59.3 with a gap of five seconds to second-placed Carabin.

With an incredible performance in the time trial the Belgian Michiel van Aelbroeck defended his third position overall and has a gap of 1h05 to Huber. The 40-year old Dutch racer Bas Peters took out fourth (+1h11:05.4) and the Austrian Matthias Pliem came in fifth (+1h16:29.0).

Alice Pirard wins the Women’s Trophy

The Belgian Marathon National Champion finishes her 2016 season with a win at the Crocodile Trophy, her second appearance at the legendary stage race. With strong performances all week she dominated the technical stages and the dark horse, but well-known rider, in the field Annemiek van Vleuten was a strong opponent. The Dutch Olympic road racer had claimed to “race the Crocodile Trophy as a holiday”, but half-way through the week caught the racing bug on the flat and less-technical stages.alicepirard_finish_08_croc16_hr-3504 14715590_1247584418646064_4748425118571155972_o 14882202_1247587928645713_8765333415381208905_o

Twice riddled with bad luck by missing turns and loosing a lot of time, Annemiek van Vleuten still claimed three stage wins and was the fastest woman in the time trial with 1h03:45.6.

Overall the women’s result has Alice Pirard finishing with 30h34:45.0 ahead of van Vleuten (+44:15) and the Australian road racer Ruth Corset (+1h06:27). 

The marathon specialist Sarah Kaehler from Cairns came in fourth (+5h39:57).

For detailed race results, visit www.crocodile-trophy.com


TOP RESULTS ELITE STAGE 8:

Elite Men:

1. #11 Urs HUBER (Team Bulls)  / SUI / 0h52:59.3 

2. #1 Sebastien CARABIN (merida wallonie-Vojo Mag) / BEL / 0h53:04.7 +0:05

3. #4 Michiel VAN AELBROECK (WMTB.be) / BEL / 0h55:13.2 +2:13

4. #2   Matthias Grick (KTM Ebner Transporte Cycling Team Graz) / AUT / 0h56:01.5      +3:02

5. #10 Manuel PLIEM (Team KTM-RAD.SPORT.SZENE) / AUT / 0h56:05.6 +3:06

Elite Women:

1. #22 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Orica-AIS / Scott) / NED / 1h03:45.6

2. #25 Ruth CORSET / AUS / 1h05:30.1    +1:44

3. #21 Alice PIRARD (Merida-Wallonie MTB Team) / BEL / 1h09:57.0    +6:11 

4. #23 Sarah KAEHLER (Astute Financial Racing Team) / AUS / 1h17:38.3     +13:52

 


OVERALL RESULTS AFTER 8 STAGES:

Elite Men:

1. #11 Urs HUBER (Team Bulls) / SUI / 23h52:51.6

2. #1 Sebastien CARABIN (merida wallonie-Vojo Mag) / BEL / 23h54:39.6 +1:48  

3. #4 Michiel VAN AELBROECK (WMTB.be) / BEL / 24h58:44.0 +1h05:52.4  

4. #3 Bas PETERS (MijnBadLiv/Giant offroad team) / NED / 25h03:57.0 +1h11:05.4  

5. #10 Manuel PLIEM (Team KTM-RAD.SPORT.SZENE) / AUT / 25h09:20.6 +1h16:29.0

Elite Women:

1. #21 Alice PIRARD (Merida-Wallonie MTB Team) / BEL / 30h34:45.0

2. #22 Annemiek VAN VLEUTEN (Orica-AIS / Scott) / NED / 31h19:00.2 +44:15

3. #25 Ruth CORSET / AUS /  31h41:12.4 +1h06:27

4. #23 Sarah KAEHLER (Astute Financial Racing Team) / AUS / 36h14:41.7    +5h39:57

Further category and leader jersey winners:

  • Amateur & A3 category winner men: Daniel Beresford (AUS / Croc For Kids) in 28h21:38.2
  • Fastest Australian & A2 winner: Lincoln Carolan (AUS / Astute Financial Racing Team) in 28h38:23.4
  • A4 category winner men: Garry James (AUS / Specialized Australia) 29h39:09.8
  • A1 category winner men: Blake Coppo (AUS / Corry Cycles ACE rACEing) in 32h59:30.0
  • Amateur women: Anita Narula (AUS / Liv Cycling) in 34h00:52.0

Troy Brosnan | Escape to Paradise: Part 2

After Troy Brosnan was invited to Cairns, the task was set to ensure he got to experience everything Cairns could throw at him within a week.

_NOO9747

Troy went scuba diving for the first time on the Great Barrier Reef, fed giant saltwater crocodiles, took on bungy jumping, glided over rainforest mountain ranges and got sent sky high hot-air ballooning. In between experiencing all this for the first time, the Cairns UCI World-Cup DH course was going to be the most important part to Troy’s stay.

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In 2014, Troy had a less than ideal race in far less than ideal conditions. Cairns saw a cyclone skirt past the region days before the event, leading to the post-cyclone rain to fall down as racers began to hit the course. Conditions were bleak, and the track fell apart infront of our eyes. 

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While the event ran smoothly and the region hailed for its efforts ensuring so, all riders left with unfinished business as no visiting rider got to experience the course to its full potential. Troy had multiple sessions on the course during his visit, each time finding new and daring gaps and lines not even fathomable during racing in 2014. His time on course in the dry left Troy eager for his return in April, with a head start in what to expect in any condition of racing.

Whether a returning athlete, visiting spectator, local or far away tuning in online – we know this race is going to be a step further in the right direction as Cairns perfects itself in preparation for the 2017 UCI Mountain-Bike World-Championships.


For more on the region, places to ride and info on the upcoming World Cup this April head to – www.ridecairns.com

Troy Brosnan | Escape To Paradise | Part 1

Cairns, Tropical North Queensland. Home to Round 2 of the 2016 UCI World Cup MTB series and one of the most unique and diverse tourist driven destinations anywhere on earth.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 9.36.39 AM

Troy Brosnan spent a week in Cairns sampling the very best on offer from riding the trails in the famed Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park, to feeding saltwater crocodiles, gliding over rainforest canopies and diving the Great Barrier Reef.

Follow on with Troy, and stay tuned for part 2 – a personal and very fast journey down the Cairns UCI World-Cup DH course.

The Atherton Family Joins Trek Factory Racing Downhill

Trek and Trek Factory Racing announced today the creation of a marquee World Cup-level Downhill racing program for the 2016 season.

The new team will take on the full UCI World Cup series as well as select regional Red Bull events. Joining Trek Factory Racing Downhill for its inaugural season will be Rachel Atherton (UK), Gee Atherton (UK), Dan Atherton (UK), and Taylor Vernon (UK).

Trek is proud to partner with Dan, Gee, Rachel, and Taylor, and will offer full support to their exceptional competitive trajectory. Beyond their success in competition, these athletes are phenomenal ambassadors for the sport of downhill mountain biking. The Athertons’ wealth of experience also gives them a unique perspective on product development. Trek will rely on their expertise and input in the continued development of downhill bikes and equipment that have been raced to victory at the pinnacle of the sport.

Atherton Racing

“We are delighted to be a part of Trek Factory Racing,” said Team Director Dan Brown. “The team have substantial goals and we’re really excited to have Trek’s support and partnership. We’re looking forward to bringing the passion and professionalism that Trek have demonstrated across their whole cycling portfolio to our World Cup Downhill campaign and beyond.”

Trek Factory Racing’s product development relationship with its athletes has been a successful recipe, and one Trek plans to replicate with the new downhill program. Trek will work with the new team on the continued development of the best bikes and equipment through active research and testing around all aspects of downhill racing. “A lot of people out there are already saying that the Session is the fastest bike on the circuit,” said Gee Atherton. “Trek have shown how receptive they are to rider feedback, and we want to put our own stamp on the bikes.”

Atherton Racing

Dan and Rachel Atherton are equally excited to participate in the development process. “Trek is super-motivated to develop the bikes and push the brand forward,” said Dan. “They are as hungry to progress the sport as we are and we can’t wait to get started.”

Atherton Racing Atherton Racing Atherton Racing

Rachel added, “I’m stoked to be working with Trek. I remember watching my fellow Brit Tracy Moseley absolutely tearing apart the field at Worlds in 2010 on her Trek Session, then going on to dominate the 2011 season. Trek is a brand with a lot of positive associations for me.”

Gee, Rachel, and Taylor will ride the Trek Session, one of the most decorated mountain bikes in history, equipped with Bontrager components, wheels, and tyres. Dan Atherton will be taking turns on the Trek Session and Slash depending on the race and terrain.

Atherton Racing

Trek Factory Racing

Trek Factory Racing is a global professional cycling team that competes at the highest level with the utmost passion and respect to the sport. Woven around unique, rich personalities that create perfect unity, the team is open, engaging, and welcomes all to come experience the grit and glory of professional cycling.

Crocodile Trophy 2015: Swiss Urs Huber Claims Third Crocodile Trophy Victory

With a seventh stage win on the final day at the 21st Crocodile Trophy the Swiss Urs Huber claimed his third race victory since 2009 and 2010. Soren Nissen from Denmark claims the second place ahead of Australia’s Marathon National Champion, Brendan Johnston from Canberra.

Nicholas Pettina comes in fourth overall and the young Austrian Lukas Islitzer in fifth. Sarah White from Cairns (AUS) takes the win in the Elite Women’s category on the podium at the breathtaking Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas after more than 700km and 17,000m of elevation raced since the event started nine days ago in Cairns.

 SarahWhite_UrsHuber_Celebrating_CRO_5279

Today’s time trial stage started the rider field in reverse order of the general classification onto undulating, historic gold rush mining trails and then down the infamous “Bump Track” into Port Douglas, which is a very steep and technical descent through the dense rainforest surrounding the popular holiday destination in Tropical North Queensland. The race leader Urs Huber was released last and said that he knew he had a healthy gap and didn’t take any risks on the rough descent.

