Chris Pedder is a Brit (for the time being) mountain biker currently living in Luxembourg. When not investigating very small, very cold things in his day job as a theoretical physics researcher, he likes to daydream about mountain bike rides in proper mountains. Whilst Luxembourg doesn’t have many of those, it’s a lot closer to them than his previous life. We caught up with him as he gets ready to ride the Transalp 2016 with partner Rachel Fenton.
Building a bike
This is the first time since 2009 Chris has built a bike exactly as he wanted, rather than just riding a stock one with “racing tweaks”, and it is this freedom that means that as a “professional obsessive” he has everything just as he wants it. The frame is an Open 1.1, designed by Gerard Vroomen (previously of Cervelo) and Andy Kessler, who are still “working (really very) hard to stay small”. Tipping the scales at under 1000g, it makes up for an extra desert or two at lunchtime.
A hardtail bike deserves a fork that does the job, and Fox are famous for that. Being able to service them in the field is a definite plus, too. And here is the first weight-weenie trick bit: a Shift-up bolt through axle, which weighs in at 35g, but still holds the wheel die straight in the rough stuff.
It’s an argument almost as old as Campy vs. Shimano, but it’s clear which camp Chris falls into: he likes the reliability and simplicity of Shimano. An XTR M9000 drivetrain doesn’t weigh down the bike as it is, but for extra range a bit of weight loss, there’s a Leonardi 9-42T cassette. It’s a really neat idea but doesn’t shift as smoothly as the Shimano 11-40 cassette. It’s staying on for the Transalp though, where you’re not going to be binning masses of gears all at once, but the clunkier shifting means it’s gets switched for an XTR one for XC races.
(Edit: at this moment Chris is changing his bike to a 2×11 XTR drivetrain, using the XTR 11-40 cassette, for a better range for Transalp.)
Chris also runs an AbsoluteBlack ovalised chainring, more for comfort than the performance benefit. A 32T chainring mated to 9-42 cassette gives Chris a decent range, but not quite up there with a full 2×11 setup. Unconvinced of performance claims for oval rings, citing small samples, not independently-funded research (making him possibly deserving of the nickname “Sheldon”), he likes the “feel” of ovalised rings, especially when the going gets muddy or steep.
Wheels are where the dream looks less ideal, a Powertap rear hub is pretty damned heavy, but gives reliable data, and works okay with an oval ring unlike a lot of power meters with lower sample rates (like Stages). And whilst it might seem overboard, power is very helpful for long races. A Carbon-Ti front hub and a pair of Stan’s Crests shod with Maxxis Ikon EXO 3C tyres finish the build (The Vittoria treads here will be swapped before Transalp).
For finishing kit, the bars/stem/seatpost are made by Lyti; great little French brand with ESI grips and a comfy fi;zi’k saddle. A home-made saddle pack by @fentinator sits under the saddle: mud and zips are a bad idea, so Rachel made tool rolls which carry a tube, tyre levers, spare hanger and a quicklink, and stay put even on very bumpy Euro trails…
Last but by no means least, Sahmurai SWORD endplugs have already saved Chris a loooong walk once this year, a neat clever-thinking solution to the problem of where to store plugs and not stab yourself.