Last summer we took a look at Protek’s carbon full-suspension XC race bike. But now, just off a World Cup U23 win, we see that Protek & the BrujulaBike have been working together to tweak the bike to create a more refined cross-country race bike. While it’s easy to get excited over an all-new bike, it can be equally as interesting to see how small changes can evolve a bike over time.
Protek 29FSTeam prototype full-suspension carbon XC bike
We’ve seen this 100mm travel Protek 29 FS Team before, racing the World Cup last year with big 12k weave carbon finish. Produced by hand near the Adriatic coast in central Italy, the XC 29er is sells for 3678€ as a frameset in three stock sizes.
But while the bike of Romanian national champ Vlad Dascalu bike looks almost identical to the bikes BrujulaBike was racing in 2018, Vlad’s new bike is sporting some fresh pro-only details.
First up is a new machined aluminum link…
The rear end of the 29FST has a single-pivot suspension design that relies on flex in the super thin section of the carbon seatstays in a loop above the dropouts, with the shock driven by a small linkage mounted under the seat cluster. Due to the flexibility of that seatstay loop, Protek actually has a good bit of freedom to play around with the geometry & suspension kinematics just by modifying this small alloy linkage.
The new prototype link that Dascalu raced to the World Cup win is more robust than the standard link for added stiffness. But it is slightly tweaked geometry of the link that could be improving the ride & changing the performance of the custom tuned Fox Float EVOL shock with greater input leverage. By dropping the lower shock mount ever so slightly, and thus pulling the ends of the seatstays down and forward, the bike can possibly sit a few millimeters lower at the bottom bracket and will slacken the head angle by a fraction of a degree, all while keeping the same complete travel assuming there remains room for the seatstay bridge to cycle through its travel.
The flexibility of this pivot-less rear end then enables the Protek engineering team to carefully tune kinematics and/or make minor geometry tweaks independently by finely adjusting that link – without changing the rest of the carbon mold.
Besides suspension tweaks, the BrujulaBike Team bikes also got a drivetrain upgrade in the last season – moving from XX1 mechanical to wireless XX1 eTap AXS. Dascalu’s bike also now gets kitted out with Kogel ceramic bearings in the BB & those gold derailleur pulleys for low friction spinning. The team continues to race Rotor 2INpower power meter cranks, now using a simple 36T direct mount ring. Dascalu’s pedals are Look X-Track Race carbon Ti.
His race cockpit is a mix of the matching big weave Protek carbon bar, held on by a Ritchey WCS alloy stem, ESI Fit XC shaped silicone grips. Stopping is with SRAM Level Ultimate brakes & Galfer 6-bolt rotors, and that number plate will get upgraded to a number 1 for the next World Cup.
Interestingly the team are racing on Repente’s lightweight, modular carbon saddle system, with a removable top clipped onto a carbon base & rails. Repente officially says that Dascalu races their lightest 130g Aleena saddle. But it seems he actually prefers the newer and slightly heavier (still just 158g on our scale) Prime that shares the same carbon base, but uses a lower cost PU foam with a nylon base and a more cutout design for the top. He also seems to have crashed a bit on this saddle, but thanks to the Repente system – just pull three clips and he can replace the top without readjusting his saddle in just a couple of minutes. The saddle is also mounted on a matching big weave Protek zero offset carbon seatpost.
Finishing out the cockpit, on the left Dascalu has a Scott Twinloc lockout remote which allows easy independent control of his Fox Factory Float rear & Factory 32 Step Cast fork. And on the right, he uses a separate clamp for the brake which he prefers closer to the grip and the AXS shifter pod a bit further away, a setup a Matchmaker clamp might not allow.
The team is still racing Spanish MSC tires, but weren’t on any of the new tires we’ve since seen, sticking with Rollers for the dry & loose Czech course. Inside are apparently 50g Zero CUC foam inserts from Zeroflats to prevent pinchflats, and let a rider pedal quickly to XCO pits for a wheel change in a race. Wheels are now new 30mm external Prototype Carbon Team wheels, which are production 2020 wheels not really prototypes, but do use the brands new lighter, stiffer Evo 4 Boost hubs.
All in all it is little incremental changes that make this race bike even more capable than last season, earning a nice 2nd place & 1st place in its first two World Cup outings of 2019.