When we sat down to design new bikes for Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug to race in the upcoming World Cup mountain bike season and possibly the Olympics, the big question was how to improve on the bikes they’d been riding for the two previous seasons.
Their all Ti Sola SLXs have been race winners. When most other riders on the circuit were trying to pack more carbon onto their bikes, Mike and Mary persisted, quite successfully, with titanium. We went to the absolute limit of our building experience to make those bikes light for them. We shaved down their cable guides. We drilled holes in their bottom brackets. But they were all metal bikes. And they were fast.
So, the biggest change they made from past seasons was to go to a Ti/carbon mix frame, our IMX SLX, but without the integrated seat post (ISP) that distinguishes that model. Instead Mike and Mary opted for an adjustable 30.9mm post that is fatter, stiffer and has a thinner-walled carbon than standard seat posts. The weight savings and added stiffness were big bonuses, and we ultra-butted all the frame tubing to save every last gram for them.
Mike knew he wanted to experiment with shorter chain stays to optimize front end maneuverability. A shorter overall wheelbase lets you make tighter turns on technical courses, and the agility he hoped to gain suits both Mike’s and Mary’s aggressive riding style.
To dial in the chain stay length we built multiple rear end modules to test the interaction and spacing of wheels, tires and components. It’s a game of millimeters, but over time we settled on the right set up for them, and then built their bikes based around that rear triangle.
Mike and Mary also knew they wanted to add over-sized head tubes and tapered forks for extra front end stiffness, and they wanted an opportunity to experiment with Cane Creek’s new angled headset. As an inveterate tinkerer, Mike thought he and Mary could both dial in the handling response they liked for each course. Being able to adjust that responsiveness might be a huge advantage in the variable weather conditions they see while racing in Europe, Africa and South America.
The final act was getting the bikes in their hands. We shipped them out to coincide with a short stopover in California, between their pre-season training in Chile, where they won the Mixed Open category of the Trans-Andes Challenge, and the first World Cup race of the year in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa..