Archives For Mountain bike

Last year, the Ol’ Crank entered an enduro. Let’s just say he sucked at it – and that was despite the best efforts of one of the world’s fastest enduro riders, Jared Graves.

The Crank interviewed Jared in the lead-up to the event on the north coast of NSW for Outdoor magazine; in light of the champ’s switch to the Specialized team after a decade on Yeti, here’s a transcript of the interview.



Jared Graves – My first enduro race was a small race in La Molina in Spain in 2012. I wasn’t enjoying the DH world cups that season, and was struggling a bit for motivation. We did this enduro on an off weekend, for fun/training. and I just really enjoyed the day a ton. I’ve always been good at riding terrain blind, and then riding blind but racing was way more fun than I ever thought it would be.

It makes you pay so much attention to what you’re doing, and when you hit a section over your head and scare yourself a bit, but get away with it, its the best feeling ever! As long as you commit and try to ride out of all sketchy situations it usually works out. I had a massive grin on my face all weekend, plus you get about 10x more time on your bike than at at DH race…. Didn’t hurt that I won the race either. From that day I knew thats what I wanted to do in the future.



Ol’ Crank -What’s the best piece of set-up advice you can give a rookie enduro rider that won’t cost them anything?

JG – Make sure everything on your bike is working the best it can, long days can be hard on the bike, and if everything isn’t working 100% to begin with it’s only going to make things worse and take the fun out of your day.

OC – What’s the smartest way an enduro rider can spend money on their bike? Budget is $500, they’ve got a $3k dually that’s a year old.

JG – Absolute necessities are….

– Tubeless setup in the wheels, pretty much all tyres and rims these days are made for tubeless setups,  so there’s no excuse. but if your wheels are older you can always do the old ghetto/split tube tubeless (google it if you’re unsure what it is) it works just as well as proper tubeless setups.  I ran it for the entire 2013 race season on non tubeless tyres and non tubeless rims, and had zero flats and zero issues. Tubes are such a bad idea, I have no idea why some people continue to use them over tubeless.

– dropper post; in my opinion the best invention for MTB since disc brakes.

– single ring front setup. Being able to spin a super easy double front chainring up the climbs between stages will save your legs a bit, but that wont do you any good when your chain falls off 5 times every timed stage. Also use a narrow wide chainring and an upper chainguide. Narrow wide chainrings are awesome, but not fool proof. And for the sake of a 50gram upper guide why wouldn’t you just put one on?

– if some money left over, and you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, a full bike service at the LBS to get everything working as it should.

OC – Got one secret pro-level tip that you’re happy to share?

JG – Don’t overlook small details, no matter how minimal they seem. Every little bit of extra speed counts. Make sure your equipment is 100% dialled, no compromise!


OC – So, for my/a reader’s first race, how important is practice?

JG – Well of course its very important, but you need to find your practice vs fatigue balance, which can take a fair few races of trial and error. You need to be fresh on race day, but sometimes you race better if you ride more in practice and know the trail better, rather than being fresh and not knowing where you’re going and have no confidence to push.

On the flip side, you don’t want know all the stages really well from riding it multiple times but be so tired you ride like crap on race day. Its all about the happy medium! Thats where good training comes in, be fitter so you can ride/practice more and not get as tired.

OC – Is strategy and planning a big part of an enduro race day?

JG – Oh it’s massive; for me it’s almost the biggest part, being prepared and knowing how you want to take each stage. There are so many aspects to being prepared that it’s honestly pretty overwhelming.

From studying maps, so you know exactly where you are at all times out of course, to studying Gopro footage after practice runs, always having food/drink, planning your practice time efficiently, knowing the liaison stages (more map study) theres so many things the top guys do that most people wouldn’t even consider.

OC – What’s the biggest mistake I can make (besides crashing) on race day?

JG – Easy! Ninety per cent of people don’t take enough food and drink. always take 50 per cent more than you think you’ll need. Running out of food and energy and being dehydrated is EASILY the best way to completely kill fun times on the bike.

OC – More safety gear or less?

JG – course-dependent/weather-dependent/race format-dependent, it’s very variable.


OC – Enduro is an insanely competitive sport at your level. How did the prep for 2015 go?

JG – I had a big break after Finale, haven’t had one for years, so my training has started much later this season. Even though I won the overall and 2014 was a successful year, the whole XC racing to get as fit as possible thing kind of felt like a massive backfire. I felt like a deisel for the first half of the season and couldnt go hard on short stages, I lost a lot of punch. It took me until mid season to get that back.

So my preparation this year is much more enduro specific, and like I said, starting training a lot later to be 100 per cent just in time for round 1. last year I felt ready to race in February and the first race wasn’t until the end of April; having to try and maintain the best form I could then for 7.5 months became a big mental and physical challenge!

OC – Did your mindset change with that #1 plate on the bike?

JG – I felt more relaxed if anything. In 2014 I had a strong sense of “I must win or I suck” and I don’t ride my best when I feel like that, but when I had the number one plate I felt more relaxed and hopefully that shows in my riding. That’s usually when I ride my best.

