This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine.
Downhill world champion Danny Hart hasn't sat on his actual race bike since he whipped into the finishing area in Champery, Switzerland, in September. Instead, it's been flying the Giant flag at expos all around the world since then. The bike Hart had prepared for the UK National Champs is almost identical though, and that's the one that you see here.
Hart started the year on a standard large Giant Glory frameset, but changed to a medium early on. "The large fitted me well, but the taller guys on the team needed something bigger so the sizing got changed. It's custom geometry, but I can't tell you the exact figures," he explained.
Giant DH team manager Joe Staub was a bit more revealing, but again wouldn't tell us exact figures. "Danny is riding a prototype frame," he said. "The geometry is a bit lower in the bottom bracket, slacker in the head angle and longer in the front centre. The tubes themselves are the same as stock."
While some riders are constant bike setup and component fettlers, Hart concentrates more on how he's riding than what he's riding. Jon Cancelier, head of RockShox's BlackBox race development programme, told us: "Danny likes to get his bike set up and then leave it alone. He's run the same basic setup and shock weight all year, apart from Sea Otter and the South African World Cup round [a notoriously fast, relatively smooth course], where he used the Vivid Air shock."
As for suspension specifics, the basic 203mm-travel (8-inch) Maestro twin linkage setup is unchanged from stock, but the rear shock and fork are tweaked. "Danny runs a stock Vivid shock with a 350lb titanium spring and our M/M [medium rebound and medium compression] tune," said Cancelier. "I also make some internal tweaks to help the shock better suit Danny's riding style and the Giant Glory frame. Up front is a BoXXer World Cup fork with the BlackBox-only DLC upper tube finish, with some internal tuning. As far as what exactly is inside, that'll have to remain a mystery of BlackBox..."
While Hart likes to stay consistent with his bike throughout the year, the extreme demands of the Champery course meant the team tried some specific tweaks during the race week. "At the Worlds, we tried much softer springs and larger rear tyres than at the front to get more braking traction for such a steep course," Staub said. "But after the rain came, we went with a very standard 'mud race' setup."
One very important and visible part of the race setup was Harts's custom hot patch Danny Hart versions of Schwalbe's Dirty Dan mud tyres. Hart explained that it wasn't just the labeling that was unique. "The tyre is normally a triple compound mix but for Champery the tyres were the same soft compound all the way through, so they still worked as well in the cold."
The other mud-beating feature on Hart's bike was the brakes, which featured neat carbon fibre covers to shield the pads from spray. "His mechanic Paul Miles made the calliper covers," said Cancelier. "That kid is always looking for an edge, and was a big part of getting Danny up there this season."
Sharp-eyed readers will also notice the DT Swiss rims are a different colour to those on his world championship bike. "Danny uses the softer 500g rim for racing and the 600g rim for practice mostly," said Staub. "We used the white rims to tie the whole color scheme of the bike together with Danny's UK kit. They were stock rims."
Hart's world champs run down the Champery hillside saw him not only secure the fabled rainbow stripes but also cement his position as the most technically gifted and stylish racer in the world. We're looking forward to watching him defend his rainbow stripes when the 2012 season kicks off in South Africa in March.
Long and low: This prototype medium Glory frame is longer, lower and slacker than standard, but the actual tubeset (including the new oversized Overdrive 2 head tube) is the same. Judging from what they didn't say, you'll have to wait until 2013 to see the geometry changes on production bikes
Weight loss: Hart's RockShox BoXXer World Cup fork uses an air spring, and the Vivid rear shock gets a titanium coil spring to save weight. All the bolts except the stem bolts are titanium too, which brings bike weight to just over 36lb, with CrankBrothers Mallet clipless pedals and DT Swiss rims.
Keep it tight: Hart runs wired-on rather than lock-on versions of ODI's Ruffian grips for maximum security. He also uses an RRP fork splash guard, custom carbon/Kevlar brake calliper covers and an extended helmet peak to cope with rain and mud.
Gearing up: SRAM's X0 DH drivetrain is now available to buy, complete with carbon crank arms and short-cage rear mech. Hart runs a 38-tooth chainring with short 165mm crank arms for extra ground clearance. The chain device is an MRP G2 SL in custom team colours.
Signature rubber: Hart's Dirty Dan tyres don't just take his name. Schwalbe have a specific race development team to make sure that his rubber matches his riding. Everyone who watched Hart flow and carve where everyone else floundered would agree they know what they're doing.
Brake dance: SRAM BlackBox athletes can choose any brake combination they want, and Hart runs Avid Elixir levers paired with Code callipers. The brakes are set with very close reach for maximum bar grip, with 200mm rotors both ends.
A big thank you to Dave Stenson of SSI UK and Steel House Redcar for his help with the location of this shoot. Best of luck with the blast furnace reopening, Dave.