YT Mob Log: Entry #2.18
Wrenches to Races
Words by John Hall // Photos by Isac Paddock
Column Sponsored by Fox
Off-season. I don’t think I’m the only one when I say we need a new term for this time of year. Something more along the lines of, “take a break for a couple weeks because you’ve been non-stop traveling and working since March with minimal ‘days off’ and there’s a lot to do so we can go racing again in April.” Is there a word for that?
In actuality it’s really not that bad, and I love the “off-season” just as much as I do the race season. I love the down time in the beginning to catch back up on life and the slow ramp up to go racing as the anticipation and workload increases. It’s a different kind of work for those of us on the staff side of the team and that change of pace is what keeps things interesting. It keeps the fire burning until we can get between the tape again.
For example, Kogel Ceramic Bearings is a new sponsor for us this year. For the mechanics, stuff like this is a big deal. We need to know the inner workings of the bearings, how long they last in certain conditions, which seals to use in varying weather patterns, time between rebuilds, if needed, and so forth.
Kogel actually had a guy in my area doing some demos with a local bike shop and he made the time to stop by my home for a day. We went through everything together. To have someone go above and beyond to make sure we have the knowledge we need is a huge confidence booster for us.
It’s comforting to know that if anything is ever needed, an email or message is all it takes for it to be taken care of. That’s just one example, I could say the same thing for all of our sponsors…they’re with us for a reason.
This time of year is filled with preparing for the upcoming race season. Exactly what that entails is different every year. Much like what team owner, Martin Whiteley, said in last month’s entry, there is a huge list of preparations to make things flow smoothly. The usual things like parts orders from sponsors, new product orders from any new sponsors that have come on board as well as plenty of testing and learning. We also have to get used to the new products so we’re comfortable come race weekend.
A lot of times there will be days set aside to work with new product sponsors to get the inside scoop on how their stuff works in all conditions, and what the proper care and handling are. As a mechanic this is important because if Aaron rolls into the pits and I have limited time to make an adjustment or repair, I have to be intimately comfortable with each and every part. It’s not just the new brands either. Even the sponsors that have been there since the beginning set aside time to work with us one on one. It helps us learn about the new and improved products that we’re always running.
Aside from testing new or improved products all off-season, a lot of our time is spent trying to improve anything we can. In a game won or lost by fractions of a second, it’s important to work to improve all the small things you can because they add up to big things…like championships.
It’s also a time to get used to things not always working right, going your way or working the way you thought they would. That’s why they call it testing, right? One of the biggest changes for us going into the 2018 race season is a brand new frame from YT Industries. It’s the child of many man-hours from the YT crew and a whole lot of input from our team riders in how they want the bike to ride. Our team mechanics also had a lot of input to make sure the bike is easy and efficient to work on.
It’s been really cool to watch it come to life and I think I speak on behalf of everyone related to the project when I say we’re excited to show you guys the bike at the first round of the UCI World Cup in Croatia, which just so happens to be the most anticipated race for me.
The first round of any season is always a special one and the one I look forward to the most for many reasons. First, it’s awesome just being able to see everyone on the team and the circuit again. We spend a lot of time together during the season and then… BOOM. Nothing for 7-8 months. The other reason is a bit of a selfish one for me. It’s the feeling that first race brings for me. This will be my fifth season as a World Cup mechanic and the first race always brings a level of anticipation with it that no other race does– besides maybe World Championships.
It’s the race where everyone has new bikes, new gear, new sponsors, new teams and new everything! That first race is where we all get to see how it plays out, we get to see who has put the work in, what has paid off and for who. As a mechanic, the first practice run is what really makes it real for me. That’s where I get to see if all our hard work in the off-season has paid off.
“That’s not what it’s about for me. For me, it’s all about racing and being the best you can be on the day it counts the most. If that means throwing a wrench on a 29er DH bike so my rider can be the fastest, so be it.”
I want to know everything! Does the bike feel good on a World Cup track? Was our suspension testing enough? Did we get the bike setup right? Did we spend our time wisely? Everything comes down to that moment when Aaron rolls back into the pits after his first practice run. From there it’s game on and that’s my favorite part. We’re really getting down to work and doing what we do at that point and there’s no better feeling than that.
Things like that will never change in the downhill race scene, or any race scene for that matter. There is no bike debate, wheel size argument, new standard or new technology that can ever take that away from a rider, mechanic or the staff behind the scenes that has put in the time and hard work. That’s why I usually don’t get into those debates all that often nor do I ever really throw a fit over something new. That’s not what it’s about for me. For me, it’s all about racing and being the best you can be on the day it counts most. If that means throwing a wrench on a 29er DH bike so my rider can be the fastest, so be it.