Brendan Fairclough has to be one of the most recognizable names and faces in UK mountain biking. Equally at home shredding a trail bike on his native Surry soil to throwing his Scott Gambler down the Redbull Rampage course in Utah, he’s as versatile as they come. On top of all that, he’s also racing his bike week in, week out on the UCI World Cup circuit, and was selected for the GB World Championships squad. We take a quick look at his Gambler, raced at Val Di Sole.
- Rachel Atherton’s Trek Session World Championship bike
- Danny Hart’s World Championship winning Mondraker Summum
The heart of the Gambler is it’s relatively complex looking, but actually relatively simple linkage system, driving on Brendan’s bike a Fox DHX2 shock. The linkage system is designed to minimize shock hardware rotation; this reduces wear and Scott reckon helps keep the initial stroke nice and supple (more relevant when running an air shock).
Brendan is using a custom made linkage, which may hint at what’s to come in successive models, built to give a more progressive suspension curve. It’s also running a shorter than usual shock, at 240mm eye to eye, rather than the 267mm shock used on production bikes. Supporting it all is a 525lb spring – this is as heavy as the orange versions come, apparently, but spring rates go higher if you don’t mind a black spring.
Up front the Fox 40 fork is run at 85psi with six volume spacers, two more than standard, and one less than the maximum possible – this is to give the fork extra support in steep terrain, and to stop it diving during braking. Keeping the fork propped up was definitely key at Val Di Sole, with the track full of deep, dusty holes. Brendan’s mechanic said that they were running the bike faster than usual (in terms of suspension set up) as there are loads of blind spots in the track, big holes hidden by deep dust.
Brendan is running Syncros rims, built onto DT Swiss 240 hubs. Up front, he's running 25mm internal width rims, and 30 at the back. This is because he prefers the front tyre to move around a bit more than the rear and prefers the more rounded tyre profile given by the narrower rim up front with a squarer profile out back.
He was running 21-22psi in his front Schwalbe Magic Mary and 26-27 at the back with a cut-down Dirty Dan at Val Di Sole. The mechanic is pretty precise with his rear axle torque, too, tightening it up to 12 Nm – this is tight enough to keep the wheel secure, but not so tight as to cause unnecessary drag or wear on the bearings.
Speaking of bearings, the bike will go through 2-3 sets of bearings in a weekend – not to say that they get totally worn out, but replacing them means there’s less chance of an issue arising during such an important weekend. The exception to the rule is at the bottom bracket – incredibly, Brendan has been using the same one all season – this keeps it spinning fast.
With his mechanic swapping bearings plenty of times during the weekend, he’s also bleeding the brakes every day, and getting through brake pads, too. His brakes are secured with titanium bolts, like many other components on his bike, and Brendan runs them relatively flat, with neutral lever pull and bite point settings. These are mounted on a 780mm bar with a 30mm rise – his bar set-up was not changed for Val Di Sole.
Brendan was one of the few racers at Val Di Sole with flat pedals attached to his Shimano Saint cranks, preferring the feel of them and allowing him to move his foot position easily. They were plugged into a 7 speed Shimano drivetrain, using a cut-down XT cassette.
Finishing it all off is the sweetly polished frame, his mechanic saying that the polish both looks better and is much easier to clean after each run.