Rachel Atherton’s Trek Session 9.9

The queen of downhill gets a new ride for 2016

The biggest name in women’s downhill racing, Rachel Atherton, absolutely dominated the 2015 season, winning all but one World Cup round and taking her third World Championship title too. For 2016, Rachel and the whole Atherton clan made an unexpected move from GT Bicycles to Trek.

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So far the new bike seems to be working just right, with Rachel kicking off her season on the top step of Lourdes a fortnight ago. Among the heavy rains and sweltering humidity of Cairns, Australia (this is a rain forest after all), we quickly grabbed a look at Rachel’s 2016 Trek Session.

Old frame, new paint

Rachel atherton’s new trek session 9.9 is a stock affair, but with a special ‘race shop limited’ team paint work: rachel atherton’s new trek session 9.9 is a stock affair, but with a special ‘race shop limited’ team paint work

Special paint covers an otherwise stock frame

Where the queen of downhill raced the 2015 season on a custom-sized GT Fury, 2016 sees Rachel on a standard large Session 9.9 carbon frame, albeit with a special team-issue ‘RSL’ (Race Shop Limited) baby blue paint. This is the same 27.5in-wheeled frame as used in 2015 by the previous Trek Factory Racing team.

Standing at 1.73cm tall, Rachel is perhaps best portioned to a medium sized Trek Session. However, longer and lower is the common trend among the best and so Rachel makes use of the largest frame size on offer.

Not content with that being long enough, the front centre is then extended a further 6mm with a special headset. While not labelled, we suspect this headset is from UK-based Works Components.

Providing control on the world’s roughest tracks, there’s 210mm of rear wheel travel driven with Trek’s ADP suspension system. Up front, it’s a marginally shorter 203mm Fox 40 fork that keeps the front wheel on point.

Rachel is no stranger to this dhx2 rear shock, but for 2016 it gets production labels: rachel is no stranger to this dhx2 rear shock, but for 2016 it gets production labels

The Session offers adjustable geometry

Trek’s ‘Mino Link’ is a feature seen across the majority of the full-suspension range, and sits at the back of the Session’s rocker arm. It allows the geometry to be set to one of two positions, with Rachel choosing the ‘High’ option for the tight Cairns course. This provides a 10mm increase in bottom bracket height and a 0.5-degree steeper head angle for quicker handling.

Suspension and tyres put under pressure

Years of special ‘RAD’ development fork internals and shocks have led to the current Fox DHX2 coil-sprung rear shock and Fox Float Factory 40 fork. Both fork and shock are production versions, although Rachel is likely to be using custom tunes within.

The fox dhx2 rear shock makes use of the sls steel spring. something that’s far lighter than traditional steel springs: the fox dhx2 rear shock makes use of the sls steel spring. something that’s far lighter than traditional steel springs

Rachel runs her suspension quite stiff given her size

Mechanic to Rachel of the past few years, Joe Krejbich tells that she prefers a stiffer suspension setup than other similar weighted riders would choose. With that, Rachel is setup in Cairns to ride a 475lb spring out back and with 65psi in the fork’s air spring.

Tyre choice is such a crucial aspect of downhill racing, and at the time of photographing her bike, Rachel was using Bontrager G5 Team Issues in a 2.5in width.