The USA Cycling Pro Gravity Tour kicked off the year for American downhill racing this month at Windrock Bike Park in Oliver Springs, Tennessee. The Tennessee national brought America’s fastest racers as well as some of the world’s best to the Appalachian mountains for what was looking to be a great event. Practice started Thursday for the pro and junior riders. With promising warm weather, all of the riders seemed to enjoy riding the course. The track had been redesigned and laid out by none other than Neko Mulally and the rest of the Windrock crew, Sean Leader and Patrick Tait. Featuring technical rock sections, fresh cut loam, flat out high speed straights, and 50 foot triple jump options, the race track at Windrock was a good one and had all the riders eager to get all of their lines sorted.
The racing for the professionals set off on Saturday. After a smooth qualifying race the day before, Saturday was looking to be a great event. Here we are going to get a little bit of a closer look at the five fastest bikes on the mountain. The current British National champion, Gregor WIlliamson, took the win as he and Neko Mulally battled it out for the top spot. Neko finished second followed by Norwegian national champion Isaak Leivsson, the 2016 Pro GRT overall champion Shane Leslie, and young American hopeful Bruce Klein. The Windrock Pro GRT has set the bar for U.S. downhill racing to come!
Isaak Leivsson / Photo by Sean Leader
1st - Gregor Williamson / Cube Global Squad / 2:44:242
2nd - Neko Mulally / YT Mob / 2:47:692
3rd - Isaak Leivsson / Canfield Bikes / 2:52:270
4th - Shane Leslie / Defiant Racing / 2:52:753
5th - Bruce Klein / KHS Factory Racing / 2:53:064
Check out the photo recap on VitalMTB.
Check out the finals recap video by Mountain Bike Mania.
As the trend for longer and longer downhill bikes continues to push the limits of what these bikes are capable of, we are going to take a closer look at how big these bikes actually are. For each of the top five bikes, we will be comparing their overall wheelbase, chainstay lengths, and front center dimensions. In theory, the longer the wheelbase, the more stable the bike becomes at high speeds. On the other hand, a shorter wheelbase can get in and out of tight turns more seamlessly.
The wheelbase can be broken down to two basic components, the chainstay and the front center dimension. The chainstay length can be measured from the center of the rear axle to the center of the bottom bracket. The chainstay length will change how the wheels of the bike track through the corners. The longer the chainstay, the more stable the bike becomes in the turns. A longer chainstay also puts your body more centered between the wheels. With everything there is a balance. With too long of a chainstay, it will be more difficult to muscle the bike around the turns.
The third dimension we are looking at today is the front center dimension. Front center is measured from the center of the front axle to the center of the bottom bracket. The front center takes both the head angle and reach of the bike in to account. How far out in front is that front wheel? Go home and measure your downhill bike to see how it compares to America’s fastest.
All of these bike manufacturers have different opinions on what the optimal bike design is and how the numbers on paper translate onto the trail. Lastly, every rider out there is going to have different preferences, be a different height, and have a different wingspan. All of these things play into what bike setup works best for each rider. That is what each of these professional racers are after; their optimal bike setup. In future blogs we will be discussing other things that play into that optimal bike setup like suspension settings, cockpit arrangements, brake setup, and tire choices.
Greg is coming off his most successful season racing in 2016 an is back for another year with the Cube Global Squad. Greg took the win at the Windrock Pro GRT convincingly by over 3 seconds, elevating all of the other riders throughout the weekend. Greg is 6' 1" tall (185 cm) and rides a size Large frame to suit his lanky arms and legs. You can see based off the numbers below that the front triangle of the Cube Two15 is of the smaller ones here but maintains a similar chainstay length seen on Neko and Bruce's bikes. Greg likes to turn the bike with the rear wheel as much as the front and it would be a tough argument to say this setup isn't getting the most out of the young Scotsman.
Wheelbase: 1241 mm
Chainstay: 436 mm
Front Center: 805 mm
Neko, having just joined the successful world cup team the YT Mob, came out swinging at the first race of the year. Having only ridden his size XL YT Tues for a couple months, he seemed to adjust to the new bike quickly. Neko has one of the longest bikes of the group. Only standing 6 feet tall (183 cm), Neko has a wingspan of 6' 6" (198 cm)! This explains why Neko prefers a longer bike, with a longer reach and ultimately longer front center.
Wheelbase: 1273 mm
Chainstay: 435 mm
Front Center: 838 mm
Isaak Leivsson, the Norwegian Hammer, showed some early season speed on his Canfield Jedi. Isaak's Jedi is a size large frame. Even though Isaak is the tallest rider of the group, standing 6' 3" tall (190.5 cm), he rides the shortest bike of the ones we are looking at here. Isaak rides with a unique upright style that suits the size and characteristics of the Jedi from Canfield. This is a great example of how longer doesn't always mean better. When trying to find the correct size bike, it's best to also consider riding preferences, style, and riding habits.
Chainstay: 425 mm
Front Center: 820 mm
Shane Leslie remains on Intense bikes for the third year in a row, but now under the Defiant Racing team banner. Shane is one of the smoothest and most composed riders on the circuit. You can see watching him ride that Shane does a great job managing weight distribution, getting the most traction out of both the front and rear wheels. A lot of this comes down to how Shane fits on his size XL Intense M16.
Wheelbase: 1265 mm
Chainstay: 445 mm
Front Center: 820
Bruce Klein has some raw speed! He is always fun to watch and things are looking good for the young American this season. Bruce has also joined a new team this season, KHS Factory Racing.
Wheelbase: 1283 mm
Chainstay: 438 mm
Front Center: 845 mm
What Frame Size Do I Need? Learn more about frame sizing to get the best fit for you!
Written by Max Morgan