Mic Williams is one-third of Trinity MTB, a relatively new mountain bike manufacturer that has garnered much attention over the last year or so following the launch of its debut frame; the Trinity Gravity. While Mic is an integral part of the Australian outfit, bringing highly-innovative drivetrain solutions to the table, he is also the founder of Williams Racing Products (WRP).
In 2019, the UCI abolished the rule that bikes must have the same front and rear wheel size for Downhill World Cup. Back then, Mic saw an opportunity to manufacture suspension links to make the now ubiquitous mullet configuration possible. WRP made a name for itself by supplying mullet links for DH frames, and later enduro frames, before the industry started producing mullet-dedicated bikes that were designed from the ground up. This is WRP’s bread and butter, and money made from the sale of these links is poured back into the company to develop new, and even more innovative components for performance-oriented mountain bikes.
Indeed, Mic and WRP are interested in far more than suspension links. A born innovator, Mic is constantly tinkering with new ideas, some of which are discussed in this interview. From an electronic-shifting cassette-based gearbox(es), to truly drag-free hub internals, and pedal kickback solutions, Mic has his hands in a great many pies.
And, as you might imagine, Mic’s roles within Trinity MTB and WRP very much go hand-in-hand, with Mic contributing ideas and engineering-based solutions to the current (and future) Trinity mountain bikes.
Bikerumor: What was it that initially attracted you to the Trinity DH bike project?
Mic Williams: The opportunity to work with the other two guys involved. I always thought a performance gravity frame was out of my league, and alone it is, but when the conversation started with Chase and Nigel I instantly had faith in our little team that we could make something special happen.
From a design perspective, the first thing that stood out to me was the VHP (Virtual High Pivot) platform and combining that with an i-Track idler design. That was a very new idea that Chase had brought to the table, and it provided a kinematic and certain coefficients that instantly had me hooked on the project.
Editor’s Note: See above how the idler pulley moves in relation to the bottom bracket and rear axle as the linkage articulates. This aspect of the Trinity Gravity bike’s Virtual High Pivot linkage is patented by i-track. This provides independent control of the anti-squat characteristic, allowing it to be tuned independently of axle path and other kinematic properties.
Bikerumor: Will Trinity stick to DH frames, or are there plans to make bikes for other types of mountain biking?
Mic Williams: The frame we have on offer now can be configured as either a DH bike or a large travel Enduro bike. The frame has a flip chip whereby the customer can alternate between a 205mm x 65mm shock (175mm travel) or a 225mm x 75mm shock (200mm travel). Considering the kinematic we’re able to achieve with the combination VHP and i-Track, we’re able to get a beautifully descending bike that also pedals very efficiently.
Bikerumor: It’s cool that you guys offer both traditional drivetrain and gearbox options for the frame. Kinematically, are there any big differences in how the two bikes ride?
Mic Williams: Kinematically, no, as the chainring sits in the same relative location in either configuration. Assuming same size chainrings, kinematics will be the same. The gearbox option offers a different ride characteristic, however, due to the centralized mass (and decreased unsprung mass of the cassette and derailleur) and the fact the chainring can roll forward due to the inherent nature of a gearbox’s clutch.
Bikerumor: We know you’ve been working on a gearbox of your very own design for some time now. Can you tell us a little about how it works, and how it is beneficial over current gearbox options on the market like Pinion, for example?
Mic Williams: Yea, sure thing. I have been working on my own WRP box for a little while, which is similar in principle to the Honda gearbox in the RN-01 from ~20 years ago. So it uses a standard chainring, chain and cassette that’s just reconfigured to mount in the BB area (similar to a Pinion or Effigear).
I am a big fan of current gearbox brands, but the aim of this design is to achieve less drag that’s inherent in current gearboxes due to their meshing gears, and a design that can be shifted under load – another drawback with current gearboxes. With the WRP box weight should also be a lot less considering it doesn’t have to be immersed in a bath of oil and there is no “derailleur” as such. It’s also fully electronic.
Bikerumor: Will your gearbox design allow you to do something kinematically advantageous with the Trinity bike that you can’t do with off-the-shelf gearboxes?
Mic Williams: The dual-directional CentreHub will eventually be in the WRP gearbox, so zero pedal kickback will be able to be achieved (and the option of shifting while coasting, too). Contrary to popular belief, an idler does not eliminate pedal kick-back, only helps mitigate it.
Bikerumor: Your gearbox prototype for the DH Bike is 6-speed. Will you also develop a similar gearbox for enduro bikes with a wider range cassette?
Mic Williams: Yes, one with ~500% range is in the works.
Bikerumor: The gearbox isn’t the first piece of drivetrain technology you’ve worked on. The CenterHub was one of WRP’s very first products to hit the market. And now, it seems you are working on Gen 2 of that product. Can you tell us what the new CenterHub offers that the original was lacking, and when can we buy it?
Mic Williams: Yes, as mentioned above we’re working on a CentreHub V2 that can rotate bi-directionally. The CentreHub V1 was made while I was at uni and realistically the catalyst for me starting WRP. It’s a great product that I (and many people around the world) run on personal bikes.
For its intended purpose and original design scope (to offer shifting while coasting), the V1 is fantastic and couldn’t really be optimized. So, it doesn’t lack anything per-say; but in typical fashion of design progression I pondered the idea of whether it was possible to make it go backwards as well – to eliminate pedal kick-back. The prototyped V2 is a product that can go both ways and engage with very limited pedal gap (so anti-squat isn’t affected). We don’t have a hard release date at this stage.
Bikerumor: Are you working on any other new drivetrain advancements at the moment that you are able to share with us?
Mic Williams: People may have seen some special DT internals we’re working on. Can’t give too much else away.
Bikerumor: We see you’ve been testing out a steering damper from WP. Do you feel there’s real justification for using such a damper in DH?
Mic Williams: Yea I think so, definitely. They’re obviously used widely in motocross and off-road motorcycling, and the response we’ve had from professional racers and teams wanting to test it has been overwhelming. From my own personal test data the difference (and potential in development) has been profound, especially depending on track type (high speed with rocks that try to grab your front wheel, for example).
Bikerumor: We also see you teased some stiffness data for an USD fork with a linkage. Is this in regard to a new product you’re working on?
Mic Williams: No not in regard to a new product (yet, at least). My current intern, Mitch, came to me with the idea for his Bachelor of Engineering Thesis. I thought it had some real legs (excuse the pun) considering some other ideas we’d thrown around about how to tune and increase the torsional stiffness of a USD fork.
Bikerumor: What do you think DH bikes of the future will look like, and how will WRP be a part of that?
Mic Williams: It’s hard to crystal ball anything, but looking at recent trends and cross-disciplinary I think is important. I think that current bike tech as far as geo is concerned is very good. If you compare to motocross, while there has obviously been updates to technology, the basic geometry of the machine has been pretty-well solid for the last 20 years as all brands really settled on what best suits the biomechanics of a human – I feel we’re approaching the same point with MTB geometry (maybe even gone a little too far in recent times).
So, I don’t think we’ll see huge advancements in geo, but more-so in tech and that’s largely where my focus is at with the gearbox, etc. As far as how WRP will be part of it; I love bikes and am not going anywhere.
Bikerumor: Are there any current UCI rules you feel are limiting innovation in the MTB space that you’d like to see abolished?
Mic Williams: Not that I am aware of at this stage. I think the relinquishing of the same size front and rear wheel rule in 2019 was a great thing. I do admit I need to have a look at the most recent rule-book though; there could always be a great idea right under-the-nose of the rules.