The 23rd Crocodile Trophy finished last Saturday, and as usual it was a test of the support crew, riders and their bikes. The 8 day race takes in a huge variety of terrain with about 13000m of climbing and over 600km of racing.
I have done the Crocodile Trophy 3 times before, so have a pretty good idea of what kind of bike you should ride at the Crocodile Trophy. My Norco Revolver 29 FS has proven itself at a couple of week long stage races now, like The Pioneer, so I was more than happy with the bike as a whole. But here’s a look at some of the specific parts, and how they fared, at The Crocodile Trophy.
Suspension for the Crocodile Trophy
Well I wasn’t about to change from my normal Fox Factory suspension, but I did have both the shock and fork serviced by Sola Sport a few weeks before heading to the Crocodile Trophy.
I ran 74psi in the fork, and 4 clicks in on low-speed compression. I had the rebound reasonably quick.
Out back, I ran 130 psi, and had the rebound set to match the front. I did have to actually slow it down a bit mid time-trial as on day 8 I was finally finding some legs and moving a bit faster, and found the bike was kicking up a bit in the back with the speed I’d found.
I had some major dramas on Stage 4 as my work would barely get half of it’s travel. I think the fine silt on that wet stage had some ingress into the seals – it sounded terrible and felt even worse. A number of other people had similar issues. Thankfully, I had a couple of small sachets of float fluid and the race mechanic lubricated the seals that evening, and my fork felt great again. It really does pay to wipe your seals down after each stage – and don’t use a lube externally.
Drivetrain for the Crocodile Trophy
Shimano Australia have provided our XTR Di2 drivetrains this year, which is great as I’ve found Shimano XTR to be the go-to for performance and servicing on the road (or trail) for the past 10 years or more. From 9 speed to 10 and now 11.
Just like at The Pioneer, I put the XT 11-46 cassette on the back for extra range. But I kept a 34t chainring on the front, with a 30 and 32t packed as spares (along with a new chain). The updated tooth profile holds the chain really well without a guide, although I did drop a chain once on stage 7. These cranks have been in use for over 18 months, so they show their age and use! The cranks spin on Kogel bearings, which were silent the whole time.
I did change the Di2 cable routing ahead of the Crocodile Trophy. The mainframe of the Norco Revolver has all the plugs and ports you need, but not the swing arm. And where you can have the wiring exit the frame isn’t that neat, or puts the cable in harms way. So I had another hole added between the two options.
This has proven to be really neat and secure, and the wire is then covered along the swing arm, then in a reinforced section to the Di2 derailleur and zip-tied in place. Don’t do this at home.
I charged the Di2 battery (which sits in the base of the seat tube) before heading to Cairns to work at the World Championships. After some riding there, some more riding afterwards, and then the Crocodile Trophy (so let’s say 45hrs of riding) the battery still has 40% left.
The 34×11-46 was great for the second half of the week. But I really should have had the 32t on for the first 3 or even 4 days. The climb out of Copperlode Dam, and pretty much the whole of Stage 3, had me using the lowest gear a lot and needing more. The Revolver doesn’t take a Di2 front mech (we tried) but a 2x setup would be fantastic for a race like the Crocodile Trophy.
Rolling stock at the Crocodile Trophy
I’ve been using the Light Bicycle XC923 wheels almost all the time since buying them last year. It’s hard to go wrong with a 28mm rim, 28h DT Swiss 240 hubs and a build that’s just under 1500g.
I had no wheel issues at all. And that includes tyres. I used a Maxxis Ardent Race EXO TR on the front, and an Ikon EXO 3C TR on the back. Both 2.2″. No flats, no issues.
I could have happily run Ikons front and rear, but I’m happy with the combo I run. Having tested a number of the Maxxis tyres earlier this year, I still think it is the most versatile setup.
I did top up my tyre pressure twice in the race. I’m not sure if I burped them or if the valves seeped, or maybe I picked up a thorn. but I tended to run a little higher than at home, with about 24psi front and 26psi rear.
Braking for the Crocodile Trophy
I’ve used some lightweight rotors, like the 67g ones from Ashima, in races in the past. Now I tend to stick with Shimano IceTech rotors. They are the full-fat option but they also have no surprises in braking either! I’m moving to Centre-Lock rotors as I think in the long run it’s easier for swapping rotors between wheels and when travelling.
