At just over 100 miles long and starting 10,000 feet above sea level, the Leadville Trail 100 is one of the toughest and most prestigious XC mountain bike races in America. Thousands of riders descend (or ascend?) on a small mining town in the Colorado Rockies to test themselves against Leadville’s brutal climbs. This year, Craig Wu, our Receiving and Catalog Supervisor, will be racing Leadville for the first time.
“Every year I like to have a big goal,” he said. “Last year it was Unbound. The year before was Steamboat Gravel. This year I decided on Leadville 100.”
His goal for his first attempt is to finish in under 8.5 hours and earn the legendary Leadville 100 belt buckle, which is awarded to those who finish in under 9 hours. To increase his odds, he built up a lightweight 2023 Specialized S-Works Epic Evo. Let’s take a closer look at his bike and find out how he tailored his build for Leadville:
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Why Choose a Downcountry Bike for Leadville?
Leadville isn’t a particularly technical course. It features bumpy singletrack and doubletrack, plus fire roads and even some pavement. So why did Craig choose to build a downcountry bike with more travel and slacker angles than a standard XC bike?
There are a couple of reasons:
- The S-works Epic Evo frame is actually the lightest full-suspension Epic frame. It’s lighter than the standard Epic that it's based on because it removes the external Brain damper reservoir. It’s also nearly 100 grams lighter than the brand new Epic World Cup frame. Craig’s Leadville build is a feathery 21.08 pounds!
- For Craig, the extra suspension travel and downhill capability of the Epic Evo make it a better daily driver for his local trails, which are fairly rugged. It will still be efficient and light enough to achieve his Leadville goals, but it’s NOT a one-trick pony.
“I like to have a bike that's on the lighter side and climbs well, but it still needs to be able to descend,” Craig explained. “Descending is really the fun part.”
Craig’s Leadville 100 Specialized S-Works Epic Evo Build
“Leadville is really won on the climbs,” Craig explained. “So one of the things that I will do for Leadville is swap to much lighter tires.”
“I'm going to run the Specialized Renegade Control T5 front and rear. They have really low rolling resistance. Leadville is primarily bumpy double track. There are not a ton of rocks, so these tires should hold up well and roll really fast. But for general trail riding around the Front Range, I run something beefier.”
“I also run Roval Control SL carbon wheels. I think that's probably one of the main key reasons why this bike ended up so light. The control wheelset is only 1240 grams.”
“I also will swap the Reverb AXS dropper to a rigid post for Leadville, but that's a very, very specific thing,” Craig said. “I can't imagine ever doing it for anything other than Leadville. You can get away with it on the terrain there. A dropper might be nice for a little bit of it. But for the most part, you're climbing so much that dropping 800 grams by going from the Reverb to a carbon rigid post will be advantageous.”
"Everything kind of worked out because we got SRAM Transmissions in stock at the same time that this frame came in. I decided to go with the newest of the new and went with the XX-SL Transmission. I've never had a power meter on a mountain bike before, but I thought that now's the time. I actually really like having a power meter on the on the mountain bike. It's just nice to see the number and track your fitness. I'm also super aware now how little power I make at altitude. that should help a lot with pacing!"
“I went with the SID Ultimate fork. I've always been a Fox guy, but I decided to try RockShox, and I actually really, really like this fork. It really surprised me. One of the things I love about it is that it is super quiet. You don't realize how important that is until you actually ride it and you have this deadly quiet bike. It just sounds so nice to ride. One of the lead engineers of RockShox said making a quiet fork was one of their design parameters. Definitely check these out.”
"For brakes, I had to go with the 4-piston Level Ultimate brakes. It's not much of a weight penalty to go with the 4-piston versus the 2-piston. I really like the 4-piston because it definitely allows me to go a little bit faster on the descents. I feel just I just have a lot more power."
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