Nissen_Huber_Johnston_Outback_1SC_0500_byReginaStangerCrocPeloton_Skybury_1SC_0850_byReginaStanger

Once again proofing this week that he is the deserving 2015 Crocodile Trophy Champion, he won today’s stage in 54:24.0 min, breaking last year’s record time by almost four minutes.

“I’m really happy about my third victory at the Crocodile Trophy. This race has changed so much since I won it last in 2009 and 2010”, Huber said about the event that was founded in 1994. 

“Nowadays you really have to be a complete cyclist to win this event – you must have the skills and strength to do well on all terrains: singletrack, rainforest and bush trails and the wide open Outback roads”, he added and explained that to win you had to be an all-rounder and be able to deal with race tactics, especially on the later and longer marathon stages. “Of course the conditions in Australia are always a challenge, but exactly what makes this race so unique!”, Huber concluded.

Huber_Pettina_Johnston_CRO_2948_byReginaStanger 

In second today was the Italian Nicholas Pettina (+1:28.1 min) and he claims the fourth overall placing in the race. “I’ve had a bit of back luck and lost a lot of time, but I’ll be back for sure, I know now what it takes to do well at this race”, Pettina said.

The second place overall was claimed by the Danish athlete Soren Nissen and having participated in marathons and stage races back to back since January he said caught up with him, but that he was hoping to be up against Huber again next year in Europe to get even. “I’ll be ready to go up against him again at the Alpen Tour Trophy next year in Austria”, Nissen said, referring to the organisers’ four-day UCI stage race in the Austrian Alps in June.

Huber_Nissen_Pettina_River_CRO_4378_byReginaStanger

Today’s third-fastest time was clocked in by the event’s Best Australian Brendan Johnston (AUS, Canberra) with a gap of +2:01.0 min. Finishing third overall in the strongest elite field in the history of this legendary race he said, made him proud, “This was the hardest race I’ve ever done and certainly the longest stage race. I’m still young and it was a fantastic experience to race with such strong racers from all over the world. To race onto the top-three podium, I’m happy with that.”

Crocodile Trophy has everything

Johnston further agreed with Huber that it took a complete racer to win this event. “The Crocodile Trophy has everything you could ever imagine riding on a mountain bike – steep descents, long climbs. Technical singletrails, wide open roads. Rocky and sandy sections. Rainforests and bush. Outback and beach. Rain, mud and heat. There is literally nothing that mountain biking includes that isn’t in this race”, he said.

Nissen_Huber_Johnston_Outback_1SC_0500_byReginaStanger

Sarah White from Cairns is the elite women’s champion in 2015, finishing in 36h56:30 over the 9 days. “I really enjoyed this race, my first stage race. I’d love to race it again and would love to see more women in the field. It’s a tough race, yes, but absolutely doable – to win so close to home makes me really proud”, the steadfast ex-ultra marathon runner said.

From jungle to bush to Outback to beach

The final kilometres were be raced on the sandy beach, right on the water and for many riders the start in the jungle around Cairns seems long ago. Since last Saturday they raced in on the Atherton Tablelands’ MTB Park and rainforest surrounds. For stage five and six the Crocodile Trophy raced in the bushlands, mining country and the Outback in the Irvinebank region before arriving at the tropical Skybury Coffee Plantation on Friday. Last night the set up camp at the historic Wetherby Cattle Station and for the second time in the race history, the event finished on Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas.

The racers received a warm welcome in Port Douglas with more than 500 spectators cheering them on as they crossed the final finish line for 2015. Many were reunited with families and friends and the international racers will spend more time in Tropical North Queensland, some taking up to three weeks here to recover from the strains and pains of the legendary mountain bike stage race that is the Crocodile Trophy.

BrendanJohnstonAUS_1SC_1259_byReginaStanger

STAGE 9: TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 54:24.0 min

2. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 55:52.1 min +1:28.1 min

3. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 56:25.0 min +2:01.0 min

4. Thomas Engelsgjerd (NOR) #32 // Energima Abax Hr // 57:11.6 min +2:47.6 min

5. Greg Saw (AUS) #1 // Energima Abax Hr // 57:28.4 min +3:04.4 min

 

STAGE 9: TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 1h13:30.8

 

FINAL OVERALL TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 26h32:40

2. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 26h54:06 +21:26 min

3. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 27h13:39 +40:59 min

4. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 27h23:52 +51:12 min

5. Lukas Islitzer (AUT) #20 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 27h38:26 +1h05:46 min

 

FINAL OVERALL TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 36h56:30

 

Further solo category leaders:

A Women: Kristin Endres (GER) #107 // lakatexpress.de // 38h14:37

A1 Men (U30): Evert Feyaerts (BEL) #30 // 33h15:52

A2 Men (30+): Christian Leschke (GER) #49 // Team Leschi // 30h27:14

A3 Men (40+): Bart Duraj (AUS) #61 // Astute Financial Racing // 31h03:51

A4 Men (50+): Garry James (AUS) #97 // Corry Cycles ACE Racing/Specialised // 32h01:07

Crocodile Trophy Stages 1-3 Urs Huber and Sarah White defend Elite leads

STAGE 1 – Smithfield (5×6.5km laps/33km/900m)

Italy takes the lead at 21st Crocodile Trophy

The Italian Nicolas Pettina wins the first stage of the Crocodile Trophy with a respectable lead of 3:18.07 minutes at Smithfield MTB Park in Cairns ahead of Urs Huber from Switzerland and the Australian Brendan Johnston. It was a hot start to the nine-day mountain bike stage race in Tropical North Queensland and the local racer Sarah White took full home advantage, taking an almost 6 minute lead in the elite women’s against the German Regina Genser.

Nicolas Pettina
Nicolas Pettina

Nicolas Pettina credited not only his cross-country race background for his win against one of the most high-profile elite men’s line-up in the history of the Crocodile Trophy. He also blamed a lucky charm – with his luggage still lost in transit he raced in the event cotton t-shirt and is cheekily contemplating keeping it that way.

“Today was a great start to the race, I love racing these kinds of trails – they suit my cross-country background extremely”, the Italian National Marathon U23 Champion said at the finish of today’s race, that he completed in 1h30:42.98 and which included five laps of a 6.5 km circuit at the Smithfield MTB Park just outside of Cairns. 

Crocodile Trophy promotes mountain bike destination Tropical North Queensland internationally

Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive officer Alex de Waal said the Croc Trophy attracted widespread international media coverage, which was invaluable to the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef region.

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“Mountain bike enthusiasts around the world know Ride Cairns is a world-class mountain biking destination with exciting trails across a diverse range of landscapes, including World Heritage rainforest, thanks to the publicity generated by the Croc Trophy,” he said.

“This helps raise the profile of Cairns and Great Barrier Reef as a must-do destination for recreational riders and encourages travellers to explore our region further.”

Urs Huber from Switzerland proofs that the event’s powerful media campaign with distribution of reports, photos and videos all over the world not only attracts new racers every year, but also tempts them to come back. Ever since winning this event in 2009 and 2010, the Swiss Marathon Champion Urs Huber had wanted to race the Crocodile Trophy again.

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Greg Saw and Matthias Grick

“Following the race reports and the transformation of the event since them made me curious to race all the different terrains that are included now – I extremely enjoyed the Smithfield trails today”, he said and admitted that the hot temperatures and midday sun were tough on the body, but added that he was excited about the coming days and the challenges ahead, which will include bridging the almost three and a half minutes gap to Pettina.

The Australian National Marathon Champion Brendan Johnston took out the third spot today (+3:35.69 min) and said that he was looking forward to tomorrow’s marathon stage from Cairns onto the Atherton Tablelands. 

Local lead in elite women’s

Two riders are competing in the elite women’s category in this year’s race – today Sarah White from Cairns took full advantage of racing on her home track and won against the German marathon-athlete Regina Genser only 23 minutes behind the men’s winner in a time of 1h53:39.92. “I tried to stay calm today and had a strong race”, said the 35-year old local rider and added that she would relax on the beach this afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s second stage, which will take the riders to Lake Tinaroo on the Atherton Tablelands. 

After a neutral start at The Esplande in the centre of Cairns at 9:30am, the official race start will be 12 km outside of town and the total elevation to cover will be 1500 m.

TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 1h30:42.98

2. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 1h34:01.05 + 3:18.07 min

3. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 1h34:18.67 + 3:35.69 min

4. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 1h34:53.44 + 4:10.46 min

5. Milton Ramos (ESP) #6 // Intense Tow-Car // 1h35:23.60 + 4:40.62

 

TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 1h53:39.92

2. Regina Genser (GER) #113 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 1h59:25.30 +5:45.38 min


STAGE 2 – Cairns-Atherton (74km/1500m)

Urs Huber takes overall race lead with stage win at Lake Tinaroo

Urs Huber (SUI) claimed today’s stage win at Lake Tinaroo ahead of Denmark’s National Marathon Champion Sören Nissen and yesterday’s winner, Nicholas Pettina (ITA). The Australian Brendan Johnston finished ex aequo in fourth with double-Crocodile Trophy winner Ondrej Fojtik from the Czech Republic. The Australian elite female, Sarah White, increased her race lead in the women’s to a respectable 23 minutes, winning her second consecutive stage ahead of Germany’s Regina Genser.

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Johnston Dam
Soren Nissen
Soren Nissen

Today’s second stage of the Crocodile Trophy was a 74km marathon from Cairns onto the Atherton Tablelands. After a 12km neutral ride through the tropical city on a misty morning, the climbing started and the official race start for just before Copperlode Dam, the town’s water reservoir. Being used to training and racing in the European Alps, the Swiss marathon athlete Urs Huber coped with the 1500m of elevation and early wet conditions well. After 2h28:13 he crossed the line, just half a minute ahead of the Dane Soren Nissen.

“After losing a bit of time yesterday, I knew today I’d get the chance to make up for it”, said Huber. “The Danish and Italian riders kept up with me all day and just before the finish I attacked and was able to stay ahead of Nissen”, he recounted.

