Friday, 25 January 2019

Trek Top Fuel 9.9 2019 - Dissected and Analyzed

My Race Bike for 2019

At the beginning of 2018 I got hold of a used Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL (2017) sort of by chance. For the first part of the year I raced it in parallel with my Cube SLT (2017) and I was able to compare the two. During previous seasons I've raced a number of different full suspension top-of-the-line bikes so I've built up a good base for reference. The way that the Top Fuel stood out was that it handled roots, rocks and minor obstacles better than any other full susp that I'd ever ridden. This sort of behavior is important for me as I try to minimize my energy usage. The more that I can sit down and just spin the pedals, the more efficient I am. If I have to get off the saddle then I'm wasting energy.

Trek Top Fuel 9.9 2019
This led to me making the decision, for the first time, to race the same model in 2019. I ordered a brand new Trek Top Fuel 9.9, model 2019.

There are some differences between the 2017 and 2019 model: Rock Shox SID fork (still Fox in the rear) and Bontrager Kovee Pro 30 wheelset are the major changes.

Weight and Optimization

Now naturally I couldn't leave the bike as it was. It's fun to optimize, right?

Note that I've focused on optimizing unsprung and rotating weight.

The Wheels

Putting the wheels on the scales first produced a bit of a surprise:

Weight of Kovee Pro 30 wheelset with rim tape and tubeless valves
That's sort of heavy... But I did notice that the rim tape looked sort of massive. I needed to look into that. First I couldn't find a way to get it off but then I noticed that by peeling it gently off from the valve hole I could remove it. The original tubeless valves were not the light kind either.

World's heaviest rim tape?

Let's weigh the wheelset again:

Weight of Kovee Pro 30 wheelset without rim tape and valved
Wow! That's quite the difference! 155 grams lighter! And were below 1500 grams which is respectable for a wheelset with extremely wide rims - 30mm!!!

Let's put on some normal rim tape and light tubeless valves:

Weight of Bontrager Kovee Pro 30 with light rim tape and tubeless valves

Right around 1500 grams. That's good! Again note the extremely wide rims.

Race Wheels - Duke Lucky Jack

I will be doing most races on my Duke Lucky Jack wheelset which weighs in at 1280 grams.


Standard SRAM brake discs:

Were replaced by light Ashima ones:


Standard axles:

SRAM axles without handles:

I realize that these are no massive weight savings but I do them for two reasons:

  1. The handles are practical when removing the wheels but they can get stuck on things like rocks or roots and vegetation.
  2. They're relatively cheap!

Unoptimized stuff

Some stuff that I did NOT optimize (yet?):

Does anyone want to sponsor me with some light parts? :)


I've opted for Schwalbe Racing Ralph / Racing Ray 2.25 Snakeskin. This is a combo that's good for the kind of stages races that I will do in the mountains this year. They weigh in at just a smidgen over 600 grams. For Swedish marathons I will run lighter tires, specifically Schwalbe Thunder Burt 2.1 Snakeskin in the rear. So that will shed about 100 grams of weight.


I got my hands on the new Shimano XTR 9100 pedals. They came in at 314 grams:

Total Weight

The weight with the standard Kovee Pro wheels and wide Schwalbe tires comes in at 9.83 kg. This is race ready with Shimani XTR pedals (310 grams), bottle cage and Garmin out front mount.

With the Duke race wheels and lighter tires the weight will come to approximately:

9.5 KG

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

2018 - A Recap (Best Racing Season Ever?)

Quick summary of race results: VERY GOOD!

I'm super pleased with my results in the big stage races. I finally got on the podium at Beskidy Trophy. And it was all due to my really hard winter training where I was so much more focused and motivated than ever before.

The Strava Stats

I bicycle commuted to work 218 times. I have an average time of about 50 minutes to get to work and it's 20 kilometers one way.

Total distance commuting: 8720 km
Total time commuting:     392  hours

Fully Motivated Winter Training on the Monark

During the winter training leading up to the 2018 season I was more motivated than ever. I finally 'got' indoor training and I went all-in on my Monark stationary bike. The goal was clear: Increase the watts for each new session. I simplified my training and focused on just a few variation of intervals: 9 x 9 minutes was my base workout. I also did 4 x 8 min, 4 x 4 min and 2 x 20 min sessions. The advantage of having so few variations on my workouts was that I knew exactly what my capacity was for each type and what kind of power to aim for.

One could argue that I peaked my form a bit early, at the end of December to be specific. But I was just having so much fun as I saw my results getting better and better so I didn't care.

In the end it all worked out great and I almost reached 5W/kg FTP just before the season (Andalucia Bike Race at the end of February) started. Here are my graphs: 4W/kg -> 5 W/kg in 5 months.

