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Pinkbike's EWS Pro Rides - Jared Graves and his Yeti SB5C

by Paul Aston

Jared Graves is a multi-talented animal of a bike handler, putting more hours in at the gym and out on the trails than most. I remember reading an interview where the Yeti team visited Barcelona between events and while all the boys were out partying, sightseeing and chilling, Jared spent four days in his hotel room repeating his intensive interval program, eating and recovering. Discipline such as that backs up a resume that already suggests that Jared is quite possibly the best all-around cyclist on the planet. With plenty of Four Cross rainbows and gold medals to his name, a 6th place at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing on a BMX, stepping onto a World Championship downhill podium, and beating the Lycra crowds at the Australian cross-country championships, Jared's ability to turn his hands to anything on two wheels is pretty crazy. Focusing on enduro in 2013, Jared has gone on to stand on a staggering twelve EWS podiums from eighteen starts, finishing only once outside of the top 10 and took the over Enduro World Series title in 2014.

Unfortunately for the reigning champion, 2015 was disturbed by an injury sustained during off-season training prior to the first EWS round in Rotorua, New Zealand. Crashing into a tree, he separated both shoulders and injured his back (the tree must have been a write-off!), which put him out for the first three rounds and no doubt affected his results throughout the remainder of the 2015 season. Despite this, Jared managed to take a win at the final round in Italy and 15th in the overall series rankings. Due to the unfortunate events at Round 6 of the EWS in Crested Butte, Colorado, I did not get the chance to ride his Yeti SB5C, but Jared did sit down for an excellent pre-race interview about how he prepares his turquoise racer for battle.

Jared Graves poses with his Yeti SB5C. He prefers the shorter travel, 127mm rear end, paired with a longer, 160mm-stroke Fox 36 fork.

So, let's start with the basics: Handlebar width and cockpit setup.

I just run the stock FatBar Lite from Renthal. They're 740mm wide. Back when I was doing 4X, I was actually running 730mm, so this feels like a good width. Sometimes I switch between a 20mm and 30mm rise bar depending upon the course. I'm opting for 20mm here at Crested Butte. I'm running the large SB5C here and the head tube is pretty long. I've flipped the stem upside down and I've actually got the same bar-to-axle measurement as the SB6, with a 170mm fork and a 30mm bar with the stem the right way up. It's quite a big difference in head tube size between the two. It's 805mm from the axle to the center of the bars at the end. I've also got some Troy Lee Designs grips from ODI, in turquoise to match the Yeti colors.

Stock Renthal FatBar Lite handlebar and matching TLD/ODI grips

I see you have an XTR shifter on the left-hand side.

Yeah that is for the dropper post. Shaun Hughes (Jared's mechanic) modified the shifter and the way the cable clamps internally so I can just use the XTR thumb lever to actuate the Thomson Covert dropper. It has a 125mm drop, which has worked out really well because in the extended position - that's my correct seat height for climbing and fully down was the same height as I always ran my seat in the downhill days. It worked out perfectly.

Fox suspension front and rear?

A 160mm travel Fox 36 on the front, a bit of a mismatch with the 127mm frame, but it slackens the head angle a bit and makes it more capable in the rough stuff. Plus, it also makes the wheelbase a bit longer too. The first time we tried the 160mm fork on the 127mm-travel frame, I just really liked it, so we always run that now.

How much sag do you run?

Low: 20-percent front and rear and that's standing up in attack position. Depending upon the course, it varies between 20-23-percent. Normally, the same percentage front and rear. Sometimes the forks are a little softer with more volume spacers in, so it ramps up more, but again, this is dependent upon the terrain. Here, I have three orange volume spacers in the fork with 70psi. My base settings at home are two spacers, but I play around a bit - I will see tomorrow when we have an idea of the trails we are riding. It sounds like it's going to be pretty fast, so I might go a bit stiffer.

The sag in the low 20's sounds quite stiff compared to what some of the other guys might ride.

