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Why Loic Bruni Won't Race his Prototype Specialized 29er at Fort William 70

Sven Martin conducts an exclusive interview with World Cup superstar, Loic Bruni, on why he won't be racing his prototype Specialized Demo 29er at the Fort William World Cup.

Credit: Sven Martin, Antonio Obregon

sspomer sspomer 6/1/2017 10:43 AM

70 comments newest first

Good insight from some of the racers perspective here.

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I still don't understand why Wheel diameter is the thing that gets people's panties in a bunch. Loic obviously doesn't have a problem with using a telemetry system to gain an advantage but then shuns a larger wheel?

No one had a problem with wider bars, larger and more powerful brakes, longer travel forks or better tire compounds, all of which have allowed riders to go faster. But suddenly a 29" wheel is crossing the line? I just don't get it.

Loic lost a a fan today.

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Go watch the Raw for Fort Bill they just posted and you'll see that Loic doesn't really need to care. Holy shit his Ohlins kit looks like its on a whole nutha level. His bike looks to have the best suspension setup, and that's saying something considering I really don't like the Demo. Or I don't want to like it because its Specialized. But I have to admit his bike looks more stable yet responsive than anything else regardless of wheel size. My guess is that the suspension tuning on the 29 isn't quite there yet, so he's running the proven formula until the boffins at Ohlins get everything sorted. When that happens I imagine he'll start running the 29.

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whether you agree with loic or not, this is a prime example of where you can see the breakdown of professionalism in dh. if this were a big sport loic would have been coached on his responses. unfortunately he dug himself in a bit of a hole he could have avoided if he hadn't been as genuine. i'd also love to see much wilder tracks in the wc circuit. loic is an incredible rider and i hope he's around for a long time to come

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timed training results -,1047

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It's almost like we've learned no lesson from the whole 275 entering DH debates of 2013/14. It'll look shit, can't handle tight tracks, will ruin DH racing, not as much fun, I won't watch it anymore, there should be a UCI regulation, it's only a tiny bit faster so what's the point, real mountain bikes are 26. Seriously, search back a few years in various forums and you'll read word-for-word the same arguments used against 275 as we're hearing now about 29 and all of them are based almost entirely on an emotional reaction or personal aversion simply to the diameter of a wheel, nothing based on actual measurable empirical evidence.

There is (and was) lots of comparison to F1 and moto, but DH racing is not F1 or moto, and cherry picking a single data point out of a sea of regulation while ignoring the rest doesn't work. Yes F1 regulates wheel diameter. But they also regulate tire tread and dimensions, weight, longevity or critical components, physical shape of a car, power steering, gear boxes, fuel, etc etc etc. You can't make a convincing argument by choosing a single example that fits and discounting the rest. And that's most of what the anti 29 crowd is doing, and the vast majority of arguments against don't hold up under the slightest scrutiny:

The don't work for small people: see Danny Hart. They can't handle tech: see Luke Strobel, or any EWS race. The riding looks shit: See Danny Hart, Luke Strobel, The Syndicate, the recent Joe Smith cornering edit, Bryn Atkinson, the latest Sven Vs EWS recce vids, Ratboy, Loose Dog and the 50to1 crew, etc. They make it too easy by smoothing out the bumps or rolling faster: see telemetry, tire compound/pressure/tread, geometry adjustments, 200mm disc rotors, long wheelbases, a steady increase in travel over the past 20 years, all of which are aimed directly at the exact same goal. So why is wheel diameter off limits?

Finally, if we are going to compare DH racing to other sports/disciplines it only makes sense to start at the most similar. Zooming out from 'DH mountain bike racing' brings us simply to 'mountain bike racing' and from there to 'mountain bikes'. And what wheel size is used in mountain bike racing? In XC it went from 26 to 29 for the rolling advantage. In enduro it went from 26 to a mix of 275 and 29 in some cases based on testing and in other cases rider preference. So outside of DH racing, or simply asking what size wheels does a mountain bike have the answer will frequently be 29. Mountain bikes have 275 wheels and mountain bikes have 29 in wheels. They've been around for 15 years in other MTB applications, and were first raced at a DH World Cup in 2007, this is not some new tech that was just invented out of the blue. It's just taken this long for them to shed their image as XC only and the stigma that came with it. In all other disciplines of MTB racing the bikes run almost exclusively or significantly on 29in wheels, so from the UCI standpoint what compelling reason is there that DH mountain bikes should not be allowed 29 wheels too? Given all the other advancements made to DH bikes in the past few decades, many of which were met with resistance and skepticism at the time (suspension and disc brakes immediately come to mind) why the sudden adverse reaction to wheel diameter? Fear of the unknown? Not owning the latest and greatest? Feeling a bit embarrassed after spending so many years making fun the 29 lycra crowd and can't admit we were wrong (guilty as charged, but lets be honest, we were wrong)? Makes no sense at all to me.

PS, I'm biased, but Vital has by far the best comment discussions. They aren't the longest but they're definitely the most civil and thoughtful. Cheers to that.

