We must apologise for the interruption to the Sunday Race Bike Focus schedule, brought about by our recent obsession with the WEMBO 24hr World Championships. Hopefully Ben Price's Whyte 29C will more than make up for it. (Photos Joolze Dymond)
The 2014 TORQ Performance Mountain Bike Teams race bike is like no other on the UK Domestic Circuit. The result of collaborating with 10 separate sponsors in a process that started back in May 2013. Getting all of our 14 strong line up equipped with bikes in time for the start of the season is no mean feat! A task that involves a lot of logistics, co-ordinating with sponsors and riders to ensure all of the team has exactly what they require. This all has to be done in time for the team’s first official get together at TORQ Headquarters, in the weeks prior to the start of the races season, for the XC Racers equivalent of Christmas day!
We are incredibly lucky as a team to be working with some very supportive brands that are willing to go the extra mile when it comes to giving the riders the very best of equipment. With sponsors often providing completely custom kit that is produced specifically for the TORQ team. There are top level professional teams out there that have lesser standard bike in comparison to the TORQ team!
At the heart of the bike is UK Bike Brand, Whyte Bikes, flagship carbon hard tail, the 29C, which the team have ridden for the past 3 years. A chassis with a reputation on the UK scene as one the best race hard tails framesets out there, which has been very well received by all the TORQ Team. It is lightweight, stiff where it needs to be, and compliant where it needs to be, making for a comfortable yet very direct ride feel, that comes alive when ridden fast. The 29C uses a geometry that inspires confidence, even on the most technical of terrain, where others would be out of their depths. And has features that would only come from designing a bike in the UK, like great mud clearance, full length cable outer and seat clamps with rubber seals to stop water ingress. The frames are produced by Whyte as a one off batch in a custom design, incorporating the TORQ livery.
Up front, SR Suntour cover suspension needs. 2014 has seen the team on a completely custom set of their top of the range forks, the Axon WERX, in a colour scheme to match the frames. A forks that has been ridden to multiple world cups and championship wins by Julie Bresset and Maxime Marotte. Although SR Suntour is not a brand renowned for their high end performance forks, the Axon Werx, is of a weight and performance level that is on a par with forks that are a few hundred pounds more expensive. The Axon also features SR Suntour’s Q-Loc axel system which comes in very handy for quick wheel changes and a cartridge system which makes maintenance and service very easy.
A critical component of all 29ers is the wheel set. A heavy set of hoops can ruin the handling of even the best equipped bike. The team run Easton’s top aluminium wheel set, the EA90, which provides a very lightweight, stiff package that help us get the most out of the stunning geometry of the frame. The EA90’s are tubeless ready, which makes for very easy set up of the riders preferred tyre choice and has a reliable hub system.
One of the team’s longest serving sponsors, Schwalbe tyres, covers all things grip related. Their Racing Ralph is the teams ‘go to’ tyre, but riders have the full choice of Dirty Dan’s, Rocket Ron’s and Thunder Burt’s should the conditions exceed the capabilities of the Ralph. Each rider has the choice of both Snakeskin and Evo carcasses with individuals opting for one or the other based on riding style. Schwalbe are very easy to setup tubeless, using their Doc Blue sealant. When tubeless, riders can run them as at very low pressures, often as low as 18psi, to ensure maximum grip.
Stopping is catered for by Magura’s MT8’s on 160mm rotors. Magura are a new sponsor to the team for 2014. After 2 years using Shimano’s ultra reliable and powerful XT/XTR brakes, the Magura’s had a lot to live up to, but have surpassed expectation providing a lightweight and powerful stopping system in all conditions.
Shimano’s XT and XTR drive train’s need no introduction, reliable shifting in even the worst conditions. Many riders have stuck with 2x10 setup to ensure sufficient gearing for the longer marathon style events but some, predominately those with a more XC focus, have shifted to 1x10 systems, which I am sure we will see more of in future seasons as the new Shimano 11speed 9000 series filters through. Jagwire cables keep things running smooth and colour co-ordinated with orange brake hoses and gear cables.
Finishing kit is again covered by Easton. The EA90 aluminium bars, stem and seat posts offer greater reliability, at a minor weight penalty, in comparison to the carbon versions. The Whyte is designed around a short stem for sharp handling, and combined with Easton’s flat sweeping 710mm bar there is plenty of confidence in the front end of the bike. Saddle and grips are a very individual item for riders, so these are one of the few items that are not uniform across the team bikes.
Lezyne bottle cages and saddle bags are an addition to the bikes which help ensure the rider has everything they need on the bike rather than cluttering up jersey pockets. No TORQ rider has lost a bottle on a descent this season as a result of the well engineered cages and a spare tube, CO2 and a multi tool neatly stowed under the saddle ensures that few mechanicals are race ending as everything is on hand.
The bikes are finished with a completely custom top cap, from Kapz Guru, each engraved with the riders surname and the TORQ logo. A minor attention to detail, but something that really tops off the bike. At many team events, finding your bike in a stand with 13 others that are nigh on identical has certainly become a lot easier!
Bike weights range anything from the low 20lbs to the high 22lb’s based on the frame size and individual rider’s setup. Many of the team opt for reliability over a more weight weenie approach to bike building which may add a few grams but helps ensure reliability, which is of particular importance come the 12hour team events.
As a team we owe big thank you to all the sponsors. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do;
Whyte Bikes - Frames
Schwalbe – Tyres
Exposure Lights - Advanced Lighting
Easton – Wheels and Finishing Kits
SR Suntour – Suspension Forks
Altura - Team Clothing
Limar – Helmets
Lake – Shoes
Magura – Braking
Jagwire - Cables & Housing
Lezyne - Pumps, Tools & Bottle Cages
Fenwicks Bike – Cleaning and Lubrication
Shimano – Drivetrain
Max Media - Team PR
Tifosi – Optics
Raceware – Custom Mounts