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Production vs prototype

Are there any World Cup bikes you can buy off the shelf?

“World Cups are the Formula One of downhill”. It’s one of those many nuggets of mountain bike ‘wisdom’ we hear bandied around on a near daily basis here at Dirt. But really, how true is it?

Words and photos: Steve Jones

Formula One represents the pinnacle of motorsport. The cars are proto cocktails constructed of parts that will more than likely never see full production. They are so specialised that the entire car becomes obsolete year-on-year.

There’s a general feeling that the bikes on the World Cup circuit are dripping in non-standard tech, that there is an unspoken agreement between media and teams to hide the secret parts that are still in development. But in reality there’s a different story going on. Yes, downhill is a hotbed of development for mountain (and road) bike technologies, but the bikes certainly aren’t a world away from the one you may have in your shed.

Even Santa Cruz’s ‘radical’ new V10 only had a new fork and back end. Paint job aside, the rest of the bike was a fairly standard V10 with an angleset to iron out the creases.

To prove this, we went around the pits and asked just how much of each bike was unavailable for the public to buy. We had a list of 35 components, including everything from spokes to frames, then worked out what percentage of them were stock. The results even surprised us with most of the bikes being virtually stock, even from big teams like Mondraker and Madison.

We should say there’s no judgement cast either way here. This isn’t an exercise to weed out companies that aren’t developing enough. In fact, if anything it’s the opposite. If the kit you can buy on the shelves is being raced at the highest level then surely that’s a good thing, right?

top Trumps: Production vs prototype

GREG WILLIAMSON

CUBE TWO 15 HPA

11% Prototype 89% Production

Greg has sized up to an XL Cube for 2017. It’s largely production except for a Fox Rad fork up front and some custom bits and pieces including the cut down shifter, toughed derailleur hanger bolt and taped up stays for a silent ride.

FINN ILES

SPECIALIZED DEMO

23% Prototype 77% Production

It’s pretty well known that the Specialized boys have been tinkering with different links in the Demo for several years. Many riders have said that they also have used different carbon lay-ups in the front end of the Demo.

From what we’re told Finn’s bike has a standard front end. It does have many more special parts however including the aforementioned link, prototype Ohlins fork and damper, a custom built DT wheelset, an angleset plus that striking paint job. The bike is finished with a full accompaniment of titanium bolts.

GREG MINNAAR

SANTA CRUZ V10 29

31% Prototype 69% Production

The new 29” wheel V10 looks stunningly well balanced. The team say that they have maintained the same geometry from the 27.5 bike but we would like to follow that up. By using a stock 27.5 frame, the V10 was too slack which is where the prototype Buzzworks angleset comes into play to steepen the bike back up. The bike features a fully re-worked swingarm and linkage.

Lots of new parts around the V10 include the Fox fork, although standard shock absorber, custom built deep section 29” rims from Enve, an especially silent chainguide sans lower roller and finished off with a stunning paintjob.

BRENDAN FAIRCLOUGH

SCOTT GAMBLER

26% Prototype 74% Production

It might all seem pretty stock but there’s some neat touches on the Dog’s Gambler and just look at that Deathgrip paintjob fresh off Leicester Square. The Scott features the custom carbon swingarm and link, yet-to-be-launched Brendan sweep Deity bars, his old leather seat, and the centre piece being the super soft, one-race only Sunday best grips.

LAURIE GREENLAND

MONDRAKER SUMMUM

9% Prototype 91% Production

The bike that nailed the three podium spaces in last year’s World Championship is surprisingly one of the most stock bikes on the circuit. Greenland was quick to quip ..”well they got it right didn’t they!”

Indeed the Summum broke new territory when it was launched as an ali bike many years ago and has seen a steady development. Being a top ranked rider, Laurie has a Fox RAD fork up front, a new paintob which will be stock next year and an angleset which makes a medium 12mm longer up front. Not much else to add. Go and get yourself a Summum and win a World Cup. Easy.

TROY BROSNAN

CANYON SENDER

17% Prototype 83% Production

As one of Sram’s key riders, it’s unsurprising that Brosnan gets some nom-stock components on the Sender. These mainly come in the shifting and fork department but one of the key changes on Troy’s bike is the linkage adapted to run the coil Vivid. Apart form the nuts and bolts it’s only the new Mavic Deemax system that stands this bike out from production.

