There really isn’t much on the face of the earth that is cooler than a race bike. Granted, we’re sort of biased BUT a properly pampered and preened race bike being rolled out of a tented pit area first thing in the morning, a full day’s worth of stage racing ahead of it is enough to stir the soul of just about anybody with as much as a casual interest in cycling.
We recently rediscovered a lost gem in the bowels of an aged EWS harddrive. Inside a corner marked ‘unknown’ was a single folder marked ‘bikes’ and in it, hidden from prying eyes in a digital garage where dust could not coat them, was this selection of race bikes from round two of the 2016 Enduro World Series in Bariloche, Argentina.
Now, 'only' four years have past - it's not that long ago, right? Well, if you ever wanted proof at the kind of pace that enduro race bike development has been moving at then you need only scroll down…
Cecile Ravanel’s Commencal Meta AM V4
When we finally get the 2020 series underway, Isabeau Courdurier will be going for the future pub quiz stat of being the first defending elite women’s champ to do so on a different bike brand than the one on which she took her previous titles on board. Tracy Moseley’s three year dominance came solely on Trek Remedy’s whilst Cecile Ravanel’s triple titles all arrived courtesy of Commencal Meta AM’s. The all-alloy chassis has changed little over the years, only the switch to 29in wheels in 2018 really significantly altering the fundamental recipe much. Equally, there are very few weak links on the yellow and black machine pictured above.
Francois Bailly Maitre’s BMC Trailfox
Some of the bikes in this collection look, well, let’s just say ‘fresher’ than others. Francois Bailly Maitre’s BMC Trail Fox, we put it to you, is amongst the freshest. Wearing a Michelin Wild Mud front tyre and a Fox Racing Shox coil sprung rear shock it paints a vivid picture of what the team were expecting conditions to be like in Argentina. FBM brought the BMC home in ninth.
Richie Rude’s Yeti SB6
The SB6 arrived two years into Yeti’s adventure with their Switch Infinity suspension system that sees a translating lower pivot swap directions as the bike moves through its travel. It sounds complicated but Richie Rude made good sense of it on his way to the victory in Bariloche. He beat Martin Maes by just over seven seconds. Notice the longer stem and saddle slammed as far back as possible to help give Rude as much room as possible to operate. A blend of Shimano’s XTR and Saint drivetrains take care of stopping and going.
Curtis Keene’s Specialized S-Works Enduro
As mentioned, some bikes wear their age better than others and the then aging angles of the ‘X-Wing’ Enduro were soon to be replaced by the 2017 model which featured a raft of ‘longer, slacker, neater’ crimps and polishes. Specialized at this stage were forging ahead with their in-house Roval carbon fibre wheel program alongside their own tyre developments. Keene’s bike is pictured here wearing a Quarq power meter and an inner tube taped to the top tube which became so synonymous with this period of racing.
Nico Lau’s Cube Stereo 160
German brand Cube are one of the marques to have been represented by a top flight race team on every EWS stage ever and the Stereo is the bike that they have always utilised. The Stereo at that stage was available in a range of travel increments and materials with the team using the 160mm carbon fibre range-topper. What makes this bike unusual in this group is that it’s one of only two using a front mech. Three seasons into the EWS existing and the move to single ring set-ups was nigh on complete.
Justin Leov’s Canyon Strive
The Strive is another German bike with serious race lineage with the machine piloted to oh-so-nearly the title by Florian Nicolai in 2019 wearing the same badge. Strive’s have always had a great aesthetic to back up how well they work on the stages. Leov’s machine features a slammed Renthal cockpit alongside silenced cables and a bottle cage capable of carrying a spare Co2 cannister. Blacked-out tyre logos are very, very ‘race bike’.
Martin Maes’ GT Sanction Team
Martin Maes has raced for GT for pretty much his whole career and whilst other big names have come and gone, he has stuck with the American brand. A meaty Schwalbe Magic Mary is tasked with keeping the front end planted via a Fox Racing Shox 36 fork whilst a skinny Nobby Nic rear tyre in First Ride compound is tasked with anchoring up the flying Belgian.