I do like the bike to be a bit stiffer. Maybe that comes from my 4X days. I have done loads of downhill runs on hardtails over the years for practice and perhaps that's why I like the 127mm travel bike sometimes too. I think it suits my style a bit more - using my body as suspension to soak up impacts, rather than letting the bike do it all for me.

Do you ride on the front or off the back?

I would say that I am pretty centered when I ride, which I guess, is reflected in the suspension setup - trying to keep everything in balance.

Any special mods in the suspension?

Not that I know of. We have been doing a couple of different things with Fox on the rear shock, but it's basically stock. We just keep on top of the fork lubrication really. The stock stuff now is so good. It's way better than what we were racing two years back.

Titanium bolts?

Stock titanium bolts in the shock mount hardware and some in the stem clamp. The only reason I run those though is because I like the look of the black bolts. I don't run them on the face/bar clamp. In fact, I never run Ti-bolts for the bars because I've seen too many of them break. I always stick to steel there.

Do you ever use the climb/damping lever on the shock?

I never touch it, to be honest. Even when climbing, I just stay in full descent mode. I think a well-designed bike should climb efficiently and Yeti have killed it with that. The bike just climbs awesome and even better if it's a bit rough in, and the suspension is in descend mode. My mechanic Shaun has even screwed the lever down so I can't change it, just in case I catch my shorts and it changes. You don't want to flick into climb mode before dropping into a rough downhill section.

On to wheels then. Are you still running full downhill tires?

No, they are the new Maxxis Double Down casing. Pretty much a downhill tire, but with a folding bead. They're a little bit lighter too, and should probably roll a little faster. They're certainly more substantial than the EXO casing tires. Yesterday in the bike park, I was on EXO casing tires and I double flatted in a rock garden. That was the last straw! If you get a flat, that's your weekend over, so I went back to the Double Downs. They're 2.5"" front and rear with a 3C casing. Actually, Maxxis never really told us what the compound was, they're prototypes with some kind of 3C compound and are pretty soft. I think the side knobs might be a little softer than others, but maybe it's just because they're fresh out of the molds. Some tires at home that have been there for 12 or 18 months, I've noticed are starting to get a bit harder. Maybe I would run a narrower or lower profile tire if we had something in the Double Down casing, but availability isn't here yet. They roll really well though and I like the high volume of the 2.5"" tire. I did some testing at home around rolling resistance and it seems pretty minimal on the Minion.

What pressures are you running?

I've been running 23psi in the front and 26psi in the rear as my base setting - more like downhill tire pressures. I would be running more on the EXO tires.

Do you still use a ghetto tubeless setup?

We used it a lot last year. It's good sometimes to get that extra bit of protection between the tire and the rim, so it won't pinch as much. It's just a pain in the arse though, when you're changing tires all the time. If it's really rocky, we might do it for the race wheels. We'll see what the stages look like and we never know. Maybe we will go back to an EXO if there are smooth pedally trails. When we are switching back and forth a lot, we don't bother with it. Also, the Double Down tires are a pretty tight fit and it can be an effort to get them on with the extra thickness of the tube.

It seems like your more interested in safety than weight savings?

Like I said yesterday: when I double flatted, I was like, ""no, we can't risk it."" If you run light tires to save weight that you know you shouldn't really have been running, you will feel like the biggest idiot on the face of the earth if you puncture. I try to do everything I can to minimize mechanical issues. Just make sure you get to the finish!

 

 Shimano Saint brakes front and rear with 180mm rotors. Spokes are lightweight DT Swiss Aerolites to create some flex.

Still running alloy rims?

The construction of these (DT Swiss) 471 rims is bombproof. They're light and they're awesome. We lighten up the wheels a little bit by using Aerolite spokes, which also gives a little bit more flex in the wheel, which I like on the small bumps. Spoke tensions are slightly less than max (perhaps a little looser than they should be), but not to the point that they could vibrate loose on each stage. I like a bit of side-to-side movement sometimes. We double layer the rim tape just to be safe - a couple of times we have snapped a spoke and it can actually puncture the rim tape and you can get a flat that way. It only adds maybe 15 or 20 grams, but is worth it for the extra safety. It's just not worth the risk.

