Loic Bruni had a season of contrast in 2016, winning his first World Cup in Cairns but then getting sidelined by injury. He ultimately came back strong, only to then flat at World Champs. The #6 on his bike tells you everything you need to know though - when your so-so season lands you a single digit plate, you know you're doing something right. We caught up with "Super Bruni" just after track walk here in Lourdes, to chat about his offseason, his new bike, and his views on a certain new wheelsize. Turns out the softspoken Frenchy has quite a strong opinion on the topic, so hold onto your hats and dive into the audio goods below!

What's that you say? 29ers?

Taking a break from his normal routine, Loic spent much of his offseason in California, getting time off from studying to do a little interning and work on his race prep. Sounds like he's ready for a little redemption here in Lourdes!

Specialized have hooked their team riders up with rad new paintjobs, and the mechanics spare no effort to make sure they're dialed. It's all in the details...

The team has hooked up with a couple new partners for 2017, the most significant of which is of course Ohlins. Loic told us they worked hard to get it all sorted, relying on telemetry and lots of testing to work out tuning and settings. Switching to Formula brakes was also not a foregone conclusion, and was only possible after the brand stepped up with some pretty major revisions to their product. Loic elaborates in audio below:

The true meaning of "partnership" - we found this hiding in the back of the team truck.

The shock was pretty much good to go when the team got it...
...but the fork took a bit more work.

Specialized Gravity has always relied on telemetry, which they'll use both in testing and at the actual race venues to eek those last precious tenths out of the track. The dedicated telemetry bike is already standing by here in Lourdes:

So what about those wheels then? While some are playing down the arrival of the 29er in the World Cup, the issue is clearly polarizing - and there's little doubt which side of the fence Loic is on:

The team issue brake has seen heavy mods - which should trickle to production models going forward.
Formula reportedly has a 4-piston version of this brake on the way too.

It's not only the new bikes that need to look good, the riders dress to impress too. Bruni's 100% Aircraft is up to the task!

Bruni will be dead set on taking a few numbers off this plate now, and it could all start here in Lourdes, a track we know he likes and can do well on. Fingers crossed!

Photos and words by Johan Hjord

iceman2058 4/27/2017 10:03 AM

22 comments newest first

As a french myself, I am so pissed he uses the world "cheating" about the use of 29" wheels.
What is the next step? He will go to the UCI guys and cry like he is in the folds of his mother's skirt ?
"The guys whith the bigs wheels are bullying me! They're cheating! Mummy! Make them stop!"
That's so petty!

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Agreed. From what I can tell he's benefitted a lot from data acquisition on his bike while others might not have had the ability to do so. It takes a lot of cognitive dissonance to not call that "cheating" as well.

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Don't misunderstand why Loic doesn't like the 29'er. Yes faster is faster, but he is coming from the standpoint of "why go faster"? If it is an advantage now, but then everyone adopts the wheel size, it just means that everyone would then just be going even faster - which is hard to fathom. To see the speed in person, and see the unfortunate moments when things go wrong at that speed...Loic's view point is reasonable. And he's not the only one. The hype of the big wheel is hype, and there will be some more to come other than SC, but we're not going to see a whole-sale overhaul of things just yet. It is important to hear passionate riders discuss topics like this openly, and I think it's commendable that he put himself out there on the subject. Only the time will tell on Sunday!

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So with your logic , we should still be on bikes from the 90's. Why improve? Why go faster at all? Why should a racer get better brakes to have more control so he can go faster? Everyone else will buy them. Why should a racer get a lighter bike? Everyone else will get one. Why should a racer get better suspension for more control to go faster? Eventually everyone else will . FI cars should still look like they did in 1975 or earlier. Why race at all? I mean, if racing is seeing who is faster and faster isn't good, why race?

ZERO doubt if Loic (and I am a big fan of his) or even Gwin start getting smoked by guys on 29", they will be on them soon enough. As big as Specialized is, they have already researched it in depth. I even saw Gee and Rachel at Crankworx last year on the lift with 29" prototypes.

I agree the industry over hypes many things lately, and I will probably never have a 29" DH bike. I know I will get down voted for this, but The MAIN reason everyone is crying about 29" wheel DH bikes is because the 29" wheels began their lives on squirrelly XC bikes...everything DH is not. If DH bikes started with 29" and went down to 27.5 years later because of an improvement people would be bitching just the same.

