Irina Kalentieva's Rotwild has the distinction of being a bike that has carried its rider to a world championship victory.
In mountain biking, there's no title more prestigious than this one, which awards a rainbow jersey to its winner for a year. But once earned, the rainbow stripes effectively become part of a rider's coat of arms, the bike serving as their steed of honour.
On a climber's course in Fort William in 2007, Kalentieva realised her dream of becoming world champion. She used a special Rotwild to do it, and the German company has raised the bar again in 2008 in the hope that more wins in the World Cup series would follow. In the first race of the year at Houffalize, Kalentieva was one step away from top spot. Last weekend in Offenburg, she won. Obviously, things are working on the technical side.
With Kalentieva such a light rider at just 46kg, the importance of weight saving is very high since the bike is over 10 percent of the rider's mass. With this in mind, every possible step has been taken with team sponsors to get this hardtail the lightest it can be.
Talking to Wolfie, the head mechanic of the Topeak Ergon team, I discovered it was far more than a fancy paintjob and stickers: "Irina's frame is a prototype not available anywhere else. They left out a few layers of carbon to save weight and since Irina's not the heaviest rider that's no problem. This frame is a custom size too – it's tailor made."
The DT Swiss 190 hubs with ceramic bearings
The full carbon theme does not end there, though. The centrepiece of the bike is arguably the new wheelset from DT Swiss. Debuted at the World's, these are now becoming rolling stock for the best, and public availability is not far away. It is not just the low weight of 1250 grams a pair that makes them a winner. DT's top 240s hubs were, many thought, the best you could get. That's until DT introduced their 190 ceramic hubs. With some clever design, grams have been cut and the addition of ceramic bearings not only furthers that loss but also decreases rolling resistance and increases reliability.
If that was not enough, there is yet another advantage. According to Wolfie, tyres sit deeper on this hoop, giving a more rounded profile. And talking of tyres, there are special modifications courtesy of Continental:
"Our riders prefer to use the latex tubes because it is easier to switch tyres at the last minute," says Wolfie. "Fortunately puncture resistance is not so much of an issue for us as Continental make us some special tyres. They have different rubber compounds and sidewall weaves for a better ride and better pinch flat protection. While they are not for sale in the shops, all the feedback we give goes into making the next generation."
Special Continental tyres - not available for sale yet
One area where the team will take a weight compromise is when comfort becomes an issue. This was especially important when choosing Ergon grips as a title sponsor.
"Ergon grips put less pressure on the ulnar nerve which is very important in mountain bike racing where there are repetitive bumps. Standard grips result in a 120 degree angle between your hand and wrist these Ergon grips decrease that to 40 degrees. It has better handling and is less tiring despite a slight weight penalty."
Even though every area of this bike has been customised, or 'fully pimped' as Wolfie would put it, there are constant developments that ensure Irina has every advantage on the track.
"Mountain biking isn't formula one yet, but every year it gets closer with production times coming down. Later in the year there will be a special Olympic edition of the R2 frame which may have an integrated carbon seatpost."
An addition which will come slightly sooner are some prototype Magura forks. Although the team are happy with the performance of the MD80R there are others lighter and with more adjustment.
"While the Magura forks have fewer adjustments than others we find they react really well. When it comes to racing you have to make some sacrifices compared to a trail bike but they have exceeded our expectations. There will be a new fork coming out in a few weeks that is a bit more high end and lighter but we have only heard about that so far."
These Magaura forks are good, but will be replaced by a prototype soon
- Frame: Rotwild R.R2 custom carbon fibre frameset
- Fork: Magura Durin 80R
- Bottom Bracket: FRM Integral
- Cranks: FRM Integral
- Chain: Shimano XTR
- Front derailleur: Shimano XTR
- Rear derailleur: Shimano XTR carbon shadow
- Shifters: Shimano XTR
- Brakes: Formula Oro Puro
- Cassette: Shimano XTR
- Wheels: DT 1250
- Tyres: Various prototype Continental
- Bars: Unmarked aluminium 31.8
- Stem: Thomson Elite X2
- Headset: Rotwild Integrated
- Grips: Ergon
- Pedals: Crank Bros. Eggbeater 4ti
- Seatpost: Thomson Masterpiece
- Weight: 18.3 pounds/8.3kg