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Pro bike: José Antonio Hermida’s Merida Big.Nine

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José Antonio Hermida and his 2014 Merida Big.Nine Multivan Merida team bike

José Antonio Hermida and his 2014 Merida Big.Nine Multivan Merida team bike (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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Standard quick release on the front saves a little weight and makes for a slightly faster wheel change. Either way, Hermida's new RS-1 fork certainly has a thru-axle

Standard quick release on the front saves a little weight and makes for a slightly faster wheel change. Either way, Hermida's new RS-1 fork certainly has a thru-axle (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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Keeping the front end low is a height-reduced RockShox 80mm fork

Keeping the front end low is a height-reduced RockShox 80mm fork (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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The Spanish national colours feature on Hermida's Prologo saddle

The Spanish national colours feature on Hermida's Prologo saddle (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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Time ATAC XC12 pedals feature a titanium axle and carbon body construction

Time ATAC XC12 pedals feature a titanium axle and carbon body construction (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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A name very familiar to many mountain bike fans

A name very familiar to many mountain bike fans (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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height David Rome / Future Publishing Pro bike Jos Antonio Hermida s Merida Big Nine The Big.Nine frame uses a 132x12mm thru-axle. Hermida's bike features a super-light aftermarket skewer from FRM

height David Rome / Future Publishing Pro bike Jos Antonio Hermida s Merida Big Nine The Big.Nine frame uses a 132x12mm thru-axle. Hermida's bike features a super-light aftermarket skewer from FRM (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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Getting down: Hermida rides with the headset bearings exposed in order to lower his handlebar height

Getting down: Hermida rides with the headset bearings exposed in order to lower his handlebar height (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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his carbon 29er wheel is definitely a prototype – we expect the wheels to weigh in 1300g region

his carbon 29er wheel is definitely a prototype – we expect the wheels to weigh in 1300g region (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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The Maxxis Aspen rubber is fast rolling and still provides reliable grip. Hermida was using this in thick mud, stating the track will dry out as the race progresses

The Maxxis Aspen rubber is fast rolling and still provides reliable grip. Hermida was using this in thick mud, stating the track will dry out as the race progresses (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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Hermida was riding a RockShox SID XX World Cup, but most recently has been seen ripping on the newly released RS-1 upside down fork

Hermida was riding a RockShox SID XX World Cup, but most recently has been seen ripping on the newly released RS-1 upside down fork (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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Hermida sits atop a Prologo Scratch CPC saddle. The CPC adds a high-level of traction to the seat's surface

Hermida sits atop a Prologo Scratch CPC saddle. The CPC adds a high-level of traction to the seat's surface (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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Hermida uses ESI Racers Edge silicone grips in a suitable green shade

Hermida uses ESI Racers Edge silicone grips in a suitable green shade (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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The 11-speed XX1 rear cassette provides a 10-42T gear ratio

The 11-speed XX1 rear cassette provides a 10-42T gear ratio (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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The direct-mount front derailleur mount goes unused with this SRAM XX1-equipped bike

The direct-mount front derailleur mount goes unused with this SRAM XX1-equipped bike (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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SRAM XX1 crank with a relatively large SRAM X-sync 36T chainring

SRAM XX1 crank with a relatively large SRAM X-sync 36T chainring (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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They're not so common anymore, but Hermida still uses bar ends at every race - claiming it opens the chest and gives greater leverage

They're not so common anymore, but Hermida still uses bar ends at every race - claiming it opens the chest and gives greater leverage (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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Hermida chooses the Big.Nine over the smaller wheeled Big.Seven because of its extra control, speed and roll-over ability

Hermida chooses the Big.Nine over the smaller wheeled Big.Seven because of its extra control, speed and roll-over ability (Image credit: David Rome / Future Publishing)
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José Antonio Hermida at the World Cup round three in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, riding the new upside-down RockShox RS-1 fork

José Antonio Hermida at the World Cup round three in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, riding the new upside-down RockShox RS-1 fork (Image credit: Tour of Japan)

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

José Antonio Hermida Ramos is a rider from the old guard of cross country mountain biking – back when skinny handlebars, 26" wheels, v-brakes and bar ends were the only option. He was the 2010 cross country world champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallist, and this cheerful 35-year-old doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon.

While in Cairns, Australia, BikeRadar sat down with Hermida and asked him about his bike setup, opinion on wheel sizes and of current generation course design – before taking a far closer look at the bike of the speedy Spaniard.

José Antonio Hermida at the World Cup third round in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic (credit: CanadianCyclist.com)

Wheel size of choice?

I'm going to use my 29er, not officially, but probably for the whole season. It's not the perfect wheel for me based on my height – I do fit better on the 27.5 – but for the World Cups you greatly benefit from a 29" wheel. It's safer, smoother and faster as the courses get rougher.

The 27.5 also accelerates better, but at the end of a race when you have to repeat a dangerous rock garden for the seventh time, it's just safer to be on the larger wheel and it lets you get away with far more when you're tired.

Is there an example of a course where you would swap to a 27.5" bike?