The two had a good gap to yesterday’s winner from Italy, Nicholas Pettina who finished in just over two and a half hours with a gap of about five minutes. The Czech Ondrej Fojtik and Australia’s Brendan Johnston followed ex aequo with a gap of almost seven minutes.

This result shakes things up in the overall standings – Huber takes over the race lead and has a gap of 1:24 minutes ahead of Nissen. Pettina is in third ahead of Johnston and Ondrej Fojtik.

Sarah White puts a line in the sand: 23 minute gap after two stages

In the women’s classification, Cairns-racer Sarah White increased her gap to the German Regina Genser to 23 minutes. Coping with the conditions well and banking on her knowing the trails through the Dinden State Forest and Barron Creek National Park well she can rest easy tonight on the shores of the picturesque Lake Tinaroo.

Notably missing from today’s stage plan was the grueling climb over Mt Edith, which is dreaded by returning Crocodile Trophy racers. “We work closely together with local councils, mountain bike clubs and riders who always give us input about more ideal and sometimes new routes. Over the last three to four years our stage plan has evolved and has been very popular with our racers. But we like to keep it fresh and interesting too”, said organiser Gerhard Schoenbacher who founded this iconic race in 1994.

For now the Crocodile Trophy will set up camp in Atherton until Wednesday morning. After an 18km neutral ride from Lake Tinaroo to the town of Atherton, tomorrow’s stage will have two 27km loops in the Atherton Mountain Bike Park in store for the racers. With the so typical bush single trails it has become one of the most popular cycling destinations in Australia. The race with then set up camp for two nights on a nearby farm for a classic 80km marathon through the Herberton State Forest on Tuesday.

STAGE 2: TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 2h28:13

2. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 2h28:44 +00:31 sec

3. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 2h33:04 +04:51 min

4. Ondrej Fojtik (CZE) #17 // Force KCK / Progress Cycles // 2h35:06 +06:53 min

4. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 2h35:06 +06:53 min

STAGE 2: TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 3h42:07

2. Regina Genser (GER) #113 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 4h00:03 +17:56 min

OVERALL: TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 4h02:14

2. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 4h03:37 +01:23 min

3. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 4h03:46 +01:32 min

4. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 4h09:24 +07:10 min

5. Ondrej Fojtik (CZE) #17 // Force KCK / Progress Cycles // 4h11:50 +09:36 min

OVERALL TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 5h35:46

2. Regina Genser (GER) #113 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 5h59:28 +23:42 min


Stage 3 – Atherton Mountain Bike Park

59 (77) km / 1300 (1500) m

Urs Huber and Sarah White defend Elite leads in Atherton today

Urs Huber scores his second stage win at the 2015 Crocodile Trophy ahead of the Australian Brendan Johnston and the Italian Nicholas Pettina. Sarah White stays in the overall women’s lead with a third consecutive stage win in Atherton today.

Urs Huber
Urs Huber

The most typical terrain that you would encounter as a mountain biker in Australia are narrow trails, lots of small pinch climbs and to make a local rider’s heart skip a beat, they are packed with rocky sections, tight corners, switchback climbs and big berms. The first reactions in the finish of the two top elite men’s finishers reflect this uniqueness nicely: 

Urs Huber said that it was the toughest Crocodile Trophy stage he’d ever ridden and that’s coming from a two-time winner of this iconic race. “My whole body aches, especially my lower back, that was hard work today”, he said after a race time of 3h01:57. 

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With 39 seconds gap in second was Australia’s Marathon Champion, Brendan Johnston – according to him today “was exactly what I love about mountain biking – I’d rather do 100km on this sort of terrain than race on a road or fire trail”. 

The 24-year old rider from Canberra, who is holding the leader jersey of the fastest Australian in the race, explained that it was his first stage race that runs over such a long distance and that his strategy was to take one day at a time. “Urs [Huber] and I race together all day today and with 2km to go he attacked. My plan is to race a smart race, we still have six stages to go and the really long days are still ahead”, said Johnston, who kept his overall fourth spot.

Brendan Johnston
Brendan Johnston

Asked how he was coping with the Crocodile Trophy camp life he said that it was an additional challenge, because you had to be organised, but that he enjoyed it. “I’ve heard so much about this event in the past and this is all part of it.”

Italy’s Nicholas Pettina was again in third with a gap of 2:39.6 min to Huber. He praised the trails and said he enjoyed race in Atherton and that he was content to still get a podium spot today and moves up the overall ranking into second spot ahead of Denmark’s Soren Nissen, who finished fifth today behind Spain’s Milton Ramos.

Sarah White still feeling strong after stage three

The Cairns local racer was again in her element today. “This was just too much fun today”, she beamed after 4h06:24 back at the event centre. “Don’t get me wrong, it was tough and when we were on top of the first climb rain set in, which made some of the rocks really slippery. It took all my skill to stay upright and I’m glad I could keep my lead”, she admitted and added that she was respectful ahead of tomorrow’s stage in the Herberton State Forest and even though she now has a 37:26 minute lead, she indicated that she was still watching two German women closely.

Sarah White
Sarah White

One of them is the elite Regina Genser, who finished in second with a gap of 13:44 min today. Still buzzing with excitement she recounted her race in the finish: two crashes, a flat tire and a slipped chain, but she said she was happy and still couldn’t believe what was on the menu for the riders today, “I’ve never ridden so much single track in one go ever! You don’t get that in Europe anywhere, especially not in a marathon, what an experience!” She added that tomorrow’s stage should suit her, “I don’t mind climbing.”

Strong field of amateur riders impresses also in overall rankings

The second rider to watch is Kristin Endres, the amateur female racer from Darmstadt who actually held the second position outright among the women after yesterday’s stage. A considerable number of riders suffered mechanicals on the tough terrain, she said, but was spared herself. “I love riding on single trails and in the forests near my home and the second half of today’s loop was so scenic and pretty – I was flying, it felt like dancing. But it was tough and towards the end it was almost overwhelming”, she said. Today she finished in 4h29:32.6 and leads the women’s amateur category by almost one and a half hours. These women don’t leave anything out on track and are racing hard every day.

The leader jersey for the amateur men stays with Germany’s Christian Leschke from Nuremberg; he leads ahead of fellow A2/30+ racers from Australia, Lincoln Carolan (+59 sec) and Bart Duraj (+12:30 min).

Tomorrow’s stage profile includes massive climbs taking the riders from Atherton onto the top of the Great Dividing Range in the Herberton State Forest and will be a classic 80km marathon with 2200m of elevation.

STAGE 3: TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 3h01:57.0

2. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 3h02:35.8 +38.8 min

3. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 3h04:36.6 +2:39.6 min

4. Milton Ramos (ESP) #6 // Intense- Tow Car // 3h06:59.2 +5:02.2 min

5. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 3h07:19.0 +5:22.0 min

STAGE 3: TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 4h06:24.0

2. Regina Genser (GER) #113 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 4h20:08.0 +13:44.0 min

OVERALL: TOP RESULTS ELITE MEN:

1. Urs Huber (SUI) #3 // Team Bulls // 7h04:11

2. Nicholas Pettina (ITA) #7 // Gruppo Sportivo Forestale // 7h08:22 +4:11 min

3. Sören Nissen (DEN) #8 // Stevens Racing Team // 7h10:56 +6:45 min

4. Brendan Johnston (AUS) #4 // Trek Racing Australia // 7h11:59 +7:48 min

5. Milton Ramos (ESP) #6 // Intense- Tow Car // 7h17:29 +13:18 min

OVERALL TOP RESULTS ELITE WOMEN:

1. Sarah White (AUS) #114 // Astute Financial Racing // 9h42:10

2. Regina Genser (GER) #113 // CRAFT – Rocky Mountain Team // 10h19:36 +37:26 min

For rider lists and results, visit www.crocodile-trophy.com

Crocodile Trophy 2015: Racers from 17 Nations assemble in Tropical North Queensland

One sleep to go until the 21st Crocodile Trophy starts in Cairns on 17th October. The Crocodile Trophy is Australia’s and the World’s oldest and most iconic mountain bike stage race. It is endorses by the International Cycling Federation (UCI) with the highest possible category “S1” and offers valuable points to participants towards their international ranking. It calls the holiday paradise that is tropical North Queensland home and its 700+km stage plan from Cairns to Port Douglas is unique – every day is different!  

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From the rain forests into the Outback and back to the beach: during the nine days from Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands, Skybury Coffee Plantation and Wetherby Station to Port Douglas the competitors from 17 countries are in for a treat: jungle, single trails, river crossings, steep climbs and fast descents, old mining towns in the Outback, huge farms and the fertile Tablelands await them.

This year we are excited to present a high-profile participant line-up including some of the best marathon and endurance racers in the world, who will fight for the podium spots in a gripping race until the final day:

 – Greg Saw from Australia: the Crocodile Trophy Champion from 2014 will be at the start to defend his title.

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 – Brendan Johnston: the Australian Marathon National Champion will challenge the international contenders on his home ground.

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–  Urs Huber from Switzerland: one of the most successful endurance mountain bikers in the world a double Crocodile Trophy Champion

–  Ondrej Foitek: this Czech racer has claimed the Crocodile Trophy victory twice as well. 

–  Soren Nissen from Denmark is regarded as the dark horse among the elite field.

–  Nicholas  Pettinà, the Italian Marathon National Champion

–  David Rosa: the Portugese rider was unlucky last year when he did not finish the Crocodile Trophy due to an injury; this year he has his eyes on the overall win.

–  Rotem Ishay: this nine-time National Champion from Israel will have some aces up his sleeves.

 

Apart from ringing names from the mountain bike athletic scene, at the start of the 21st Crocodile Trophy there will also be government and some interesting industry representatives, including:

– The Hon. Paul de Jersey, Governor of Queensland will attend the official race start at Smithfield MTB Park on 17 October.

