We featured previous World Champion and Olympic Gold medalist Jaroslav Kulhavý S-Works Epic last year at the Méribel World Cup, but several things have changed since last season, plus this weekend he rode his new bike for the win at the first cross country round of the UCI World Cup at his home country race in Nové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic. His mechanics walked us through what they were calling a mostly stock bike build, with pretty much everything on the bike available to consumers. They also noted right off the bat that the crazy looking saddle angle was not a mistake, as Kulhavý favors this for better positioning while climbing. Kulhavý also has had a few injuries over the last year and seems to have tilted his Phenom saddle even more to this -14° angle that ends up pointing down directly towards his stem. The mechanics shrugged their shoulders a bit, saying who are they to question him when he’s winning.
Read on after the break for some more unique details and the bike’s actual race weight at the start of the season…
Riding in a Czech National Champion kit with rainbow stripes from his previous world championship, so far this year Kulhavý is sticking with a completely stock S-Works Epic 29 World Cup frameset and the Specialized-only RockShox RS-1 with Brain internals, without any custom paint job as in years past. The RS-1 fork does get its travel reduced down to 90mm to give a lower front-end and slightly quicker handling to match the 95mm of travel of the WC frame.
The newly updated S-Works Phenom saddle is held in place with a 25mm offset Truvativ Noir T40 seatpost with an aluminum head, which was necessary to get that steep, roughly -14° saddle angle. The two bolt layout of the head lets the Specialized mechanics flip the lower cradle around to get the angle needed and conveniently lines up the clamp markings, back into normal territory (which can’t be accommodated by any of the Specialized post configurations.) Also because of a combination of the extended position of the front bolt, the flexibility of the saddle, and Kulhavý’s forward climbing position, he has mechanics fix a piece of hard foam under the saddle as a bumper to keep from bottoming out. Kulhavý doesn’t get custom paint for now, but at least gets a small name decal, as if the saddle position wasn’t enough to denote his bikes.
His aggressive positioning puts him in the slam-your-stem club, with the top bearing cover of the headset removed to get down every last millimeter. While it looks like there is a spacer under the stem, it is actually an integral part of the adjustable 17° S-Works CLP Multi Stem that lets mechanics set the angle down even more to -21°. Braking is handled by SRAM Guide RSC brakes for now, but will likely be swapped out for the Ultimate version once they are available to the team. The excellent ESI Chunky grips carry over, as we found on a number of other pro bikes we saw. Tires for the damp course conditions were the same S-Works Fast Traks that were on his bike last year, but without custom labels. The team races on a special pro-only sticky rubber compound, making them one of the only things on the bike not available to the public.
SRAM Guide brakes and Roval Control SL 29 wheels are standard, but the pro team mechanics had swapped out the Maxle QR for the lighter 7075 X-Lock bolt-on option from Carbon-Ti. Out back to keep hose routing a bit more tidy and secure, mechanics have zip-tied the brake line to the Brain to keep it close to the stays when the suspension compresses.
With an XX1 drivetrain, Kulhavý used a 36T X1 X-Sync chainring to mate to the standard 104BCD of the newer S-Works Carbon Mountain cranks with an integrated spider. Team mechanics fitted a custom made chainguide that mounts to the main suspension pivot to prevent chain drops on the root-covered Nové Město course, the morning before the race began (earlier shots and weight from the day before don’t include it yet.) Since Specialized in not sponsored by Shimano, even with the new groupset readily available Kulhavý sticks with tried and trusted M980 XTR pedals.
Total bike weight as it was ready to race was 10.39kg (22.91lbs) putting it mid-pack of the full-suspension race bikes we weighed over the weekend. While it can’t be seen, the mechanics are moving the team completely over to all Ceramic Speed bearings wherever they can. This bike had only gotten the new bottom bracket in time for the first World Cup, but will have new derailleur pulleys and wheel bearings in time for Albstadt.