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A race full of of 29r bikes...?..somehow i feel much less interested in following DH coverage. This is from someone who's looked at every WC Vital slideshow ever.

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He's the only one (so far) who has the balls and articulation to make decent points. Which is even more because SPEZ is a 29r crazy company.

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I give him credit for admitting he hasn't had proper testing and that he's not ready to race the bike, but the rest came off a bit sour really. His team goes to greater lengths than most to squeeze every ounce of speed and performance out of his Demo. Custum geo, cutting braces on swingarms, custom linkages, a dedicated telemetry bike, and for some reason exploring wheel diameter as a means of going faster just isn't cool enough? Going faster = less safe, but being/feeling sketchy = okay? Fine tuning suspension with a computer for more speed/traction, fine, but faster rolling (allegedly) wheels crosses the line. So the bike's not ready and his testing wasn't how he liked but in the meantime look at all the World Cup field who has not so subtly spent the winter riding their 29 trail bikes. This move didn't sneak up on anyone, and while the advantage, if there even is one, is yet to be determined Loic comes off as a bit under-prepared. At least the f*ck 29er bit seems to be playing well with the crowd. For now.

Balls was the Syndicate going all in at round 1 and committing where no one else would. Clearly the big teams were all testing 29ers this offseason to test the waters, or at the very least with an eye on World Champs. Logic's stance is the easy predictable one.

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You make some good points. I've never been convinced that telemetry helps anyone. Been used for years, not sure it's been a huge advantage. I think it comes down to the spectacle of racing blended with skill. No one going to argue that the 26 era produced the wildest riding, superhuman skill - Danny Hart isn't going to look as wild as he did 2011 ever again. I just think that spectacle and skill element is slowly getting squeezed out of the sport. My opinion 27.5 was always the fair middle ground for the fans and the racers.

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I'll take a Large order of Freedom Fries with my 29er. That discussion should've ended with "my Specialized Demo 29er is not ready yet". It will be interesting to see how FSR is made compatible with long travel 29

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I try to avoid the F1 comparisons to DH as they really have little in common aside from both involving vehicles rolling on tires filled with air. That said, a significant number of the F1 regulations and restrictions being bent to fit the anti-29 argument are in place to keep a teams relative advantage in check, discourage cheating, and keep the racing close and competitive. No one wants to watch one driver 20 seconds ahead or the whole field strung out with zero passing. The regs are there with the goal of keeping mass start racing close, competitive, and entertaining. Non of this applies to the time trial format of DH.

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Are you saying that DH shouldn't be close, competitive, and entertaining?

F1 is just one example of a highly regulated technical sport. Pretty much every sport in the world that uses some kind of equipment has regulations, be it motor sport or lawn tennis.
We could always compare DH to BMX, Road Cycling, Track Cycling, and Cyclocross. All those disciplines have a regulation governing wheel size.

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Is it not already? Did this change with the move to 275? How can we be certain it suddenly will with 29 then?

DH racing has regulations, that they are not the same as unrelated spots or different cycling disciplines isn't really cause for comparison. I can pick any number of regs in the sports you mentioned that are not present in DH that you wouldn't care for. Weight, tire tread, tire width, seat length, longevity of key components, etc. As I wrote above, if we are going to compare why not start at the most relevant: other forms of mountain bike racing. If we can't find a compelling argument for regulation there, what is the sense of cherry picking an isolated data point from an unrelated discipline? Especially if we aren't willing to adopt any of the other regulations or rational that comes with it.

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The F1 wheel size came up because Sven mentioned it in the interview with Loic. I never said all the regulations in every sport are relevant. Of course the size of a tennis racket isn't relevant to DH. My point is that ALL other professional sports are regulated, including other disciplines in cycling, and that includes a wheelsize rule.

DH does have some regulations...that actually make the sport slower. Is that progress?

The fact is that a lot of riders aren't happy with the direction that the sport is going in. The faster, open courses aren't to everyones liking and aren't really true to the spirit or heritage of the sport. I don't have anything against 29" wheels as a piece of equipment, but they are an effect of the direction the sport has taken in recent years. If you like watching and riding fast, open, man made tracks then that's great for you. Personally I'd rather watch the top guys being tested to the limit on natural, steep, gnarly, tight tracks that would scare the life out of me.

After watching Fort William today, the section of track that made this race interesting for me was the tight, slippery, rooty woods section. It separated the good from the great.

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One of the best things about MTB racing (XC and DH) is the lack of regulations on the bikes from the UCI. The lack of regulations is what makes MTB racing what it is, and has allowed this sport to evolve with different types of bikes, suspension used in XC races, have different wheel sizes and suspension and materials raced against each other. I don't remember any XC racers whining about 650b tubulars on a hardtail racing against 29er suspension bikes. The athlete who wins had right equipment, training and luck to take the day. Its part of racing.
Whether or not you like 29ers - there is greater danger in shaking the hornets nest. Let DH be the petri dish that is used for bike development that benefits us all.

