“Aw, it looks small but it’s pretty big, eh?” As the locals peer in at our hastily erected ‘studio’ in a back room at the Cross Keys Hotel in deepest, darkest Risca, South Wales, Cam Cole hits the nail right on the head. At first glance, the busy looking Pendbox suspension linkage and the ultra smooth lines of his Lapierre DH Team do indeed mask its true size.
One look at Cam himself though, who's making a pint of cola look like a shot glass, confirms that the DH Team is anything but small. Indeed, this very bike steered the big Kiwi home to a seventh overall in the 2011 World Cup, with his teammate and compatriot Sam Blenkinsop bringing his home in 13th.
On the subject of size, Cam’s race mechanic, Andy Ward confirms that the bike before us is slightly larger than an off-the-shelf size large DH Team courtesy of a longer front triangle, which adds an extra 20mm worth of space up front.
Lapierre have a bit of a pedigree for building quick bikes – with Nico Vouilloz on board this will tend to happen. The French legend set the bar for technical attention to detail in the Nineties, a decade of downhill races that he dominated ruthlessly.
“I worked closely with the R&D department at the start of the project,” Nico tells us over a crackly phone line. “My main roles were to define the geometry of the bike, do some work on the suspension linkage and to give my feelings on the cosmetic design too.”
The suspension linkage in question is the fabled Pendbox. Two years of development went into what is essentially a floating bottom bracket system that’s designed to separate pedalling efficiency from shock absorption.
“We introduced Pendbox technology in order to stop pedalling from affecting suspension performance,” Nico confirms. “The bike is very reactive as a result, it feels light. We also wanted to get a bike that could keep more speed through the bumps too. The new linkage gave us this effect.”
“I noticed straight away how light it was, it felt very nimble,” says Cam. “The feeling is definitely a bit different compared to my old Rocky Mountain. The Lapierre has just the right amount of flex in the right places, which helps with traction.”
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The rest of Cam’s setup is, as you’d expect, pretty factory, including his custom-tuned Fox Racing Shox suspension. “I've got more particular about my settings in the last couple of years,” he admits. “I work closely with Fox Shox and our team pre-season to get my base settings for the year sorted. I like to feel the ground underneath me so this means a pretty stiff setup.”
Having such a prominent figurehead as Nico behind his bike hasn’t affected Cam too much though. “I’ve not worked with Nico much at the races this year,” he says. “I've worked out my own way to work out bike setup and lines on a race weekend. Nico is the main R&D rider for all the initial development of new bikes or modifications to current models though, which is obviously good.”
As Cam gets busy acting the barman alongside his teammates, Sam Blenkinsop and Sam Flockhart, for snapper Russ, Andy points out another pro-only detail on the DH Team. The rear chainstays feature special eyelets. These are designed to negate the internal routing should he need to quickly swap out a rear brake or mech.
The carbon fibre rear triangle keeps weight low and lets Lapierre manipulate the characteristics and behaviour more easily. And it’s not just the back end of the DH Team that’s light – the components, including Easton Haven Carbon DH bars and seatpost, and a SRAM X0 transmission, also help keep weight down. Andy has dabbled with carbon rims this year too.
As with the production bike, the pro machine features an adjustable head angle via specially made inserts. This allows Andy to tune it between 64 and 63 degrees. The Lapierre team are sponsored by Hutchinson tyres and as a result, have a van-full of prototype downhill rubber to choose from.
If 2010 was a breakthrough season for Cam Cole, then 2011 was the year he came of age. Now ranked seventh in the world, the big Kiwi is on a high and the Lapierre DH Team is just the machine to do it on.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Custom Lapierre DH Team, size large, 20mm longer top tube than standard
- Rear shock: Fox DHX RC4, 425lb/in spring, 3in stroke
- Fork: Fox 40 RC2
- Headset: Alloy semi-integrated cartridge
- Stem: Easton Havoc direct mount, 45/50/55mm
- Handlebar: Easton Havoc, 780mm
- Grips: ODI Ruffian
- Front brake: Formula prototype, 203mm rotor
- Rear brake: Formula prototype, 180mmm rotor
- Brake levers: Formula prototype
- Chain device: E*thirteen LG1 w/ 38-tooth E*thirteen chainring
- Rear derailleur: SRAM X0, nine-speed, short cage
- Shift lever: SRAM X0
- Cassette: SRAM, nine-speed, 11-23T
- Chain: SRAM, nine-speed
- Crankset: Truvativ Descendant, 165mm arms
- Bottom bracket: SRAM press-fit
- Pedals: CrankBrothers Mallet
- Wheelset: Easton Havoc, tubeless
- Front tyre: Hutchinson prototype
- Rear tyre: Hutchinson prototype
- Saddle: Selle Italia SCR, carbon rails
- Seatpost: Easton EC90
- Other accessories: Carbon fibre headset top cap
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine.