Rising star Catharine Pendrel of team Luna Chix was a slim 14 seconds short of winning the Houffalize World Cup on Sunday. The featherweight Canadian had a breakout season two years ago and continues in her bid to become the top North American female mountain bike racer.
Although Team Luna Chix is taking a more selective approach to the 2009 World Cup series, she’ll still have plenty of opportunity to thrive.
We caught up with Luna Chix team mechanics Chris Mathis and Zeph Wadsworth one morning at the Sea Otter Classic to have a look at Pendrel’s race machine. All of the team’s Orbea bikes are meticulously race prepped by these two, and almost 100 percent of the time it’s the carbon Alma hardtails that wind up at the start line.
In fact, an Orbea hardtail ended up winning the Sea Otter cross-country later in the afternoon, piloted by Luna rider Georgia Gould.
The team is famously loyal to sponsors and sponsor-supplied materials, and the bikes reflect this dedication.
Pendrel’s 16-inch (medium) Orbea Alma Carbon HT is about as straightforward of a World Cup race bike as can be found anywhere. The frame is a blend of 80 percent medium- and 20 percent high-modulus carbon fiber.
The rear triangle is unique in that the seatstays and chainstays don’t meet at the dropout, but join each other in a continuous arc. Rear dropouts are bonded around the curved tube junction. Another notable frame design element is the oversized, triangular down tube with a little extra material at the underside edges to create an integrated “fender.” An integrated Zero-Stack 1- 1/8th inch headset rounds out the front end.
The parts selection
Aside from a FOX F100 RLC fork with custom tuned compression damping, every piece is off-the-shelf componentry that could be purchased from a local bike shop. Wadsworth pointed out, “FOX helps custom tune all the team forks to suit the riders, every spring.” For a very light rider like Pendrel, who runs only 55 PSI in the fork, additional low-speed compression damping to control bob and brake dive is a big help.
The parts kit is pure Shimano, with XTR drivetrain and brake components. Pendrel uses RapidFire shift levers and a Shadow low-profile rear derailleur. Shimano XTR centerlock rotors (160mm front, 140mm rear), an XTR chain, and SP-41 cables and housing complete the Shimano package, down to the last details.
Wheels are Mavic Crossmax SLR disc, fitted with Maxxis Crossmark UST tubeless tires. “The tires are full UST tubeless, but we do run a splash of Stan’s sealant,” said Wadsworth. The front hub is adaptable to FOX’s 15 QR system, but the team is using normal quick release wheels.
Easton supplies the remaining parts, including an EA90 aluminum stem (90mm, -10 degree rise), and EC90 carbon bars, seatpost, and bar ends. In contact points, Pendrel uses a minimalist Selle Italia kit carbon SLR saddle, Pedros grips, and Shimano XTR pedals. Final details include a Blackburn carbon bottle cage and Vetta V100 HR computer.
Wadsworth said that virtually no modifications were made to any of the parts, and it weighs 21 pounds. “We file off the fork tabs for quicker wheel changes, and cut off the bottom pull cable option on the XTR front derailleur, but that’s about it,” he said. “The frame itself is sealed at the bottom bracket, so we don’t use the plastic BB sleeve,” he added. On the other hand, Wadsworth and Mathis set up the cables with plastic sheathing between sections of housing to help prevent contamination. The sheath fits over little extensions on the SP-41 housing ferrules and creates a virtually sealed system.
Despite the relatively stock frame and parts pick on Catharine Pendrel’s Orbea, look for her to keep logging decidedly non-stock, top of the page race results.
Frame: Orbea Alma carbon HT
Fork: FOX F100 RLC, custom low speed compression tune (55 PSI)
Wheels: Mavic Crossmax SLR disc
Drivetrain: Shimano XTR, 170 mm cranks, Shadow rear derailleur, Rapidfire shifters, 12-34 cogs
Brakes: Shimano XTR, with 160mm front and 140mm rear Centerlock rotors
Stem: Easton EA90 90mm, -10 degree rise
Bar: Easton EC90, 610 mm wide
Seatpost: Easton EC90, zero setback
Saddle: Selle Italia kit carbon SLR
Tires: Maxxis Crossmark UST, 26×2.1 (27 PSI)
Other: Blackburn bottle cage, Vetta V100 HR computer, Pedro’s grips, Easton EC90 bar ends.