If we could only use one word to describe Rachael Atherton this season, it would be ‘dominant’. She is the first rider in downhill history to win every World Cup race in a season and her running streak is now 14 races. It’s her first season on the Session, following the Atherton Racing move from GT, and it seems she’s settled in very nicely.
While we bike-checked her Session back at Round 1 of the World Cup, as you’d expect, Trek has put together a rather pretty bike for the World Champs so it would be daft to ignore it.
While most riders went for special paint jobs — highlighting their nation, sponsor or fashion du jour — Rach’s mechanic described her bike as the ‘anti-Worlds’ bike: the frame was left as raw carbon, with a thin, lightweight layer of lacquer sprayed over the top. All that’s there is her name and GBR. Classy stuff.
While it’s definitely striking aesthetically, in a non-flashy way, cutting out the paint also saves a chunk of weight — around .5lb all in all (just over 200g). This helps keep the bike to a respectable 34lb /15.4kg, for her Large frame.
Bontrager G5 tyres should offer plenty of grip in the dust Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
Following on from the frame are the Shimano Saint hubbed wheels, with what we were told were Bontrager Line rims. However, as per at Cairns, we suspect they may be de-badged items from elsewhere.
Dry conditions led to a track that was getting more blown out, with riders commenting that holes were 2-3 times bigger than they were last year here. As such, Rachel’s suspension was set up to cope with these bigger hits. The fork was stiffened to stop it eating into its travel too readily, while the back end was softer to help prop the front up, and quicker on the rebound too. 2.5” Bontrager G5 tyres helped here too, with their larger volume and better support — Rachel often rides the 2.35” version on less rough tracks.
Brass weight suspended in rubber is said to reduce vibrations through the carbon back end Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
Wheels are often an item overlooked when it comes to setting the feel of the bike. Tyre pressure and suspension settings are often analysed to minute detail, but Trek mechanics also look at spoke tension as an important factor in ride quality.
Rachel’s wheels were de-tensioned a bit, which makes them less harsh on rough terrain. The little extra flex helps the wheel and tyre mould round impacts so the ride is likely to be less pingy, and with a bit more compliance in the wheel structure, punctures and wheel damage are reduced a touch. To compensate with this change in feel, the high speed compression damping is reduced a touch.
A little extra height at the front Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
The Session was built with an 8-speed set up, driven by a 36t chainring. In the workshop was a race-run only BB, which had been purged of its grease for faster rolling. Bringing things to a halt were standard Saint brakes with stock Sintered pads.
Rachel’s cockpit was relatively standard with 5mm of spacing under the stem to bring the 775mm bars a touch higher, while there was a +6mm offset headset to give a touch more length. With Rachel’s hand position right on the edge of the bars, she doesn’t use a lock-on grip but a standard pair, which were held in place with wire and glue — this prevents her putting a lot of weight through a grip’s lock-on collar.