A bike that sits col­lect­ing dust, save for when its owner pulls it out to podium at a DH World Cup or World Champs!

Mountain Biking UK - - UPLIFT - Words Ed Thomsett Pho­tos Dan Grif iths

How can a man from a coun­try with barely any hills be so fast at rid­ing down them? It’s a ques­tion that’s surely on ev­ery­one’s lips af­ter Martin Maes’ 2018 sea­son. Closely fol­lowed by, how can that same man go so fast on a down­hill bike when he rarely rides one? This year, the Bel­gian racer wasn’t only con­sis­tently one of the fastest riders in the En­duro World Se­ries, he also won his first DH World Cup (one of only two he en­tered this sea­son) and backed up that as­ton­ish­ing achieve­ment two weeks later with a World Champs sil­ver medal. The steed he rep­re­sented his coun­try on is this – the new in­car­na­tion of GT Bi­cy­cles’ Fury.

Lat­est in a long line

GT are no strangers to rac­ing suc­cess, with the likes of Ni­co­las Vouil­loz, Fa­bien Barel, Steve Peat and the Ather­tons all hav­ing topped the podium aboard their bikes. The frames rid­den by these stars have earned their place in moun­tain bike his­tory too, from the pi­o­neer­ing early RTS and LTS sus­pen­sion de­signs to the link­age-op­er­ated pull-shock of the Lobo and the unique ‘i-Drive’ sys­tem, with its float­ing bot­tom bracket. For 2019, GT have re­vived the LTS (Link­age Tuned Sus­pen­sion) acro­nym and based the new Fury around a more con­ven­tional four-bar link­age (1), but with a high pivot for bet­ter bump ab­sorp­tion and an idler wheel to com­bat the re­sult­ing pedal kick­back.

Luis Ar­raiz (formerly of K-9 In­dus­tries) con­fig­ured the Fury’s sus­pen­sion kine­mat­ics. He tells us GT were af­ter a sim­i­lar ride to their Force and Sen­sor trail bikes, but with in­creased pro­gres­sion, to pro­vide the com­bi­na­tion of small-bump sen­si­tiv­ity, grip and bot­tom-out con­trol re­quired of a DH race bike. Con­trol in loose con­di­tions was a big fo­cus, with the team seek­ing to use anti-rise to stop the chas­sis pitch­ing and main­tain trac­tion while brak­ing. “But over­all, we wanted a well-rounded bike,” says Luis. “One that car­ries speed, cor­ners on rails, gives sta­bil­ity in the rough and yet is still play­ful and fun.”

In­dus­trial de­signer Jor­dan Rec­chia helped fi­nesse the form and aes­thet­ics, while sug­ges­tions from GT Fac­tory Rac­ing me­chan­ics Mark Mau­ris­sen and Tom Dun­can were also in­cor­po­rated. Steel and al­loy pro­to­types were tested in-house be­fore re­fined ver­sions were sent out to the team riders (although Martin’s team­mate Wyn Masters did race one of the 43lb metal test mules).

Crea­ture of habit

The pro­duc­tion Fury can ac­cept 29in or 650b wheels, with no change to the BB height, reach or head an­gle, in the in­ter­ests of main­tain­ing a con­sis­tent feel. But Martin has al­ways opted for the smaller wheels. De­spite the frame hav­ing fine-tun­ing op­tions like shock mount and chain­stay flip-chips and reach-ad­just­ing head­set cups, Mark tells us that once Martin finds a set-up sweet spot, he’ll rarely stray from that. “For the EWS, you look for a neu­tral set-up that works in all con­di­tions,” he ex­plains. “Even though in DH you can be more track spe­cific, we won’t usu­ally change more than a click or two on the sus­pen­sion.”

That EWS in­flu­ence is also ap­par­ent in Martin’s pref­er­ence for a lower than av­er­age front end, which puts him in a more ag­gres­sive po­si­tion for ped­alling. It’s been claimed on­line that he runs his Fox 40 Fac­tory fork short­ened to 190mm, but that’s not the case. He does like to keep things pretty slammed though, slid­ing the stan­chions through the crowns and only run­ning a 20mm-rise bar. His han­dle­bar of choice is a car­bon Race Face SixC 35, which is cut down to 780mm be­fore his ODI Elite Pro grips are fit­ted (2). Mark says this gives Martin the per­fect amount of flex at the tips.

Ready to race

The air-sprung fork is paired with a Fox DHX2 coil at the rear, fit­ted with a 500lbx3in spring and mounted in the lower BB po­si­tion. An in­ter­est­ing quirk in his set-up is his pref­er­ence for us­ing a mud tyre at the back, even in the dry. As a Sch­walbe­spon­sored rider, he gen­er­ally uses a Magic Mary up front (3) and a cut-down Dirty Dan at the rear, although at the Len­z­er­heide World Champs he switched to two Magic Marys, both in the ‘ADDIX Ul­tra Soft’ com­pound. His pres­sures seem low – be­tween 23 and 26psi – but he al­ways runs a Cush­core punc­ture pro­tec­tion insert in the rear, re­gard­less of which dis­ci­pline he’s rac­ing.

Save for the Bel­gian flag paintjob and match­ing Fab­ric sad­dle, there’s noth­ing par­tic­u­larly rad­i­cal or dif­fer­ent about Martin’s bike com­pared to a stock GT Fury Car­bon Team. The way he was able to rock up at the World’s on it and fin­ish just 0.3 sec­onds off Loïc Bruni – who’d raced his Spe­cial­ized Demo 8 all sea­son and honed his set-up through hours of teleme­try test­ing – is a tes­ta­ment to Martin’s skill and the ca­pa­bil­ity of the race­horse that GT have cre­ated here.

Aged just 21, Maes is ar­guably the best all-round grav­ity racer in the world right now. Be­gin­ning his EWS ca­reer as a Ju­nior in 2013, he’s risen rapidly through the ranks to be­come a top con­tender. We reckon it’s go­ing to be a tightly-fought bat­tle be­tween him and the mighty Sam Hill in 2019, and the way he can ca­su­ally dip into World Cup DH rac­ing too and win at the high­est level is sim­ply mind-blow­ing. MARTIN MAES

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