Today saw the world’s top cross-country riders take to the hillside in the second round of the UCI MTB World Cup. Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here… Before the Elite racing began, we took a snoop around the pits to see what new technology teams are experimenting with to find those all-important marginal gains.
Our lap was rewarded with glimpses of new tires from Vittoria, Specialized, and Schwalbe, new suspension from Manitou, RockShox, and Ohlins, and some prototype brakes from TRP. Here’s what’s to come from the world of XC tech.
New XC Suspension at UCI Lenzerheide MTB World Cup
A dive into the RockRider Racing pit revealed the latest iteration of their XC race machine; a bike that will, eventually, be available to buy in Decathlon stores – at least in the UK. The bikes being raced here in Lenzerheide by the likes of Joshua Dubau and Savilia Blunk are a little different to the one we saw under the latter rider at Sea Otter earlier this year. Here, they are updated with a heavily-machined link and shock yoke which actually look to be a bit thicker and presumably stiffer than their respective predecessors.
Bolted to that yoke is a prototype shock from Manitou, damping the bike’s 120mm of rear wheel travel. Likely an update on the Mara shock, this one sees a subtly different air can architecture and a revision to the compression damping adjustment knobs that appears to prioritize the remote lockout feature.
The Manitou fork is a prototype, too, likely to be the next iteration of the R7 fork. On the RockRider, it is set up to run 120mm travel, just like the rear wheel travel.
Cut-outs at the dropouts and arch show the brand are, to no one’s surprise, looking to shave weight wherever they can.
We reckon the new R7 will boast 34mm stanchions, as opposed to the production model’s 32mm stanchions, but will offset some of that weight gain with ever more machining.
The fork still looks to run Manitou’s Incremental Volume Adjust air spring. On the damper side, we see the external adjustments rigged up to a remote lockout operated by Orbea’s Squid Lock remote.
Elsewhere in the pits, we caught a glimpse of some new electronic suspension from RockShox. Nino Schurter‘s Scott Spark is fronted with a longer-travel Blackbox prototype RockShox SID SL XL(?) Flight Attendant Fork.
Curiously, Nino wasn’t racing an electronically-controlled version of this prototype suspension at the first round Nove Mesto XCO World Cup. But maybe having to watch Tom Pidcock win on prototype SR Suntour TACT auto suspension made Nino reconsider?
Forgive me for the entirely awful brightness/contrast, here. We were not permitted to take Nino’s bike outside for photos, so this will have to suffice for now! Given that Flight Attendant components work as a team, the chances are the shock is also home to the electronic damping-adjusting module, though we can’t see it as it lives inside the front triangle of the Scott Spark.
Elsewhere, that prototype longer 120mm(?) travel RockShox SID SL XL fork was seen throughout the team pits without the Flight Attendant module. Extra machining at the fork crown gives it away as a new model that is likely even lighter than the production 35mm stanchion SID currently in production – maybe as light as the 32mm stanchion SID SL, which is currently limited to just 100mm of travel, too little for most modern technical XC racers.
It was invariably paired with what also looks to be a new lightweight air shock – what is likely the next-gen RockShox SIDLuxe.
And of course, it is also benefiting from BMC’s proprietary Autodrop seat post that is integrated with the frame. Complete bikes come with the black version, but folk purchasing the frameset can get this nickel-coated version that the team riders have.
Prototype XC Brakes from TRP
Joshua Dubau‘s RockRider was home to more prototypes, too; a new 2-piston brake caliper from TRP, clamping new 6-bolt 160mm rotors, also from TRP. The brand don’t really have a dedicated, lightweight 2-piston brake for XC in production yet; it looks like this one will fill that gap in their lineup.
Prototype XC Tires from Vittoria, Schwalbe and Specialized
There was much new rubber to be ogled at this weekend. We spotted a new DH tire from Schwalbe on Danny Hart’s Cube, but judging by the “First Ride” logo and unrecognizable tread pattern we saw on the front of someone’s Cannondale Scalpel XC Bike, it seems they also have a new XC tire in the works.
In comparison with Schwalbe’s current offering, I’d say its tread pattern looks most similar to that of the Wicked Will, but with smaller, much lower profile blocks and raised mid-tread ridges toward the outboard edge. We gave the prototype XC tire a more in-depth look at the Nove Mesto World Cup, too.
A look at Henrique Avancini‘s Caloi Elite Carbon FS revealed some prototype XC tires from Vittoria; these were fitted to his 1,150g Dyneema rope-spoke carbon wheelset. The all-black tire with red flash hot patch looks to be a 2.4″ variation on the Mezcal.
Vittoria tend to use this red hot patch to denote their Race series tires – like we see on the Mazza Enduro Race, for example. Those tires run a single compound, as compared to Vittoria’s 4C Graphene compound, that is optimized for racing rather than season-long riding. It’s possible this new XC tire could also offer a similar, albeit likely faster-rolling, single-compound approach.
Finally, Specialized look to be reintroducing the Captain XC Tire. With the hot patch announcing its use of Specialized’s T5 and T7 compounds, this one looks to be very close to production.