Nico Vouilloz’ Lapierre Spicy Team
Downhill’s GOAT, Nico Vouilloz, is also unsurprisingly very fast on an enduro bike. He would have to settle for eleventh in Bariloche however but he was already emersed deeply in the process of developing Lapierre’s latest Spicy. The 27.5in wheeled bike featured a titanium springed RockShox rear shock complete with a spring bearing, SRAM’s Roam wheelset and a Fabric saddle.
Damien Oton’s Devinci Spartan
The 2019 season was the worse for the lack of Damien Oton, the Frenchman having broken his back in training before it got underway. Second in the overall three times underlines just how scarily fast and consistent a rider he is and we’re looking forward to seeing him back to full speed in 2020. When we do though, he will be on an Orbea and not a Devinci which we’re so used to seeing him race on. The Spartan of 2016 shares a lot of lines with the Canadian brands Wilson DH machine. In this shot, Oton’s rear tyre is mounted back to front. We’re not sure why but we’re presuming that it was intentional.
Casey Brown’s Trek Remedy
One of the biggest news stories to come out of Argentina that weekend was Casey Brown’s run to second place in the elite women’s race. The Canadian split the French pairing of Ravanel and Courdurier and even took a stage win on the final test. Her bike is another on Shimano’s XTR Di2 program and features a front mech. Casey also ran with the virtually bombproof Fox D.O.S.S dropper post which featured the now weirdly agricultural looking under-saddle trigger mechanism.
Florian Nicolai’s Rocky Mountain Altitude
Florian Nicolai now stands as the only rider to have contested every single stage of the EWS, ever. It’s a remarkable stat and in 2016, he was campaigning a Rocky Mountain Altitude. The Altitude was an all-carbon fibre bike with 150mm of rear wheel travel, 160mm of front wheel travel and a head angle adjustable between 66.6 and 68.3 degrees. The Fox Float rear shock in Nicolai’s bike, even with its piggy back, looks pretty tiny but interestingly, it is running a bar-mounted lock-out lever.
Mark Scott’s Santa Cruz Hightower
The rider formerly known as ‘The Angry Bird’, Mark Scott had just completed his move to Santa Cruz Bicycles and was still finding his feet with the new 29in wheeled Hightower set-up. Mark gets bonus nerd points for colour matching his bottle to his frame and for having an ANVL Components saddle. The Santa Cruz VPP platform would remain virtually unchanged until the introduction of the then new Megatower in 2019.
Josh Carlson’s Giant Reign Advanced
A big, blue Giant? Must be Carlson’s… Long-time Giant Factory Off-Road mainstay, Josh Carlson would bring his Reign home in 15th at the second round of 2016, the stages clearly suiting the seriously strong Aussie. One of the few mixed material bikes in this gallery, the Reign featured a carbon fibre front triangle and an alloy rear end. Carlson has long been a fan of coil sprung rear suspension too so his running a RockShox Vivid R2C should come as little surprise. His remains the only bike in the gallery to be running a frame bag however. It was a custom-made unit simply known as ‘The Frother’.
Isabeau Courdurier’s Sunn Kern
Now THIS is a race bike! Isabeau Courdurier’s diminutive size resulted in Sunn’s engineers crafting a fully custom front end for her Kern which would equate to an XS size which never made production. They had to fabricate a two-piece seat tube which, although it added weight, allowed Isabeau to fully attack the stages.
Jerome Clementz’ Cannondale Jekyll
‘JC’ became synonymous with the green machine and the Jekyll’s rear end held much intrigue. Fox Racing Shox created a bespoke DYAD RT2 rear shock which featured two air chambers capable of producing around 160mm or 90(ish)mm of rear wheel travel at the flick of a lever. It wasn’t simply a travel adjust feature though, the short travel mode raised the rear of the bike slightly, steepening its angles in an attempt to make it a more agile climber. Clementz utilised a SRAM X0 GripShift shifter to toggle between the two. He finished sixth in Bariloche.
Find out more about the tech of the Enduro World Series below along with how Covid-19 is effecting the scheduling of the 2020 season below.