One of the best things about having Richie on the team, is that he's the ultimate destruction tester. If he can get away with something, I know I'll be OK. We try stuff out on him first to see if he can break it. He loves trying to break stuff, it's one of his favorite pastimes.

Is Gearing all standard?

Yes, it's all XTR 11-speed, with a 34-tooth chainring up front - this is my everyday chainring size, although I might change to a 36 tooth to race on.

Again, we need to see what the stages are like. I usually go up a couple of teeth at a race,, because you want to have a big gear range and just grind it out on the climbs a bit more.

Off-the-shelf Shimano XTR 11-speed transmission.

You're not worried about saving energy on the way up?

No, not really. If the transitions are pretty lenient, I'll take a bigger chainring and make sure I'm not spun out on the sections that actually count. Unfortunately, at the moment, the 36 tooth is the biggest we have available, but I shouldn't need anything bigger than that.

Jared pushes a single, 36-tooth chainring on race day and always runs a top guide.

Do you run the bashguard and top guide?

Always the top guide and pretty much always the bashguard. It's going to add 20 grams or whatever to your bike, so why wouldn't you run it? If it stops a rock flinging up and bending your chainring, that could be your race over. It's a damn light bike anyway - actually I never weigh the bikes anymore, I just set them up how they need to be set up and there is nothing you can do about the weight, it is what it is.

Even with the chunky wheels on it, I would take a guess that it's not more than 27 pounds, and to me, on high speed, rough stuff, it's still too light. I might even be looking at ways to add weight to my bike for racing, especially if there's more and more high-speed rough stuff. It just starts feeling really unstable if it's too light, so I don't know why people bother trying to save 20 grams here and there - it just seems ridiculous.

Cool, I have finally found somebody who agrees with me on weight!

Within reason, I can be a bit of a weight weenie in places where it actually matters. I just don't want any unnecessary weight on my bike, but doing some XC racing, I get more serious because I'm already a lot bigger than the other dudes, so I need to get the bike as light as possible. But then, the trails are pretty tame and you're not going to get too many mechanical issues in an XC race. Especially not in Australia, where we seem to be riding on paved crap all the time.

Do you still carry a fully loaded pack for every occasion or was that just in Finale last year?

Finale was a little bit overkill. That pack was a pain in the arse to race with because it was probably 5 kilograms with the water in. It was a big mamma! Anything that's light, I will take. I will always take a chain pin, chain tool, derailleur hanger and the kinds of things that will get you out of trouble. Basic tools like Co2's, tire levers, tire plugs, tubes, and even a patch kit - just in case you flat and put a tube in and that flats too. They flat so easily compared to tubeless, so I will take a patch kit just to be careful. Your day might be over, but at least you won't be stuck an hour's ride from the pits trying to limp home on a flat. It can help make a race day with punctures that little less miserable.

Everything in the pack, or do you stick stuff to the bike?

We will usually put a tube on the bike and as much as I want everything I need that might save me from ruining a race, I still want to keep my backpack light. I try to suss out where the feed stations are, so if I know there's a feed station at the bottom of stage, I always make sure my water is empty before I start the stage, just to get the weight off my back.

Yeti is also making an 'enduro bib' now with pockets in the back, so we have been running that with food and tools in there. I also have a vest hydration pack thing that takes two liters of water. My normal everyday backpack only carries 2 liters anyway - it just allows you to not wear a pack, which covers up the logo's your sponsors are putting in money for. It looks a bit cleaner too. Hydration packs make you look like a hunchback all the time. There's always a trade-off somewhere, I guess.

Tailored kit?

If it needs it, yes. A good thing about all the in-house Yeti stuff is that we have had constant revisions and feedback with our race kit. Back when we ran the ONE Industries stuff in 2013, they were just regular moto jerseys. I was completely cutting those to pieces and re-stitching them. Every jersey - arms, torso, etc. - all cut to make it less flappy. We have been working really hard on the Yeti stuff with the apparel guys to get it just how we want it - not too tight, but not too baggy, with everything functioning as it should. Nothing more, nothing less.

