Pro Bike: Chris Eatough’s Trek-VW Trek Top Fuel

A balance of light weight and durability

Trek-VW’s Chris Eatough is the undoubted king of 24-hour solo endurance mountain bike racing. Since turning professional in 1999, Eatough (say ‘EE-TOFF”) has dominated the discipline with six consecutive world solo championships, two US national solo titles, and countless wins at various other endurance events.

Just 33 years old, the British native, who now lives in the US state of Maryland, shows no signs of stopping or slowing down. He also has no plans for imminent retirement, surely to the chagrin of the competition that eagerly awaits its chance in the spotlight.

Eatough’s successes on the race course are the result of many hours of training but not the type you might expect. Although he spends a full day in the saddle come race time, his training rides are rarely longer than three to four hours. Longer days are tossed into the mix on occasion or prior to a major event, but otherwise he has built up such a solid foundation of base miles and fitness that most of the time is merely spent maintaining that level.

Perfect preparation prevents poor performance

In addition to his fitness, Eatough’s meticulous preparation before races and the surgically precise nature of his racing style set him apart from his competitors early on in his reign.

Before an event, all of his equipment is religiously gone over from tip to stern, bolt by bolt. Lights are charged, spares are collected. Any and all food is assembled and packaged in an easy-to-eat form. Courses are dutifully examined.

Come start time, Eatough almost always sets a fast pace right from the gun. He’s not only establishing a quick lead but also inflicting a mental blow on his rivals who must try and figure out whether or not he can maintain that blistering early pace. Conveniently, only he knows the truth.

Eatough also never actually stops to eat during 24-hour races, instead taking in calories on the bike to save time and gain distance. A pair of identically outfitted and prepared machines accompanies him to every event and bikes are swapped out after each lap. Eatough is almost never on a bike that has seen more than an hour or two’s worth of use on it since its last maintenance check and rarely suffers a mechanical out on course.

All of this may sound over the top - fanatical even - but it’s a formula that has been undoubtedly successful and one that Eatough is unlikely to deviate from any time soon.

Eatough’s equipment: reliability over grams

Eatough is also aided by the consistency and stability of his sponsorship arrangements, having won each of his world championships aboard a full-suspension Trek.

At last October’s 24 Hours of Moab in Moab, Utah, he brought along two identical Trek Top Fuels, each outfitted with a brand-new Rock Shox SID Race fork and Monarch 3.3 rear shock, a full Shimano XTR group with Dual Control levers, and a heap of Bontrager components including a set of Race X Lite TLR Disc wheels, Race X Lite aluminum stem, and Race XXX Lite OS carbon flat handlebar.

This latest Fuel’s ‘R1 Race Tuned Suspension’ boasts essentially the same design used in the debut Fuel from nearly a decade prior, but the design has undergone iterative improvements over the years and its simple single-pivot configuration has proven to be a capable performer.

We unfortunately didn’t have a scale on hand to get an actual weight, but team mechanic Steve Borkoski pegged it at about 11.3kg (25.0lb). This figure isn’t particularly impressive if you look at it as a pure cross-country race machine, but the proven reliability of its build is worth the extra grams to Eatough. Even ultra-light bikes are heavy and slow when they have to be carried back to the pits. Eatough occasionally opts for other machines from the Trek stable that may be better suited for the course at hand even if they’re substantially heavier.

“One of the great things about being a pro riding for Trek is that Chris can choose exactly what bikes he thinks suits the course,” said Trek mountain bike brand manager Michael Browne. “You’ll notice that at 24-9 in Wisconsin, he chose to ride different 69ers. During the BC Bike Race, he chose to ride Fuel EX’s. And in other courses, he chooses to ride Top Fuels. For Moab, Chris thought the most appropriate bike was a Top Fuel, for reasons of weight, and the course not being as technical terrain as that of BC Bike Race.”

Curiously, though, Eatough was riding aluminum-framed Top Fuels instead of Trek’s lighter and stiffer OCLV carbon model. Borkoski attributed the selection to an inventory issue, but Browne insisted that Eatough’s selection was made purely by choice. Regardless, the aluminum frame’s extra mass didn’t seem to keep Eatough from doing what he does best. He won the 24 Hours of Moab comfortably, having knocked off fourteen laps of the dry, dusty, and fast course in 22 hours and posting a 1:41:59 lead over second place finisher Travis Macy.

Specification

Frame Trek Top Fuel, Alpha Red Aluminum, 90mm travel, 19.5" frame
Rear shock Rock Shox Monarch 3.3
Fork Rock Shox SID Race with Pushloc remote
Headset Cane Creek Solos
Stem Bontrager Race X Lite, 100mm x 6°
Handlebars Bontrager Race XXX Lite OS Carbon Flat, 580mm
Tape/grips ESI Silicone MTB grips with Bontrager Race Lite Grippy tape
Front brake Shimano XTR BR-M975 hydraulic disc with SM-RT97S 160mm Center Lock rotor
Rear brake Shimano XTR BR-M975 hydraulic disc with SM-RT97S 160mm Center Lock rotor
Brake levers Shimano XTR Dual Control ST-M975
Front derailleur Shimano XTR FD-M971
Rear derailleur Shimano XTR Low Normal RD-M970-GS
Shift levers Shimano XTR Dual Control ST-M975
Cassette Shimano XTR CS-M970, 11-34T
Chain Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7801
Crankset Shimano XTR Hollowtech 2 FC-M970, 175mm, 22/32/44T
Bottom bracket Shimano XTR Hollowtech 2 FC-M970
Pedals Shimano XTR PD-M970
Wheelset Bontrager Race X Lite TLR Disc
Front tire Bontrager Revolt Super TL, 26 x 2.2"
Rear tire Bontrager Revolt Super TL, 26 x 2.2"
Saddle Bontrager Race Lite Lux
Seat post Bontrager ACC
Bottle cages n/a
Computer n/a
Other accessories Stan's NoTubes race formula sealant, titanium brake hardware
   
Critical measurements  
   
Rider's height 1.78m (5' 10")
Rider's weight 72.6kg (160lb)
Seat tube length, c-c 453mm
Seat tube length, c-t 495mm
Saddle height, from BB (c-t) 753mm
Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem) 568mm
C of front wheel to top of bars (next to stem) 600mm
Top tube length 628mm
Total bicycle weight 11.3kg (25.0lb) (estimated)

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