REMI THIRION

COMMENCAL DH

23% Prototype 77% Production

Commencal were pretty cagey about Remi’s new bike, but there are many changes going on that look set to become production next season. The frame has been adapted to take the new RockShox damper with changes to length and stroke. It goes deeper than that with some of the Commencal R&D working on the relationship between tyre and suspension with the new Hutchinson tyres central to this. Thirion has upped a size on the Commencal like so many World Cup riders this season – his new medium is more like the current large.

AARON GWIN

YT TUES

20% Prototype 80% Production

Pretty standard stuff from the reigning World Cup champion but Gwin has gone for an XL Tues this year to defend his title. Gwin obviously gets the Blackbox shifter from Sram, and a Fox RAD fork as the brand has been central to his success over the years. With right hand man John Hall throwing in a few non-standard nus and bolts, a YT Mob seat and a whole lotta love, it’s a bike closer to production than many believe.

DYLAN BOUREL

DECATHLON ROCKRIDER RR5.1

100% Production

No change for Bourel for 2017 running the tried and tested 24” from Decathlon, a bike which he took to considerable success on the streets of Lourdes last season. Dylan is pioneering a new Sram six speed system on this all-steel machine.

MICK HANNAH

POLYGON DH9 LITE

11% Prototype 89% Production

Mick’s frame is now over 200g lighter than the previous production Polygon as he carries the number 13 plate for 2017. Custom brakes and discs plus a scattering of steel and titanium bolts and a prototype cassette (at 10 -20T) is all that separates Hannah’s bike from production.

BEN REID

PROPAIN DIRT ZELVY

9% Prototype 91% Production

Propain have worked hard with the Dirt team to develop this bike and, as we’ve found with testing, it’s right up there as one of the finest production bikes on the market – hence not much change from a bike that has only just come out of prototyping. There’s only a custom blue paintjob, fork and damper setting the German flier apart form production.

MANON CARPENTER

RADION SWOOP

3% Prototype 97% Production

Gavin Black showed us a round Manon’s close to stock Swoop only to be busted at the last minute by the custom paintjob. Close one, but then the bike offers great geometry with solid componentry out of the box. Don’t be surprised to see this bike on top of the podium at some point this season.

Brook MacDonald

GT FURY

9% Prototype 91% Production

GT have removed the linkage out of the Fury to get some flex back into a bike that, at times, can be a touch too stiff but marvellously fast once you get trucking. Still, its pretty stock apart from the square nipples and raw finish.

JACK READING

NICOLAI G19

11% Prototype 89% Production

If the G19 had been featured a year ago it might well have been heavily weighted toward the prototype side of the business. This year the G19 is production, and apart from green anodising which they say is for Hope racers only. It might well look factory but is in fact pretty stock.

TAHNEE SEAGRAVE

TRANSITION TR 500

14% Prototype 86% Production

With Tony Seagrave left in charge of the pits during track walk there was not much to chat about while demolishing the team biscuits. Until that is we saw the custom wheelbuilding, RAD fork from Fox and a ton of pretty nuts and bolts.

EDDIE MASTERS

BERGAMONT STRAIGHT LINE

3% Prototype 97% Production

Modelled by team boss Kurt MacDonald, we thought the Bergamont was the only bike featured that was 100% out of the box prototype. That is until we saw an extra tube valve drilled into the wheels. That said, we cannot wait to get rolling on this bike.

SAM BLENKINSOP

NORCO TBC

20% Prototype 80% Production

Blenky’s spannerman Darren Burns took us ronud as the rest of the team were very sheepish over this fully prototype chassis (hence we had to shoot the bike from outside the tent). It seems as if the new carbon rig from Norco looks set for launch this season with the team only needing a few more races under their belt before this happens.

CONOR FEARON

KONA OPERATOR DL

16% Prototype 84% Production

Only months after launching the new Operator, Kona have switched up a gear on the already very impressive suspension package. Fearon is known to have run the higher oil flow RockShox Kage for two seasons but the new chassis is to accommodate the new Metric damper which is altered in stroke. Check out the new seat too.

MARC BEAUMONT

SARACEN MYST

3% Prototype 97% Production

Close, only the Alex Lovett modified pedals prevent the Myst from being full production with team spannerman drilling in some pins for Slugger’s hoofs.

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