Skip to main content

Pro bike: Helen Wyman's Kona Super Jake

Image 1 of 24

Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Team) races on a carbon fiber Kona Super Jake with a SRAM Red 22 HRD group and Zipp carbon tubulars

Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Team) races on a carbon fiber Kona Super Jake with a SRAM Red 22 HRD group and Zipp carbon tubulars (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 2 of 24

Helen Wyman was instrumental in the development of Challenge's Chicane tread design

Helen Wyman was instrumental in the development of Challenge's Chicane tread design (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 3 of 24

Just in case you needed to know the geo a glance...

Just in case you needed to know the geo a glance... (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 4 of 24

Crankbrothers Eggbeater pedals continue to be a favorite of 'cross racers, as they're virtually impossible to clog

Crankbrothers Eggbeater pedals continue to be a favorite of 'cross racers, as they're virtually impossible to clog (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 5 of 24

A SRAM chain catcher provides a little bit of insurance in case things go sideways

A SRAM chain catcher provides a little bit of insurance in case things go sideways (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 6 of 24

Orange zip-ties complement the paint scheme nicely

Orange zip-ties complement the paint scheme nicely (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 7 of 24

A bit of electrical tape keeps the valve stem from rattling inside the deep-section carbon rim

A bit of electrical tape keeps the valve stem from rattling inside the deep-section carbon rim (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 8 of 24

See that bit of green on the brake pad backing plates? Helen Wyman runs SwissStop pads, not standard SRAM ones

See that bit of green on the brake pad backing plates? Helen Wyman runs SwissStop pads, not standard SRAM ones (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 9 of 24

Helen Wyman often mixes the front and rear brake pad compounds depending on how she wants the brakes to perform and feel

Helen Wyman often mixes the front and rear brake pad compounds depending on how she wants the brakes to perform and feel (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 10 of 24

Helen Wyman has several sets of Chicane tires available to her, including this earlier version that uses a different intermediate tread shape than what ended up in production

Helen Wyman has several sets of Chicane tires available to her, including this earlier version that uses a different intermediate tread shape than what ended up in production (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 11 of 24

Despite being at the top of her sport, Helen Wyman is never too busy to sign some rider cards and old numbers for young fans

Despite being at the top of her sport, Helen Wyman is never too busy to sign some rider cards and old numbers for young fans (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 12 of 24

Helen Wyman uses rotors from UK company Carver (which are essentially rebadged discs from Taiwanese manufacturer Ashima). These aggressively milled-out rotors are her preferred setup for dry courses, while muddy conditions bring out discs with completely solid braking surfaces for reduced pad wear

Helen Wyman uses rotors from UK company Carver (which are essentially rebadged discs from Taiwanese manufacturer Ashima). These aggressively milled-out rotors are her preferred setup for dry courses, while muddy conditions bring out discs with completely solid braking surfaces for reduced pad wear (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 13 of 24

Standard SRAM Red 22 hydraulic brake calipers are used at both ends, but the stock pads and rotors are traded out

Standard SRAM Red 22 hydraulic brake calipers are used at both ends, but the stock pads and rotors are traded out (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 14 of 24

The Super Jake may be Kona's flagship 'cross racer, but that doesn't mean the company can't build a little utility into it, too. Check out the tidy fender mounts on the back of the fork blades

The Super Jake may be Kona's flagship 'cross racer, but that doesn't mean the company can't build a little utility into it, too. Check out the tidy fender mounts on the back of the fork blades (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 15 of 24

The meaty carbon fork is matched to a relatively stout-looking wishbone rear end

The meaty carbon fork is matched to a relatively stout-looking wishbone rear end (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 16 of 24

Helen Wyman prefers the feel of traditional-bend bars

Helen Wyman prefers the feel of traditional-bend bars (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 17 of 24

SRAM has apparently exorcised the demons of its hydraulic road brake system

SRAM has apparently exorcised the demons of its hydraulic road brake system (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 18 of 24

An all-aluminum cockpit for Helen Wyman

An all-aluminum cockpit for Helen Wyman (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 19 of 24

Whereas many SRAM-sponsored 'cross racers are moving to the company's single-ring drivetrain, Helen Wyman prefers the extra range of the traditional 2x system

Whereas many SRAM-sponsored 'cross racers are moving to the company's single-ring drivetrain, Helen Wyman prefers the extra range of the traditional 2x system (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 20 of 24

While the standard SRAM Red 22 rear derailleur is lighter than the new Force CX1 model, it unfortunately doesn't have the latter's trick clutched pulley cage

While the standard SRAM Red 22 rear derailleur is lighter than the new Force CX1 model, it unfortunately doesn't have the latter's trick clutched pulley cage (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 21 of 24

Helen Wyman swaps the standard 46t outer chainring for a 44-tooth model from FSA

Helen Wyman swaps the standard 46t outer chainring for a 44-tooth model from FSA (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 22 of 24

Cables are internally routed through removable ports

Cables are internally routed through removable ports (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 23 of 24

Zipp Service Course tape provides a grippy surface to hold on to

Zipp Service Course tape provides a grippy surface to hold on to (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
Image 24 of 24

Best rider cards ever? Quite possibly

Best rider cards ever? Quite possibly (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar 

Two-time European cyclocross champion and eight-time UK champion Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Team) thrives in the horrifically muddy conditions that exemplify cyclocross – a fact further driven home by her choice to base herself in cold, wet, and dreary Belgium instead of her native England. Traction is at a premium on such treacherous ground, but she's gone to considerable lengths to ensure she retains as much control as possible.