I noticed before your that your jerseys seemed super tight.

Last year I asked for a tight shirt and it was definitely a trial and error season as far as the kit went. I said I wanted it a lot tighter than the ONE kit, but it came back a bit too tight. That's not something that you can bust out in a week and change. A whole fresh batch of stuff came later in the year it got a little looser, but then in the off-season, we got it dialed.

Tailored kits? You bet. Graves leaves nothing to chance.

Hard to say if it was just tight or you were hulking out of it.

Maybe I had too many donuts and burritos in Colorado last year?

You're running a Stages Power meter too?

I only really use it on the liaison climbs. Sometimes on race day mornings you can be hyped up feeling fresh y'know - it's easy to fly up the first climb way too hard. A power meter is a good way of keeping everything in check. I know if I keep it under 250watts on a climb, I will get to the top recovered, not hanging. I'm just trying to ride efficiently on the liaisons, to not dilly-dally around too much and not waste energy.

Do you use it during the timed stages?

Not really. Just more at home for training, where I have different loops on the trails. There're so many other things going on to consider. Say, with a rough trail, you might not be pedaling, but you/re getting worn out, so you can't really look at the power data too much. I have definitely tailored some intervals around the feedback from races, but that would be certain watts against time on the road bike. There are so many outside factors - you can't really look into a power file from a stage, because so many outside things fatigue you, like altitude. You could be eight minutes into a stage and hit a short climb, and be doing well to hold 500 watts up after hanging on to the bike for so long.

For training, it's awesome knowing that it's working. You can see if you can hold power for longer and how you’re improving. I don't do a single training ride without it, but I don't look too much into the racing data.

There's no doubt Jared will be looking to get that number 1 on his back again in 2016.

Do you have any set strategies for the Colorado EWS?

Yes I do. Here, at altitude the biggest thing is pacing, especially with the long stages. I have done some of these races previously. I see some of the amateurs on a fifteen minute stage just sprinting off the line at 11,000 feet with everything they have and I'm thinking: ""Oh no, that's going to end really badly in about one minute's time, and you still have fourteen to go.""

I always make some kind of a game plan. Even if you can only ride a trail once, you will have it on the GoPro so you can see if a climb is coming up and you need to take it easy beforehand. It can let you know how long the physical sections are. It's a bit harder in France when you have to go straight back up for your race run after the sighting run, but still, you just have to pay attention and try to remember as much as you can. Pacing is a huge thing in enduro and I think it's something that a lot of guys overlook. At this altitude, if you go hard on the first quarter of a stage, you will be blowing in no time - and paying for it later.

How much do you use the GoPro?

Yeah, I will just film the run and watch it back a few times. I don't try to overcomplicate things or get too technical with it. I find that I ride better if I'm not over thinking things and letting it come naturally, but I try to memorize the bits that might catch me out - corners that can sneak up and switchbacks, for example.

At stage three in France, we got to walk it and not ride it, and we didn't have it on GoPro, and when the first tight switchback snuck up on me, I went straight on and into the bushes. I totally forgot about it from the inspection that it was there. If I had watched it a couple of times on the GoPro, I would have remembered it was there and been ready for it. I just want to remember key sections and the rest, I just go with it. You can't memorize a 14-minute trail after just one practice run.

If there is a really long stage with a lot to it, I might make pace notes and break it up into sections. But, in the past, I have gone too far and it's backfired - thinking about it all too much during the stage and getting confused, thinking I am here and not there, and completely messing it up because I stuff my own notes up in my head. It's something I have learned over the last couple of years, when that approach works and when it can backfire on you. I guess I am technical with some things and others, I don't think about. I always ride my best with my brain in neutral, just going for it.


If you enjoyed this article you can read other great articles just like it over at PinkBike.com

 

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