In nearly two decades of cross-country racing, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Trek Bicycles) has amassed an enviable list of achievements that includes two showings at the Olympics and nearly 20 national titles. With little left to tick off of his XC 'to-do' list, JHK has now shifted focus to enduro racing – and as it turns out, he's not half-bad at that either.
"After more than 10 years of racing the full World Cup XC circuit I knew was really ready for a change and some new challenges starting early last year," he told BikeRadar. "Mid-way through the season I started riding a longer travel bike – a Trek Slash 9 – with friends in Winter Park and around Colorado. I was totally hooked all over again on the simple experience of fun trail riding and I entered a few enduro races toward the end of 2012: Trestle, Kennebec and Whole Enchilada. I did pretty well right off the bat and put together a program with Trek to do what we did this year. It's been incredibly successful and I'm really excited to continue next year."
Whereas once Horgan-Kobelski's garage (or more accurately, his Studio Shed side venture) would have been filled with Trek Superfly hardtails and Superfly 100 full suspension rigs, his race bike of choice now is Trek's latest Remedy 9.8 machine, complete with 140mm of rear travel, 650B (27.5in) wheels, slack geometry, and a far more durable build than he ever would have considered for even the most technically demanding World Cup.
"Enduro is actually a really interesting format for equipment selection," he said. "Weight is still a factor, as is rolling resistance on fast courses, so riders are still trying to balance the 'fast' and 'capable' factors in equipment choice. Riders use light wheels and tyres at times, and not at others. For most courses, though, the ability to have a lot of confidence to ride fast with high commitment is more important than weight so I use way heavier tyres and generally don't worry about how much something weighs, just about how well it performs."
JHK's Trek Remedy 9.8 27.5 features 140mm of rear wheel travel – 30mm more than he ever used during his cross-country career
Key equipment highlights on Horgan-Kobelski's extra-large Remedy 9.8 27.5 include a Shimano XTR Trail group 'endurofied' with a Wolf Tooth Components 34T chainring and MRP chainguide plus a Fox 34 Float 160 FIT CTD fork and DOSS dropper post. Nearly every other line item is filled with something from Bontrager's vast catalog such as the brand-new Rhythm Elite tubeless wheels with their 22mm-wide (internal width) tubeless aluminium rims and speedy 6.67-degree engagement speed, dual-ply XR3 and XR4 tyre, a stubby forged aluminium Rhythm Pro stem and 750mm-wide Rhythm Pro carbon bar, and a carbon railed Evoke RXL saddle.
"I use 50mm stems on all my bikes now, and I would've never considered such a short cockpit racing XC. I also often use the heaviest tyres with thicker casings – even among tyres of the same type – which is the exact opposite of what you'd do for an cross-country race."
JHK says he runs 50mm long stems on all of his bikes now
Total weight as pictured – meaty tyres and all – is 12.68kg (27.95lb). Though admirably light for a bike of that type, it's still quite heavier than what Horgan-Kobelski used in his XC days. That plus the difference in the type of racing has meant a shift in training too.
"I did change quite a bit training-wise this year," he told BikeRadar. "Early in the season I lifted weights, which I'll do again and probably more into 2014 as strength was a limiting factor for me at some races this year. I focused far more on trail riding skills than fitness in my riding throughout the year, which was one of the reasons I got into enduro racing anyway.
"One thing that surprised me this year was the amount of time I spent on the bike during the race season," he continued. "It was a lot – even more than when I was racing XC. Between pre-riding long courses and doing multiple laps/runs I rode way more than I normally would mid-season. The courses are all so fun, though, that all that riding is part of the appeal."
Excellent chain security is provided by the Wolf Tooth Components chainring and MRP chainguide
Now that Horgan-Kobelski has gotten a taste of the enduro bug, he's decided to continue on that path for next season – a decision further eased by the fact that his similarly accomplished wife, Heather Irmiger, will also be racing the enduro circuit with him. The two will criss-cross the country in a shiny Airstream trailer along with a new addition to the HIJHK family – an Aussie shepherd named Crash.
"We are [lucky] for sure. It was interesting how it came together, though. Heather was still fully focused on World Cup-level XC when I was starting to race enduros last year. I was at the Big Mountain Enduro in Durango while she was at the World Championships in Austria. It wasn't clear that we'd both be in this together at that point. Then she came back and we raced Whole Enchilada [in Moab, Utah] together and she was hooked. Living together out of the Airstream all over the country this year has certainly been one of the highlights of our careers together. It's been a blast."
Want to compare and contrast Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski's bikes from yesteryear? Check out his Gary Fisher Superfly 100 from just three years ago here. Yep, times have changed.