Trek-Session-RSL_Rachel-Atherton-pro-DH-bike_course-recon

It wasn’t a big shock to see Rachel Atherton win another World Cup Downhill this past weekend on her Trek Factory Racing Session Team Issue RSL. In fact it was her 10th consecutive World Cup DH win setting a new record. We were in Leogang checking up on what is new in the behind the scenes pits at the top level of the sport and got a little insight into Rachel’s personal setup. It was a pretty muddy course in the days leading up to the final, and still on the morning of the race the pros were trying to find the best way to slide down the technical course…

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We took a look at Rachel Atherton’s GT Fury World Cup last season, and much like that bike she had a fairly stock frame, suspension, and fork setup this time around too. A few things have changed with the Atherton Racing Team’s switch to Trek, but some have stayed the same like the Fox 40 FLOAT FIT4 fork and  Fox DHX2 shocks, and Shimano Saint groupset.

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Like this time last year, Rachel is still ranked number 1 in the Women’s UCI DH, and with such consistency has clearly earned that number plate on her Session. She does however keep a fairly stock setup and besides the Trek Women’s team blue, most of her bike can be bought of the shelf by aspiring DHers. Just add your own name decal to the toptube.

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One plus of being a pro downhiller is that you get to race with fresh bearings. One negative of being a pro DH mechanic, when conditions are as wet and sloppy as they were in Leogang over the past few days, you have to swap out things like Saint bottom brackets before almost every race. There was also a whole lot of suspension component rebuilding going on, and everyone got freshly bled brakes for race day. While Rachel got a new BB, she stuck with the same cranks she’s been running all season, just nicely cleaned up. With all the mud she rides through and moving around on her Crank Brothers Mallet DH Race, her cranks get scuffed up pretty good and quick, but the Saints are still good to go.

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Rachel races a broken apart and reconfigured cassette spaced out for the 10 speed Saint drivetrain but with just 8 cogs and some extra spacers behind the cassette. She was running what looked to be a 12-28 to give reasonably tight spacing while keeping the derailleur away from her spokes. It is curious work in the Atherton Racing pit, as her brother Gee was racing a similar pared down cassette, but for him he had just 6 cogs from and around a 12-22? configuration.

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Since last DH season, Shimano introduced the new Pro Tharsis 9.8 DH cockpit group, so the Athertons no longer ride their signature group but get and update nonetheless. Hidden under that stem is one custom bit on Rachel’s bike. She was riding a custom machined upper headset cap that dropped in a Cane Creek bearing, but offset it farther forward for a longer front end by a few mm. We’d seen the same thing from the Santa Cruz Syndicate and Madison Saracen Team before, but this is maybe interesting as Cane Creek has been offering the adjustable angle Angleset for sometime, but not a simple offset version.

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Also a bit of pro setup were the epoxied on finned grips. Her brothers had been racing these grips before, wired-on; but now Rachel makes the switch too with them glued fast. Her mechanic said it was possible to get them off without destroying the bar. But with plenty of bars in the truck, they were more likely to swap in a new bar if a grip got trashed.

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We also saw this brass rear brake damper on Trek World Racing George Brannigan’s Session last season. With Rachel preferring the big 203mm rotors in back, this is said to help keep vibration in check over that long IS adapter. On a side note, as a show of a true professional, Rachel’s mechanic had her practice and qualifying time starts written on his hand so he knew when to have her bikes prepped and ready to roll.

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Rachel’s Session was rolling on Bontrager’s most aggressive DH tire for the weekend of racing. The 27.5 x 2.5″ G5 Team Issue tires have big meaty blocks that were definitely packing up with mud on the wettest sections of the course. But with gravelly hardpack sections to clear the tread they seemed to work out for her. Wheel wise, her whole team was rolling on unmarked aluminum wheels. They look very much like the same Stan’s Flow EXs that the siblings raced last year, but interestingly not the newer Stan’s carbon rims that they helped develop.

TrekFactoryRacingDH.com

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Johnny
Johnny
5 years ago

I know Rachel is a beast, but if she is thrashing a BB every race, even in wet conditions, what does that say for the groupset? Even as a pro racer I can’t imagine that bearings would degrade that fast. These companies tell us this stuff is good enough for their pro team, but if it’s replaced every race I’m pretty sure that makes that claim pretty worthless…

JNH
JNH
5 years ago
Reply to  Johnny

It says the mechanic is pulling out the seals for reduced rolling resistance. It’s a trick beloved of pros the world over, but pretty catastrophic for bottom brackets. Roadies can be found doing this to their hubs too, but roadies are a strange bunch…

SNIPE-HUNTER
5 years ago

I find it hard to believe that a few minutes in mud and water would toast a Shimano BB… they’re sealed, signed, sealed for infant safety, then sealed for confidentiality… kind of hard to beat. I think the mechanic that said that shit just wants us to think his job is harder and more sophisticated than it actually is.

