Its not far past 2 weeks since I’ve left the sun drenched and Gelato fuelled shores of Finale… My brain has been desperate to cling to not only the golden vibe from cruising around this Italian gnar mecca, but also the sense of euphoria from riding and racing those sensational trails until your hands are utterly fucked and your forearms are so munted they’re basically just there for show.
The return to the #cHub has seen these cherished memories coming under assault first from jet lag, then the usual post mission sickness and then finally from a zombie drone army equipped with any number of Microsoft documents designed to decimate your brain capacity and pump post trip depression into you in equal measure. The sweet recollection of shredding dry Italian gnar acting critically as a life vest to stop me drowning in a sea of cuntery.
Given the embarrassing levels of stoke that spewed forth in an uncontrollable manner during the Race Reports, I never really had the chance to give fair credit to the beast, or have a cheeky wank about tips or tricks. So let’s get some filler material rolling with paying appropriate homage to the weapon:
Bold statement here, but the Finale mission was the best performance this thing has ever turned in… A slightly random statement given how many races we’ve done together and how much riding there has been in the last few years. You’d think there wouldn’t be that much to change or improve on, but based on some soul searching post La Thuile and some tweaking we hit peak Nomad 3 refinement in Finale.
In order of radness, here are the bike faffing moments that contributed to ‘the best weekend ever’ of racing:
475 pound Fox DHX2 spring – There’s a reason sometimes why something nags at the back of your mind wanting attention and action. As much as I love my Fox DHX2 rear shock, I had this weird hunch that I needed a lighter spring than the 500 pounder that was on there. Weighing in somewhere between 81 to 83kg’s with kit on, the 500 was firm, but all the numbers checked out from a sag perspective.
Validation arrived in the form of Coach Karim, who confirmed my inner shock spring anxieties weren’t just a niche first world mental condition, but an actual real thing. 5 minutes at the Fox tent with the radness of Jordi and Schmitty and the 475 pound spring was ON. Plus two clicks of one of the compression dials (whatever that means)
Result? I have to be exceedingly careful about how I describe this, but a rear end suppleness that meant the back end just wanted to suck everything up. No, not a Grindr bio, just a sweet step forward in performance for the Nomad 3. I found it resulted in more rear grip, smoothed things out a little and was generally less harsh on the Finale gnar. I sort of wish it was something I had done a long time ago! the 500 pounder was probably better for pedalling, but I’ll be sticking with the 475. Or spending the next 12 months wondering if I need a 450…
Spaced out – As they say “Every cunted fork stanchion has a silver lining” and it turns out they’re right. After reaming my stanchions in La Thuile, I had the chance to not only feel the stinging cost of parallel importing a new unit thanks to local distributor incompetence/apathy, but more importantly have a longer steerer!
Hooray for righting wrongs! Whilst I’m morally opposed to spacers under stems, in the instance of not wanting to feel like you’re going to go over the bars on steep shit, I’ll begrudgingly make exceptions on Mountain Bikes. lifting the bars on the Nomad a mere 10mm (to make it 20mm in total) resulting in a refined riding position that felt a lot better generally, but especially when shit got steep.
Context – This was the last piece in the cockpit puzzle where the stem has gone from 50mm to 40mm and the bars from 760mm to 780mm wide in the last 6 months.
Minion DHF 2.5 DD 3C – So, this thing is a beast of a front tire, plus it has more acronyms than a meeting of average performing middle managers. I have persisted with the Mavic Charge 2.4 for some time, but following the La Thuile board of Inquiry investigation, it was time to ditch the Frog and head back to the ubiquitous EWS front tread.
At 2.5 wide its got all the benefits you’d want without dangerously drifting into plus sized cuntery territory, which in cuntspeak is considered a win/win. Throw in the double down protection and you can pretty much ride this into anything and come out smiling. To be noted, I even ran this thing at 23 PSI on a 25mm rim without even a hint of an issue.
Not wanting to state the obvious or appear like I’m the last person to the party, but its a pretty sensational front tire – Epic amounts of grip, bullet proof it appears and the few times it did want to let go, it did so in such a predictable and telegraphed manner that I was able to save things every time, and I’m talking some fairly lurid moments here too. An absolute must have… Any doubts? They also seem to work quite well for Mr Rude, 2.5 double down on a 30mm wide DT Swiss rim job FYI.
203mm rear rotor – I spent 75% of my time at La Thuile shitting myself. The other 25% of the time I was looking around the pits like a glue sniffing bum for a 203mm rear rotor adaptor. Having finally learned my lesson, I arrived back in Europe this time round with said part and after the first day of practice rushed in a panic stricken state to the Shimano truck to have the BIG rear rotor installed.
