At just 22 years old Jolanda Neff, the current U23 cross country women’s world champ, took on the elite women in the first round of the World Cup. Within the first lap aboard the Beryll RSC hardtail from her new Swiss bike sponsor Stöckli, she began setting a pace that ultimately only 42 year old Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå could match. The two went back and forth until the younger Swiss took the first World Cup win of the season by just 1 second after 90mins of racing. We had a chance to sit down with Stöckli’s head bike design engineer the day before the big race and go through tech on Neff’s bike and teammate Mathias Flückiger’s, who rode to 5th place in the elite men’s race.
Join us after the jump for a few truly unique bits of tech, including a couple of prototypes…
While Stöckli, known in Europe first for skis, has been sponsoring Flückiger at the World Cup level since 2013, this is Neff’s first year on their bikes. The two Swiss riders had both the carbon full-suspension Morion RSC and Beryll RSC hardtail at their disposal, but both opted for the 980g claimed (size S) hardtail to race in Nové Město. The R&D team call the combined thin seatstays and dropped chainstays Flex Stays, and claims they offer enough vertical compliance in the rear end to make the Beryll RSC the best choice for all but the roughest courses.
Neff’s bike gets a Swiss national champion themed paint job, a new XTR Di2 group, and a number of light carbon bits from the team’s development partners at Bike Ahead. As the UCI points leader coming into the season Neff started the first World Cup with a number 1, and backed it up with the win.
Neff races on the all-carbon, no-padding Selle Italia SLR Tekno saddle perched on a lightweight carbon post made by German Bike Ahead Composites. Her Swiss champ kit has earned her the nickname the Lady in Red, although that will change this coming weekend with the World Cup Leader’s white. Neff and Flückiger both get customized bits from Carbon-Ti, including seatpost binders, stem caps, and even steerer tube bolts.
For grips the team uses both the new tapered silicone ESI Fit CH grips and the standard Chunkies. Bottles are held in place over the roots and rocks with the 15g Nasdrowje cages from AX-Lightness, that include a little dot of orange rubber on the insides for maximum grip. We’ve seen these cages on a lot of pro mountain bikes, and the mechanics tell us they work surprisingly well, so we might have to give them a test ourselves. Carbon-Ti provides their X-Lock thru-axles front and rear (as we also saw on Kulhavý’s bike.)
An incredibly trick pro setup that Stöckli’s Marco Quinter showed us was their new tied-and-carbon-wrapped spokes. Like traditionally tying and soldering spokes, the carbon wrap boosts wheel stiffness and protects against the ill-effects of a broken spoke, but with carbon you save weight at the expense of a lot of finish work. Quinter was still catching up, cleaning up the carbon wraps on the race wheels when we dropped in. It’s always nice to see a bike company’s head engineer getting his hands dirty in the pits for the sponsored racers.
The Stöckli team were riding custom wheels with new M9000 XTR hubs laced up to unmarked rims to keep sponsor Shimano happy. It looks to us like these are a debadged set of Stan’s Race Gold rims, and are something we spotted hiding in many of the pro team pits. Tires were a mix of Schwalbe Racing Ralphs and Rocket Rons.
It seems Stöckli is pretty happy to keep making custom finishes for Neff as she racks up one title after the next. They had a pair of rainbow-striped frames hanging in their paddock to celebrate her current U23 championship, even though she won’t race them at all this season. And Neff herself posted the image on the right to her Instagram on Wednesday. Just three days after taking the lead in the series, Stöckli already had a custom World Cup Leader’s White frame painted and delivered to her doorstep.
We had a bit more time to spend with Flückiger’s Beryll RSC since his bikes were being prepped while Neff was out pre-riding the course. We looked mostly at the bike he had set up as a 1x with a chainguide, as the team thought he would race that one when we spoke on Saturday. But rain overnight meant he opted for the wider gearing range of the Di2 double on race day.
Flückiger also gets the custom labeling, although this time with a standard paint scheme. While both Neff and Flückiger ride the same size small 29ers, he needs a bit lower bar position and joins Kulavý in the slam-your-stem club, dropping the top headset bearing cover to get down. His single ring bike keeps its chain in place with a simple clamp-on chainguide co-developed with 77 Designz, and not yet available for sale.
Both riders could opt for this prototype seatpost also developed with Bike Ahead. It is a team exclusive for now and supports the saddle rail cradle inside of a thin elastomer that gives a bit of impact absorption while keeping the saddle firmly in place.
We threw Flückiger’s complete 1x Beryll RSC up on the scale and it weighed just 9.01kg (19.86lbs) with next year’s Fox 32 FIT4 fork.