Cross-country race bike of choice for 'The Lung'
By James Huang in Traverse City, Michigan
…is augmented by its Brain-equipped
AFR rear shock.
Overend is currently testing
Specialized team riders
get to use
The carbon fiber arms are
said to be
Overend uses a coated NoTubes
Living mountain bike legend Ned Overend continues to defy the laws
of time. At 52 years of age, the Durango, Colorado resident landed a
sixth place finish in the Pro Men field at the Iceman
Cometh, an end-of-season 43.5km (27mi) point-to-point classic in
northern lower Michigan whose perpetually rolling terrain doesn't particularly
cater to the former world champion's strengths. In addition, much of
the course is laid out on relatively wide-open doubletrack, paving the
way for road race-like speeds and even road race-like tactics, such
as double- and single pacelines.
"Oh, man [laughs], it started fast," he said. "I mean it was wound
up right from the beginning, and there were times when I wasn't on,
because I was on the rivet from the gun, and then I finally get back
on and started to recover a bit, and then guys were coming off. There
were probably about ten of us. Guys would come off, and then I would
close the gap. For a while in there, I thought I might have been ok,
but then my legs were loaded up. They weren't recovering from all of
the speed. The short hills were hurting me; they weren't doing me any
good. I thought I might have been better, but the hills weren't long
enough. I came off with about five or six miles to go… that was a long
five or six miles! [laughs]"
Even though Specialized's newest Stumpjumper
FSR could easily be called Overend's signature machine, he still
chose the more race-oriented Epic for the non-technically demanding
terrain. "I don't race the Stumpjumper; I always race the Epic," said
Overend. "It's just got more of a race position, more handlebar drop.
I still race on flat handlebars and bar ends!"
The stock top-end offerings of the Stumpjumper FSR and Epic are nearly
identical in weight so it could be argued that shedding grams wasn't
much of an additional factor in his choice. However, Overend's Epic
was far from stock: the team-only frame wears only minimal cosmetic
filler material, no paint at all, and sparse decaling, much like the
machines of teammates Liam
Killeen and Christophe Sauser.
A variety of component selections also shed substantial piles of grams,
namely the team-only MTB version of the company's S-Works FACT Carbon
integrated crankset (in this case with a trio of elliptical Rotor Q-Rings,
Overend's chainring of choice), a NoTubes
coated aluminum rear brake rotor, a Carbon-Ti titanium front rotor,
and a preproduction version of Rock
Shox's new SID Team fork.
"I like that SID. I don't have enough rides on it to evaluate it,
but I've got some pretty rough rides on it," described Overend. "What
I definitely notice on it is that it's stiff. It's not like a [current
generation] SID in terms of stiffness [meant as a compliment! Ed.],
but I need to put more time in on some rough trails in Durango where
I'm familiar with my Reba and the Fox to compare how the action is.
But it's light and it's stiff. That part I can feel for sure. That's
a Carbon-Ti rotor, and this thing brakes well. It's titanium, so it
doesn't save quite as much [weight] as the rear, but the modulation
is better on it. It's better than aluminum, but still not quite as good
as steel, but for long downhills it's a pretty good setup."
Even with Overend's slight build, those rough Durango trails demand
a slightly more durable component package than the ultralight builds
of Killeen and Sauser. For example, Overend's bike was equipped with
aluminum alloy brake caliper and rotor bolts at Sea Otter, but he has
since swapped to a more conservative setup. "That was when Benno [Welliet],
Christophe's [Sauser] mechanic, set that up. There was some race I did
shortly after Sea Otter where I was looking at those bolts before the
race [shakes his head]… I just went down to the local shop and replaced
them. On those long descents in Colorado, alloy bolts on the brake calipers
are kind of sketchy."
Those replacement rotor bolts may be steel, but there are still only
three of them per rotor. "Yeah, just three rotor bolts; I mean, Eric
Carter runs three bolts. I figured if it's good for those guys, it's
While still clearly active on the race circuit, Overend's responsibilities
with Specialized extend beyond just racing. "My most structured thing
that I do at Specialized is attending product meetings. We have a series
of five or six product meetings a year, and the product managers walk
the whole product range: every model and everything, and we're already
talking about 2010 stuff and beyond. And it's all the product, you know,
time trial, road, mountain, city bikes, and then all of the equipment.
So product stuff, helping launch stuff to the press and dealers, and
signing athletes, and working on their contracts. There's a group of
us that work on all of the sponsorship stuff, and even talking about
the Euro pro road teams. It's a lot of different stuff."
