Brian Lopes is the smoothest and most dominant 4X racer ever. Now, together with GT, he's pumped his expertise into his own signature 4X weapon...
As a three-time World Champion in 4X (2005), Biker X (2002) and Dual Slalom (2001), Flyin' Brian Lopes has more UCI World Cup wins than any other male mountain biker. He's underlined his dominance by doing the double and winning both the World Championships and the World Cup Overall in the same years. Known for his smooth and precise style, Lopes is poetry in motion and flows rather than rides over the terrain, yet he's also a powerhouse with superb control - witness his New World Disorder 7 section that was, sadly, all too short.
He started racing as a BMX pro when he was 17 and switched to mountain bikes in 1993. Since then he's racked up a formidable reputation to back up the stats, and his new signature GT 55 bike is the tool forged to his exacting standards.
Designed by Brian together with GT's Tech Division, the 55 is based on the Zasker frame and is virtually a carbon copy of Brian's own works race bike.
"I designed it from my race bike," Brian told MBUK. "I've worked on the angles I like over the many years I've raced; they need to be good and the bike needs to be light and responsive." The frame geometry, together with the frame itself, is identical to the bike that Brian has raced on for the past two years, with a 68 degree head angle for stability at speed that's matched with a 69 degree seat tube angle. The frame also sees hydroforming where the top and down tubes meet the head tube to keep weight down and strength up in this crucial area.
As Brian admits though, getting the bike's aesthetic look right was an altogether more difficult task: "The graphics took the longest time," he said. "We went back and forth many times until I was happy, and I think it turned out killer."
As Brian says: "The bike is even more than I thought it would be. It's the frame that I've raced for the last two years and now anyone can buy it." For a world-beating bike with peerless credentials, this is the 4X bike of choice for smooth riders. And just like Brian himself, it's going to be hard to beat.
The new Marzocchi World Cup 4X fork that graces the front of the bike - set at 80mm of travel to soften up the punches - is a special edition Lopes signature model made especially for this bike. And the special edition spec doesn't end there, as white ODI lock-on Ruffians are only available on the 55.
Elsewhere, the spec is as close to Lopes' own race bike set-up as you could expect from a bike destined for retail: "We had to use a few items that were not top-of-the-line kit from my sponsors, just for price point issues," Brian explained. "The two things that I didn't get on there that I would have loved to were the Chris King headset and my new El Moco signature tyre by Kenda. The tyre just won't be finished in time and the King headset would have added too much to the retail price of the bike."
The 55 build does feature a Shimano Saint crank and Hollowtech II bottom bracket, Sun Ringle SOS wheels, XTR rear mech, Hayes El Camino Trail brakes (a unit that will no longer be available as an aftermarket brake in 2007), a full Easton cockpit with EA70 Monkeybar, Havoc stem and an alloy post topped off with a Fizik Gobi perch that is custom coloured to match the paint scheme.
Special edition parts
The ODI grips are made especially for the bike and are available nowhere else, just like the blue/white Fizik saddle and special edition Marzocchi Lopes Signature 4X fork - a no frills, straight-talking 4X-specific fork with UCI Rainbow colours and Lopes' signature.
XTR rear mech
The headliner among Shimano's many groupsets, XTR represents the pinnacle of shifting performance, and when it's mated together with a full Shimano transmission containing Saint cranks, as well as shifter and 38 x 12-26 gearing, it's arguably the perfect 4X transmission.
Custom paint job
Brian oversaw the paint finish of the bike himself, and his personal mark is on every part of the rig. The 55 goes back a long way to Brian's BMX days, from where he cut his teeth and honed his effortless riding style.
Laid down by Lopes himself, the frame geometry is exactly that of his own personal works race bike and is custom-made for optimal 4X response. With both World Championship and World Cup honours to its name, there's really no argument there.
It may almost be verging on passé these days, but hydroforming allows frame designers to eek out maximum strength for minimal weight. In the realm of 4X racing that's the grail that all bikes are chasing, which is precisely why the Lopes 55 uses it to great effect.