With the start of the World Cup Downhill series at Fort William less than a month away its time to preview the season ahead. To do this I surveyed the opinions of last year’s top ten men and top five women riders with a series of ten taxing (or perhaps inane depending on your view point) questions.
Here’s a great reminder from that Parkin’s about just what went on last season.
1: Lets get this one out of the way…. Where do you stand on the wheel size debate in Downhill? Have you tested other wheel sizes? Will you be running anything larger this year?
Aaron Gwin: I feel like 29ers are a bit big for downhill right now but something in-between would probably be good. There are some advantages to bigger wheels for sure and I think it’s only a matter of time before they start to take over. Don’t be afraid of change people.
Greg Minnaar: In the words of Joe Graney ” if you can’t notice the difference, why do you care?”. If you like it run it, I’ll be on a stock standard V10 again this season, it worked well last season, I don’t feel the need to change
Gee Atherton: Not too concerned by it really, I’m sure there will be a natural progression in that direction, will be interesting to see what happens.
Steve Smith: Im not totally sure yet. I haven’t ridden 650 b, only my atlas 29er xc bike and i think 29 is too big for dh. I guess time will tell and if it is better and faster i guess the changes will be made. I’d be fine if we continued racing 26.
Sam Hill: I have never tried or ridden anything other than 26″ wheels. I personally don’t see any need for bigger wheels. The same person will win if everyone has the same wheel size so why change what works. I think it’s just the industry making something new to sell more bikes. I’m sure they have advantages but there’s also going to be disadvantage’s to go with it. I hope downhill stays with 26. That’s a true mountain bike in my opinion. You don’t see guys rocking up to Bmx races all with different size wheels. There needs to be a rule put in place.
Josh Bryceland: My v10 is so Rad at the moment i hate the thought of changing a good thing, at the same time my Bronson is the coolest trail bike i have ever had…
Brook Macdonald: With wheel size right now I’m staying 26”. Trek is always trying new things so possibly something for SA we will see, but for now I’m sticking with 26”.
Danny Hart: As of right now, I have never ridden a DH bike with any other wheel size. This year I will not be riding anything other than my 26″ Giant Glory, I have a great bike and I am going to go out there and give it my best shot on, in my eyes, the best equipment on the market. That is all I have to say, I am making the best of what I have.
Mick Hannah: I’m not sold on the new wheels, but I haven’t had the chance to test them. We have been focused on setting up the Polygon so far as we’ve only had a couple of months on it.
George Brannigan: I haven’t tried any other wheel sizes yet. I guess I’m quite neutral on the whole 650b wheel size for downhill. I wouldn’t be keen on a 29er though, firstly because they’re not as playful apparently and what’s the point in riding if it’s not as fun as it is now. Secondly a 29er downhill bike wouldn’t look so good haha
Rachel Atherton: I haven’t tried any other wheel size yet, well actually i rode my bros 650b in the yard and it felt massive! I would prefer everyone to stay on 26, because that’s what we know in mountain biking, but i can see the attraction of having our ”own” wheel size for the sport, and i can see the attraction of the extra speed, because we are trying to be the fastest possible, but i just worry that tracks will become so tame and smooth and shit because the big wheels make it easier, if they made the tracks bigger and gnarlier to reflect the speed and ease over terrain then COOL but i doubt that will happen. So things will just be easier and smoother. What?
Emmeline Ragot: Yup, for sure I thought about it but it´s a new development in the industry and some of the products that we are using with the Lapierre team are not finalised to be compatible with the bigger wheels yet. For this reason I didn’t really have a chance to test it and see if I like it. For sure I will try them when the developments allow it. But on the other hand I don’t want to be stressed or focused just on the wheels debate and if it will be an advantage for some people or not. I think my team and I have some other stuff to work on to allow me to gain time and advantage elsewhere.
Myriam Nicole: It´s kind of stupid, no one will really know if big wheels are faster or not but in the end everyone will buy bikes with those kinds of wheels. I will have the choice to ride 26 or 650b during the season but I’m not convinced about the big wheels.
Tracey Hannah: I’m all for the 26” wheels. However in saying that I’m pretty sure that Peaty is two times my height so me running 26” is almost like him running the bigger size. Its all about testing and choosing what’s best for you.
