The Mongolia Bike Challenge gets underway in the nations capital Ulaan Batar this Sunday. This race is a unique affair for most MTB stage racers. Hence, a few modifications to my trusty Norco Revolver FS have been made in preparation for the 6 day, 700km stage race across the tundra of the Mongolian Steppe.
Rider: Justin Morris
Years racing: 17
Tyre’s and Wheels for Mongolia
The Stan’s NoTubes Valors have been my trusty race hoops for 2 seasons now and have not missed a beat. Super light and a nice wide rim making lower pressures and wider tyres a breeze. I recently fitted new bearings and cassette body to the wheelset as part of regular maintenance and they are now spinning like a dream. I have increased the spoke tension on front and rear to stiffen them up a little more as I envisage a lot of straight line power will be required in the Mongolia Bike Challenge.
Another major change from my regular set up of a 2.2 MAXXIS Ardent Race up front and 2.0 Ikon up the back, I have opted for MAXXIS’ new offering of a 2.35 Ikon front and rear. Mongolia has lot of loose rocky terrain apparently, a wider tyre like this will be ace for pushing over the top of a lot of loose gravel/ stones. A slight weight penalty from my usual set up but the benefits of width far out way the weight disadvantage. Perfect clearance in the frame and fork so no stress of frame-tyre rub under wheel flex. Tubes of course have been done away with and have fitted new Stan’s valves for easy and quick inflation with the new ‘Orange Seal’ tubeless tyre sealant. Very easy to bead the rim just with a track pump with this set up. Handy to know as there are not many compressors on the Mongolian Steppe I do not imagine.
We tested many of the XC tyres from Maxxis – read our results.
I have recently had the pleasure of receiving delivery of the latest offering from FOX in XC front suspension. The FOX factory 32 ‘step cast’ with Kashima coating have so far been a pleasure to use. Such buttery smooth action for all 100mm of travel. They are slightly narrower in the lower portion of the fork made this fork noticeably stiffer to the previous offering of the Factory 32 I was using. Also a weight advantage of about 250g is also welcome. They even match my Adidas eyewear sunglasses! I crank these bad boys up to 95psi. I like a firm, stiff front end for this style of racing. No remote lock out for me so I like to make it as sturdy up front as possible. 12mm of sag with this set up.
Handlebars are the superlight Mt. Zoom carbon bar, no rise just old school flat and cut to 700mm of width, 9 deg bend and only 134g. The ever traditional and proven Thomson stem attaches this to the steerer tube. 90mm and with a 9deg drop, I would have in my younger years had this slammed as low as possible. However in my old age I have now resorted to one spacer below the stem.
I do have a Garmin 500. I do not however have any technology to attach to this in the way of power, heart rate, yahoo, strava, swift or any gadgets of the like. I use the device to let me know a) time and b) distance covered. This amount of data is suffice to let me know how far to the next drinks stop/ finish.
Shimano XTR Di2 for Mongolia
Shimano XTR Di2 components are taking care of all complete drivetrain duties on this machine, in a 1×11 setup. This groupset is without doubt the best I have ever used. It is simply faultless. The battery is fully charged and will last me the entire stage race no problem. The battery is loaded within the PRO Di2 specific seatpost and all cabling from there is neatly mounted internally. Cranks I run 175mm with XTR pedals again a very light set up. I am running 1x with a 34T up front to give me a bit more power on the long fire road sections than the stock 32T option.
I have however packed the 32 should the terrain/ my body get a little overcome from pushing the 34. Up the back I have opted for the XT 11-46 cassette which I am hoping will allow me to keep the 34 up front having that large 46 ‘granny gear’ to get me up the steep climbs. In The Pioneer earlier in the year the 32-46 was still not sufficient, I am hoping there is not the behemoth climbs we encountered on the south island of NZ in Mongolia though.
Braking is again the ever faultless Shimano XTR. Sharp, reliable braking no matter what the conditions. Hot, cold, no matter what these brakes are spot on. Easy to bleed with mineral oil.
Fully lubed and rolling with the Ride Mechanic ‘Bike Mix’ which I run for pretty much everything. It served me very well in The Pioneer which was pretty much atrocious conditions of every description so have packed plenty more for the Mongolia Bike Challenge.
The Norco Revolver frame, shock and bottom bracket
The Full carbon Norco Revolver has been faultless. I run a large frame, initially opting for an XL but have since found the large to suit me perfect, it handles like an old 26in bike in the tight, twisty singletrack but has the momentum, stiffness and comfort to really get rolling on the open trail. This is a super light piece of machinery. Again I recently updated all pivot point bearings on the frame and have appreciated the increase in performance this regular servicing provides.
Affixed within the frame is the often over looked part that is the bottom bracket. Although rarely talked about or promoted, the bottom bracket is perhaps the engine room of your bike. Without it bike riding would be a very, very difficult endeavour.
With the advent of press fit BBs, the importance of having quality in this corner of your bike is ever more important. Subsequently, I have for the past 18months been running a triple sealed KOGEL bottom bracket. Built for the mud/ sand of CX racing in Belgium this thing has been faultless for myself. It has seen The Pioneer, Alice Springs and a whole season of marathons in 2016 and is still smooth as. Very rare for an often abused/ overlooked part of the bike.
The rear shock is FOX Float Factory 165x38mm shock with Kashima coating – it gives 100mm of travel out back. Similar to the fork I have set the rear shock rather stiffer than normal for the type of terrain I am expecting in Mongolia.
The saddle is a Prologo chair I have been using for a while and have found to be very comfy, especially for longer days in the saddle. It’s not the lightest, but definitely does the job for myself.
Grips are the ever popular ESi chunky. Shoes are the again faultless Shimano XC90s which are stiff, solid and perfect for any race condition. Removable studs are handy in case of adverse conditions. Although the new BOA dials are all the rage these days, I can rest assured with the ever reliable ratchet system that in the middle of Mongolia I can be certain will not fail.
Spare tube I have attached to the underside of the saddle with the Mt Zoom adventure strap. This free’s up space in my jersey pockets for more food. Which for a type 1 diabetic is very much appreciated.
Everyday on the bike in Mongolia
Food is my main priority out on the bike. So that pre occupies most of my jersey pocket space. However of course the odd mechanical mishap may occur. I have packed a derailleur hanger, chain breaker, multi tool, spare tube x2, co2 cartridge x2 and am expecting to possibly go through a set of pads so have another set of metal sintered Shimano pads on hand as spares.