It’s hard to transition from Chile to Northern California to South Africa with a stable of race bikes, enough tools to build them up and break them down, all the other clothing and gear you need, and a shred of remaining sanity to carry you through the first mountain bike World Cup race of the season.
But that’s exactly what Seven riders Michael Broderick and Mary McConneloug did over the last 6 weeks, and their brand new Seven IMX SLX race bikes went along for a maiden voyage on some of the most challenging dirt in the world.
Mike reported back to us from the post-race wind down in South Africa:
“Mary and I literally turned hundreds of heads as we spent the weekend on our new IMX bikes at the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg. The bikes stand apart visually from our previous frames and the majority of the bikes being used by our competitors. The carbon Ti lugged IMX frame design is visually stunning and we were able to build these bikes up to the limit. They really look fantastic!”
If looks could kill, they wouldn’t have the race though. Mike added, “Those capable of looking beyond the initial bling (including all our on-site sponsors) were impressed especially by the inclusion of the 44mm head tubes as these (or alternative oversize head tubes) are fast becoming an industry standard.”
We built these bikes specifically to give Mike and Mary critical advantages in the toughest race conditions and according to Mike, performance improvements were obvious straight away. “The bikes ride with a lighter touch. Changing directions requires less effort in tight, low-speed situations, and they exhibit an overall greater level of confidence, inspiring control throughout the majority of demanding off-road situations.”
Mike and Mary are particularly agile riders, so we aimed for a more lively ride, an overall more manageable bike for all trail purposes, which meant shortening the chain stays for maximum obstacle clearance capability. Mike said, “Mary and I both feel an increased ease when we lift up and over obstacles. Mary was especially tuned in to the ease of being able to manual her bike over trail obstacles without pedal input. This allows for a quicker trail read as last minute input and corrections are more significant and accurate. This, along with the stiffer front end, translates into greater confidence when hanging it out at high speed.”
He also said,
“The bikes absolutely track quicker around corners when traditionally steered (cutting through the apex) as well as with our preferred hairpin corner attack (hugging the inside of the corner before the apex, steering the front wheel through while initiating a rear brake skid to slide the rear). We both have a good stable feeling on these bikes enabling us to keep our feet clipped in while performing this move all the way through to letting off the brake, regaining traction and pedaling out for a quick exit.”
How’s that for a pro maneuver?
Shorter chain stays and subsequently shorter overall wheelbase make the bike more agile, but the oversized head tubes give them maximum stiffness and stability. Mike and Mary appreciated that stability as well.
“The increased front end stability is probably most apparent when muscling the bike through low speed trail obstacles that take maximum strength and input on the bars and pedals at the same time. A good example would be when out of the saddle splitting a large trail feature (between the tires) and torquing the pedals and the bars simultaneously to try and move forward. I can feel that there is far less flex and a better power transfer in these cases. The increased stiffness at this point also really helps with the confidence when in a rough spot and looking to commit to a feature that is at the limits of our confidence levels.”
As you can imagine we’re anxious to see how the bikes perform at the next round of the World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium next month. As we type, Mike and Mary are getting their gear together, breaking everything down again for shipping and trying to keep their bodies on track for what promises to be a grueling and exciting MTB season..