It's one thing to properly prep a mountain bike to tackle competition on the UCI World Cup cross-country circuit. It's another entirely to do the same on an inherently heavier dual-suspension machine – and doing it for a rider who stands just 1.57m (5ft 2in) tall only adds to the challenge.
The Scott - 3 Rox team has done an impressive job of doing just that, however, for diminutive Canadian team member Mikaela 'Fudge' Kofman.
Scott - 3 Rox team riders don't just get name stickers on their bikes. Each one is actually individually painted to suit
Like many cross-country racers, Kofman normally competes on Scott's Scale 29er carbon hardtail but occasionally prefers a dual-suspension Spark depending on the course. Despite the additional weight, Kofman says the improved traction and smoother ride can often be faster – no surprise to most amateur riders but still a relatively rare position at this level.
"If there is a course where I can conserve energy by staying seated and pedaling versus getting bounced around and fighting the terrain, I will almost always choose the Spark," she said. "Windham is an interesting course because there really is no bad choice. The long climb rewards the Scale, but the descent really rewards the Spark. At the end of the day the decision really lies in the variation of climbs on the course and how my body is feeling the day of the race."
Kofman runs Fox's iCD electronic front and rear lockout instead of the standard Scott TwinLoc system
Kofman ultimately went with the hardtail at Windham but was on the fence even just the day before the start. Regardless, team mechanic Scott Kelly and the team sponsors have ensured that both bikes fit, handle, and perform the way they should. Key elements include the move to 27.5in wheels instead of the 29in ones Kofman uses on her hardtail, slightly reduced suspension travel at both ends, and the use of 165mm-long crankarms despite a comparatively long 635mm saddle height.
"In all honesty I’ve never really noticed a difference between the fit of my dually versus my hardtail. My mechanic, Scott, did a bunch of things to make sure both of my mountain bikes and my road bike fit me really well. Over the years, we’ve spent a bunch of time optimising my fit and we’ve tweaked it with little things like shorter cranks that work a lot better for my size."
165mm-long crankarms help yield a more conventional saddle setback figure
All of those changes also make for a rather 'normal' looking machine that doesn't have to resort to an extremely angled stem or drastically forward saddle setback. Kofman even uses a riser handlebar.
Kofman isn't just smaller in stature – she's also exceptionally light at a wispy 41.7kg (92lb), which presents its own challenges in getting the suspension working properly. Although the Spark is normally equipped with 120mm of travel front and rear, Kofman's rig is trimmed down to 100mm at both ends with the stock TwinLoc dual remote system also supplanted in favour of Fox's iCD system with its more racer-friendly, near-instant electronic lockout. Fox technicians have reworked the fork and shock internals to better suit Kofman's low weight, too, with exceptionally low breakaway force.
Travel has been reduced to 100mm at both ends
"Darren and Mike at Fox have really helped with some custom suspension that really makes a difference," she told BikeRadar. "I have some super slippery 2015 stuff in there right now that makes my suspension feel super supple. In the race, I feel a lot less fatigued and much more comfortable attacking the technical sections of the course."
Kofman unfortunately succumbed to a stomach bug and unusually warm conditions on race day but promises to be back and ready for the next round of competition in Meribel, France, plus the world championships in Norway. Which bike will she choose, we wonder? Your guess is as good as ours.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Scott Spark 700, custom 100mm travel
- Rear shock: Fox Float iCD w/ custom internals, 90psi
- Fork: Fox 32 Float 27.5 100 FIT iCD w/ custom internals, 64psi
- Headset: Syncros Pressfit, 1 1/8 to 1 1/2in tapered
- Stem: Syncros XR1.0, 90mm x -6 degrees
- Handlebar: Syncros FL1.0 Carbon 15Rise, 640mm
- Grips: Lizard Skins DSP, 30.3mm
- Front brake: Shimano XTR BR-M987 w/ 160mm Shimano RT-99 rotor
- Rear brake: Shimano XTR BR-M987 w/ 160mm Shimano RT-99 rotor
- Brake levers: Shimano XTR Race BL-M987
- Front derailleur: Shimano XTR FD-M985
- Rear derailleur: Shimano XTR Shadow Plus RD-M986-SGS
- Shift levers: Shimano XTR SL-M980
- Cassette: Shimano XTR CS-M980, 11-36T
- Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-9000
- Crankset: Shimano XTR FC-M980, 165mm, 26/38T
- Bottom bracket: Shimano press-fit BB-UN94
- Pedals: Shimano XTR PD-M980
- Wheelset: Syncros XR1.0 Carbon 27.5
- Front tyre: Maxxis Pace EXO, 57a compound, tubeless, 27.5 x 2.1in, 18.5psi
- Rear tyre: Maxxis Pace EXO, 57a compound, tubeless, 27.5 x 2.1in, 18.5psi
- Saddle: Syncros TR1.0 Carbon
- Seatpost: Syncros FL1.0 Carbon Zero
- Bottle cages: King Kage Titanium
- Other accessories: Fox bolt-on front thru-axle, Stages Cycling power meter, Garmin Edge 510, Bar Fly 3.0 computer mount
- Rider's height: 1.57m (5ft 2in "on a good day")
- Rider's weight: 41.7kg (92lb)
- Saddle height from BB, c-t: 635mm
- Saddle setback: 6mm
- Seat tube length (c-t): 412mm
- Seat tube length (c-c): 330mm
- Tip of saddle nose to centre of bars (next to stem): 478mm
- Saddle-to-bar drop: 0mm
- Head tube length: 105mm
- Top tube length (effective): 570mm
- Weight: 10.73kg (23.66lb, with computer and cage)