What is the difference between a race bike and a "normal" setup? We followed our team rider Christian with a camera during the assembly of his Madonna V2.2 and asked him for his tips. Sit back, open a glass of non-alcoholic milk and enjoy how a real racing weapon is created before your eyes.
Of course, you don't have to reinvent the bike just because you want to ride it at a few races. Nevertheless, there are a few factors that are weighted somewhat differently in racing compared to normal everyday riding - especially when you have to tackle the season as a privateer without team mechanics.
First and foremost, there is the subject of durability: It does no one any good if components or even the frame break after a short time of race-use, simply because weight was the top priority. The additional strain that a bike experiences in race use is often underestimated: Usually it is not only ridden more often and - on average - on harder tracks, but also in all weather conditions. Where limits are tested, crashes are inevitable and even without crashes, a stopwatch breathing down your neck can cause you to throw all your resolutions regarding a "material-friendly riding style" overboard. That's why experienced racers always opt for durability rather than an overly lightweight construction.
As a driven racer, it's tempting to go for the best of the best when it comes to components. However - and this brings us to the second tip - it is important not to lose sight of the price-performance ratio. Even if an XTR rear derailleur certainly brings a certain bling-bling with it, the annoyance is only the greater if it is destroyed in a hang-up. And no one has ever won a rough stage, while worrying about the carbon wheels, in which he had invested three months' salary. Also, it’s important to consider the whole season when budgeting and not to spend everything directly on the bike build. Aren't the 150 euros extra that a carbon handlebar might cost, for example, better invested if they are spent on more stress-free accommodation at the races, thanks to which you can roll to the start more refreshed? Are 20 grams of weight savings really more important than a sufficient supply of energy bars and other "race fuel", which might cost the same?
Good performance and strong support on the races - the RAAW // LEVELNINE GRAVITY TEAM relies on Fox for the suspension
However, no compromises should be made in the areas that have a significant influence on the bike's performance: Suspension and tires. This applies not only to the quality of the material itself, but also to the effort you put into setup and maintenance. The right set of tires with the right air pressure for the track conditions can work wonders. In the same way, a carefully tuned suspension can really shave off time. Some brands are even on site at races - such race support can be a huge advantage when it comes to spare parts, repairs or on-site service.
Speaking of service: Those who - presumably like the vast majority - do not have their own mechanic in their luggage but stand behind the bike stand themselves on the race weekend, should definitely make sure to choose components that are easy to clean and maintain and can also be quickly replaced in the event of a defect. Internally routed cables may sometimes look fancier, but if the spare brake has to be mounted quickly after a crash in training, externally routed cables are clearly the superior choice.
Perfectly cut cables
The actual assembly should of course be carried out with at least as much love and care as usual - after all, every bike is a small work of art and deserves to be treated as such! Christian always disassembles the rear end of new frames completely to grease each bearing additionally with waterproof grease. In addition, he uses an electric cordless drill to let the bearings in the bottom bracket come up to speed once. This way, the grease is distributed in the bearings even before the first use. The bottom bracket will turn easier and last longer. Much attention is also paid to the correct cable length. This not only ensures a tidy cockpit and enough space for the race plate, but also reduces the likelihood that the cables will be damaged in a crash.