My indoor training setup (with power meter)

New Race Bike: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL

I purchased a used Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL in January. I saw it in an ad as being sold by a local guy. I more or less purchased it on impulse as I still  had the Cube SLT that I had raced all of 2017 (and was happy with). 

Top Fuel turned out to be in a different category altogether. In fact it was better than any full suspension bike that I had ever owned. It's hard to explain (and I will do a separate post about it) but the bike just goes over roots and rocks in a way that no other full suspension bike that I've raced has ever done. It just swallows up the terrain and offers a stable base in all situations. 

I have been so pleased with it that I will be racing the Trek Top Fuel 9.9 2019 model in the 2019 season.

My brand new 2019 Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL

Racing with a Power Meter

For the first time ever I raced all my races with a Stages Power Meter. It was great information to have, although I rarely looked at the watts during a race, the information was invaluable in analyzing my performance after the race.

Stages Power Meter

Andalucia Bike Race - My Best Result Ever?

Andalucia Bike Race was the toughest race that I participated in during the year if you look at the opposition. It's a UCI race with 250 starters in my M40 category.

This year the race was treated to some terrible weather. Two stages had to be shortened and one was cancelled.

At the end of the race, after 5 stages (should have been 6), I had finished in 9th place overall. I'm pretty sure that has to be my best result in any race so far. Here's my race story from that race: ABR 2018

Andalucia Bike Race with my girlfriend - Sandra Backman

Beskidy Trophy - Finally on the Podium

Beskidy Trophy in Poland was one of the first stage races that I ever took part in back in 2015. At that time I finished ninth. I fell in  love with it immediately and decided to come back the next year. 2016 I finished fourth, then sixth in 2017.

I came to the 2018 edition of Beskidy with great form and a low weight of 70 kg. As with Andalucia Bike Race also Beskidy was plagued by terrible weather and storms this year. I started of great with a second place finish on stage 1, fourth on stage 2 (rain and stormy), third on stage 3. Before the start of the fourth and last stage I was in third place overall, just two minutes down on second place. However the stage got cancelled as the weather was considered so extreme that it endangered the competitors.

I finally reached my goal of a podium finish in Beskidy Trophy (race story here). This had been one of my long-term goals and I felt that however the rest of the season went I was content.

Beskidy Trophy 2018 - Final standings

Snapphaneturen - Third Place Finish in the Race where it all began

Snapphaneturen is a local marathon MTB race which covers very technical terrain. It was one of the first mountain bike races that I ever competed in back in 2011. My clearest memory from those first years racing in Snapphaneturen was that I always cramped up at some point. As I got fitter I usually managed a top-10 finish in the race (and fewer cramps).

This year's edition of Snapphaneturen however sent some surprising luck my way: Three of my competitors took a wrong turn during the race without realizing it. That meant that I was able to have my first ever podium finish and get a third place. Noteworthy is also that the guys in second and first place where less than half my age. Blog post for this race

Snapphaneturen - Me against the Danish pros

Sudety Challenge - Enduro or Cross Country?

Sudety Challenge is a Polish stage races which is a sister race (same organizer) to Beskidy Trophy. It has six stages (the first is a shorter time trial).

2018 was the first year that I competed in this race. I didn't know quite what to expect. The downhills turned out to be steeper and trickier (and more dangerous) than the ones in Beskidy. I never like to get off and walk downhill when the track gets too steep but I had to do that often in Sudety. It all culminated in the last stage where I was off the bike close to 10 times where the terrain was just too dangerous to bike. It left me thinking: Is this an Enduro race??

I still managed to finish fourth overall however I feel that a podium finish would have been possible with slightly more 'reasonable' terrain. Race story here

I'm not sure if I'll revisit this race in 2019.

Third place finish in one of the stages

Sudety has some tricky terrain

Swedish Marathon Cup (LĂ„ngloppscupen) and XCM Champs

I consider 2018 to be my best year ever racing. However in the Swedish marathons I had poor results. There were mostly top-10 finishes but I was nowhere near to podium. In some of the races I had mechanical troubles but then in others I just don't know why I didn't perform well.

The Swedish XCM Championships ended with ninth place. I was happy with this result as the race was just one week after the finish of Sudety Challenge

Swedish Marathon Championships

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Winter Training 2018/2019 in Chiang Mai, Thailand [UPDATED WITH VIDEOS]

Days biking:                     13
Climbing days (up the mountain): 6
Distance covered:                1026 km (~80 km per day)
Uphill:                          12685 m (~1000 m per day)
Time biked (movement time):      56 hours (~4.5 hours per day)
Sick days:                       1 1/2
Strava KOMs:                     3
Times almost eaten by spiders:   1
Crashes:                         0

Worst of Beginnings

I got a cold just days before I was to fly to Chiang Mai. I hoped that it would pass but it only got worse. I spent 14 hours on the plane with the worst cold that I've had in recent years. It was pure torture.