– Mr Craig Crawford MP, Member for Barron River, will join us at the race start in Smithfield on 17 October

– Koenraad Vanschoren from Belgium from BEMC, which is one of the biggest mountain bike stage races in Europe, will stay in Australia for four weeks with his family and will participate in the race.

–  Joko Vogel, the organiser of the Swiss Epic event will join the event for the last three stages

– For the first time we will have a Para-Olympian at the start – Arnout Matthys from Belgium will participate in the race.

We expect over 100 cyclists from all over the world and Australia, for many this race is the challenge of a lifetime and for everyone it is an experience that they will never forget.

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Video: Meribel World Cup Downhill Finals Highlights

The 2014 DH season came to a close with a bang in Meribel, delivering one of the best races of the year. Sam Hill returned to the top of the podium with a spectacular winning run, wildcard riders mixed up the usual standings and cheering fans wielding chainsaws, air horns and flags lined the Méribel course from top to bottom. Not to mention the crowning of a new World Cup Champion, Josh ‘Ratboy’ Bryceland.

The Parkin Bros were trackside, capturing all the spills, thrills and highlights from the last World Cup race of the season. 

Must-Ride: Mareeba and Atherton, Qld

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It was time to head up into the hills to the tablelands.

After sampling the goods at Smithfield and Port Douglas, we turned our attention inland to continue our exploration of the riding on offer in the Cairns region. The first stop on the itinerary was Mareeba, home to a passionate club of riders who harbour a network of singletrack that’s even sweeter than the pineapples the town’s famous for.

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Davies Creek lies about ten minutes outside of Mareeba, and it’s where the Mountain Goats play. We were joined on the trails by Rudi, the club secretary, who was fizzing at the bung to tell us more about the trails and show us their latest creations.

The feeling of riding a machine-built trail that’s yet to get chopped up or skidded out it is not an opportunity to pass up.

The arrangement at Davies Creek is a model we’d love to see more of across Australia. The land on which the trails are built is actually subject to a pastoral lease, with beef cattle roaming amongst the trails and termite mounds; the riders and farmers look out for each other, and both parties have a vested interest in keeping the place free from the scourge of rubbish dumping and motorbikes ripping up the trails.

Our timing could not have been better, Rudi told us. The club had recently secured a matched grant for the development of new trail, which was only days away from completion. And would we like to give it a test ride? Hell yes! The feeling of riding a machine-built trail that’s yet to get chopped up or skidded out it is not an opportunity to pass up.

 

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The new Tank Trail is a gem. Just shy of 10km long, it takes in a huge variety of soil types and milks the most out of the terrain, but without feeling forced or awkward – it’s a great piece of trail building. After looping through gully after gully, the trail finishes up with a ridge-run that should top well over 50km/h once the ride line is established.

Davies Creek was a real surprise for us. The names of Cairns and Atherton are well-known in mountain bike circles, but little Mareeba, sandwiched in the middle, should not be overlooked. If you’re venturing up over the range from Cairns en route to Atherton, you’d be a fool not pull in to Davies Creek for a couple of hours and an ever greater fool if you didn’t get a milkshake from the joint down the road afterwards!

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Creative trail building. This might steep slab of granite is an optional offshoot from the main trail. Plenty of chain-snapping traction here!

With a stomach full of dairy and still buzzing from the flow of Davies Creek, we rolled into Atherton once again. It was only a few months ago that we were in town for four days of amazing riding in this blossoming mountain bike hot spot, and it felt like we’d never left. Atherton is a fantastic town, and this place must go on your bucket list!

There’s a staggering amount of trail weaving across the slopes of Mt Baldy already, and the network is growing steadily. So to this the bike-ification of town, with plans to build a trail right from the centre of town into the singletrack, and business (like the Atherton Tourist Park, where we stayed) beginning to cater to mountain bikers with facilities like bike washes and work stands. We’ve got a feeling that within a few years, mountain biking will be the beating heart of Atherton.

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Hooking in to one of the amazing turns at the start of Trail 9.

Part of the reason for our return to Atherton was to ride a final piece in the puzzle that hadn’t been completed last visit, but which was now open for business. Ricochet (or Trail 9) is one of the gems of the Atherton Mountain Bike park, but until recently it was only accessible by a long, steep fire road climb – it wasn’t really part of the network. But that’s all changed now, with a new 14km section of Trail 9 completed, winding its way up to the pinnacle of the park, and this is what we’d come to ride.

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The climb is broken up into mellow, rolling pitches, and takes in some great views and features to make you forget all about your legs.

 

It’s not often that a trail is so good that you’re forced, totally involuntarily, to scream with happiness. We lost count of the number of times that the opening section of Trail 9 reduced us to howling like girls at a Beiber concert. The first section of Trail 9 is genuinely one of the nicest pieces of trail we’ve rolled tyres over. It descends into a gully that’s so steep you’d battle to walk down it, so the trail is layered down the slope with a series of massive switchback berms that suck you in and spit you out so fast you don’t quite know what’s happening. And these berms go on, and on, and on, and on… By the time you reach the valley floor, you’re not even sure which way you’re facing.

With a descent like that under your belt, the climb back up is forgotten in the afterglow. Once again, the trail is superbly built, biting off the nine kilometre climb in easily digestible chunks, with incredible views and rest spots along the way. Before you know it the whole valley is laid out beneath you. There’s only one way back to town, and that’s straight down the bobsled track of Ricochet.

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Richocet feels like you’ve been thrown down a bobsled track.

We’re not exaggerating when we say that the complete Trail 9 loop is one of the finest trails we’ve ridden in Australia. Nine kays of climbing may sound a lot, but it’s a fantastic ascent, and the opening and closing descents are ridiculously good. With the completion of this trail, Atherton reaches a whole new level, with some truly epic singletrack loops. And with plenty more trail in the pipeline, who knows how much better things can get here? We’ll definitely be back to find out again next year.

For more information on the trails in the Cairns region, check out www.ridecairns.com.

 

 

 

 

 

The Croc Wrestler: Gerhard Schönbacher of the Crocodile Trophy

Now in its 20th year, the Croc is an Australian endurance racing institution, so it may come as a bit of a surprise to learn that the race’s founder is not a local; Gerhard Schönbacher is the Austrian masochist behind this most-brutal of stage races. Flow chatted with the Croc wrestler to learn a bit more about taming the beast.

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Back in the day. No helmet, five spoke carbon wheels.

The Croc turns twenty this year! Tell us about the very first edition of this legendary race.

The first Crocodile Trophy was held in 1994. We had 68 participants and they raced for 2,670km for 18 monster stages from Darwin to Cairns. It was all about surviving back then. We constantly ran out of water, food was scarce – replenishing our storage trucks with food and fresh water was the biggest challenge! During that first race, one of the trucks that was supposed to bring more supplies got lost and we had to stop in a small town and wait for it for a day or two. We didn’t dare continue the race without enough supplies. What an adventure that was!

I used to race in a pro-road team in Australia in the early eighties and have always been fascinated by the vast Outback of this country. I love the red sand, the rough landscapes and the lush rain forests that we now still race through. For the past decade or so the region of Cairns and Tropical Far North Queensland has been our home.

We were told that many roads and fields were still full of mines at the time and the risk was just too high.

Is it true that the Croc was almost going to be run in Vietnam? What would you have called it then?!

Yes, we tried very hard to put together a stage race from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City at the time. But the bureaucracy was just too hard to tackle. Plus, we were told that many roads and fields were still full of mines at the time and the risk was just too high. We were already toying with names – but I probably would have gone with Hanoi-Saigon Trophy.

The Croc Trophy is known as one of the toughest races on the planet; what is the single factor, in your mind, that makes it such a challenge?

The heat and the rough conditions in the Outback that challenge both rider and equipment – as well as us as organisers and my crew.

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Why is the race so popular with Europeans? It’s a long way from home!

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I am from Austria and used to race in Europe professionally for many years. I know a lot of the pro-road and mountain bike cyclists and have been able to promote the race also during my other event, the Alpentour Trophy, with is also a UCI S1 stage event. We race for four days through the Austrian Alps in and around Schladming and many riders come from Belgium, The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany and Austria of course. Everyone wants to visit Australia once in their life – if you’re a cyclist it’s tempting to experience the magic of the Outback in the saddle of your bike. We do get a lot of pros racing the Croc, but even more hobby riders and groups of friends who take on this challenge together, take some time off from their day-to-day working lives and love the adventure they have with us.

Everyone wants to visit Australia once in their life – if you’re a cyclist it’s tempting to experience the magic of the Outback in the saddle of your bike.

For the last three or four years we’ve put a big focus also on attracting Australian racers with our local partner, Rocky Trail Entertainment from Sydney. Martin Wisata will race the Croc for the fifth time this year and is a true ambassador for our race. His wife Juliane is our media manager in Australia and New Zealand.

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In the history of the race, what has been the toughest battle for the win that you’ve ever seen?

I think it was the first year that Urs Huber from Switzerland competed was very impressive – he was up against the big favourite Bart Brentjens from The Netherlands who is an icon, Croc Trophy winner and the first Olympic winner in a mountain bike discipline! You had the experienced old-hand and the young gun ride their hearts out every day. Urs took it out in the end.

 

And who has been the most impressive competitor in your mind?

I’ve seen a lot of great athletes compete at the Croc, they’re all so determined and we really grow together as a family in those almost two weeks we spend in Australia. You get the pro-cyclists, many of whom are Tour-de-France competitors, you get the hobby mountain bikers who love the adventure and we all sit together at the camp fire in the evening exchanging our daily experiences.

