Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) has bucked the trend of cross-country racers switching to 29in wheels, with great success. She's taken twoconsecutive US national cross-country titles (and one short track title) on her straightforward, 26in-wheeled Orbea Alma.
It's not to say she hasn't tried riding with big wheels, but they haven't yet struck her as the be-all and end-all. "I rode them last year at the Mellow Johnny's Classic in Texas," said Gould. "Mostly it was because everyone else was talking about how great they are."
Gould went on to win the 2010 US nationals in Granby, Colorado on her 26in Alma, a title which she successfully defended in Sun Valley, Idaho this summer. She gravitates toward her 26in bike because it's lighter and more maneuverable than Orbea's 29in equivalent; her ongoing success seems to reinforce the choice.
While her ride is commonly outfitted, albeit with high-end components, Gould has made a few key choices that help her go faster. Mid-season, when the latest [M980] 10-speed iteration of Shimano's XTR group became available, she switched from a triple to a double crankset. "I feel like I use all the gears more, and I can ride in the big ring more," she told Cyclingnews.
Gould cites a better ability to use all the gears and the general badass feeling that comes with the double crankset as its main benefits
"With the three-by [-10], I'd ride in my middle ring most of the time and just a little bit in the others," said Gould. "[With the two-by-10] the chainline is always better; I can ride in the big ring and the big cog in the back. I think it's awesome; it makes you feel tough too, like, 'argh, I'm in the big ring!'"
As for suspension, Gould prefers the simplicity that Fox's F100X Terra Logic fork offers. The inertia valve within the FIT damper allows the fork to do the thinking when it comes to unlocking and locking the compression circuit, and at it's essence it gives the rider one job – to simply pedal as hard as they can.
"I've been racing that fork since my first year on the team, with a break during the time when they [Fox Racing Shox] stopped making it," she said. "You don't have to think about it; it's just one less thing to have to think about when you're cross-eyed."
Fox's F100 FIT TerraLogic inertia controlled fork
Gould had a revelation this year when it came to one of the most important components on her bike – its tires. "That [Maxxis] Monorail is my favorite cross-country tire of all time, but I just discovered it this year," she said. "I've never noticed a huge difference between the Aspen and the CrossMark, but the Monorail has noticeably more traction in the corners and it's given me way more confidence descending and cornering. It rolls really fast too. For the range [of trail conditions] I've ridden this year it's been excellent."
One other notable touch found on Gould's bike is the 2012 Mavic CrossMax SLR wheelset. The new wheels are said to lose 20g per rim over the 2011 versions, despite being 2mm wider (19mm ID versus 17mm), and the rear incorporates Mavic's faster engaging ITS-4 freehub, which makes it more responsive to Gould's pedaling inputs.
As for personalizing her rig, Gould has a national champion sticker kit custom made by Victory Circle Graphics and a set of Renthal medium density motorcycle grips. "I've used these grips for years," she said. "And they're a very personal touch for me."
Gould's custom frame graphics come from Victory Circle Graphics, based in Colorado
This article originally appeared on BikeRadar