As if that wasn't enough instead of landing in Bangkok (as it said on the ticket) we landed in Phuket. But no one told me. Not until I was at the airport in Phuket that is. I heard an airport employee calling my name and they said I needed to hurry to the next plane leaving for Bangkok. I answered: But isn't this Bangkok? "No", she said, "you're in Phuket". I was very confused. I flew to Bangkok and then onward to Chiang Mai. Amazingly both I and my bicycle arrived in Chiang Mai as planned. I never got any explanation about this whole thing. I still have my two original tickets saying: Copenhagen to Bangkog and Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

There was trouble even before this: I always bring my hardtail on these training camps because I want a reliable bike that has as few moving parts as possible: My BMC Teamelite. When I was dismantling the Teamelite to put it in my bike transport bag the saddle clamp bolt broke. I wasn't able to get the seat post off and without that the bike doesn't fit in the bag. This was just hours before my flight. Backup plan: Bring the race bike - Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL. The terrain in Chiang Mai is MUCH better suited to a full suspension bike. But there are so many more parts that can break... I ended up NOT regretting this decision.

Riding the full suspension Trek Top Fuel 9.9

I spent the first full day in Chiang Mai in bed felling awful. The second day I was able to get out for a short easy ride. On the third day, with snot still running from my nose, I went up the mountain

The Benchmark Hill

I have a benchmark climb that I do every winter that I come to Chiang Mai.
It takes about an hour to ride so it's a good test.

Last year was the first time I did it under an hour. My best time was 55 minutes. This year I managed a time of 57 minutes. I wasn't surprised that I didn't beat my time of last year: I was lighter last year and so was the bike.

The weird thing with my training camps in Chiang Mai is that I always go the quickest up this hill towards the end of the two weeks that I spend here. Same for this year: On my 12th straight riding day (out of a total of 13) I posted my quickest time of 57 minutes averaging 281W.

Halfway up Benchmark Hill

The Downhills

Remember how I wrote in the first paragraph that I didn't regret bringing my full suspension Trek Top Fuel instead of the BMC hardtail? The downhills in Chiang Mai are BRUTAL. They can be done on a hardtail, you just go slower in order not to crash and die. In the previous section I wrote that I was 2 minutes slower uphill this year (heavier Alex and heavier bike). The question is: How much quicker was I downhill on my Top Fuel? 

Now there's no section that covers the whole part down the mountain but there's one called "420 HUT - Northern Freeide" which covers about two thirds of the way down the mountain.

Quickest this year: 18 minutes 32 seconds
Quickest previous years: 26 minutes 43 seconds


But the time doesn't really tell the whole story. I had so much more fun riding downhill on the Trek Top Fuel compared to any other bike I've ever brought here (they've all been hardtails).

Mae Jo Race Track and The Spider

A race is planned for February 2019 in the Mae Jo area north-east of Chiang Mai. The course had already been marked so I had a few very intense laps there. It's an extremely fun and also twisty, quick and technical course. After I had visited it a third time and done my quickest lap I felt that I should stop because if I tried going any quicker I would risk crashing

The Mae Jo track is also where I ran into The Spider. The funny thing is that since I started coming to Thailand to mountain bike I've always been worried about running into some nasty insect (funnily enough I've been less worried about snakes). While biking through the forests here you brush across different plants and sometime run into spider webs. I hadn't seen any spider until I ran into one at the race track om my first visit. I noticed it just moments before I ran into it and managed to avoid hitting it full on. Instead it hit my hand and the handle bars of my bike. I stopped and jumped of my bike like it was on fire. Then I took the photo that you can see below. Notice the yellow stuff on the handle bar is the spider's web.

Losing all my Cash, and Getting it Back

On my next to last ride in Chiang Mai I was on the mountain again. I purchased a bag of coffee beans for my girlfriend and stuffed it in one of my jersey pockets. I had to move all my other stuff around but it just fit. Then I went down my favorite downhill trail; Crazy Dust. At the bottom, while I was checking my jersey pockets, I noticed that my foldable jacket hand fallen out of the pocket. This really annoyed me but it wasn't really that big a deal. But then I remebered that I had the bag with all my cash and credit cards in the same jersey pocket... AND IT WAS GONE TOO! I realized that I had to bite the bullet and search for it by going back up the mountain by foot. This would probably take more than an hour. I had not gone more than a few hundred meters before I met two guys on downhill bikes; A Thai guide and a Singapore rider. The Thai guide asked med "Are you Alexander?" as soon as he saw me. Yes, he had found my cash. I was so happy that I wanted to give him a reward but he would accept no money.

The next day, while going downhill on the same track, I also found my jacket!


 Gee's House + Crazy Dust
 Mae Jo Race Track 2019
 Crazy Dust + Gee's House