We always have women competing also – last year a Belgian rider had a fantastic result, riding into the top 20 overall. A few years ago there were two hand-bikers, two American ex-soldiers who were injured in the war. They decided to participate together with an able-bodied friend who rode with them. They had their own support car and spent many hours out there often coming into camp late at night. Both had to drop out a few days before the finish due to health concerns and their friend finished the race for them. But what an amazing effort! Some sections of the track are tough to conquer on a quad bike or 4WD, there are river crossings, steep ascents… and these guys did it all out of sheer will. So… it’s hard to pick one rider out, they all come with such an impressive desire to do this race, to challenge themselves and to do their best.

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Setting up camp alongside a billabong where possible is one way of battling the heat that can get well into the mid-forties.

 

The temperature at the Croc is a huge factor – what is the hottest it has ever been for the race?

We’ve had temperatures soar into the mid- to high-forties. Juliane once recorded 46 degrees in her media tent one afternoon. Nowadays the stages start very early, at 8am and by 2 or 3pm all riders are at the finish, which is when it gets really hot. Every 30km or so we have food and water stations or “depots” as we call them and there the riders can fill up on water, electrolyte drinks as well as fruit and muesli bars.

Most riders arrive a few days early to get used to the warmer and more humid weather in Cairns and I’ve even heard of some European riders who trained on a stationary bike in a sauna back home. But generally, everyone copes well and we have medical and physiotherapy staff that assist with the daily recovery. It’s important that riders cool down quickly, drink and eat a lot and right away – often we camp at billabongs or rivers that we can swim in.

 

Have you ever had to cancel the race because of the elements (too hot, too wet etc)?

Not the entire race but we neutralised individual stages – I remember one year where we had a bush fire separate the racing field in to two groups and practically halted the race. We got everyone back to the safety of our camp and re-started the race the next day. Only three years ago there were huge floods and rainfalls in Cairns and it was impossible for us to mark the second stage – two or three 4WD vehicles got stuck in the mud and it got too dangerous for our riders as well. We had them divert onto sealed roads and also neutralised that day. So, yes, everything is possible in this country.

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Feeding the Croc. She’s a hungry beast – check out Gerhard’s stats below!

 

Just how much food gets eaten every year at the Croc?

Huge amounts – and we encourage our riders to eat a lot and replenish their bodies! We have a chef from Austria who travels with us and together with Martin and Juliane from Rocky Trail and our local pasta and sauce supplier Il Pastaio he puts together a menu, which is based on pasta and rice and various meat and vegetarian sauces and side dishes to provide a balanced diet throughout the race. The estimated value of the all-inclusive catering offer is around $1100 per rider.

We always serve breakfast with bacon and eggs, various muesli types, bread and spreads. After the stage the riders get pasta and they can also help themselves to sandwiches and fresh fruit. For dinner we often add seafood as well as the usual beef and poultry and if we get it sometimes also kangaroo. We have a mobile kitchen with about 10-12 staff that cook in two teams for our riders. In terms of numbers, for instance in 2013 we used DAILY:

  • 25kg pineapples
  • 60kg bananas
  • 100kg melons
  • 40kg dry pasta
  • 20 litres milk
  • 12 dozen eggs
  • 60kg meat/steaks
  • 40kg fish (if on the menu)
A mid-stage depot ready to refuel riders.
A mid-stage depot ready to refuel riders.

How has the Croc changed from its first year till now?

We’ve gained a lot of experience especially in the logistics area – we now have around 70-90 staff and hire 12 trucks, 2 campervans and 14 four-wheel drive cars every year. We have also been able to build up great relationships with local clubs in the Cairns and Atherton regions and have a crew of local quad bike riders who accompany our riders, transporting camera crews and sometimes also medical and organisational staff when vehicles can’t pass through a track section.

For the first time and our 20th anniversary in 2014, we’ve secured the UCI S1 status for the Croc. This is the highest status for stage races within the UCI and the Crocodile Trophy is the event with the highest number of individual starters in any stage race world-wide. This UCI level comes with a lot more commitment in terms of price money – we pay out $30,000 this year. We will also have a crew of UCI Commissaires among our organisational committee and we’ll get even more media attention world-wide. Our race report is already shown in 25 countries via more than 40 TV stations and we get reports on numerous online portals around the world as well.

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Gnarly.

 

And how has it stayed the same?

What we have retained from the very first event back in 1994 is the adventure aspect and the mission to explore and ride through this beautiful country, providing a safe environment. It’s still a tough race, many call it the hottest and most adventurous one. It’s certainly still the adventure of a lifetime and if someone wants to take it on, they can be sure that they’ll find a lot of like-minded riders from all over the world at the start line.

 

Cory Wallace, flat out at Cooktown at the race's end.
Cory Wallace, flat out at Cooktown at the race’s end.

How do you see the Croc evolving in the future?

We certainly want to become bigger – traditionally we’ve had 100-120 riders and we’d like to grow it to 150-200 over the next few years. We’ve been working very closely together with the federal and local tourism organisations and councils in Far North Queensland – Cairns and Port Douglas will be the start and finishing hosting towns in 2014 and the Atherton region will be showcasing their fantastic network of mountain bike trails as well. On most stages riders will be able to not only camp with us at the event centre but also have the possibility to sleep in nearby hotels and cabins. This is to open the event up to people who are not so keen on the camping aspect, but prefer the comforts of a bed. In our camp riders can hire tents and camping beds that are erected by our crew daily.

We hope to have many more Australians race at our event and continue to attract all those riders from overseas and to keep shoawcasing this beautiful country world-wide.

 

Racing: The Tablelands Classic XCM, Atherton

With the second round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup taking place in Cairns, what better way to make a complete weekend of two-wheeled fun other than also racing your bike also.

WHAT

Cross Country Marathon – XCM – A cross country format event utilising a point-to-point or three lap course of between 60 and 100km in length. Variations to course length may be allowed at the discretion of the event commissaire… like if it rains or pours, or is insanely hot.

WHERE

Up on the tablelands behind Cairns is the thriving township of Atherton.

The Atherton Tablelands landscape range from extinct volcanoes and crater lakes; bird and wildlife rich forests and National Parks; peaceful dairy and cropping farms and charming towns and villages.

In amongst all this is Australia’s most exciting mountain bike development and over the next five years over 90km of singletrack will go into this area, all within a short spin of Atherton’s amazing coffee. It’s sort of jungle, it’s sort of high country and bushland, it’s sort of unbelievably good.

You would expect the locals to want to keep this place a secret but they are some of the friendliest, welcoming people on the planet.

EXPECT

To pack the family for a tropical holiday, bring the sun hat and the picnic blanket for a day at the races watching the big dogs of international mountain biking go round and race your bike on world class trails 90 minutes up the road. Sound like a plan?

COURSE

The Atherton Marathon course will give riders a taste of an up and coming mountain bike region, home to a wealth of mountain bike trails. A three lap course so you can high five your kids more, this is a World Trail masterpiece. We’ve minimised the climbing because it might be steamy.

The Atherton course embodies the true marathon mountain bike experience, while at the same time sharing the iconic rainforest with riders.

STAY FOR THE WORLD CUP

Twenty years ago in 1996, Cairns hosted the Mountain Bike World Championships, and this April – the world stage of mountain biking returns to the tropics with Round 2 of the 2014 UCI World Cup series to be held in Cairns April 25, 26 and 27.

TICKETS ON SALE NOW!

You can be there to witness the fastest riders in the world strut their stuff. Pre sale tickets are now on sale. Those who purchase a ticket before April 1, go into the draw to win four VIP passes and a jersey signed by all the #Cairns2014 winners. Tickets will also be available to purchase at the gate.

BOOK YOUR TRAVEL TODAY!

Flight Centre Active Travel is your resource to combine your love of travel, fitness and adventure into affordable event packages for interstate and international athletes alike! Flight Centre Active Travel is a full travel service provider which means that we can book all your needs.

Must-Ride: Atherton, Queensland

Atherton has been receiving a lot of attention lately, after the tireless work of local mountain bikers secured a near unprecedented level of funding for trail construction as part of a regional development grant. Over the last twelve months this funding has been put to work, dug into the rocky hillside of Mt Baldy. Almost 40km of professionally designed and built singletrack has been put dug in so far, with close to another 30km to be built throughout 2104.

Naturally, Flow had to check it out.

Atherton is about an hour inland from Cairns, up on the tablelands at around 800 metres above sea level, amongst the rolling hills of cattle country and banana plantations.   It’s cooler, and a little drier, than Cairns down on the coast, making it the ideal escape from the maddening humidity that can plague this part of the world. We have a feeling this town will become a popular refuge amongst the Europeans in Cairns for next year’s World Cup!

There are plenty of things that make Atherton a special place (the volcano lakes and colossal pubs are two), but the proximity and the quality of the trails are really amazing. A five minute pedal from the coffee shop will see you deep in singletrack, where you can lose yourself for a few hours in the steep terrain, riding deep benched flow trail. The local crew are all quality folk too, and more than happy to have an outsider lob in on their ritual morning ride, leaving at 6:00am every single day.

We’ll let the photos and video tell the story. Atherton is truly one of Australia’s must-ride destinations. Ah, take us back, we can still taste the mangos!

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60km of purpose built mountain bike singletrack, that is plenty!
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Being up high in the tropics is a unique experience, like nowhere else in the country.
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A social ride at 6am happens every day, as there is a healthy riding scene in town and growing.
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This trail is named Bandy Bandy, which evidently the name of a snake. We didn’t see one, just deliciously green bush and deep flowing turns.

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Best coffee in town, Gallery 5, and coincidentally the hub for any social cycling gatherings in Atherton.

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Can a trail flow up a hill, too? Yes.
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Bush tucker and Stans Sealant, make sure you’re running tough rubber and a tubeless setup, or else.

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A short and scenic drive from Atherton, is Millaa Millaa Falls. Heavenly!
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The tropics can dish out some big afternoon storms, which can both cool down and boost traction to the trails.
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High up in the clouds, the beginning of Ricochet Track is the place to engage ‘extreme mode’.
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Keep an eye out for sneaky gap lines and doubles on Ricochet, the keen eye will see many creative lines to shortcut through the air, if you’re game.
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There must be at least 8000 big, fast berms on the Ricohet descent.

