Those of you in the know will spot straight from the gun that this is not your 'stock' KTM Aera Comp. Steve uses the 19" Carbon KTM Aera frame and has gone on to build his race machine around the ethos of simplicity, practicality and reliability.
Steve's prefered tyre choice is the Bontrager XR2 TLR (630g) or the Bontrager Mud-X TLR's in 2.0 (for when things get sloppy) which he has placed lovingly onto a set of racers favourite Hope Hoops - Stans Crest rims laced on to Hope Straight Pull Evo hubs (Rear - 920g / Front - 810g).
The stock Shimano Deore Brakes are still in charge of stopping, and why not... they are easily serviceable and offer more than acceptable stopping power. Shimano XT Rotors (180mm front and 160mm back) may not be the lightest available, but are a nice upgrade from the stock option with improved cooling and rigidity, helping Steve to maintain braking control and power when the business of racing really heats up.
The stock RockShox Recon Gold TK forks (1755g) have been replaced by the RockShox Reba RL's (1664g). Rebas continue the simple and reliable theme; they work well, handle most conditions with predictability and are simple to service. When the question of a fork upgrade on a budget comes up then the Reba is usually at the top of that list, and with its 32 mm aluminium stanchions (now in fast black), Motion Control and Power Bulge technology, the RockShox Reba RL is a great package for racers who have a close eye on the purse strings.
Here's an interesting combo... Steve has opened up his gearing by extending his 11 - 36 Shimano XT cassette to include 40 T One Up expander cog, thus allowing Steve to run an effective 1x10 set up. The simple and functional Shimano Deore rear derailleur is modified with the One Up RAD cage to handle the extended range of the cassette by moving the mech cage pivot point - read the science bit here. If turning your ratios up to 11 is not a financially viable option then this is a neat fix that will have you running with the 1x crowd at a reasonably low-cost.
The stock Shimano Deore triple chainset has been consigned to the parts bin, along with the Shimano Deore front derailleur and front shifter, replacing it with a set of Shimano XT cranks with a 32 t On-One Ringmaster chainring, dropping around 550 grams in the process. The thick thin (narrow wide) design helps to eliminate chain drop and keeps Steve's KMC X10L chain firmly in place. Simple, practical and reliable is in evidence again with a set of Shimano M540 pedals connecting Steve's power to this cost effective 1x10 set up.
When it comes to finishing kit comfort usually rules the roost. It's vital you look after your contact points and soft bits but again, you don't have to re-mortgage the house to achieve the perfect fit or to shed a little weight. I'll let Steve explain his choices surrounding his finishing bits and bobs...
"I fancied some nicer finishing kit for this year, so I bought some nice Aerozine crank bolts, headset spacers and bolt up seat clamp from www.wild-bikes.co.uk, and to make things a bit more carbon-y I fitted a set of Easton EC70 wide flat bars (720mm), an Easton EA70 90mm +/- 6deg stem which is set up flipped to keep the bars pretty low along with an Easton EC70 setback post along with a set of Superstar Silicon Foam grips. It wasn't done with the intention of loosing weight, more with getting wider bars (the stock ones were 700mm) but the Easton kit is 400g's lighter than the standard stuff."
Perched proudly on top of the Easton EC 70 seatpost, keeping the soft bits in check, is a theme fitting black and orange Fizik Tundra 2 saddle.
On the question of weight, Steve said "Going off the quoted standard weight and weighing the components I've changed the bike is knocking on for 1300 grams's lighter than stock, so considering the minimal spend a careful choice of components the approx weight of 10kg ain't too bad."
And I have to agree; 10kg is a bench mark for many racers and Steve has done a cracking job of not only shedding weight on a tight budget but also in keeping the aesthetic in check. Choosing parts on a budget can sometimes result in a franken-bike affair, a hotch-botch of functionality that will do a job but will undoubtedly look like something my old dinner lady would throw vengefully onto a plate. Steve has maintained the overall look and beauty of this KTM's gloss black and orange carbon frame by adding parts, like the Aerozine bolts and spacers, that please both the eye and wallet. Even down to the black Rapid Racer Products Enduro front guard which carries a hint of blue that almost looks 'made for' the RockShox Reba RL fork.
A huge thanks to Steve for showing us his race build and letting us into how he transformed his stock KTM Aera into a racing beast. You'll be able to catch Steve (if you can) to talk all things bike at this years Mountain Mayhem, selected Midland XC and Scott MTB Marathon events along with the odd local North-West XC race... And why not give Steve a follow to keep up with all his racing adventures over on Twitter - @Steve_b77