In South Africa, Australia and Canada they like to create real mountain bike courses with rough rock gardens and dangerous obstacles. In Europe, the terrain is a little smoother and faster and, on these cleaner courses, the acceleration of a 27.5 may be better. But any time its rough, the 29 is my choice.

Is there something you insist you have on your bike?

My bar ends I couldn't do without. A painter has a signature in their paint, the bar ends are my signature. 90 percent of riders don't use them, but I think it's an advantage as you can open more of your chest, breathe better and push a little harder. I think they are underrated these days.

Dual suspension vs hardtail?

I'm a hardtail rider, but at stage races such as Cape Epic I use full suspension. On those longer races where you are often improvising to the changing terrain, the dual suspension affords you that extra control and comfort. But, in a cross country race where we learn every rock and root, the acceleration of a hardtail makes it the obvious choice.

Will we ever see you racing in baggy shorts?

Nah! It's not really a trend at the moment, the guys from Cannondale – Fontanna (Marco) and Fumic (Manuel) – are doing it. To me, baggy shorts are like Photoshop to photographers – you're trying to cover something you don't want to show!

The bike

As a member of the Multivan Merida team, Hermida does have the choice between The Big.Seven and Big.Nine carbon hardtails as well as a range of dual suspension bikes. With this, his first choice for most races is the Big.Nine CF Team hardtail – a competitively light 8.8kg total.

Since we sat down with Hermida, he was seen at the world cup round three in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, riding the new upside-down RockShox RS-1 fork. This fork seeks to add greater steering and damping control without a major weight penalty, although judging by RockShox's own claimed weights, we suspect his bike would have gained an approximate 180g with the fork change compared to the SID XX World Cup he used previously.

The headset bearing is exposed to help reduce the bike's front-end height

With the bigger 29er wheel, some modifications have been made to get the handlebars lower. This includes removal of the headset topcap – running the stem directly on the top bearing, surely leading to a higher bearing wear rate. Additionally, the fork has been reduced to 80mm of travel, helping lower the front by a further 20mm compared with a stock 100mm fork.

With most SRAM-sponsored riders taking to the new single ring trend, Hermida's XX1 gearing choice is of little surprise. Showing his strength is a rather large 36T front chainring. Helping jump through the wide-range 11-speed cassette is a Grip Shift shifter, something that's popular among the XC pros owing to its ability to dump a bunch of gears in one move, and the easy shifting in any condition.

What looks to be a prototype carbon 29er wheelset from Fulcrum

The Fulcrum branded wheels are a prototype carbon model that we currently know little about. Sharing some similarity with the current 26" Red Carbon XRP model, these 29er hoops have far smaller hub flanges and unmarked rims. Previously it was rumoured team Multivan Merida were using prototype tubular wheels; these were obviously a clincher type rim.

Hermida has his non-tubeless rear tyre set up tubeless, but unusually uses a tube in the front. With the low tyre pressures used, he claims this ensures he doesn't roll the tyre when pushing hard into corners.

The frame features a stiffening 142x12mm rear thru-axle; saving a claimed 47g is a FRM TASK-E thru-axle, something that's possibly chosen to avoid sponsor conflict as much as for its beneficial weight savings.

The Spanish flag appears on Hermida's Prologo saddle

Keeping Hermida comfortable is a custom-covered Prologo Scratch saddle with CPC grippers on the surface. Steering upfront is handled by a rather standard 660mm wide handlebar and 110mm length stem of the PRC (Procraft Racing Components) label.

Complete bike specifications
Frame: Merida Big.Nine CF Team, size medium (17”)
Fork: RockShox SID World Cup XX BlackBox, set to 80mm (since seen on RockShox RS-1)
Headset: Sealed, topcap removed
Stem: Procraft PRC 110mm
Handlebar: Procraft PRC Carbon 660mm
Tape: ESI Racers Edge
Front brake: SRAM XX
Rear brake: SRAM XX
Brake levers: SRAM XX
Rear derailleur: SRAM XX1
Shift levers: SRAM XX1 Grip Shift
Cassette: SRAM XX1 10-42T
Chain: SRAM XX1
Crankset: SRAM XX1, 36T chainring, 175mm
Bottom bracket: press-fit
Pedals: Time ATAC XC12 Titan Carbon
Wheels: Fulcrum carbon prototype, FRM Task-E rear skewer
Front tyre: Maxxis Aspen 2.1” – tube in front
Rear tyre: Maxxis Aspen 2.1” – tubeless rear
Saddle: Prologo Scratch Pro CPC nack
Seatpost: Procraft PRC carbon, straight
Extras: Procraft bar ends, VDO computer, King bottle cage

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.72m (5ft 7in)
Rider's weight: 63kg (139lb)
Saddle height from BB, c-t: 725mm
Saddle setback: 45mm
Seat tube length (c-t): 440
Seat tube length (c-c): 385
Tip of saddle to center of bar: 555mm
Head tube length: 110mm
Saddle-to-bar drop: 30mm
Top tube length (effective): 599mm
Total bicycle weight: 8.8kg (19.36lb)

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