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It’s not the type of trail you’d normally find in the middle of the Aussie bush – rather under a chairlift in Europe or Canada!

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Dirt Art were munching away at the earth when we were in town, adding a bunch more singletrack to the area.
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From Leasie’s Lookout you can sit on a stone sofa and feast your eyes on the green rolling hills of the tablelands. Absolutely stunning views.

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Chase a chook, ride a horse or squash a cane toad, all in a day at Atherton.

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Early bird gets the nicest conditions, with the middle of the day quite warm, we snuck out at first, and last light to make the most of it.

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It was hard to pick our favourite trail, but Ridgey Didge is a solid contender. Following a rolling ridge line this track milks the terrain for speed and maximum fun.

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Lake Eacham, the ideal way to spend the hot hours of the day. Swimming in a big, blue volcanic lake. Simply divine! And there are turtles.

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Rock armouring on the sensitive areas will ensure the trail can withstand heavy rainfall, high traffic and the slim chance a fiery volcanic apocalypse.
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Waterfall Track was one of our most favourites, for the scenery and natural features that it takes in. Chapeau to the trail builders, they’ve not only made them fun to ride, but a great way to experience the beautiful bushland.

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This big corner, named Croc Belly is a masterpiece. Just check out the amount of work that has gone into it!

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The green grade trails around the flat lands open up the area to all rider abilities, once you master them it’s time to head up into the steeper terrain for the juicy stuff.

 

Tested: Specialized S-Works Camber 29

It wasn’t too long ago that we declared our desire to “marry” a Specialized test bike (the Stumpjumper Expert Carbon), so deep was our love. But now, it seems that we’re lusting after another… we’ve had an affair with the lady in red, and it felt good. Ladies and gents, our new love, the Specialized S-Works Camber 29.

The Camber confused us for quite a while. There aren’t many bikes in that 110mm-travel category; in Australia we’re used to seeing 100mm-travel cross-country bikes or 140mm+ trail bikes. With so little apparently separating the Camber from the Epic, we didn’t really understand its place in the world.

But after a few days together on the trails of Atherton in Tropical North Queensland, we’ve definitely got a handle on what this very glamorous bike is all about. We know it’s easy to be wooed by the superb components, immaculate finish and low weight of the S-Works version of the Camber, but the fundamentals that make this bike so great are echoed throughout the Camber range.

Watch the video and learn why the Camber might just be the one you’ve been looking for too.

We tested the Camber up in Atherton, in Tropical North Queensland, where we stayed at a fifth generation farm.
We tested the Camber up in Atherton, in Tropical North Queensland, where we stayed at a fifth generation farm.
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The greasy berms and jumps of the Ricochet track proved just how relaxed the Camber is even when the tyres are sliding about and the landings are harsh.

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Looks nice from this angle too.
Looks nice from this angle too.
The Formula brakes are lovely to look at. Specialized specced a 160mm rear rotor and a 180mm up front.
The Formula brakes are lovely to look at but we feel their performance is not in line with the rest of the componentry. Specialized specced a 160mm rear rotor and a 180mm up front.
Brakes, suspension and drivetrain aside, everything else on the bike is made by Specialized, including the Henge seat and Command IR dropper post.
Brakes, suspension and drivetrain aside, everything else on the bike is made by Specialized, including the Henge seat and Command IR dropper post.
The Camber uses a 15mm axled fork - it's another small difference that gives this bike a very different ride to the Epic, despite the two bikes being quite close in travel and geometry terms.
The Camber uses a 15mm axled fork – it’s another small difference that gives this bike a very different ride to the Epic, despite the two bikes being quite close in travel and geometry terms.
The cockpit setup is key to the Camber's confident and playful ride. The stem is 70mm, the bar 720mm - ideal in our minds. We spent a bit of time adjusting the bar position - it has a lot of backsweep, and so rolling the bars back or forwards it in the stem has a big effect on the ride feel.
The cockpit setup is key to the Camber’s confident and playful ride. The stem is 70mm, the bar 720mm – ideal in our minds. We spent a bit of time adjusting the bar position – it has a lot of backsweep, and so rolling the bars back or forwards it in the stem has a big effect on the ride feel.
The Camber gets Specialized's new SWAT system, which stands for Spares, Water, Air, Tools. Basically it's all about carrying these items on the bike, rather than on your body. There is a multitool mounted to the bottom of the bottle cage. We initially thought it was a bit of a silly idea, but sure enough it came in handy on a few occasions!
The Camber gets Specialized’s new SWAT system, which stands for Storage, Water, Air, Tools. Basically it’s all about carrying these items on the bike, rather than on your body. There is a multitool mounted to the bottom of the bottle cage. We initially thought it was a bit of a silly idea, but sure enough it came in handy on a few occasions!
Unlike the Epic or Stumpjumper, the Camber doesn't use a Brain shock. Instead, it's equipped with a standard FOX CTD Kashima shock. We have to say, as good as the brain is, we prefer this setup.
Unlike the Epic or Stumpjumper, the Camber doesn’t use a Brain shock. Instead, it’s equipped with a standard FOX CTD Kashima shock. We have to say, as good as the brain is, we prefer this setup.
Another element of the SWAT system is a chain breaker, mounted underneath headset cap.
Another element of the SWAT system is a chain breaker, mounted underneath headset cap.
The Control SL carbon wheels are spoked with a radial pattern on the non-disc side up front. They're plenty stiff, and have a lively feel and sound on the trail.
The Control SL carbon wheels are spoked with a radial pattern on the non-disc side up front. They’re plenty stiff, and have a lively feel and sound on the trail.
Wow, that is a truly striking bike.
Wow, that is a truly striking bike.
The DT-made rear axle is as neat as it gets, cinching up the 142x12mm dropouts without tools or fuss.
The DT-made rear axle is as neat as it gets, cinching up the 142x12mm dropouts without tools or fuss.
With a 2.3" up front and a 2.1" out back, the Ground Control tyres are ideal for this bike. We didn't suffer any cuts or tears in the rocky testing terrain (this can't be said for other bikes we were testing on the same trails).
With a 2.3″ up front and a 2.1″ out back, the Ground Control tyres are ideal for this bike. We didn’t suffer any cuts or tears in the rocky testing terrain (this can’t be said for other bikes we were testing on the same trails).
There are Formula brakes on a large swathe of the Specialized range this year. The T1 Racing brakes took quite a long time to bed in - a trait that seems to be common across all Formula brakes. The master cylinder piston works on 'pull', rather than 'push' mechanism. Once they'd bedded in, the power was decent, but not incredible.
There are Formula brakes on a large swathe of the Specialized range this year. The T1 Racing brakes took quite a long time to bed in – a trait that seems to be common across all Formula brakes. The master cylinder piston works on ‘pull’, rather than ‘push’ mechanism. Once they’d bedded in, the power was decent, but not incredible.
Some riders might be concerned that the Camber uses a 32mm fork, not a 34mm-legged fork, but we disagree. The 32mm fork is light, and because the travel is only 110mm, there's less flex than with a longer travel fork.
Some riders might be concerned that the Camber uses a 32mm fork, not a 34mm-legged fork, but we disagree. The 32mm fork is light, and because the travel is only 110mm, there’s less flex than with a longer travel fork.
The cabling is all internal, and we had no problems keeping it all clear of the frame for zero cable rub.
The cabling is all internal, and we had no problems keeping it all clear of the frame for zero cable rub.

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Specialized's Auto-Sag suspension is brilliant! Inflate the shock to 250psi or more, hop on the bike in your riding gear, depress the valve under the red cap. That's it! Perfect suspension sag in seconds.
Specialized’s Auto-Sag suspension is brilliant! Inflate the shock to 250psi or more, hop on the bike in your riding gear, depress the valve under the red cap. That’s it! Perfect suspension sag in seconds.
We were truly impressed by how easily the wheels and tyres sealed up for tubeless use - getting the tyres to bead was simple, even with a standard track pump.
We were truly impressed by how easily the wheels and tyres sealed up for tubeless use – getting the tyres to bead was simple, even with a standard track pump.
Specialized have gone to the trouble of colour matching the gloss black finish of the frame and fork. The shiny black looks fantastic against the gold Kashima fork legs.
Specialized have gone to the trouble of colour matching the gloss black finish of the frame and fork. The shiny black looks fantastic against the gold Kashima fork legs.
The Camber is equipped with the new internal routed Command IR dropper post, with 125mm of adjustment. The small remote lever is integrated oh-so neatly into the grip lock-ring. Compared to the standard Command Blacklite post, the new IR version is far superior.
The Camber is equipped with the new internal routed Command IR dropper post, with 125mm of adjustment. The small remote lever is integrated oh-so neatly into the grip lock-ring. Compared to the standard Command Blacklite post, the new IR version is far superior.
Carbon hoops! The bike comes tubeless ready - just install the supplied valves, add goo and go.
Carbon hoops! The bike comes tubeless ready – just install the supplied valves, add goo and go.
Bike schmike, give me some shit to roll in.
Bike schmike, give me some shit to roll in.

Must-Ride: Atherton, day 4 in paradise

Our trip to Atherton could not have been planned any better; our final day of riding took place under blue skies, but the very next day the rains rolled in. For the next few months, that relentless pattern of morning mugginess followed by afternoon downpours will be the norm – the wet has arrived.

The tremendous rainfall in this part of the world is the reason it all feels so alive and vibrant, but it does present a challenge for trail building. Everywhere we looked, clever drainage and armouring solutions had been employed to preserve the trails. We were fortunate enough to grab a chat with Glen Jacobs from World Trail, the man who developed the Atherton mountain bike master plan, and he explained some of the techniques the team had used in weatherproofing. Glen cut his trail building teeth in Cairns, an area that can get over seven meters of rain a year, so he knows a thing or to about drainage.