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People should start by doing researches about the wheelsize, to know where it comes from, before talking...
http://dirtragmag.com/printragbig-wheel-mountain-bike-story/

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Why go faster? Because that's racing! That's literally the point of everything about racing. I'm just at a loss when any pro racer goes "hey, let's not go any faster." I understand the safety concerns, but saying that we should cap a wheel size to prevent people going faster isn't addressing the real issue of how to keep riders safe.

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Faster is always better in race, that is why they call it a race. Whether it's faster thru a tech section/track like Val di Sol or faster on a more bike park type track, faster wins races...zero exceptions. Every single fan boy of Sam Hill for example (I am one as well) wants him to be faster that all the other riders. That is how he wins a race. You get thru the super technical or super flowy sections of a course FASTER than the other riders on the same course. Style points are only great for videos and slope/jump comps. Fast wins races

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Aren't you contradicting yourself there? You want Sam Hill to win a race, but lets say everyone else is on a different wheelsize that gives them an advantage over him? How is that fair?

At the moment we have one team who have (maybe) gained an advantage over the other teams because they have taken the initiative. That's why Loic is pissed, because as a racer he feels like he is at an immediate disadvantage. Not to mention the privateers who probably won't see 29" bikes for another 2 seasons. I'm a Loic, Gwin, Hart, Brayton fanboy and I don't like that they might have less chance of winning this year because of a change in wheelsize. It's not a level playing field.

There are lots of other innovative ways to make a bike faster (Canyon's drivetrain disconnect for example). To use your F1 analogy, they could give the cars 2000hp, bigger wheels, wider tyres and massive downforce. But they don't. It's called REGULATION. Every top level sport has it to keep the sport fair, for safety, and to keep the sport true. For example in F1 they could go to closed cockpits because it would be safer AND faster, but they don't because F1 is open-wheeled racing and always has been. It's one of the fundamental aspects of the sport.

The whole point of top level sport such as downhill is for marketing and product development. There is no doubt that Santa Cruz have pulled a marketing coup with the new bike. Look at the number of views on social media etc. It's insane. But when it all dies down, we are left with the marketability of the sport itself. You can't see 3 seconds on tv, but you can see body language, whips, sideways landings, drifts etc. Without these, the sport looks less cool, less fun, which ultimately means less attractive to potential sponsors.

From a product development perspective, do you want the team to be riding equipment that is less fun to ride, or that you don't want to ride, or that is so refined for a specific purpose that it is useless to the average weekend racer? Or would you prefer the top teams to ride equipment that you can't even buy? I love the fact that Gwin wins races on a bike I could go out and buy. It's a huge selling point and it's probably why companies like YT decided to get involved.

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My god, I had no idea people would go to such illogical lengths to defend their passionate feelings about wheel sizes. This is hilarious! So it's OK to make a bike go faster, but not by using a different wheel size? And 29" wheels are going to make the racing boring, despite making the bikes go faster? They haven't even been run in a race yet! Did the jump from 26" to 27.5" test your worldview this much too? The cognitive dissonance in your post is astounding.

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Your point about privateers is not true, as anyone can ride a DH 29er:
https://www.pinkbike.com/news/alutech-cycles-announce-29-dh-bike-2016.html
Yes it may look as not as refined as the V10 29, but on the contrary, it is fully designed around 29" wheels, and the V10 still has a 27.5 front triangle.

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I like his viewpoint, faster isn't always better. I like watching the technical tracks. When watching faster less technical courses feel like I am watching someone ride a sx track solo, so boring.

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but if 29ers are faster over the same rough technical tracks, why is that less exciting? the comment field assumption of a relationship between 29ers and tracks flattening out is purely hypothetical.

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I'm not so sure about the point he makes about speed and safety. Ok the prediction is that 29ers might be a couple of seconds faster over the whole track...how much faster is that in reality in actual speed terms? maybe a couple of mph in certain sections. Hardly going to make a difference if you crash at 25mph or 28mph.

But I've said it before...29ers are only an advantage until everyone is using them. Then it's just a larger, weaker wheel with good rollover that is awkward for the short guys to ride.

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"cheating" isn't the right word Loic. I am not a fan of 29" wheels for DH either. But, if all those guys start smashing him, watch how fast Specialized riders show up on 'prototype' 29" wheels. Races are meant to be won, period. Yes, bro fanboys, and "26forlife" riders will never see anything as "cool". But racing is racing...

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Fully true, we're not talking about artistic skating, it's not about who's the most stylish guy, who's stays longer in the air when jumping, it's about who's the fastest between start line and finish line.

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Loïc Bruni is secretly trying to launch his own DH world cup series, where everyone will be riding 24" wheels steel clunckers with cantilevers, because it's safer and slow is the new speed.

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