After blazing the downhill portion of last month's Downieville Classic on his Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon and finishing nine seconds faster than his closest rival, Mark Weir climbed onto the top step of the podium wearing a shiny boxer’s robe embroidered with the words, ‘Can’t be beat – Champ – Won’t be beat.”
Weir didn’t race at Downieville – an event he helped put on the map – in 2008 or 2009, but he came back this year with a vengeance, finishing sixth in the cross-country race, on a heavier bike with much more suspension travel than his competitors, as well as winning the downhill.
This is a man who revels in the concept of all-mountain racing and paved the way for the likes of Ross Schnell and Nathan Riddle to make mountain bike careers somewhere between the worlds of traditional cross-country and downhill racing.
Weir’s Nomad Carbon suits his style of muscling up a climb, only to go as fast as possible once the trail turns down. Not only does his size medium bike have lots of travel – 6.3in (160mm) front and rear) – but he chooses to equip it with a heavy-duty, downhill flavoured spec.
At Downieville this consisted of a a coil over Fox RC4 shock with titanium spring, 40-tooth single chainring and MRP G2 chain guide, WTB Wolverine 2.2in TCS FR dual-ply reinforced tyres, Gravity Dropper Turbo remote adjust seatpost and extra wide 740mm PRO Vanderham alloy downhill bars.
The one place where Weir did save weight was with his new, custom WTB Stryker wheels. Though WTB do make an all-mountain version, he went with the weight savings afforded by the sub-1,500g cross-country model.
As an example of Weir’s preference for downhill performance, he had always eschewed Shimano's top-end XTR brakes in favour of their ultra-powerful four-piston Saint units. That was until he tried the new XTR Trail groupset.
“With a 180mm rotor the new brakes have the same power as Saint with a 160mm, but with way less weight,” said Weir. “The short lever really puts it in the wheel house. I’ve got shorter fingers and I’ve had no issues staying on them. I’ve had no pump with the brakes; no issues at all.”
WTB's Valcon Team Carbon saddle atop Gravity Dropper's Turbo adjustable seat post.
The new XTR brakes weren’t the only items that Weir was raving about after his downhill win. He also made mention of the new drivetrain’s shifting efficiency and chain management capabilities.
“The new Shimano is clean,” he said. “The shifting is much more positive; it instantly drops down each gear. Since I started racing those last two gears (the 13 and 11T cogs) have always been useless to me. It doesn’t matter if it’s Shimano or SRAM, it burbles around down there. This new stuff slaps in hard and stays there. It’s like downshifting a good car, you know you’re in the gear.”
Weir would like it if Downieville was slightly more skewed toward the downhill portion of the race. As it stands, the overall all-mountain winner is decided by overall time, and even with the downhill win, Weir found himself close to eight-and-a-half minutes away from Giant Factory Team's Carl Decker, who raced a 29in-wheeled Giant Anthem X cross-country bike.
“The cross-country was a blowout by super horsepower,” he said “It should probably be based on a point schedule. He [Decker] won the all-mountain on the climb. It was a great ride and he’s a great rider, but the margin was huge. You shouldn’t just have to ride the downhill; it takes the race out of the race.”