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There are numerous junctions in the Atherton network, allowing you to put together loads of different loops. It’s not like you come here and just ride in a circle.
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Top: Pepper the cattle dog practices her skills, rounding up this chook. The resulting Mexican standoff was priceless. Bottom: Arty the horse comes in for some muesli.

There’s more rock armouring in Atherton than just about anywhere we’ve seen, no more so than on the magical Waterfall track. This was the final trail we rode in Atherton and it’s spectacular. It climbs deep into a gully, traversing across two waterfalls along the way. These weren’t running when we rode, but we’d love to come back to this track after a decent rain as you’d literally be riding through the cascading sheets of water.

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The signage in Atherton is spot on. Numbering the trails makes it easy for out-of-towners to find their way around, while the locals tend to use trail names instead.

We guess we’ll just have to make another trip back up to Atherton soon for that experience. It won’t be difficult to woo us back; the trail network in Atherton is growing like lantana in February, and with Cairns and its trail just down the road too, there’s more than enough riding on offer here to keep you in a singletrack daze for a few days.

We’ll have our full Flow Nation video from Atherton up very soon.

 

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Climbing up the Waterfall track – note the rock armouring across the gullies.
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The Crocodile Belly berm on Waterfall.
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The pay off – ripping back down Waterfall. The perfect grade reversals surf the hillside.
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Glen Jacobs has been involved in the Atherton development process for almost a decade now.

Must-Ride: Atherton, day 3 in paradise

Our third day on the fine Atherton trails was all about catching a juicy sunrise from the sweet singletrack high above the luscious town of Atherton.

Building trails atop a ridge line makes for some fast undulating riding, Ridgey Didge is a great fun track joining up three hilltops above town has gorgeous views and ripper singletrack that undulates its way high up in the range. When passing through Leasies Lookout the day before we knew that this would be a particularly nice spot to start the next days exploring, with its easterly aspect overlooking green pastures. Returning there just after sunrise dressed in no warm clothing whatsoever, we were greeted with a glorious warmth in the air and on our faces as the sun began its day of cooking everything it touches.

Early bird catches the warm hues, and low temps.
The early bird catches the warm hues, and low temps. Leasies lookout, a fitting place to park up and soak it in.

We thought we were up early, but it turns out we weren’t alone, many friendly locals passed by on their morning ritual on world class singletrack before their day grinds onward. It’s clear that mountain biking is becoming more integrated into the way of life up here, the locals are embracing it, and we even bumped into a German couple making their way from Canada, USA and Australia with their mountain bikes. They too were surprised what they discovered when the rode out from the quiet country town and into the forest.

Ridgey Didge is filled with line choice options, with a drop or small step-down on the insides of corner to hit on your second run through.
Ridgey Didge is filled with line choice options, with a drop or small step-down on the insides of corner to hit on your second run through.

From Ridgey didge, up Bandy Bandy we went, snaking our way up big switchback turns that seem to help you elude that unsavoury feeling of grinding up a long climb. And from crackling dry scrub, to whistling casuarina forest, random rocky outcrops and pockets of bright green bracken, Bandy Bandy takes it all in.

With berms big enough to hold more than twice your speed we hurtled back down the other side and around to the start of the loop, wondering how the descent could have given so much back, earned from what seemed like quite an enjoyable climb.

Dropping in off a sneaky inside line on Ridgey Didge.
Dropping in off a sneaky inside line on Ridgey Didge as the day warmed up.

We are really getting a feel for the lay of the land up here now, you could really take in some epic loops as many of the trails link together really nicely.

It’s a good life up here, we are loving the gentle pace of lifestyle, exciting and unique climate, great trails and remarkably sweet pineapple.

Until next time, we’re off for a XXXX.

 

Flow Lounge – 20/11/13

Welcome to the Flow Lounge, brought to you this week from Atherton, Queensland.

Join us this week to learn more about the massive explosion of mountain biking in this tiny tropical town. We also chat about the very luscious Specialized S-Works Camber, some uncharacteristically problematic bugs with our Lapierre Zesty E:i test bike and we road test a few of the most juicy pineapples on the market.

 

Must Ride: Atherton, day 2 in paradise

The mountain bike community in Atherton is a dedicated mob, and we’re not just talking about their persistence, patience and perseverance in acquiring over $1.5 million in trail funding.

Our morning's ride began on the cruisy green trails of the park's flatlands, before heading up over Ridgey Didge.
Our morning’s ride began on the cruisy green trails of the park’s flatlands, before heading up over Ridgey Didge.

Every morning at 6:00am sharp, a local crew gathers for a ride in the main street, sometimes on the road bikes but generally on the mountain bikes. From town, they roll the two kays out to the trails and get in some quality singletrack time while most of the world is still sleeping. We figured that joining some locals for a dawn ride was as great way to meet some of the crew and get a feel for the trails on our first day in town.

Atherton Knowles Nard
This bit of trail is named after Atherton Cycle Sports Club president, Mark Knowles. It celebrates the glory of his Nard… whatever that is.

On this particular morning four fellas happened to have turned up for the daily social ride; there was Drew, Dean, Mark and Chris. As we rolled through the mellow entry-level trails that occupy the lower slopes of the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park we learnt a bit about them. The crew – a mixture of recent arrivals and lifetime locals, business owners and semi-retirees – took us up and over the fantastic Ridgey Didge and then back into town for a surprisingly great coffee.

Stormy skies gather over the local crop.
Stormy skies gather over the local crop.

This is the tropics and our trip comes right on the cusp of the wet season. Needless to say,  as the day warmed up, the storm clouds gathered and the heavens opened. But our local ride guides for the afternoon weren’t deterred – they had a true gem of a trail to show us.

Ricochet (trail number 9 on the map) starts way up high above Atherton on Mount Baldy. While many of the locals pedal up the fire road, we took the lazy man’s option and piled the bikes into the back of the ute, driving up into the clouds.

Mountain bikers in the mist.
Mountain bikers in the mist.

 

The scene at the trailhead was straight out of Jurassic Park, the mists swirling through the vines, but the trail itself was more like Disney on Ice! The afternoon’s rain had turned the top third of the run into a super slick slide; following 15-year old Behailu through the greasy berms was an education is going with the flow. This kid is one to watch, his style and playfulness on the bike are unreal, not to mention his commitment! Behailu spotted a gap that would have been tricky enough in the dry but was borderline impossible in the wet, but he wasn’t going to be talked out of it. You’ll have to wait for the video to see how it all went down, suffice to say we’re still not quite sure how he stuck the landing.

Behailu leads the way with a fearlessness that made us feel very, very old!
Behailu leads the way with a fearlessness that made us feel very, very old!
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By the sixth berm like this, you’re pretty dizzy.

It’s hard to do this trail justice – it feels like the flowiest parts of Whistler’s A-Line have been mellowed out for trail bikes and then transplanted into the Australian bush. Huge berms, rollers, doubles and drops come at you in rapid succession. While the trail stands alone from the rest of the network at present, it’s only a matter of weeks until a 12km linking trail is completed and it’ll be possible to string together a truly epic loop crowned by the Ricochet descent.

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The flat out lower section of Ricochet tempts you to make gap jumps out of rollers that seem impossibly far apart until you hit Mach 1.

Must-Ride: Atherton, day 1 in paradise

Up where the cassowaries play and the kangaroos swing from trees (for real), there’s a little town called Atherton. A little town, with a big plan for mountain biking.

Over the past twelve months, we’ve heard ever increasing amounts of talk about Atherton, and finally we decided to pack our bags, head way north and see it for ourselves.

Three hours from Sydney, and you're in Cairns, add one more hour and you're in Atherton with singletrack galore.
Three hours from Sydney, and you’re in Cairns, add one more hour and you’re in Atherton with singletrack galore.

Atherton is real banana bender territory; it lies about 80km from one of Australia’s seminary mountain destinations, Cairns, but away from the coast up on the tablelands at about 800 metres above sea level. It’s cooler, calmer and there are far fewer poisonous jelly fish. It’s incredibly beautiful too, with volcanic crater lakes, rolling pastures and rainforest clad ranges.

Signed, mapped and growing.
Signed, mapped and growing.

But Flow’s here for the mountain biking, and over three days of filming and shooting we’re capturing what riding in Atherton is all about. There’s over 30km of amazing singletrack in the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park already, but the long-term plans for mountain biking in the town are colossal. As the old saying goes, ‘build it and they will come’ and that’s exactly what they’re doing here, with plans for well over 60km of world class trails.

Chris and Mick flowing up - and out of - Bandy Bandy, one of our favourites loops.
Chris and Mick flowing up – and out of – Bandy Bandy, one of our favourites loops.
Ridge line razzing on Ridgey Didge.
Ridge line razzing on Ridgey Didge.
And as we've discovered, there is plenty of tropical goodness to entertain us off the bikes. This photo is not fake, Mick cops a freshwater head massage in the rainforest after lunch.
And as we’ve discovered, there is plenty of tropical goodness to entertain us off the bikes. This photo is not fake – this place exists – Mick cops a freshwater head massage in the rainforest after lunch.

Our impressions so far? These trails are sweeter than a Mareeba pineapple. We’re in heaven.

Flow Gone Troppo: Tropical North Queensland Part 2, Atherton First Look

Atherton is a wonderful example of those instances where strong passion, hard work and community spirit succeeds in making things happen.

What the locals and visitors have in the way of mountain bike trails now is astounding. The small town with a big heart desperately wants to be known for its quality and quantity of trails, and from now on they will be. What we found in those hills behind the town was pure gold.

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Atherton locals can see the obvious benefit in creating something new and exciting like mountain biking to hopefully bring hungry, thirsty and weary visitors to town, and give the economy that is largely built around the agriculture a boost.

The Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve and Heberton Range State Forest, a couple minutes drive, or ride from Atherton town, are now littered with a network of singletrack that will quench the desires of the most demanding mountain biker.

