Professional cross-country racers typically have a quiver of machines at their disposal to suit the task at hand – a choice of full-suspension or hardtail 26in bikes, and these days often a 29er hardtail too.
But the new breed of 'all-mountain' racers have shown what can be done with just a single bike, and 2008 Downieville Classic winner 'Rad Ross' Schnell's custom-tweaked Trek Remedy is a prime example of that do-it-all philosophy.
As he raced it at last weekend's Ashland Super D in Oregon, it's impressively light at just 12.03kg (26.5lb), boasts a full 150mm of travel and meaty tyres at both ends, and yet pedals as well as most dedicated cross-country bikes.
This proved an ideal formula for a course that included top speeds over 65km/h (40mph), 1,500m (5,000ft) of descending, and 150m (500ft) of steep climbing, all packed into about 19km (12 miles).
"I don't think weight matters as much as people say it does – that bike is still really light," Schnell said with a chuckle before going on to discuss the course. "The climb is going to be super-crucial. Guys who are super-fit and maybe not good descenders are going to do really well. You could lose 30 seconds [on the climb] and not make it up on the fast descending stuff.
"The stuff isn't as technical as some of the other all-mountain races we've seen, and the pedalling is huge. Even the first fire road descent and the big one in the middle are going to be pretty crucial because you can't just sit and tuck – you have to pedal for the whole thing. Fitness is big."
With the short climb playing such a pivotal role, some may question why Schnell would choose to run his aluminium Remedy over his lighter carbon one. Both rigs were on hand in Ashland, but ultimately, the aluminium one's single-ring MRP setup (the Remedy has ISCG tabs as stock) won out over the 2x10 SRAM X0 kit on the carbon machine due to the importance of keeping the chain in place through the high-speed bumps.
Replacing the standard chainrings is a single MRP 40T Podium ring and G2 SL chain guide
"Pretty much all year I've been running the chainguide setup and I feel super-comfortable on it and it's reliable," he said. "It seems like you should run what you're used to. The carbon bike is a lot lighter and definitely rides really well but at the last minute, I decided to go with what I know."
Schnell did swap out his usual RockShox Lyrik fork in favour of the company's latest Revelation World Cup, complete with a one-piece carbon crown and tapered steerer that brings the weight down to just 1,489g (3.28lb) and yet still offers a full 150mm of well controlled travel, not to mention a stiff 20mm through-axle.
Schnell used RockShox's new Revelation World Cup with tapered carbon fibre crown/steerer
Rolling stock follows a similar philosophy, with lightweight CrankBrothers Cobalt wheels wrapped with high-volume 2.35in Bontrager FR3 tyres with a fast-rolling centre tread. "I put some faster rolling tyres on it so they've got a good side knob and roll pretty fast," said Schnell. "I'm not too worried about flatting."
"I did put a Revelation fork on it, which brings the head angle down a little bit," he added. "It's plenty stiff enough for my liking and that's what I was worried about. It still has the 20mm through-axle and is awesomely carbon fibre. And it rides really well."
The unique CrankBrothers Cobalt front hub anchors extra-long aluminium nipples
Other component choices include SRAM's ultralight XX group, CrankBrothers' remote-operated Joplin 4 height-adjustable seatpost, previous-generation Candy 4ti pedals and Iodine 11 carbon riser bar, a Cane Creek tapered headset, and a Fizik Tundra k:ium saddle.
While Schnell's Trek Remedy is a prime example of how one bike truly can do it all, there are still a couple of tweaks built-in that aren't available to consumers. Schnell is obligated to run RockShox suspension but the stock magnesium EVO upper rocker link's proprietary shock mount will only fit the OEM DRCV-equipped Fox RP23 unit. Trek supply Schnell with a custom link so he can use a RockShox Monarch 4.2 air shock instead.
A custom machined rocker accommodates Schnell's RockShox Monarch 4.2 rear shock
Down below, tight clearances on the asymmetrical chainstays won't let Schnell run SRAM's smaller 2x10 chainring combinations, so a special assembly with a revised forward pivot mount is on hand with more room for the front derailleur cage. As it is, Schnell still can't run his preferred 40T single-ring setup without first putting a little ding in the driveside stay.
And finally, there's the trick custom paint job that's supplied only to Schnell. In addition to the catchy blue and brown scheme there's even Schnell's surname (in customised font) painted on the top tube and sealed under clearcoat.
That RockShox decal isn't just for decoration – it's covering the spot where mechanics had to hammer the stay a bit in order to clear the 40T chainring
Schnell wasn't able to pull off the win in Ashland but his impressive list of previous victories shows what the latest all-mountain bikes are capable of in the right hands. It also supports the idea that true mountain biking isn't a collection of small, specific niches that each require a dedicated machine.
"My outlook on bikes has been totally transformed by a number of things but mostly because the bikes are getting so good," he told us. "That Remedy is 25lb and change with 6in of travel – there's no reason to ever ride a smaller bike. There are certain courses that dictate that if you're racing cross-country, but the bikes pedal so well and they're getting down in the weight [to the point] where that's literally the bike I ride every day."
Schnell's surname is an integral part of the custom paint job and is clearcoated over
Complete bike specifications:
- Frame: Trek Remedy 8, size L, w/ custom paint and rocker arm
- Rear shock: RockShox Monarch 4.2 w/ B tune
- Fork: RockShox Revelation World Cup with crown-mounted lockout
- Headset: Cane Creek ZS-3 1-1/8in upper, XXII 1-1/2in lower
- Stem: Truvativ Stylo World Cup, 75mm x 5°
- Handlebars: CrankBrothers Iodine 11, 680mm
- Grips: SRAM lock-on
- Front brake: Avid X0 w/ 185mm XX rotor
- Rear brake: Avid X0 w/ 160mm XX rotor
- Brake levers: Avid X0
- Chain device: MRP G2 SL chain guide
- Rear derailleur: SRAM XX
- Shift lever: SRAM XX
- Cassette: SRAM XX, 11-36T
- Chain: SRAM PC-1091
- Crankset: Truvativ Noir w/ 40T MRP Podium chainring
- Bottom bracket: Truvativ GXP BlackBox
- Pedals: CrankBrothers Candy 4ti
- Wheelset: CrankBrothers Cobalt w/ 20mm front through-axle
- Front tyre: Bontrager FR3 Team Issue, 26x2.35in" TLR, converted to tubeless
- Rear tyre: Bontrager FR3 Team Issue, 26x2.35in TLR, converted to tubeless
- Saddle: Fizik Tundra k:ium
- Seatpost: CrankBrothers Joplin 4
- Rider's height: 1.83m (6ft)
- Rider's weight: 73kg (160lb)
- Saddle height, from bottom bracket (c-t): 777mm
- Seat tube length, c-t: 473mm
- Seat tube length, c-c: 361mm
- Tip of saddle nose to centre of bars (next to stem): 543mm
- Saddle-to-bar drop (vertical): 40mm
- Head tube length: 130mm
- Top tube length: 612mm
- Total bicycle weight: 12.03kg (26.5lb)