Never ones to turn down an amazing opportunity, we jumped right on board when Fox Racing Shox invited a handful of us wannabe-fast-guys to hop on some of the world's quickest bikes. Just one day after the most grueling round of the Enduro World Series, held in Whistler, British Columbia, I experienced winner Jared Grave's and second place Nico Lau's bikes exactly as they were set up during the race. While the pilots were recovering, they nervously watched us hacks pedal off on their finely-tuned race machines. The bikes would have to wait one more day for a rest.
It's a bit strange to hop on a bike without setting it up for myself, but we were under strict instructions not to make any changes, with the exception of running our own pedals if necessary. Tire pressure? Leave it. Fork and shock settings? Hands off. Bar height, seat height? No and no. So with my setup complete, off I went on Nico's completely foreign Cube Stereo 160.
Nico’s setup is interesting. He runs the shock softer than the fork rather than balancing the feel of the suspension. This actually suits steep descending well since the front of the bike is weighted more. Even though the bike felt a bit small for my 6-foot frame, and the shock felt a bit soft for me and my beer belly, the setup was comfortable and fast. I definitely liked his call to run his fork at 180 millimeters. Lau normally pairs his 160-millimeter frame with a 170-millimter fork, but opted to step it up a notch for the steep stages in Whistler.
Taming the Beast–Graves’ Yeti SB6c
Jared Graves is friggin’ strong, so you’d think that his setup would be off-the-charts stiff. However, he chose to run things a bit softer than normal here to combat the chattery race course. Still, I found that the fork at–74 PSI–was still a bit too firm for me. I had trouble maintaining traction in the brake bump-riddled corners in the Whistler Bike Park. Jared opted to run his bike with a very balanced feel, with fork travel matching the SB6c’s 160 millimeters and spring rates feeling even-handed. The bike felt incredibly fast with pinpoint accurate handling. I felt like the faster I rode, the better Jared’s bike handled. If I eased off just a little, the bike would beg me to get back on the gas.