Tires are everything 'cross and Wyman feels fortunate to have a highly supportive sponsor in Challenge to keep her Kona Super Jake carbon chassis and Zipp wheels properly outfitted. In addition to offering a wide range of treads and casing constructions, the company has gone so far as to create a unique tread pattern just for Wyman. The recently introduced Chicane model, in particular, was born out of a custom project to give her an advantage in terms of straight-line speed when the conditions allowed while still including full-height side knobs for cornering grip.

Tire sponsor Challenge will apparently build for Wyman just about anything she wants

Wyman's husband – and mechanic – Stefan showed BikeRadar a set of earlier test tires that she still races on today. In true prototype fashion, these were built with three-piece, hand-cut treads that were then glued on to the casing.

Disc brakes continue to be a point of debate in the world of cyclocross, but Wyman sits firmly on the supportive side of the fence. Wyman does prefer the greater range of a traditional 2x drivetrain, however, and so her Super Jake is fitted with a SRAM Red 22 HRD group instead of the newer Force CX1 package used by some of the company's other sponsored racers.

Helen Wyman is firmly in the pro-disc brake camp. Note the green backing plates of her aftermarket SwissStop brake pads

"The braking advantage you get, how late you can brake, and then the confidence you have in them – for a rider like Helen, it's really fantastic," Stefan Wyman told BikeRadar. "It can transform the way you ride."

A few key changes separate Wyman's Red 22 HRD setup from what normally comes out of the box. Instead of the usual 46/36t or 46/39t chainrings, she goes with a tighter 44/39t arrangement that includes an FSA outer ring (since SRAM doesn't offer a 44t to fit). Likewise, the stock pads and rotors are swapped out for SwissStop pads and discs are sourced from Carver Bikes in Maine (although they're essentially rebadged units from Taiwanese manufacturer Ashima).

Wyman keeps two different pad compounds and rotor shapes on hand to suit the course conditions, too. In particular, muddy races call for rotors with no cutouts on the brake track.

Wyman switches between vented and solid rotors depending on the course conditions

"We found that the braking performance is really greatly increased, and with the solid rotor there's almost no brake [pad] wear in a muddy race," he said. "It's unbelievable how it changes the longevity of your brake pads."

Despite what he sees as a huge performance advantage, Stefan Wyman admits that there's still little sign of a sea change when it comes to the European arena.

"In America, you have a lot of individuals [single-person teams], but the market in Europe, in terms of the racers, is driven by a few big, dominant teams," he said. "You're dealing with people that have been setting up 'cross bikes for 25 years and it's a big change. In Belgium, there's a big feeling that 'cross is traditional and it should be this, and it should be that. It's going to take a big change in attitude."

An all-alloy cockpit and a traditional-bend bar for Helen Wyman

"There's also the misconception that there's a weight penalty with discs. This bike is 6.97kg [15.37lb] and that's not a weight penalty. It's less than 200g over the weight limit. There's absolutely no reason not to change over, apart from a lack of knowledge of how it works and the traditional elements of it, really."

Regardless of which side of the disc brake fence you sit on, one thing is certain: Wyman continues to tear it up this year, and we're looking forward to seeing how things shake out as the season draws to a close.

For more information on Helen Wyman, head over to her website: www.helenwyman.com.

Complete bike specifications
Frame: Kona Super Jake, 53cm
Fork: Kona Full Carbon CX Race Disc
Headset: FSA Orbit ZS, 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in tapered
Stem: Zipp Service Course, 100mm x -7°
Handlebar: Zipp Service Course SL-88, 40cm (c-c)
Front brake: SRAM Red 22 hydraulic disc w/ 140mm Carver rotor, SwissStop pads
Rear brake: SRAM Red 22 hydraulic disc w/ 140mm Carver rotor, SwissStop pads
Brake levers: SRAM Red 22 HRD
Rear derailleur: SRAM Red 22
Shift levers: SRAM Red 22 HRD DoubleTap
Cassette: SRAM PG-1170, 11-28T
Chain: SRAM Red 22
Crankset: SRAM Red 22 BB30, 172.5mm, 39/44T with FSA outer chainring
Bottom bracket: SRAM PF30
Pedals: Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11
Wheelset: Zipp 303 Firecrest Tubular Disc
Front tire: Challenge Chicane Team Edition, 33mm
Rear tire: Challenge Chicane Team Edition, 33mm
Saddle: WTB Silverado SLT
Seatpost: Zipp SLSpeed, 25mm offset

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.75m (5ft 9in)
Rider's weight: 56kg (123lb)
Saddle height from BB, c-t: 760mm
Saddle setback: 50mm
Seat tube length (c-t): 532mm
Seat tube length (c-c): 480mm
Tip of saddle nose to center of bars (next to stem): 535 mm
Saddle-to-bar drop: 9­0mm
Head tube length: 135mm
Top tube length (effective): 550mm
Weight: 6.97kg (15.37lb) 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1