Like many lighter riders, current UCI U23 cross-country mountain bike world champion Burry Stander (Specialized Factory Team) places a high importance on equipment weight since it comprises a greater percentage of total mass than it does for bigger competitors. Little tweaks here and there may only shave a few grams but when you only weigh 65kg (143lb), it doesn't take much to feel a difference.
Regardless, even Stander understands that weight isn't everything as he added a 29er hardtail – with its heavier wheels and all – to his quiver of race machines just this season. This proved to be the perfect choice for last month's high-speed and non-technical Sea Otter Classic course, too, where he raced the new bike for the first time and won in a three-up sprint over Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain).
Old habits die hard, though, as Stander's Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper Carbon HT 29er is no boat anchor and displays a wealth of tweaks to bring it down to an impressive 9.23kg (20.35lb) fighting weight.
The foundation is Specialized's top-end S-Works Stumpjumper Carbon HT 29er carbon frame, claimed to weigh just 1,130g (2.49lb) with a tapered head tube, chunky down tube and chain stays, and integrated bottom bracket. Mounted up front is the Specialized/RockShox collaborative Reba S29 fork, which uses stock upper tubes and lower legs but a carbon fiber crown and steerer assembly and inertia valve damper internals for a racier feel, especially in combination with Stander's preferred high air pressure.
Componentry comes mostly from SRAM's ultralight XX 2x10 group but with a few substitutions in key areas. New XX-compatible Rotor Q-Rings are bolted to Specialized's own S-Works carbon fiber crankarms with Carbon-Ti bolts, and the rear XX brake caliper adapter is mounted with red-anodized alloy hardware.
The Specialized label is also applied to the Roval Control ES 29 wheelset with its tubeless-compatible rims, 2:1 lacing pattern and interchangeable front hub fitments; the still-prototype Renegade 29 low-knob tires set at 26psi and converted to tubeless; the carbon fiber S-Works crankset; the S-Works Pro-Set stem; a single carbon fiber bottle cage; and the new Romin SL saddle.
Specialized's S-Works MTB cranks are among the lightest available.
More European touches come courtesy of the Syntace Duraflite 31.8 Carbon flat handlebar with Extralite bar ends, the carbon fiber AX-Lightness seatpost, and a carbon fiber headset cap assembly from Carbon-Ti. Finishing things off is crankbrothers' revamped Eggbeater 11 pedals.
At 1.74m (5' 9") tall, though, Stander clearly has some issues getting the front end low enough for his liking. In addition to the flat bar, the stem is set at an unusually aggressive negative 16-degree angle and even the upper headset cover is removed to save a few millimeters.
Fit issues aside, Stander's immediate success on his new 29er means we'll likely see him on it more as the season progresses.