In all honesty, I didn’t expect I would need it for Finale for some odd reason, but fuck me I was wrong and double fuck me even though you’re sore, I did need it. With a rear brake that was super solid, had more power and didn’t have any lever fade, confidence went up and it allowed me to stay off the front brake more than usual. #positivelyreinforcingcycle
Michelin Wildgrip’r 2 – Keeping my penchant alive for running random front & rear tire combos and debuting stranger tread on the weekend of a race, I threw one of these 2.35 bad boys on right before practice. The Specialized Butcher Grid which somehow found its place on there in Aosta by default lasted about 7 rides, so fresh rubber for the weekend was key.
How was it? Well, I have a theory that pretty much all the modern rear tires are decent and for the most part, unnoticeably different performance wise. I’ve been through about 5 different variations in the last year, but the Michelin is pretty fucking cool. Big and chunky, while I didn’t love it on all those road climbs over a massive weekend, it ate up everything that the Gnar factory had to throw at it with a big Michelin Man stiffy and a smile and asked for more. Hard to find supply wise, but I would definitely recommend if you ride somewhere nasty.
Things I had wish I had done – Ok, so aside from wishing like absolute fuck that I had made ALL those above changes before La Thuile, or even sooner, there was pretty much only one regret I had from the Finale set up and ironically, its pretty basic and filed under: ‘Cunt you should have known better’:
For some reason I thought it was a mark of pride to have worn grips… Look how hardcore I am wearing through a set of grips! Its a bit like wearing out a front tire. Well, I also had marks on my hands where the mental lock ring was digging in from the outers being so worn down. So, rather than looking cool, I appeared to be a bit of a cunt with sore hands. Lesson learnt.
And now, time for a some rapid fire Dirty tips if A) Your NOT a PRO and B) Thinking about doing an EWS round in the future and like to hide from the screaming obvious like I do. Open your mind to all the wisdom that 191st place allows me to insult you with:
Practice – I’m a champion at ignoring my own practice advice over and over again, so feel free to digest this and then shit it out all over the internet like a Thai Chicken dish consumed the night before a stage race you’ve been training for over the last 6 months:
- Try to practice stages like they’ll be on race day. Sure, that’s cute you’ve designed all these intricate lines, jumps and secrets only you know about, but when you arrive on race day fingered after 5 hours of riding, with heat stroke and with little bits of spew in your full face helmet, will you still be able to hit all that stuff? Try to be practical
- Also, on this theme, will that line still even be there? The trails can change a lot, so don’t bank what you say in practice will still be there when you show up on race day. Which leads me to my point: If a trail is fresh, then for fucks sake try to practice it last on practice day. It will change so much over the day that riding it first thing in the morning is almost a waste of time
- Practice is not unlike masterbation before a BIG first date – Not enough and you’ll possible fuck something up and crash & burn, too much and you’ll be fucked for the big event and it’ll be embarrassing. So… Balance is key. Work out your limits and stick to them, if you’ve only got so much gas in the tank, don’t fall victim to group think of “one more set of runs“, something you may regret come Sunday afternoon when Stage 7 wants to rip your arms off
- Holy shit, read that race book! We saw numerous poor motherfuckers that hadn’t booked shuttles actually riding the course climbs during practice… That would have been a special kind of hell from an overall weekend perspective. If you’re coming to Finale in 2017, book that practice shuttle!
Gelphoria – The only time I turned religious all weekend were the moments where I rode my front wheel to the limit of disaster on Stage 7 plus 20 minutes before each stage. Unlike previous rounds I was like clockwork with nailing some form of Gel or chewy variant before dropping in. I don’t usually like to load it up based its stomach destroying tendencies, but fucking oath it worked a treat during Finale and is a ritual that’s here to stay. Translation: Don’t twin share accommodation with me at a 2017 EWS round.
Massage – Ohhhhhh… Thank fuck for the Wizards at Massage Me who are good enough to pop out of their massage tent at each EWS round in Europe. Unlike the Tour of Bintan ex-pat happy ending slippery digit set up, this Massage team actually understand what needs to happen to get you back in the battle after a hard day at the Gnar factory. Book ahead being the key, your hands and forearms in particular will respect you the next morning for it. I got a tune up after each day and real talk, it definitely contributed to a rad weekend.
Dangerous Liaisons – After Club Med La Thuile, with its luxuriously relaxed transfers, Finale was a Bandito nightmare wake up call at times. My only tip here is never assume and as much as you’ll want to stop and make love to the food stations, try and keep moving all the time until you’re absolutely positive that you’ve got mad time cash in the bank. Never underestimate how easy and quickly that time can be pissed away.
And finally, my new approach to PRO stalking that yielded surprisingly excellent results – Confidently yell out your prey’s first name at the same time you’re tripping over towards them for a fisting. The confident use of a first name matched with a full face helmet creates the seeds of doubt that they may know you enough to get their defences down for that key moment of success:
Don’t worry, I’m not ignoring the new Giro Switchblade helmet debut, that’s material being saved up for next week now I’m back in the #cHub drowning in mediocrity and drones, so watch this space.
The prep for 2017 starts now… Just as soon as this annoying off season business is out of the way.