I prefer the XTR Trail brakes for a bit more power, although I didn’t run the finned pads in the back. The standard sintered pads were fine – although I wasn’t going to take resin pads to an 8 day stage race. And unless you have someone maintaining your bike it’s probably best you don’t either.
I did run finned pads at the front, if only for the Bump Track! But they do deal with heat a lot . Days like Stage 3, with almost 3000m of climbing, also have the same in descending. So having brakes you know and trust is a big help.
I didn’t do any maintenance on the brakes. I just checked they ran each day, and that there was enough material. Wiping them down after a wash was the perfect time to inspect it all. The pads still have lots of life left after the race.
Cockpit setup for the Crocodile Trophy
I recently removed a PRO Tharsis handlebar and stem, so I’m playing with the cockpit a little. I have a 70mm stem, which is short but it’s what the Large Revolver 29 FS is designed around, and a Mt Zoom Ultralight Bar at 720mm. The fit was great, nothing made noise. I might go a little longer in the reach but I was comfortable for all 8 days. Which is what you want.
I also run a Shimano quick link taped to the outer too. Just in case. This is great but it’s still worth checking half of it doesn’t slip out. They’re not half as useful with only one piece.
I have a KS Lev Ci dropper post (with 65mm drop) on my bike. Partly as I was interested, and then because it makes my bike more fun to ride. In no need was it necessary at the Crocodile Trophy, but I used it all the time, as I have become accustomed to doing so. The saddle is a custom fi’zi:k Antares 00 from the custom programme.
I used the KS South Paw dropper lever, and Supacaz silicone grips. I used to use foam but these are way more comfy (but heavier). They’re not as durable as I’d like though.
I did unscrew the collar of the dropper post and wipe away any moisture on most days. The cable itself is fine as it’s all internal, with a sealed cap at the lever.
Spares at the Crocodile Trophy
I’ll readily admit I ran pretty light spares at the Croc. But I’d like to think it was an informed choice. I carried a tube in plastic wrap (it makes part of a boot), a tyre lever, a 25g CO2 and Mt Zoom Ultralight head held onto the frame with a Mt Zoom Handy Strap. I have used these for at least 5 years. I prefer them to a saddle bag due to the mounting options.
Stage races are about finishing every stage and really I should have had 2 tubes, and some zipties and tape, plus some tyre plugs. And a mini chain lube.
These photos were done right out of the bike bag once home, with only a light hose after the final stage, and I did put a small Park Tool IB-2 multitool in there too. But really it doesn’t have a chain breaker so I don’t consider it full service.
Every other stage I had a Topeak 18+ mini tool which has a chain breaker and allen keys that fit everything I need, including the Di2 mech and derailleur hanger replacement bolt. These are both small, and I’d encourage you to check your tool has the sizes you need and the length of them is useful. I had a spare hanger with the tool, a tyre boot, Birzman pump and my food for the day all in a Camelbak Octane XCT 3L.
The beauty of the Octane XCT 3L is it’s light, it sits low, it can take up to 3L of fluid (or less obviously) and the belt has pockets so you can load your food in there. I much prefer it to the smaller bags that sit higher.
Maintenance at the Crocodile Trophy
As noted really. I’d wash the bike as best as possible (can you believe I forgot a bucket and cleaner?) and sometimes used another rider’s cleaning kit, or a pressure washer. The drying and wiping is essential as you inspect everything as you go. I took some WD-40 to spray on moving parts before relubricating the drivetrain with Ride Mechanic Bike Mix. It was great on most days, but the longer/wetter days had it wear out, most notably when using the lowest gears under heavy load. A small container to have in the pocket would have been perfect for a top up.
I checked shock and air pressure every other day, beyond a push/squeeze test. But mostly I aimed to clean the bike, inspect and lube it, and use equipment I knew and trusted.
I wouldn’t do much differently save for gearing properly from day 1, and putting a bigger chainring on for stage 4 onwards (which is what 2nd placed Andrew l’Esperance did) and taking some proper cleaning kit, and a mini lube for some days.
This is what worked for me, so hopefully it helps your selection if you’re looking at doing the Crocodile Trophy or a similar race.