Josh Bryceland is a rider perhaps best known by his nickname – Ratboy. A former junior world champion and 2014 overall World Cup champion, Bryceland nearly won the 2014 World Championships but was scuppered by going too big off a final jump, where he had to settle for a silver medal and shattered foot instead.
With wild child antics on and off the bike, long flowing hair and speed as raw as it comes, Bryceland always draws a roar from the crowd. As a third of the Santa Cruz Syndicate team, alongside Steve Peat and Greg Minnaar, Bryceland’s race rig is what many would call a dream bike.
We spoke with Josh Bryceland about his setup at the World Cup round in Cairns (image credit: @robconroycreative)
Sixth gen of a classic
Now coming onto its fourteenth year as a race-winning platform, the V10 is the most winning downhill bike in the sport's history. Late 2014 saw the Syndicate team move to the sixth generation of this superbike, a full carbon 27.5in-wheeled version that remains the choice for 2016 – albeit with new team-issue paint.
Some carbon trickery hides behind this paint
Santa Cruz offers the V10 Carbon in two variants, with the team using the more expensive CC version. This features a more premium layup to achieve an approximate 280g weight saving without a trade-off in ride quality, stiffness or strength.
Santa Cruz offers the V10 with a staggering choice of five frame sizes, something just about unheard of for a premium downhill frame. The current trend is for longer and lower, with many choosing to size up – something the Californian brand has covered with ease. But speaking with Bryceland, he reveals his choice in frame size goes against trends.
"Santa Cruz do a XL and XXL, I’ve tried them but I don’t get along with them. Greg (Minnaar) rides the XL, and a lot of people my height do too," says the Cheshire, England local before explaining his preference.
A 60mm stem is a little longer than normal. Also, note the number plate that's glued onto a plate holder
"I ride a Large, which is on the small side of what someone of my height would usually ride. I prefer a little thing I can throw around. So I ride a large with a 60mm stem. It gets my weight over the front wheel and gets good front wheel traction."
As we’ve seen before, the similarly tall Greg Minnaar rides a size above and then extends the reach further with a Buzzworks extending headset. Bryceland rides with a standard Chris King headset, citing that he’s happy with the stock setup.
With a 6mm hex key, the V10's geometry can be swapped between a ‘High’ or ‘Low’ position. While we weren’t able to confirm it at the race, we suspect Bryceland tackled the Cairns course in the 'High' setting, where the steeper 64-degree head angle and raised 360mm bottom bracket would help with the rock gardens and slow, tight corners.
While the V10 name is from the fact it once had 10in of travel, the current version offers a race-focused 8.5in (216mm) travel at the rear wheel. This reduction in travel is due to the modern wheel size, but also that the industry has settled for now on 8in being ideal for downhill racing.
Bryceland uses a Fox DHX2 rear shock
While this amount of suspension travel is similar among most riders, setup is always personal. "I like my suspension firm – sometimes my race bike feels really stiff when I ride it back home. But when you’re riding at race speed, you need that extra firmness as otherwise you just blow through it," says Bryceland of his preferences.
"I don’t really change things depending on the course. I keep mine the same (mostly). Maybe an extra PSI (in the fork) if the track is really rough," he adds. Bryceland’s bike was set up with a 525lb rear spring for the Cairns World Cup course.
Swapping pedals and tyres
Where Bryceland states his suspension setup doesn’t change too much, his choice in tyres and pedals sure does.
At the time of photographing the bike between practice sessions, Bryceland says: "I’ve got a Maxxis Shorty on the front, and a HighRoller II on the back. If it dries up, I’ll probably go back to the HighRoller II (on the front). But the Shorty cuts through the layer of grease on the track a bit better."
As 2014 proved, that layer of grease is something that quickly causes havoc on the World Cup course in Cairns, Australia. That clay-based mud is another reason for Bryceland’s choice in pedals.
Bryceland was riding Burgtec flat pedals, but these may occasionally swap to Shimano SPDs when the going gets even rougher
"I’m on flat pedals, Burgtecs," says Bryceland. "Just 'cos I’ve been getting my feet off a lot as I don’t know when the bike is going to turn. I much prefer riding flats, but some tracks are so rough you need to clip in just to keep your feet in."
Arguably the finest downhill race wheelset money can buy
If the Santa Cruz V10 frame and Fox suspension weren’t lustworthy enough, the slather of Enve Composite and Chris King components surely are. Here, Bryceland rolls on Enve M90-Ten carbon hoops laced to Chris King hubs, with their distinctive angry-bee buzz as they freewheel at speed.
Very few downhill bikes match the amount of carbon as this one offers, with the wondrous black material also appearing in the Enve direct-mount stem, wide 800mm bars and seatpost.
Nothing special here, a standard cassette for Bryceland
Having remained unchanged for a number of years, Shimano’s downhill-specific Saint group completes the build. There’s little special about Bryceland’s setup here, with a standard 10-speed cassette out back.
As has been the case for a number of seasons, due to the Chris King hubs featuring six-bolt disc mounts, the Syndicate team is not able to use Shimano’s flagship IceTech finned rotors – which are only available in a Centerlock mount.
Doug Hatfield, mechanic to the stars, helped us hang the bike on our scales – 16.21kg. Out of interest, we managed to weigh Greg Minnaar’s too, which sat at 16.13kg despite its larger XL frame size. Compared with Bryceland’s laidback approach, Minnaar’s setup is far more particular, with even the seals and grease from the bottom bracket replaced with an oil bath.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Santa Cruz V10 CC, size Large
- Shock: Fox DHX2, 525lbs spring
- Fork: Fox 40 Float RC2
- Stem: Enve Direct Mount, 60mm length, 15mm rise
- Headset: Chris King InSet
- Grips: Lizard Skins Lock-On Charger
- Bars: Enve Downhill, 800mm width, 23mm rise
- Front brake: Shimano Saint BR-M820 w/ 203mm RT86 rotor
- Rear brake: Shimano Saint BR-M820 w/ 203mm RT86 rotor
- Brake levers: Shimano Saint BL-M820
- Chain guide: MRP G4 Carbon
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Saint RD-M820
- Shift levers: Shimano Saint SL-M820
- Cassette: Shimano Ultegra, 11-25T, 10-speed
- Chain: Shimano HG-95, 10-speed
- Crankset: Shimano Saint FD-M820, 165mm, 36t
- Bottom bracket: Shimano SM-BB80
- Pedals: Burgtec Penthouse MK4 flats
- Rims: Enve M90-Ten
- Hubs: Chris King ISO DH 12 x 157mm
- Spokes: DT Swiss Competition, butted, 2x lacing
- Front tyre: Maxxis Shorty, DH casing, 27.5 x 2.4in, tubeless
- Rear tyre: Maxxis High Roller II, DH casing, 27.5 x 2.4in, tubeless
- Saddle: WTB Volt Team
- Seatpost: Enve, 2-bolt, 0mm offset, 30.9mm
- Accessories: MarshGuard 50/10 front guard
- Rider's height: 1.88m (6ft 2in)
- Rider's weight: 73kg (161lb)
- Top tube length (effective): 625mm
- Total bicycle weight: 16.21kg (35.74lb)