This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
Germany's forever stylish Manuel Fumic brings charisma and a touch of rebellion to the sport of Olympic-discipline cross-country mountain biking. First it was casual sunglasses; more recently Fumic (and teammate Marco Aurelio Fontana) raced at the pointy end of World Cups in baggy shorts.
Style is one thing, but Fumic's consistent results prove this friendly and funny racer isn't there just to participate. As a multiple-time German national champion and three-time Olympian in the discipline, Fumic is commonly found in the top five placings.
It was officially released just days ago, but Fumic has been racing Cannondale's latest dual suspension race platform – the Scalpel Si – for a number of months.
We sit down with Fumic in Cairns, Australia to discuss his new bike, something he's already well acquainted with having recently taken a stage win at the 2016 Absa Cape Epic (with help from teammate Henrique Avancini),
Pass the Scalpel
With the iconic Lefty fork, the bikes of the Cannondale Factory Team are certainly the most unique-looking in the field. Factor in the new asymmetric frame – intended to allow for short chainstays, space for two bottles and extremely progressive geometry – and the new Scalpel is right at the forefront of cross-country race bike design, and well-suited to the ever more technical courses.
Fumic tells BikeRadar that the new Scalpel Si is now far closer to that of the F-Si hardtail. "The F-SI and Scalpel SI are more or less similar in terms of geometry and you can jump between them," he says. "It feels comfortable [making the] switch."
Look over Fumic's bike and the most notable aspect is how 'stock' it is next to an off-the-shelf Scalpel Si Team.
"There's nothing prototype on my bike. It's just like what will be sold to customers," says Fumic of his still-new ride. "It's proven, nothing crazy light and just normal stuff anyone can buy.
"You can go into the bike shop and say, 'I want that Fumic bike' and you can buy it," adds Fumic proudly.
As for his personal setup, Fumic has his suspension fettled by Eighty-Aid tuning. This process starts with optimizing the 88 needle bearings within the Lefty, before focusing on the damping aspects such as lower friction seals, oil viscosity, and for Fumic, a different blow-off threshold setting.
"There's a few adjustments on the suspension which I use different, but anyone can get the same setup as I have. I have my lockouts set up slightly different, in that when I lock it out, I still have a little movement in my fork, so the bike feels more like a hardtail, rather than fully locked." Fumic says of his RockShox 'Full Sprint' hydraulic lockout setup, which sits by his left hand.
What will and won't change
"My setup depends on the ground, the soil, whether it's raining, slippery muddy, and so on," Fumic goes on.
"For each race course, I have a different setting – for Cairns I changed tyre and suspension pressure. Each tyre has a different way of acting, and so you must adjust to each course. Rebound and compression doesn't change too much on the suspension though," he says.
For tyres, Fumic typically goes with Schwalbe Racing Ralphs in a 2.25in width, unless it's muddy, at which point the Rocket Ron may be put into use. Set up tubeless with sealant, his pressures typically range between 21 and 22psi – proving that riders at this level really can feel the difference in a half a psi.
While there are aspects of Fumic's setup that change, he's quite particular about his chainring. "I like a 36t, I run it at each race, even when it's steeper. I struggle to find the right gear when we swap. I stick to it, and it's an area of my bike I typically keep the same."
This is potentially set to change though, as Fumic will soon make the move from SRAM's XX1 11-speed drivetrain with a 10-42t cassette, to Eagle with a 12-speed 10-50t range. As we've seen with Nino Schurter's 38t chainring, we suspect Fumic will go bigger too – though the German tells us he's still to ride Eagle.
Counting on it
Weighing in at 10.31kg (22.73lb), Fumic's new Scalpel is light for a 29er dual suspension bike, but perhaps not as light as you'd expect, especially given its 2.16kg frame (including rear shock, seat clamp, bolts and thru-axle). For example, we weighed Julien Absalon's BMC Fourstroke at 10.18kg, and that included a full electronic suspension and gearing setup, and a dropper post too.
"I don't care so much about weight," explains Fumic of his setup. "For example, I travelled 40 hours to get here and it costs a hell of a lot. You don't want to be training for half a year, seeking a result and then have issues. I care whether the bike works correctly and has a good feel."
Fumic's Enve M50 wheels perhaps represent a good example of that approach. At approximately 1,400g for the pair, they're competitive but not class leading in weight. More importantly though, they're probably the stiffest and strongest race wheel money can buy. And it's this lack of taking chances that can pay off, as for example, Absalon spent much of the Cairns world cup race playing catch up after an early flat tyre.
All that said, weight is important for eveyone and there's no point carrying extra grams where it's not needed. There are a few little tricks on Fumic's ride to drop the weight, such as using only four titanium bolts to hold the rotors in place and replacing unused bidon bolts with tape.
Another is pedal choice and without a team pedal sponsor, Fumic is free to choose his own. Stating he likes the feel and that they're lighter, he's gone with a forged alloy and titanium SPD model from Exustar.
So what does the rest of the season hold for Fumic?
"Rio is so far away, I'm not even thinking about it yet," he concludes.
"I'm lucky in that OI have my spot in the team, but in the end I just want a good solid World Cup season and make sure I'm close to Nino (Schurter) and (Julien) Absalon. If I can beat them at a World Cup, then I can beat them at the World Championships and then Olympics."