Luiggi
Luiggi
5 years ago
Reply to  SNIPE-HUNTER

Shimano bearings aren’t sealed by both sides, just on the outer facing ones. for the inner side they trust a chunk of grease would do.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
5 years ago

Yeah, BBs needing replaced for 25 seconds of pedaling per run? Crazy waste

Mike
Mike
5 years ago
Reply to  Veganpotter

I kinda wonder if they remove the seals to reduce friction… which if it toasts the bearings kinda defeats the purpose, but time trialists pull that kind of tinkering with their BBs, so maybe?

Steven Malkmus
Steven Malkmus
5 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Wasteful, to be sure. Bikes are the machines that kill climate deniers. . .oh wait, never mind. Just replace everything every ride.

Groghunter
Groghunter
5 years ago

They remove a lot of the seals & grease to make them run faster. Apparently Greg Minnaar’s mechanic actually run the bearings on a drill until they’re almost worn out. http://bikerumor.com/2015/08/11/world-cup-dh-mechanic-jason-marsh-spills-his-secrets-to-faster-spinning-cranks/

Every little bit helps at this level.

Wuffles
Wuffles
5 years ago

Trashing a bb over a couple of days of muddy practice is not out of the normal, and the mechanics throw in a fresh one for the race run.

Not sure why that is unreasonable or surprising to some people. Same thing happens in CX.

dustytires
5 years ago

those bb seals cannot stand up to the pressure washer… having been to many WC races the pressure washing area is a sight that should not be missed. After every run the riders go directly to the wash spot where a long line of machines stands at the ready to blast the mud and water right into the sealed bearings. I think that is one of the requirements mechanics have, wash bike before returning for suspension/tires/drivetrain tweaking. As a mech I would much rather replace a BB than work on muddy bikes, specially when sponsor are handing over the new kit.

kev1n
kev1n
5 years ago

All these people worried about a bottom bracket… shaking my head

These racers compete at the highest possible level. The extra effort their mechanics go through to have the bike as fresh and fast as possible is just them taking advantage of their sponsorship which is great, and why not?

I remember in the Sam Hill Iron Horse/Specialized days, Jacy (his mechanic) would put a brand new chain for every day of practice and race day. Aaron Gwin’s bike gets a complete rebuild from practice run to practice run. Don’t even get me started on the extreme lengths both the specialized teams go through every race and from practice day to practice day…

This is the F1 of mountain bike racing, the least a mechanic could do is put a fresh bottom bracket on before every race weekend.

traildog
traildog
5 years ago

What an amazing rider. You can hardly wish for her competition to do better because you’d really just be wishing she had a mechanical or crashed.

Re: bbs, i remember something from a syndicate video or pinkbike post showing Minaar’s mechanic running in bearings with a power drill, so it’s hard to imagine that any of the top riders are on stock, well-sealed, high drag bearings.

JMUSuperman
JMUSuperman
5 years ago
Reply to  traildog

I remember that video, too. The mechanic cleans all the grease out, gets rid of the seals, then spins the snot out of them with a power driver till there about one run from worn out. Puts them in the bike, applies a light oil everywhere inside the shell and sends it off with the rider. Good for about a run, regardless of conditions or make of BB.

Groghunter
Groghunter
5 years ago
Reply to  traildog

I commented this about 5 hours before you wrote this, with a link to bikerumors article on it.

…it’s still awaiting moderation…

François
François
5 years ago

On Rachels 8-speed cassette the two smallest cogs have the same size. A mistake or on purpose?

Graeme
Graeme
5 years ago
Reply to  François

On purpose so you don’t shift off the smallest cog. I’ve seen pics of various pros doing this occasionally here and on Pinkbike.

JMUSuperman
JMUSuperman
5 years ago
Reply to  François

On purpose. The derailleur is set to NOT use the outmost 11t cog, only the inside one. If for whatever reason it jumps to it, it’s not a big deal and the race run can continue. Pretty common setup for a few years now.

Alex
Alex
5 years ago

Is that a short stroke shock?