In the second of Red Bull’s Behind the Bike series, we get a look inside the relationship between rider and mechanic and how it affects performance on race day, and also in the everyday relationship in the pits, the motel, travelling, life.
I was 16 when I met Jack for the first time, I was at a local race and Jack was the mechanic for Nico Vouilloz “The Goat”. I started fiddling around with Nico’s bike and Jack was basically staring at me and giving me a look like “stop touching that bike, now”. I guess he just thought I was an annoying kid. Then six months later I was actually signed to the Lapierre International Team, and he turned out to be my mechanic. This is the first time I got to truly work with somebody on my bike, and it made such a massive difference, it was a new world for me. Straight away his professionalism made a difference, Jack is one of the best bike mechanics and I am so lucky to be able to work with him. After seven years together, we are inseparable and really compliment each other, we work so well together and he understands my riding and my bike like no one else. More than that, we are really good friends which helps when we are traveling, there are many highs and lows when competing and testing so it helps to have a solid friendship.
JACK ROURE ON LOIC BRUNI
When I first met Loic at the Roc Azur in France, my first impressions was that he was a crazy kid. It didn’t really mean much meeting him at the time, but later he joined the team and during the first testing I felt Loic’s great positivity, he was a fast rider with good communication. Even though there is an age gap between us, communicating is really easy and good which is really important to achieve the best results. The first couple of years as a junior Loic learned a lot about his bike and it allowed him to progress to the next level when he turned elite, he understood he needed to work hard and really understand his bike. After seven years together, I know him perfectly and vice versa. Before and after each race we create a brief with points that we need to work on, creating a process really helps us to become faster. We work a lot on understanding why we were better or worse in the race and then we create a new process for the next stop. The relationship has really developed and now we are connected together to achieve great results.
Jack: The process started with testing the new product from Öhlins, we use a normal set up and test for many, many runs. After Loic communicates his feeling of the bike and I analyze the data from the initial runs, we try many variations with different shocks and forks, and the set up of these as well. From here we find our set ups depending on the course, different set ups for flatter or steeper courses, it all depends on the conditions. Once we have our basic set ups we fine tune these further to find the optimal set ups for the various conditions, with this system we are in a constant state of evolution and testing.
Loic: The link now is a special one we got from Specialized, it’s for a different suspension characteristic and is basically a racing link, which only our team uses. The first time we took the bike out it was very linear, it had way too much travel, which meant I was hitting the ground with the bottom bracket and pedals. With our engineers experience and Jack’s input, we came out with these kinematics. Now we have a bike that is more sensitive and has better traction and is way more progressive. It’s very forgiving and this winter we really focused on the suspension when we changed to Öhlins. Suspension is the most important thing for me on a bike as it allows me to carry speed and go faster.
Jack: In many ways the brake can be like the suspension, I rely a lot on Loic’s input on the feeling of the brake and how it performs. Working with Formula we created a new brake lever that is slightly wider and and a new calliper to make the overall braking smoother. The brakes are amazing and we are super happy with these now.
Loic: We changed brake brands this year to Formula, they worked really hard to come back to the top and have wanted to work with us to provide the best braking possible. Through the winter we tested many versions and I now feel like we have come up with a really powerful brake which matches our expectations, it’s so good.
Jack: We have a great relationship with Crank Brothers and over the years they have made little tweaks to the pedals that have allowed Loic to trust the performance even more.
Loic: It’s really important to be able to take your foot out, and place back in with confidence. I’ve been riding Crank Brothers for 10 years now and I trust the pedal completely, it’s something I don’t even need to think about when I am riding.
Jack: We just use the standard types of tyres and these have been a great surprise. We are looking forward to working with the new DH compounds and new casings.
Loic: Last year we switched to Specialized, the tyres I’m using now are just standard Butcher 650B x 29. We only have a few tread design choices so we always know what we are going to ride and the tyre is always predictable and trustworthy.
Jack: This is really important as sometimes the data and the feeling of the rider is totally opposite. As Loic’s mechanic it’s my job to analyze the data and make small adjustments on the bike that increase his performance, even though sometimes the bike may not feel exactly right to him it’s about making sure we have the fastest bike on the day.
Loic: Three years ago we started using this system, it allows us to collect data from the run and let’s Jack analyze what the bike has been doing. It measures suspension travel, speed variations, and brake influence. After Jack analyzes the data he makes small adjustments to the same shock. As a rider I can notice these changes straight away and give additional feedback.