29er Downhill Bikes Spotted At Fort William

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People threw a lot of shade at Santa Cruz for announcing that they’d be fielding 29ers at the Downhill World Cup in Lourdes, and thanks to torrential rain soaking the course and turning it treacherous on race day, outside of qualifying we didn’t really get to see what potential they have.

They were back out at round two of the BDS this past weekend in Fort William though, and as well as Santa Cruz, Danny Hart rode a 29er Mondraker Summum all the way to first place, Remi Thirion a Commencal to eighth, and Trek leaked various clues of 29er prototypes and testing (if you want to see a bit more, you can find it on the BDS instagram).

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Danny Harts 29er Mondraker here at Fort William. @hsbc @gtbicycles @schwalbetires @monserenergy

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Danny Hart's 29er.
Danny Hart’s 29er.

(Photo by George Thompson)

Here’s Gaetan Ruffin’s Commencal 29er after an unfortunate puncture:

29er Punctures.
29er Punctures.

(Photo by George Thompson)

But wait, what’s that up front? Every other 29er downhill bike we’ve seen so far has been on the Fox 49s that fiurst snuck into public view in mid-April, but BDS organiser Si Patton took this photo of the Commencal team, showing Rockshox 29er downhill forks:

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29ers are breeding like wildfire this weekend at Fort William for the @hsbc UK National Downhill Series Round 2 Presented by @gtbicycles

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There was also a much clearer look on Commencal’s Facebook page a few days ago:

Commencal - Facebook 29er tease
Note the absence of any model name.

Open enough that Rockshox will put it out in public with their branding on it, but secret enough that’s it’s not announced as a product yet. Commencal haven’t said much so far about the bike itself either, and have received some of the predictable rants about changing standards from their fans. Mondraker have been quiet about their bike too, stressing that the bike Danny rode to the win at the BDS stage two is their first ever 29er prototype.

Mondraker Summum 29er prototype
Danny Hart riding a 29er Mondraker Summum prototype to the win at the Fort William BDS. Image via the Mondraker facebook page.

Much more forthcoming than the other manufacturers are Santa Cruz, who’ve written a feature on their site about developing the 29er V10. As a former project manager, this quote from Nick Anderson is especially entertaining to me: “Fox had race-ready forks in the pipeline, and ENVE was on board to build some 29-inch M90s. Maxxis delivered bigger versions of the Syndicate’s preferred tires, and Chris King’s Buzzworks group whipped up some custom headsets to bring the geometry in line. It sounds simple enough, but the reality was anything but.”

Oh Nick, that doesn’t sound simple at all! We definitely saw the last words of that quote coming, but congrats on getting the bikes together in time for Lourdes. In their testing, Santa Cruz riders seem to be finding the bikes don’t feel faster but are shaving off vital seconds, which is crucially important when the podium times are now within a second or two of each other. You can see plenty of footage of them testing the 29er V10s out in the latest episode of The Syndicate.

Trek’s 29er is still completely under wraps for now, and all indicators from all manufacturers are that racers are still tweaking and finalising a lot of details, from components to geometry, and have a lot of testing to do on different courses before anything is really settled. Don’t expect to see anything but 650B downhill bikes at retail for the forseeable.

What do you think? They may not be making smaller wheeled bikes obviously extinct yet, but 29ers have had a strong first showing on the downhill circuit.

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