Flow will be returning to Atherton in mid November to film a full Flow Nation dedicated video and destination piece. For now, here are some of our highlights.

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A sugar mill steams in the distance, as we wind our way up from Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands.

The drive from Cairns to Atherton took just over an hour, and was a great experience in itself.

It’s usually about 5 degrees cooler up in the Atherton Tablelands than in Cairns, making the hour trip more worth while for a solid days riding.

Sugar cane plantations galore, between Cairns and Atherton the agriculture is diverse and healthy.
Sugar cane plantations galore, between Cairns and Atherton the agriculture is diverse but not as healthy as it used to be.
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The tablelands sit high above the coast, green and lush fields of coffee plants, legumes, bananas, sugar cane, pretty much anything grows up there. Even mountain bike trails grow aplenty.

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Bananas, XXXX and those classic QLD houses will remind you where you are.
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Local ripper – Belaihu buries himself in a mega berm down the popular Ricochet track.

The trail building team – World Trail have been behind much of the latest trail construction, with many hours sculpting lines into the hardpack dirt with well-operated machines.

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Gravity fans will love it here, with many descents sculpted into lines that can be jumped, doubled and ripped apart very hard and fast.
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Left, right, left, right, left, right, jump, pump, left, right. Ricochet is one of those perfect trails that World Trail are known for.

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Rocky armouring of the trail through terrain susceptible to damage will help the trails last years and years.

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The climbs are actually quite fast, its amazing how a well built climb can carry you to the top of the hill without that feeling of grinding away for ages in your lowest gear.

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Vice President of the local mountain bike club, Leasie Felderhof has approached the project with both a scientific and passionate angle, and we take our hats off to her and her team, things are really happening in Atherton.
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Mountain Bike parks with such great singletrack make travelling worth while.

Put Atherton on the list for trails to explore, they are well and truly worth it. The QLD aspect of the region is especially fun for those coming from interstate.

So, stay tuned for our complete video report from Atherton very soon.

 

 

 

Bike Check: Dan Atherton’s GT Force

At the GT 2014 launch a month ago Flow sat down with Dan Atherton to talk about the new GT Force, his input into the development of it, and what custom mods he makes to his production bike.

Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-19
Dan Atherton is an amazing rider and seeing him ride in the flesh was a shock at how much we sucked at riding.

Dan is one of the top Enduro racers in the world and his knowledge about energy efficiency, bike feel and geometry are all key to his successes. Sometimes it’s not the fastest bike down a hill that can win a race.

What are we looking at here?

It’s the new GT Force.

Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-2
Dan had only recently got his own hands on a production bike.

How long have you had it for?

I have had it about 2 months now and even I found it pretty hard to get a hold of a production one.

It’s been a long time coming. We started working on the project about 2-3 years ago. Since then I have had 2 or 3 test mules and I have never had a bike that’s had so much testing put in by the engineers.

Have you raced this one?

My first World Series Enduro race this year was on a prototype that’s a little different from these ones. It’s based on the same suspension platform as the new Fury DH bike but there’s no plans to release that yet.

This is the bike I have been riding a lot at home and doing long training rides with 6-7 enduro stages, which is 5 or 6 hours in the saddle. It’s a bike that saves a lot of energy and that’s key. There may be bikes that descend better than this one but they take a lot of energy to ride and that’s something you have to remember when your looking at a bike. It pedals so well and you can flick it around so easily and it just helps to conserve your energy.

Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-17
The Atherton’s have been instrumental in the development of the new range of GT bikes.

Did GT get a lot of feedback from you in the development?

Yeah, they were pretty good. When we (the Atherton’s) came to join GT they were already quite far along in the process of developing the new bike. GT have guys like Eric Carter who had worked on it and it was already a pretty dialled bike. However, there were definitely things that I wanted to change.

From that first test bike, what things did you not like or want changed?

The first thing we noticed was how well the bike pedalled when sitting down. You could feel that drive going into the rear wheel, however when you stood up it had a little “folding” feel to it.  They worked on some pivots and swapped some other things around and it was amazing the difference that it made.

What would you put your name against as your major input into the new bike?

I definitely worked a lot on the geometry with GT. This bike already carries its weight really low anyway but dropping the bottom bracket just a little more added to the cornering characteristics. It corners amazingly. Definitely some improvements on the head angle too. Another big difference is the long front end. Me and Gee have always been about having a long front end on a bike.

That’s an interesting point. More recently, GT have been known for being a little on the short side?

Yeah, that’s something we struggled with when we first came to GT. The bikes were quite short and the bottom brackets quite high, and head angle steep.  I guess that was the way with riding and bikes of the past 6-7 years however with this new generation of GT’s coming out now all have dialled modern geometry.

Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-13
Having all the weight down low definitely helps with cornering.

What changes have you made to this production bike?

I am sponsored by Shimano so it’s XTR all around. This bike is definitely aimed at people who will ride up the hills but I am fine with a just a single ring up front (34t) and had a custom chain device added. The new Float-X rear shock is the life and soul of the bike. In fact, the whole FOX RAD program with 34mm air fork, and new Float-X shock balances it out so well. The bike is amazing with a standard shock but put a Float-X on and it’s unbelievable. I also have a FOX seatpost – it’s killer and can’t do without it. I tend to drop it a lot in racing. Sometimes I also run a quick release as well to give me extra adjustment during a race.

I have a 180mm rotor on the front and 160mm on the rear. Something that Steve Peat taught me way back was not to drag the brakes, just be on/off them only when needed. It’s also bit heavier than a standard production bike and is about 31 lbs (14 kg) but I am fine with that.

Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-7
It’s only the best that get RAD.
Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-Comp3
Shimano XTR for Dan. It works, is light and is proven.
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The Force doesn’t come with ISCG tabs but can be converted for a chain device.
Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-Comp1
Must be pretty cool to have your own name on products.
Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-14
Interesting that Dan sometimes requires even bigger drops on his seatpost. It speaks volumes for how gnarly the Enduro races must be in Europe.

 

Bike Check: Dan Atherton's GT Force

At the GT 2014 launch a month ago Flow sat down with Dan Atherton to talk about the new GT Force, his input into the development of it, and what custom mods he makes to his production bike.

Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-19
Dan Atherton is an amazing rider and seeing him ride in the flesh was a shock at how much we sucked at riding.

Dan is one of the top Enduro racers in the world and his knowledge about energy efficiency, bike feel and geometry are all key to his successes. Sometimes it’s not the fastest bike down a hill that can win a race.

What are we looking at here?

It’s the new GT Force.

Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-2
Dan had only recently got his own hands on a production bike.

How long have you had it for?

I have had it about 2 months now and even I found it pretty hard to get a hold of a production one.

It’s been a long time coming. We started working on the project about 2-3 years ago. Since then I have had 2 or 3 test mules and I have never had a bike that’s had so much testing put in by the engineers.

Have you raced this one?

My first World Series Enduro race this year was on a prototype that’s a little different from these ones. It’s based on the same suspension platform as the new Fury DH bike but there’s no plans to release that yet.

This is the bike I have been riding a lot at home and doing long training rides with 6-7 enduro stages, which is 5 or 6 hours in the saddle. It’s a bike that saves a lot of energy and that’s key. There may be bikes that descend better than this one but they take a lot of energy to ride and that’s something you have to remember when your looking at a bike. It pedals so well and you can flick it around so easily and it just helps to conserve your energy.

Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-17
The Atherton’s have been instrumental in the development of the new range of GT bikes.

Did GT get a lot of feedback from you in the development?

Yeah, they were pretty good. When we (the Atherton’s) came to join GT they were already quite far along in the process of developing the new bike. GT have guys like Eric Carter who had worked on it and it was already a pretty dialled bike. However, there were definitely things that I wanted to change.

From that first test bike, what things did you not like or want changed?

The first thing we noticed was how well the bike pedalled when sitting down. You could feel that drive going into the rear wheel, however when you stood up it had a little “folding” feel to it.  They worked on some pivots and swapped some other things around and it was amazing the difference that it made.

What would you put your name against as your major input into the new bike?

I definitely worked a lot on the geometry with GT. This bike already carries its weight really low anyway but dropping the bottom bracket just a little more added to the cornering characteristics. It corners amazingly. Definitely some improvements on the head angle too. Another big difference is the long front end. Me and Gee have always been about having a long front end on a bike.

That’s an interesting point. More recently, GT have been known for being a little on the short side?

Yeah, that’s something we struggled with when we first came to GT. The bikes were quite short and the bottom brackets quite high, and head angle steep.  I guess that was the way with riding and bikes of the past 6-7 years however with this new generation of GT’s coming out now all have dialled modern geometry.

Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-13
Having all the weight down low definitely helps with cornering.

What changes have you made to this production bike?

I am sponsored by Shimano so it’s XTR all around. This bike is definitely aimed at people who will ride up the hills but I am fine with a just a single ring up front (34t) and had a custom chain device added. The new Float-X rear shock is the life and soul of the bike. In fact, the whole FOX RAD program with 34mm air fork, and new Float-X shock balances it out so well. The bike is amazing with a standard shock but put a Float-X on and it’s unbelievable. I also have a FOX seatpost – it’s killer and can’t do without it. I tend to drop it a lot in racing. Sometimes I also run a quick release as well to give me extra adjustment during a race.

I have a 180mm rotor on the front and 160mm on the rear. Something that Steve Peat taught me way back was not to drag the brakes, just be on/off them only when needed. It’s also bit heavier than a standard production bike and is about 31 lbs (14 kg) but I am fine with that.

Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-7
It’s only the best that get RAD.
Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-Comp3
Shimano XTR for Dan. It works, is light and is proven.
Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-Comp2
The Force doesn’t come with ISCG tabs but can be converted for a chain device.
Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-Comp1
Must be pretty cool to have your own name on products.
Web_Feature_Bike_Check_Atherton-14
Interesting that Dan sometimes requires even bigger drops on his seatpost. It speaks volumes for how gnarly the Enduro races must be in Europe.