When Santa Cruz introduced their new 29er downhill bike at the opening round of the World Cup series in France this April, the apparent increased speed granted by bigger wheels made it clear that anyone looking to be in the series title chase would have to up their game – or more precisely their wheel diameter.
Therefore it is no surprise to see the current World Champion, MS Mondraker Team’s Danny Hart, on wagon wheels for round two in Fort William, Scotland.
Having put in some serious testing time between Lourdes and Fort William, Hart feels confident and up to speed on this aluminium Mondraker Summum 29er. Aside from occasionally buzzing from the rear tyre, the move from his old carbon 27.5”-wheeled bike went smoothly and Hart is currently running almost identical settings.
As Danny’s mechanic Christian Schandl explains: “We started this project with Mondraker in the winter. The first time Danny was on a prototype was the end of March, early April 2017 for the first test ride. Then since the British Downhill Series race a few weeks ago here in Fort William we have been using the 29er. Danny’s been on the bike a lot in the last two weeks.”
Mondraker took the standard 27.5”-wheeled aluminium Summum – the aluminium version is a lot easier to modify than carbon – and changed some tube angles and lengths in order to fit bigger wheels. Basically they redesigned the bike using parts they already had.
Schandl continues: “It wasn’t a lot that had to be changed, because the geometry of the 27.5” Summum is already quite stretched and race-oriented. It was a lot easier than we first thought to fit bigger wheels in the frame.”
“Our goal was to have exactly the same rider position and geometry as we had on the smaller bike and we are very close to achieving that – not 100% with this frame, but the next evolution that comes later this year will be very, very nearly the same.
“Danny’s position, bar height, everything is almost exactly the same as it was on the small [27.5”] bike, but of course it feels a lot different with the bigger wheels: the cornering, braking points and acceleration are affected. He can go a lot faster in a straight line.”
“We thought at first that we’d have to adapt the suspension a lot to the bigger wheels, but in the end – or at least where we are right now – we didn’t have to alter much. That might change though because I think when a rider gets used to bigger wheels their speed will increase and we will have to change the settings.”
“Round One in Lourdes, for us, wasn’t really the track that needed a 29er to be quickest. The goal when we started the project late last year was to race 29er for the first time in Fort William. We said, OK take Lourdes off the radar, we can do that with the 27.5” bike no problem, but if there is a track where a 29er can be quicker that is Fort William.”
“So far Maxxis have been really good with supplying all the tyres we wanted, although it wasn’t easy for them because no company has really been prepared for this [wheel size change]. Tyres, rims, forks, everything; companies were not really prepared to deliver the parts so quickly.”