Emilie Siegenthaler: I know its a big debate at the moment, but I think this is purely individual. We had the opportunity to test some stuff in the Gstaad-Scott team, some liked it, some others didn’t. But as our sport is constantly evolving, from the athletes preparation, but also the technology of the bike, towards a more serious and professional discipline, it is normal that changes happen. I’m quite surprised that some people are so stuck into a “downhill racing is 26inch” approach, because the essence of DH was first on bike with no suspension, and it evolved to what it is today! These bikes have nothing to do with each other, except for the wheel size. Maybe that’s why everybody is so sceptical about it all? Every pro rider tries to develop the best bike in collaboration with brands, and the geometry, suspension, everything is rethought and developed. So why try to make the bike faster for every aspect except for the wheels? I don’t get it. If I find myself riding faster on Gambler with 27.5 wheels, I will use that option without a doubt.2: What track or venue are you most looking forward to on this year’s calendar? Why?
Aaron Gwin: Val Di Sole, I always like that place, it’s a man’s track.
Greg Minnaar: Fort Will is always a favourite of mine, Salt and Malt Vinegar McCoy’s, Bacon and Sausage with HP. I have Fort Will in my schedule twice this year…. I love coming back to the grounds that kicked off my career.
Gee Atherton: Fort william, best crowd in the world.
Steve Smith: This is a hard one to answer at this point in time. After a long winter of training and wanting to race im very excited for everything!. Scotland and Andorra would probably be the top two. I love the track in fortbill and for some reason have raced horrible every year iv been there. Iv either raced injured or strait up crashed. Looking forward to a clean race for the opening round. Andorra is an all new track and that’s always something to get excited for.
Sam Hill: I’m most looking forward to ft William. I love the crowd there and I’m just really excited to get this season going. I’m on a new team with Chain Reaction cycles and want to get things going.
Josh Bryceland: Right now the opener at Fort William, just to get things underway and I couldn’t think of a better track to start the season. Also looking forward to Norway, the track was ace last year and I have unfinished business
Brook Macdonald: Fort William will be good to start it off with such big crowds and the atmosphere is amazing. But I’m excited for every race now counting down the days!!
Danny Hart: I guess just like most people Fort William, it has been a while since I raced a World Cup with getting hurt last season, I just won the National there last week, I am in good shape, I will have good people around me, what more could I want.
Mick Hannah: I’m excited for all of the races this year. I feel stronger than ever so I hope to have a good season overall. I’m excited for World Champs as well. I’ve done well there in the past. Unfortunately there a lot of people who talk trash on that track because of the 30 second sprint. The top guys all do the same time on that section anyway and there’s another 3 and a half minutes of downhill. It’s the fastest track on the circuit. It’s so much fun!
George Brannigan: A few stand out for me this year, South Africa being one just because where it is, its such a different place to anywhere else we go to so it pretty awesome to visit. Im also stoked for Norway of course, I guess you always look forward to where you have done well.
Rachel Atherton: Right now Probably Fort William because its the first one and in my mind! But i really look forward to Val Di sole because it is such a gnarly track, you have to go from barely being able to ride it the first day, to full world cup race speed and that is amazing to go through. I really liked Norway because it was new and a good mix, and i cant wait to see if the Vallnord track reaches its potential for the mountains there!
Emmeline Ragot: I think Fort William because I won there last year and I have amazing memories from that venue.
Myriam Nicole: Definitely Vallnord in Andorra, i love riding new track and I’m sure the event is going to be awesome! The Commencal HQ is only 50 meters away from the finish line, that´s so exciting!
Tracey Hannah: World Champs at South Africa, I love the track because it’s high speed and there’s nice jumps. I didn’t get to ride world champs in 2012 and it’s the most prestigious race of the whole year. I am looking forward to that the most.
Emilie Siegenthaler: I’m looking forward to go back to Andorra this year! I think it’s a great spot for downhill and the whole track is a bit different that what we’re used to riding over these past two seasons. It’s a bit shorter and very rooty, a bit like the stuff I ride at home. Oh and of course Hafjell, bummed I couldn’t race last year because of the collarbone injury. It’s dreamland there! Generally I love every track we have on the calendar this year, except maybe for South Africa but thinking about it maybe it might be a really open fight for the championship, so we’ll see.