Words: Mike Rose
Action photos: @burklawrencephoto

Riders at the top of the sport are constantly testing and tweaking their bikes, trying out new concepts and ideas. Sometimes a major change will come along, but often it is just minor adjustments and alterations.

INTENSE Factory Racing (IFR) team rider Neko Mulally rode a prototype M279 last season but at the end of January he received a ‘Neko Special’, a hand welded personalized version, a M279 frame but with some geometry changes designed to suit him a little better.

“My new prototype M279 frame is custom built to my spec. It’s similar to what I raced last season, with some geometry changes to better fit me. It has a 480mm reach and a 460mm chaninstay in the center position, with room to go each way a few mm. All the other numbers are pretty standard for a modern downhill bike. I was happy with the kinematic that Aaron (Gwin) and INTENSE had on the first proto, and with these minor geo tweaks it should put me right where I want to be.”

So what does any good racer do next? They try different things out. The frame allows for a few adjustments, mainly the chainstay/wheelbase and the headangle/reach, but Neko also wanted to see what the bike would be like with either an air or coil shock. Would it alter the ride drastically? Would the suspension act differently? Would one just feel better?

Testing, testing, testing… that is what pre-season is all about. When it comes to the first big race of the season (and that really means the World Cups) the world’s best don’t want to be having to think about their bike and different set ups. All that has been tried and tested, and depending on the course, the conditions or any other outside influence that information and experience can be called upon and utilized at any time.

First up is testing between the Fox Float X2 air and the DHX2 coil rear shocks.

A few weeks after the rear shock testing Neko tried out different Front Center and Rear Center ratios. The rear dropout of the M279 has an adjustable Flip Clip that allows riders to adjust their chainstay length by plus or minus 5mm, and the reach adjust headset has plus or minus 6mm of adjustment. These are very small and subtle changes, but they can make all the difference.

With the information Neko has accumulated he is now in a much better position as we look forward to the first World Cup in Fort William at the end of May.

“I wanted to get familiar with all of my options so I am prepared for any track and any conditions.”