What bike should I take to the Cape Epic? It’s a pretty major question, and not one with a universal answer. While the course does demand something tough, reliable, and hopefully with some sort of rear suspension – riders still race on hardtails. A hardtail will give lower weight and potentially greater reliability thanks to reduced maintenance requirements. We have taken a look at the Look 989 of current Mixed Category leader Fanny Bourdon. She’s racing with Jeff Bossler, on the Open-Kappius team. Bourdon rode strongly in the Swiss Epic mixed category in 2015, riding the steep Valais trails with ease. She’s a long term elite performer, having represented France at XCO and XCM World Championships, and finishing on the podium at XCM World Series event.s
The Look 989 is a new hardtail from the French manufacturer, built around chain and seat stays that offer some compliance, along with their integrated seat post that allows for adjustable levels of firmness. They are all small amounts of suppleness compared to a full-suspension bike. But with a frame weight of 1300g, it’s a good compromise. And another example of why the hardtail isn’t dead.
Frame details on the Look 989
The Look 989 frame has a tapered steerer, but the top tube engulfs the head tube, and the A Stem allows for a very stiff and clean interface. The frame also uses a PF30 bottom bracket. Some might feel it’s the worst standard out there, but the full carbon shell is light, and can adapt to any crankset. 142x12mm rear drop outs also support a 140 or 160mm rear rotor – which is a good indication of the frame’s XCO and XCM intents.
Bourdon is using a RockShox SID World Cup fork – it’s far lighter than an RS-1 setup. Her fork has also been upgraded to SKS seals, for better reliability in the fine dust of the Cape Epic. You can also see the edge of a King Titanium bottle cage – probably the most reliable bottle cage in the bike industry, used by any rider who is tired of losing bottles. There’s only one though!
Wheels on Bourdon’s bike are from Kappius Components. While the images don’t show the exact hub spec, they look to be the KH1.5 hubs, which have a Shimano freehub, laced to the Kappius KR29 rim – with a bladed spoke. The total wheel weight should be about 1400g or a little less – just like the set we tested in 2015. The 240 points of engagement in the freehub do sound cool, but also offer near-instant take up. Not only is this important in XCO racing, or anytime you want an immediate response, but it’s also a huge bonus in technical climbing, where getting in just a quarter of a pedal stroke between features helps with your momentum – and ability to cleana climb. Given the increasing technical nature of the Cape Epic, this is a smart spec.
Bourdon’s Look 989 is using a mix of tyres – a Specialized Fast Trak on the rear with a Maxxis Ikon on the front. Both are fast rolling, however the Ikon has a tiny bit more edge knob – which is likely why Bourdon has opted to run it on the front. That said, an Ikon EXO tends to be the strongest XC tyre going – so foregoing one on the rear is an interesting choice. Given they are not the most suppler tyre, it may be fore ride quality.
With varying carbon lay ups in the stays, the frame is also aided by the interchangeable elastomers in the integrated seat post. Bourdon uses a grey insert on her Look 989 – the most flexible. The system also allows height adjustment, but also fore-aft position adjustment via the rotation of the head. You can see Bourdon runs the forward position.
A happy mix on the Look 989 drivetrain
This bike is a great example of using what works for the performance and features you want – especially in the drivetrain. While Magura brakes take care of stopping with 160mm rotors front and rear, SRAM shifters operate a Shimano XT front derailleur and a SRAM GX rear, for a 2×11 group set.
Bourdon has opted for the low weight and tighter range of a Shimano M9000 XTR rear cassette, with a SRAM XX1 chain. The Rotor REX 2 cranks are 172.5mm – possibly to match her road bike but also because she likely doesn’t need the length of 175mm. We can see the chainrings are a 22/36 combination, which will give Bourdon an exceptional range given the demands of the course, and duration of the race.
Bourdon also runs the Look clipless pedals, which are light, and have a great feel – especially in the dry.
There are still five long days to go, so let’s hope that Bourdon and her team mate Bossler can continue their winning ways to take out the overall Cape Epic mixed title.