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The F1 comparisons are nice to hear, and make the F1 paddock sound like the ultimate thing, but they have regulations galore. Specifically in wheels/tires. Years back they even had dimension rules, back when there were multiple tire suppliers. Michelin was able to engineer a tire that would 'stretch' during the course of a race, and it would pass checks before the race, then be discarded after. F1 finally caught on to the larger surface area, and limited the diameter before and after, squashing this temporary advantage.

In my mind, the purpose of a racing governing body, like the UCI, is to promote racing. An equipment advantage isn't fun to see. NASCAR has restrictor plates, and a bunch of other rules to promote tight racing. Motocross makes rules governing some things like stock engine cases and frames, so the richest of the teams don't run away with everything more than they already do. F1 took away full tread tires, and the cars have fractions of the grip they could. The purpose of a governing body isn't to make the fastest race. That's what land speed records are for. Sometimes a governing body is for driver/rider safety. Many times it is to promote close racing. In either instance, I'm with Loic, in that sketchy looking (but possibly slower absolute speed) is a good thing. Tight times and similar equipment are good for racing, and to the people that want 29ers for other things, even DH, have at it. But at the elite level, a rider should always shine brightest.

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An invention of the Internet - Formula 1 as being comparable to DH MTB. Regardless the composition of an F1 racecar, in-house Merc', Ferrari or akin to Williams/Honda, this product and vehicle share identity to a Safety Regulated Industry having minimum requirements to keep the core of brand identity & continue sales to further expand the Customer Base. There are countless parameters needing to be met and not-exceeded in order to have the F1 car be allowed onto a GP Course. And, DH racing is nothing if not ultimately removed from this concept in structured competition. What was a clan of core riders is now the struggle to keep hold of the sport. The internet is doing no service upon maintaining recognition.

There being such a discrepancy upon wheel size and never the forethought by UCI to keep competition on a level-plane is ABSURD. The reason so many teams are now jumping on the banned-wagon wheel is because NO ONE IS TELLING THEM NOT TO. There is a need for a baseline upon what lines up at the start hut and, if the bike is too-big or too small then perhaps - perhaps there is a need for Rider Classification.

No one is BMX is forced to race 20". Some race both. (I did when just a spout) Some race just 24". And, some can and do race 26" and 29" in the cruiser class. And only the cruiser class; no riders on the gate in 20" on anything but.

Such the loophole in one element of Bicycle Racing does not cast aside any form of responsibility code upon the sport of competition and therefore into DH. Sorry - F1DHMTBMonsterBullRidingRockstarCondensationBillyIdol'sToothpaste. Sweat it out.

Exploiting the physiology of a particular rider by means of mechanical advantage instead of making this choice of such the altered-construction an option is nothing short someone being silly when not needed. It is kinda no longer bike riding at this point - instead Team Kits, gas guzzling Vehicles, and Catering with free internet.


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UCI rule 6.1.064 Bicycles with 20” wheels may be raced only in standard categories. Cruisers may be
raced only in cruiser categories.

With the exception set forth herein below, all bicycles used in the standard 20” type must be equipped with matching wheels that are nominally 20” in diameter. The total diameter of the wheels, inflated tires included, shall not exceed 22 1/2” (57 cm).

The total diameter of the wheels, inflated tires included, in the cruiser type shall measure at least 22 1/2” (57 cm), and the total diameter of the wheels, inflated tires included, shall be no larger than 26” in diameter.

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I'll play devils advocate and say the UCI absolutely should regulate wheel size. DH is a marketing tool not a money maker right? Well a 33" tire will always be faster than a 31" (with adjusted geometry) but the industry won't go there until the last drops have been sucked out of 29" first. And as for tracks getting easier... blame Red Bull if u wish. I blame marketing... right across the industry. DH is a tough sport for anyone and not to rag on the fairer sex but it's even tougher for women. Build an easier track for all or a hard track for half the potential market? Easy choice if you're trying to sell bikes. I'll bet the guys sitting at a computer drafting out a 29DH are asking themselves WTF???... Nobody wants this! Well unless you sell bikes. IMO

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This honestly kind of scares me. Loic is one hell of a competitor, and it would suck to have someone as passionate as him walk away from the sport. I know he has been outspoken on this 29er vs. 27.5 argument, and I have to imagine there are other competitors that feel the same way. It seems that pressure from the mountain bike market that seems to reliant on constant change to drive profits is trickling over into the competitive side of the sport as well.

One of the things that I love about downhill racing is that everyone is out there having a good time, riding bikes fast and (at least in theory) enjoying the actual riding. Guys at the top are also passionate about the sport, like Loic. I just hope that a sudden trend toward a technological arms race doesn't hurt the sport.

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I'm with Loic. Make the max wheel size 27.5 for UCI DH racing and stop making the tracks straight smooth jump lines.

I'm pulling for Gwin, Loic and anyone else on a 27.5 this weekend.

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I dont get why everyone in the comments is so into 29 for dh when repeatedly actual WC racers say they don't want them. Maybe we should listen to the guys that actually ride the bikes.... danny said he didn't want to switch, brook Macdonald and loic and all in vital interviews and sure more feel the same. so many keyboard jockeys telling top 10 wc riders what they should be riding when 99.9% of you guys haven't even touched a 29dh bike.

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