My job is winning mountain bike XC races, so I need a fast mountain bike. In fact, I need two fast mountain bikes. Of course I can only ride one at a time, I'm not Ben Hur. I ride for Giant, so I get an XTC Zero carbon hardtail and this Anthem Carbon full suspension bike. It's popular right now for pro XC racers to say they've given up with hardtails, Liam (Killeen) is a good example, but I think they've still got a place. (Oli rode his to a season opening sixth place at the Swiss Cup race in Schaan, Liechtenstein, the day before our shoot). That said, when the course calls for it, I'm on the 3.5inch travel Giant Anthem and, increasingly these days that's more often than not. Why are my bikes fast? Quite a few reasons, but mostly it's the design. Both my hardtail and full suspension bike share quite steep head angles to keep them fast, responsive and a bit nervous - too much for casual riding maybe, but just what you want when dicing through singletrack and chasing down some French whippet on lap three.
Then there's the components; I ride pretty standard stuff, SRAM X.O is the backbone with parts from Fox, USE, Schwalbe and Selle Italia. In the last
year I've been on a mission to drop some weight from the bike and one key area I've managed it is the wheels. I was on standard Shimano XTR wheels, not the new ones mind, but I struck a deal with the (great) guys at Stan's and now use Stan's Olympic ZTR wheels. I've got a prototype new pair about to arrive which so far only Specialized riders Liam (Killeen) and Sauser (Christophe) have had access to. These new wheels weigh only 1300g a pair, that'll be a drop of 400g alone. I can tell you as a racer, that sort of knowledge is good for the head. I'm sticking with Schwalbe tyres again, I've been using them for years. They've got a great selection to choose from, they're all fast and I trust them to do the job.
Once the gun goes though, I don't think much about the bike, It just has to bequiet, efficient and reliable. I suppose if I had to pick out one part of the bike which I think looks really smart, it would be the carbon fibre rocker link for the rear shock.
Oli Beckingsale's won the NPS XC Series five out of the last six years.