The Swiss mountain bike superstar Jolanda Neff has just won her first Elite Women’s XCO World Title, with a commanding display of technical ability, fitness and race tactics in Cairns, Australia. Although Neff won the XCM World Championships in 2016, this is her first elite title in XCO, which is her main discipline. She’s just a pretty handy marathon racer too.
For 2017, Neff joined the Kross Team, moving to a new bike, new group set, new suspension – and adopting a few more changes too. We took a look over the bike she won the XCO World Championships on, right after she’d ridden it to the post-race press conference.
The hardtail isn’t dead
Far from it. Hardtails are still pretty common, and all the women’s XCO World Titles were won on hardtails in Cairns. Whereas dual-suspension bikes took home the stripey jerseys for the men. The hardtail is far from dead.
Neff’s Kross Level frame is full carbon, with a huge head tube, top tube and down tube area to promote a stiff front end.
Like most modern hardtails, and all frames, tubing profiles count. The top tube tapers to flat at the seat tube, and the seat stays are thin and wide – not unlike a Focus Raven. There’s good clearance through the frame, to allow for wider rubber or mud.
The focus on tubing profile allows some vertical compliance to be built into the frame, while maintaining the stiffness under pedalling that’s needed.
The frame has been set up to have readily serviceable parts easy to swap out – things like the brake hose or the rear derailleur cable. Both run externally on the downtube.
That internal cable is for the dropper post. Although the frame has a 27.2mm seat post, we hear it has been designed in conjunction with Neff’s friend and team mate Maja Wloszczowska to use a dropper post. Last year, Neff said she used a dropper post in training – but not in racing. That has changed this year, with a 100mm drop KS Lev Ci fitted.
The actuation is via the stock KS over the bar lever, mounted on the right hand side. This doesn’t seem like the most ergonomic option – but clearly it works just fine for Neff. Neff has a Selle Italia SLR atop the post.
The grips are Kross, and while we only had a quick look, the bars look to be ‘about’ 700mm wide.
The RockShox lockout is mounted under the left hand side of the handlebar.
Neff runs here SRAM Level Ultimate levers well in from the grips to make sure her fingers fall right where she wants them on the levers.
The RockShox SID fork has custom graphics, as you’d expect. The frame and fork don’t use Boost spacing, but do both use through-axles.
A look at the drivetrain
While Neff’s bike runs SRAM Eagle 12 speed, there’s still a port on the frame for a SideSwing Shimano front derailleur. This suggests it’s a stock frame – nothing custom.
The SRAM Eagle drivetrain mustn’t have skipped a beat for Jolanda Neff, as she didn’t have to pull into the pits. Her dad works on her bike, and coaches her, and it looks like he’s done a good job of both. The 10-50 range of the cassette would have let Neff spin quickly up the climbs but also make use of the long flat section before the start/finish line.
At a glance Neff’s bike doesn’t look too dirty – but check out the SRAM Eagle rear mech, coated in dust. And Neff was at the front most of the race, she won by about 2.5 minutes!
Wheels to keep Jolanda Neff rolling
The wheels on Jolanda Neff’s Kross Level are from DT Swiss, and look like they are stock XRC 1200 spline wheels, with a 25mm internal width. The tyres are Mitas – who claim to have the best flat protection with the Textra sidewalls. Neff didn’t flat.
Neff rides hard, and by all accounts DT Swiss make a very good carbon wheel. They also work for Nino Schurter after all.
Neff runs trusty Shimano XTR pedals. They have a low stack height and predictable feel in a variety of conditions.
All in all there’s nothing special about Neff’s bike. It felt pretty light (this was an quick grab of photos – nothing more), it uses top-spec suspension, wheels and gears. But the main thing is Jolanda Neff is one of many riders who are reaching for a dropper seat post. Whether it aids body positioning, confidence, weight transfers or all three – it’s on there and the KS Lev Ci models tend to only add about 300g over a very light carbon seat post. We even counted 8 of the top 10 seeded women in U23 using dropper posts. They are part of the future of XCO.