That said, when I line up for stage 1 in Rotorua in March, that relaxed feeling could change very quickly!. (OC – this interview was done only days before Jared crashed heavily on a trail near his house in Toowoomba, separating both his shoulders and forcing him out of the first two rounds of 2015).

OC – You were vocal in 2014 about how course design was heading. Will anything change?

JG – We’ll see. I just think they need to emphasize keeping the riding fun, just good fun trails that leave you with a smile no matter how the race went. It was good that they tried some new things last year, but I felt the racing was better and definitely more enjoyable in 2013. 2013 was more of a balance of skill and fitness, more of a test of a true all round rider. 2014 had much more of a skills emphasis and you could get away with not being quite as fit. We raced some stuff that was gnarlier than anything I’ve ridden at any DH world cup.

RELATED: Graves debuts for Specialized – on the road


Enduro ace takes to the tarmac in his first competitive outing for his new team

FORMER Enduro World Championship title-holder Jared Graves has debuted his new Specialized colours for 2016, after his shock switch away from long-time sponsor Yeti.

Graves, from Toowoomba in Queensland, lined up at the 2016 Daniel Bennett memorial criterium on New Year’s Day at Norwell, west of Brisbane, finishing a creditable fifth place outright after missing a breakaway.


Pic: Jared Graves/Adam Weathered (Facebook)


Widely considered to be one of the most broadly talented riders in mountain biking, Graves has long used less orthodox training methods to prepare for his race season, including winning several rounds of the Australian cross country championship in the 2013/14 season.

However, Graves – a former BMX Olympian and 4X world champion – said that the XC preparation had left him feeling “like a diesel” going into his EWS championship winning year.

“Even though I won the overall and 2014 was a successful year, the whole XC racing to get as fit as possible thing kind of felt like a massive backfire,” he told the Ol’ Crank. “I felt like a diesel for the first half of the season and couldn’t go hard on short stages, I lost a lot of punch. It took me until mid season to get that back.”


Graves celebrates Rude’s 2015 EWS title. Pic: Yeti Cycles


A pre-season training crash in 2015 took him out of contention to back up his 2014 EWS crown, which was eventually claimed by former Yeti teammate and protégé Richie Rude.

The Queenslander will line up beside good mate American Curtis Keene in the Specialized squad. “I am pumped to join forces with Specialized, no other brand has the full compliment of top-shelf bikes and gear and the level of commitment to success. The whole team is setup really well with the best support, the best mechanics and the best teammates,” he said in a statement.


Pic: Specialized


The American company recently lost its 2015 World #1 downhiller, Aaron Gwin, after what Gwin called a “difference of opinion” on the champion’s salary expectations.

”I proposed what I believe to be my reasonable market value, and they differed,” Gwin told US site Pinkbike.

There is speculation that the company has allocated a greater marketing spend towards enduro racing – a discipline that more directly links to sales of many of its bike lines – at the expense of the waning downhill category.

Another casualty of the move to Yeti for Graves is the ending of a long association with mechanic Shaun Hughes, who has been with Graves for all of his major titles. Hughes will not make the move to the Specialized team, remaining at Yeti for the 2015 season.

RELATED: how to race enduro with Jared Graves


When I was a young guy living in Sydney, I was walking through the Bondi Junction mall when I happened upon a guy with a bike. He was offering me $100 if I could ride said bike 10 metres or so, and it would only cost me $5 to try.

Now, I was riding A LOT back then – racing most weekends, riding every afternoon in Centennial Park, doing trials… this seemed like money for jam.

I couldn’t even get one metre. And it cost me $20 – in 1992 or so, mind – to figure this out. See, the bike was built so that when you turned the bars one way, the wheel would go the opposite.

I’ve been riding bikes since I was five years old – but I’ve only ever learned to use one rudimentary set of inputs. Check this video out for an interesting insight into the neural pathways we build for ourselves.

Cheers Bike Rumor for the memory jog!


So I’ve been thinking… maybe I should get back into reviewing mountain bike parts again.

I dunno – might be just my ego talking, but I’ll be buggered if I can find anywhere a source of good quality, objective reviews for modern bike parts. Weights. Comparison. Verifiable analysis. Objectivity. Someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about.

Sure, I’m already doing reviews on stuff for AG Outdoor and for Bike. I’m thinking, though, I’m still buying a lot of stuff, and there’s no better way to ensure that I’m not in it for the freebies, is there?

The main issue is that my dance card is pretty chockers… but hey. You only live once, right?

So if any of the three people who pay even the slightest bit of blind attention are key, let me know what you reckon. I’ll kick off with some pretty pics of a new stem I bought the other day, just to ease back into it.

Oh, and say hello to the new Ol’ Crank office dog, Poppy. She’s cute, sure, but my God she’s annoying.

2015-04-09 16.02.45

The joy of sox

August 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

We lost a good pair of socks today. Mid-high, grey and black, made by Sock Guy for Rocket Parts. I’m not one for marking down the purchase date of socks, but I’m thinking 1997.

Despite turning at the hems a little a couple of years back, the Rockets kept rocking. There’s a teeny tiny bit of pilling on the soles, but it affected them not a jot. But the gaping hole on the ankle, just above the shoe line, has, at long last, done them in.