Overend also plays a critical role in introducing that product to
media and Specialized's dealer network, in addition to more general
roles as an ambassador for the company. "Working for US sales, helping
out at the expo for our local shop, getting feedback," he continued.
"[The Midwest] is a prime example of an area of the country where racing
is really important, and two-niners are really important. It's totally
different from somewhere like Colorado. So it's good to get experience
in different areas."
Naturally, the question of Overend's fitness inevitably arises. After
all, one can't help but wonder how someone can manage to maintain that
astounding level of fitness so deep into a career. Nevertheless, Overend's
approach is surprisingly straightforward. "I'm just kind of doing what
I've always done. It changes very slowly; you only get old one day at
a time. So I do different little tweaks for my training over the years.
But I've never been a big mileage trainer; I've always been more of
an intensity kind of guy. I put in some base training in the spring,
but not like some other guys. So that kind of lends itself to staying
fit for an older guy because it's easier to recover, when you're not
doing a big pile of miles all of the time."
That all sounds good to us, and who are we to argue? 'Till next time;
we have to head out to do some intervals now…
Bikes of the Iceman Cometh
Four-time winner (and Michigan
native) Kelli Emmett
Steve Brown, organizer and promoter of the Iceman Cometh Challenge,
sums up his now-iconic event as a "road race on dirt." Even with
its overwhelming popularity (this year's 2000 slots reported filled
up in just two days… back in January!), the primarily two-track
course is far from technically demanding, interspersed with a
handful of short segments of highly manageable singletrack and
stretches of sand.
Ned Overend and Pro Women's winner Kelli Emmett (Giant) both
ran conventional fully-suspended 26" bikes, but much of the rest
of the field cracked out some purpose-built machines, including
a heavy dose of fast-rolling 29ers. One of the most interesting
was that of previous winner Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary
Horgan-Kobelski ran a production Gary Fisher Superfly carbon
fiber 29er hardtail equipped with a pair of rather unique wheels.
The DT Swiss-built Bontrager hubs were laced to a pair of ultralight
carbon fiber tubular rims, wrapped in a pair of very special 45mm-wide
Dugast tubulars run at just 24psi. The setup was undoubtedly fast,
but even Horgan-Kobelski admits that he was forced to push the
tires a little past their useable limit on more than one occasion.
This included the final corner of the race where a front wheel
washout in a sandy berm squashed his last ditch effort at a second-place
finish. Horgan-Kobelski got up quickly after the bobble, but not
until after Michael Simonson (Bell's Beer) cruised by comfortably.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Frame: Specialized S-Works Epic team-only edition, size M
Rear shock: Specialized AFR w/ Flow Control valve
Fork: Rock Shox SID Team prototype, 100mm travel
Rider's height: 1.73m (5'8") ; Weight: 63.5kg (140lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 362mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 462mm
Top tube length: 589mm (horizontal)
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 710mm
Saddle nose tip to C of bars: 562mm
C of front hub to top of bars: 673mm
Bottom bracket: Specialized integrated
Cranks: Specialized FACT Carbon integrated, 175mm, with 24/34/44T Rotor Q-Rings
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7701
Front derailleur: Shimano XTR FD-M961
Rear derailleur: SRAM X.0 BlackBox mid-cage
Front brake: Magura Marta SL with 160mm Carbon-Ti 160mm titanium
rotor and EBC green compound pads
Rear brake:Magura Marta SL with 160mm NoTubes coated aluminum rotor and EBC green compound pads
Brake levers: Magura Marta SL
Shift levers: SRAM X.0 trigger
Rear sprockets: Shimano XTR CS-M960, 11-32T
Wheelset: Specialized Roval Contrôle XC Race Disc
Tyres: Specialized Fast Trak LK, 26x2.00"
Bars: Specialized S-Works Carbon Fiber 31.8mm XC Flat, with
Specialized C1 Carbon Overendz bar ends
Stem: Syntace Force 119 MTB 31.8, 100mm x -6°
Tape/grip: Specialized Sidewinder
Pedals: Shimano SPD PD-M959
Seat post: Specialized S-Works Carbon MTB
Saddle: Specialized Phenom SL, 143mm
Bottle cages: Specialized Rib Cage Pro Road
Computer: Specialized Turbo 2 Elite, stem mount
Total bike weight: 10.07kg (22.2lb), with computer, without