It wouldn’t be long ago that many would say to take a hardtail to the Crocodile Trophy. That’s not to say you can’t, or shouldn’t. But for the 20th Crocodile Trophy, this mountain bike race has more trails in it than ever before. And comfortable can be fast, especially over 9 days.
Although Subaru-MarathonMTB racer Imogen Smith has a great hardtail at hand, she has opted to take her Bianchi Methanol 29 FS to the Crocodile Trophy. It uses a lot of similar design features as the Methanol SL hardtail, like the reinforcing ribs along the main tubes from the head tube, and fairly sharp angles for XC handling.
“I usually ride a hardtail but I like to take the dually out when I know it’s going to be rough, and when accumulative fatigue will be a problem,” said Imogen.
Unlike some dual suspension bikes, the Methanol 29 FS runs a full carbon frame, not just the main frame. This includes the linkage as well. All the bolts at the pivots are a Titanium alloy, and the spacing is 142mm at the back, using a Syntace X12 axle. The top and down tube have an internal rib reinforcing them. They’re a tough bike.
Like on her hardtail, Imogen uses mostly Shimano XTR components with full cable outer, and the brilliant Trail brakes. Imogen is taking the ZTR Valor wheels to the Croc Trophy due to their low weight, strength and reliability. Tyres are Maxxis, with an Ardent Race with EXO casing on the front, and an Ikon with EXO casing on the rear. An Ikon on the front would be ok too – but the Ardent Race has a wider performance window to suit the range of trail conditions that will be encountered at the 20th Crocodile Trophy.
The Bianchi head badge is unmistakable. Although this head tube does show some wear from a number plate rubbing on it. It’s a tapered headtube from 1 1/8″ to 1 1/2″. Cables and outers are routed are the frame to reduce rubbing.
Team sponsor Mt Zoom provide their XL bars cut down to 690mm, plus Bulletproof jockey wheels, Handy Strap for holding spares and their side entry carbon bottle cage. The extra width of these bars over the standard 660m that Imogen runs on her hardtail allows for a little more stability in rougher terrain, without sacrificing knuckles in tighter squeezes. A 100mm -17deg 3T ARX Team stem is slammed onto the headset.
Unlike a lot of elite women, Imogen runs a 2×10 setup. The Cannondale SI cranks are super light and very stiff, and can easily adapt to use a 1x spider, but this one is currently setup with a Praxis 38t big chainring, and a Shimano XT 24t. That combination isn’t meant to work together. But it does. The cranks run on a standard 132mm axle in a Wheels Manufacturing PF30 bottom bracket.
Imogen runs the low profile XTR clipless pedals, which have seen some action in 2014. Bianchi have quite low bottom brackets on their bikes, which offsets the steeper head angles (70.5 degrees on this frame) to keep it stable yet agile.
When you have spent a long time on a bike, you know what works. And for Imogen Smith, she loves the comfort afforded by a Fizik Vitesse saddle. They are hard to come by, but she’s got a stockpile. The seat sits atop a Ritchey WCS carbon post with setback.
Suspension is taken care of by Fox, with a custom tuned Float 32 CTD on the front, and a custom tuned Float CTD on the back. Both items were recently tuned by Fox Australia to work best for Imogen’s weight and riding. This is something worth considering if you weigh less than 75kg. The forks received updated internals from 2015, with the new seven position CTD damper. Plus some sweet new decals!
Imogen says “The other main time I’ve raced this bike was at the ICME (now Redback) stage race in Alice Springs, and since then I’ve been able to make a few improvements to the bike thanks to a long term test of the ZTR Valor wheels by Jetblack. The support from Fox getting my shocks updated has been fantastic. It’s about 10.4kg, and apart from everything else this bike will be a blast to ride on the technical Smithfield and Atherton singletrack.”
You can follow Imogen on Twitter @imogenjsmith