They’ve done their job. They’ve starred in numerous photo shoots, raced any number of races, explored any number of trails. They’ve been muddy, and they’ve been bloody. And they’ve been washed at least 800 times.

Oh sure, I’ve fallen hard for the high black sock fad. And that’s pushed the Rockets (and my Trek/VWs and my Yahoo/Ritcheys) to the back of the sock drawer over the last couple of years.

But what I loved about the Rockets was the fact I could still wear them under jeans or a suit, and no one was the wiser that I was a mountain biker.

Like Superman’s tights or… well, a pair of mountain bike socks, it allowed my a daily connection to a world I much prefer over the neccesary but occasionally mundane moments in my day-to-day.

I’ll miss you, Rocket socks. Thanks for the memories.



The plan? A bike I can use to train with and coach Max. It’ll also be useful to ride at the Monster BMX track at lunchtimes.

Not surprisingly, I have almost enough bits in The Shed to get it up and going pretty much straight away; I may need to find an almost-obsolete ISIS bottom bracket in order to recycle some old cranks, and there may be a slim excuse to upgrade the Turner to XTR brakes, but I must behave. I must resist. I must… ahh, who am I kidding.

Now, which bike to sell to make room for it…

Enve envy…

June 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

So the Turner build is yet to happen – and honestly, the only delay is a desire to do some sort of time-lapse video of it going together with no real idea how to achieve that. As well, I’m having a heck of a lot of fun riding my Ritchey, plus I’ve had an Ibis Ripley to bash around on, so the Burner has just hung quietly in the workshop rafters, patiently awaiting its turn.

I know exactly what’s going where, and the last few bits of the puzzle have arrived at Chez Robbo, including a very sweet Renthal Fatbar Lite and a set of triple-ring XTR cranks. Okay, so the plan was to run all of the stuff off the old XC Carbon, but the XTs look so good on the Ritchey and I picked the XTRs up for a (relative) song, so… yeah, I know, excuses.

But making excuses to upgrade to a set of Enve AM wheels is proving a little harder to justify…

So many Enves. So much money.

So many Enves. So much money.

A set of 27.5-inch AMs has come up on Gumtree. 32 hole. Black DT Swiss 240 hubs. The right axle config. About the same money as buying them offshore. Less than 1500g for the pair. The pair!

If I manage to sell the Stans Arch wheels for $500, though, it’ll still cost me $8 for each one of the 250g of weight I’ll save between the two wheelsets. I feel slightly queasy just thinking about it.

So many people have said, though, that running these wheels are the single biggest upgrade you can make to a bike. The Turner really hasn’t cost me a king’s ransom considering its no-holds-barred spec, either; if I bit the bullet, the build cost would still come in almost four large shy of what Santa Cruz sells its top-end Bronson completes for at the moment.

So torn… better drop the guy a text, just to chat.

I’ve wanted a tri-colour Ritchey hardtail for a pretty long time. Like, 20 years a long time. And now I’ve got one.

It’s an intriguing blend of the classic and the future; it’s a Tru-Temper steel stiffy built to take 27.5-inch rims.


My Ritchey ‘tweener, resting

It’s slender, simple and curiously cool. And it reflects new-age hardtail thinking of a slackish head angle and a longish top tube. No press-fit BBs or tapered head tubes here – though it does need a Campy inset headset – and a suitably simple nine-by-two speed build suits the bike perfectly.

And it rides so well. I was initially concerned – okay, a bit fearful that it might be a bit harsh on these old bones. I was wrong. With a long, thin carbon seat post and a 2.25-inch rear tyre, it’s a supple, lively ride that’s more Lotus than Lancer EVO.


A photo from 1972. Or 2013

I’ve added a Ritchey Marathon saddle since the pics were taken, and I’ve already had two decent-length burns around my locals. I’m going to add a mudguard to the fork; the slim frame tubes offer zero protection from flying mud. I may upgrade the brakes if the right deal comes along.

In the meantime, I’m just going to ride the snot outta this little beauty…

About to fire on down to Tathra for four days – yay! – and just in time, look what the ed of AMB has dropped off for me to play with…


Oo-er, Vicar…

In my size, too! Ibis’s Ripley 29er is a 120mm trail bike with a 2.2kg carbon frame, a DW rear end and a real lineage of fun, happy-snappy playbikes to live up to. More on Wednesday (no interwebs at Tathra, sadly/happily)…




Seeing a Sea Otter

April 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

What an awesome few days.

Laguna Seca

The hills are alive with the sounds of freewheels

I was lucky enough to be at the 2013 Sea Otter Classic in Salinas, California, last week – and the more things change, the more they stay the same. It was such a blast to be back at the coal face of the cycling industry, and I’m hoping to get back there again in 2014.

Where to start? The 650b movement coming into full bloom, a downhill race being won on a 29er, carbon everything, US-made paling into insignificance, and thousands upon thousands of people all getting their bike groove on.

I caught up with old friends and made some new ones. I lived off my old tricks and learned a few new ones, too. The weather was spot on, the riding was minimal but brilliant… in all, an awesome, awesome working holiday.