MTB, The Pros Use It, Why Maybe You Shouldn’t

MTB, The Pros Use It, Why Maybe You Shouldn’t

Just because an mtb pro (or a bunch of pros) uses a piece of equipment doesn’t mean you should make the same choice. Why not? Well, there are several reasons and I will give you some excellent examples.

A student of mine emailed me accusing me of being crazy for riding plus-sized tires. His argument was that Jared Graves and Richie Rude (two World Champion Enduro racers) tried plus tires and didn’t like them. My first question to my student was, can you corner as well and as confidently as World Champion racers? To which he replied, “well, I’m much better after your camp and I have been doing the cornering drills but no, I’m not that good.” Well, plus tires give me the confidence to corner much faster and aggressively than narrower tires I told him. Wouldn’t you corner faster if you knew you had Way More Traction?

Jared Graves cornering like the champ he is!

So, reason one why not doing what a top mtb pro does is, you are not Jared Graves! Don’t you think Jared Graves can corner better than you and that he rides with more confidence than you? So, Jared doesn’t need the extra traction from the plus-sized tires but, you sure could benefit from that extra traction and confidence!

Reason two why not doing what a top mtb pro does is, change feels weird, maybe if Jared and Richie spent more time on plus they would like them! It took me seven days of riding to get used to 812mm wide bars! My friends were joking me and asking me how much I was going to cut them down. After three days they still felt weird to me and was thinking I would probably cut them down but was smart enough to give them a few more tries.

Reason three comes from working with Greg Minnaar (three-time world champion and three-time world cup overall champion). Who do you think knows more about bike handling and bike setup, me or Greg Minnaar? Well, let me tell you about three separate conversations with Greg.

The first happened in a camp I was teaching with Greg about two weeks after getting my 812mm wide bars (in 2011 I think). I was explaining to the students that the ideal bar width (for control and good body position) was between 32″ (812mm) and 29″ (740mm) depending on height and width of your shoulders. Greg just laughed and said, “no one needs bars over 30″ wide. Well, Greg’s signature bar from ENVE is 808mm wide and he runs them uncut. It took Greg a while to come around but now his bars are much wider than 30”!

Greg Minnaar

Greg Minnaar’s 808mm wide bars

A few years before that, when Greg moved to Santa Cruz bikes from Honda, I told Greg is large V10 was way too short for him. Greg just laughed and said, “who’s the world champion here?” Well, the next year Santa Cruz lengthed the reach measurements on the V10s by 20mm. A year or two later they came out with an XL designed for Greg and Steve Peat (both of whom are 6’3″) that had a 25mm longer reach than the large. Then, two years ago they made an XXL that was another 25mm longer in reach and Greg added a 10mm headset spacer to that! Greg loved the XXL and it seemed to bring new life into his career. Greg’s bike has grown by three sizes since he told me his large was fine for him and I said it was too short.

Then there was the time I told Greg that I really wanted a 29r downhill bike! Greg couldn’t stop laughing at that idea! Well, now Greg rides an XXL 29r V10.

Greg Minnaar’s XXL 29r v10

Reason three is, pros are afraid of change! Ever heard the saying, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? Well, think about it, if you are a multi-time World Champion and you are used to your current bike, why change to something different? It wasn’t until Greg started getting beat by racers on longer bikes that he decided to experiment.

Reason four, often a top pro racer is paid to use certain equipment. Greg has won racers on bikes from Haro, Orange, Honda and Santa Cruz. He gets paid quite a bit of money to do that and he might be riding a prototype, not what you can buy.

Do your own research and TEST (for at least a week!) various changes in equipment to see what works best for you. Keep an eye on what the pros are doing as you can learn from that but, what the top pros are doing isn’t always the best thing for you to be doing!

I hope this has helped you. Any stories about a pro doing something weird/different that worked for you? That didn’t work for you? Let us know below.

Feel free to share this with anyone you know who could benefit from it.

Create your best ride yet,

Gene

11 replies
  1. Justin
    Justin says:

    What are you running? Right now I am on 3.0 high rollers. Moving back to 2.8 DHF/DHR when my new wheels show up

    Reply
    • Gene
      Gene says:

      Hi Justin,

      I’m running 2.8 Butchers right now but the roll really slow. My favorite 27.5 set up is 3.0 Purgatory up front and a 2.8 slaughter out back. Got a new 29r plus wheelset, going to run a Minion 3.0 up front and wide track 2.5 in back.

      Reply
  2. Mike Galeoto
    Mike Galeoto says:

    Great article Gene, it’s good to hear your running plus because us old pros can show the way and everything you said about the current pros is spot on. Perspective and the wisdom it can bring. The nay Sayers point to what a pro said last year..while in a contract. So true. Thanks

    Reply
  3. Mark Webb
    Mark Webb says:

    Right as usual Gene! I was a nay sayer also. Said I would never buy a 29r. I just bought a Trek Full Stache 29r PLUS!! Great traction! So far so fun! Thanks for the great articles and skill classes!

    Reply
    • Gene
      Gene says:

      Hi Mark,

      Cool, that Stache looks like a fun bike! You are welcome for the articles and skills classes, it is a labor of love.

      Reply
  4. Anastasia
    Anastasia says:

    Great article. Sometimes being a beginner gives you a better perspective. As a beginner mountain biker I don’t have the “baggage” that I see carried by many who have been in the sport for years. As a result, my first ever mountain bike is a 29er, now upgraded to 2.6 inch tyres, wider bars, shorter stem, dropper post, flat pedals, Pike fork, and big rotors. When my boyfriend was making these upgrades to my bike we heard all sorts of skeptical comments: it will be too heavy, too clunky, she is small woman, why does she need 750mm bars, clipless pedals are more efficient, dropper post so expensive, it will be a pig to climb, blah blah blah. 3 months later and I am loving riding, feel confident and relaxed, can focus on my skills instead of just hanging on for dear life, and climbing is easy because I have all the traction I need! Don’t even get me started on the guys who start their girlfriends on a shitty bike with minimal suspension, xc tyres, long stem/narrow bars, and get her on to clipless pedals which make her scared to tackle any rock garden. Grrrrr.
    Loving the articles, Gene. If I could come to your clinic I would but the flights from New Zealand are a tad expensive!

    Reply
    • Gene
      Gene says:

      Thanks, Anastasia, your boyfriend is a keeper! Much respect for the way he sat your bike up! Planning on riding in New Zealand soon, maybe I will add a camp!

      Reply
      • Anastasia
        Anastasia says:

        Thanks Gene. If you are running a clinic in NZ we’ll be there! South Island is where it’s at: MTB heaven. I am a real nerd in approaching learning new skills so I really appreciate your systematic approach and emphasis on deliberate practice. Fingers crossed we’ll see you in New Zealand!

        Reply

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