Following the launch of the Atherton sibling’s very own bike brand, Atherton Bikes, we caught up with trail craft master Dan to get his thoughts on bike design, the innovations we’re seeing to improve it, Dyfi Bike Park Tracks, and the bright future of his own progression within the sport.
16/07/2019 Update: Dyfi Bike Park is now taking bookings for their Land Rover-serviced uplift to 4 Black-graded Downhill Tracks. Word is that an 11 minute uplift earns you at least 5 minutes descent – at race pace!
BIKERUMOR: We can’t wait to swing a leg over the new Atherton Bikes DH rig when it is finally launched this summer. What involvement have you had in designing the frames of the new Atherton Bikes DH and trail bike? Can you tell us a bit about the geometry of the bike as it is now and the various iterations it has been through?
Dan Atherton: As with any of our team sponsors over the years we’ve always tried to break the DH bike down into exactly what we are looking for in different areas, then we try to rebuild from the ground up. The difference with the Atherton Bikes prototype is that we had a blank canvas and we were subject to none of the usual restrictions that riders have when they ride for other brands. This meant that we were able to build a bike not only to suit us but to suit where the sport is now – with 29” wheels for example. Because we are running 29” we tried to go as long and as low as possible; because we’ve been in the prototype stage we’ve been playing with bottom bracket height and head angle which is why some of the bikes you’ll have seen have a chip in the lower shock mount so it gives us a bit more room for manoeuvre.
BIKERUMOR: How does the bike ride compared to the Trek session, and what design features do you think are responsible for the difference in ride feel?
Dan Atherton: The biggest thing you notice is obviously the suspension platform. Working with Dave Weagle and the DW6 link meant that we could make small changes to different aspects of the kinematics, as we all ride quite differently, this is a real bonus.
BIKERUMOR: We’re really looking forward to the opening of Dyfi Bike Park this Summer. What kind of trails can we expect to ride? Is it all jump lines with huge features comparable to Red Bull hardline or will we also see some steep enduro-style gnar?
Dan Atherton: Almost everyone who has ridden the Bike Park so far has been surprised! I think most of them arrive expecting a mini version of Hardline and that’s certainly not the case. When we started building we knew that variation would be the most important thing so for the Jumpline we were aiming for as much flow as we could find, then at the other end of the scale we’ve got steep, technical, slow tracks which will be great fun for both DH and e-bike and the Downhill tracks we tried to make a mixture of both types of riding.
BIKERUMOR: What is important to you as a rider at the moment?
Dan Atherton: The most important thing has always been to keep trying to progress. For me that can be through what I’m doing at Red Bull Hardline, or at Atherton Bikes, building at the Dyfi Bike Park, working with the locals or through my own personal riding. I suppose without progression the world would be a boring place.
BIKERUMOR: What aspirations do you have with regard to racing and track building?
Dan Atherton: I’m too busy to have any racing aspirations these days! The best aspirations come with progression so I try to apply the same mentality to whatever I do, so when I’m building whether that’s the Bike Park or Red Bull Hardline it’s about keeping pushing forward, doing things my own way. The course that I build for Red Bull Hardline always demands that I push myself and that I think of new features, new ways to push the best riders in the world who’ll come to race there so a lot of my aspirations are tied up in that.
BIKERUMOR: What has been you favourite bike over the years and why?
Dan Atherton: I used to really enjoy the Commencal but I’m more stoked to ride the bikes I’m on now. From the DH bike to the 22” BMX it’s like a piece of me has gone into each of them – as well as being able to customise every frame to have it exactly how I want it.
BIKERUMOR: What is the most important innovation you’ve seen in mountain biking over the last 20 years?
Dan Atherton: E-bikes. I think they’ll be the boost that the bike economy needs to allow everything to keep moving forward. The rise of e-bikes has really motivated the industry to have a big surge in pushing technology and that’s been felt across every sector. And they are great fun!
BIKERUMOR: Is there any emerging bike technology that you’re really interested in or excited about?
Dan Atherton: Additive manufacturing (3D printing). It’s very early days for Additive Manufacturing in the bike industry but I believe it will be the future, purely because these days everybody wants exactly what they want and how they want it. Additive manufacturing gives the consumer that power to achieve that perfect match.
BIKERUMOR: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the UK mountain bike industry at the moment?
Dan Atherton: Probably finding the balance between e-bikes and normal bikes in terms of how they are accepted at trail centres and bike parks, but for me I think it’s just another way in to the sport and another area of revenue to keep the cycling world thriving, I don’t think there should be any prejudice against them.
BIKERUMOR: The Cycling UK and OpenMTB Trails for Wales campaign has seen success with the Welsh government committing to significantly increasing the number of footpaths that cyclists are able to use. What do you think this means for grassroots mountain biking in Wales and do you think the new legislation will go far enough?
Dan Atherton: It’s certainly a good thing for mountain biking but it’s not necessarily such a good thing for landowners. I think that in some areas it works and it is an amazing tourism boost and great for everybody but there are also some places where public and machinery don’t mix and that can create a nightmare for the landowner.
BIKERUMOR: What is your favorite tool for trail building?
Dan Atherton: A Mattock