On the morning of the 2020 Tour Down Under’s fourth stage, RIDE Media caught up with a mechanic from Trek-Segafredo. Considering a bike brand is a title sponsor of the team, it seems fitting to talk tech…
Aaron Fairly is a mechanic with considerable experience with Trek bikes and SRAM groupsets. The mechanic from Trek-Segafredo has been working with the AXS ensemble since well before it was launched to consumers and, he says, the component make is exploiting its relationship with the team to fine-tune the product.
In the first of two interviews about Trek-Segafredo’s equipment, we talk to Fairly to find out if there are many customisations for the bikes being used in 2020.
RIDE Media: I’m with Aaron from Trek-Segafredo and we’re going to have a little chat about the new-season bikes. I’m trying to find little stand-out features that are different this year. We had the announcement about Pirelli tyres recently. And you’ve just fitted some tyres. Is the team planning to go tubeless in 2020? Or are there any other innovations for the season that you can talk about?
Aaron Fairley (mechanic, Trek-Segafredo): “For the moment, I don’t think we’re really planning to go tubeless. Maybe we’ll do some stuff with the time trial bikes but for the moment, with road racing, we’re sticking with normal tubulars.
“Pirelli is a new sponsor for us. We have 25mm tyres provided by them and, for the rest, most of the kit is the same as last year but one thing that people have maybe noticed at the races is that, with the SRAM groupset, we’re running team-issue only 54/41 chainrings on several of the bikes here. This gives the guys more options in terms of gearing and all that.
“For the rest, we still have the Emonda and Madone bikes. We have Bontrager saddles, handlebars and Triple-X wheels.”
RIDE Media: And the extra glitter that we can see on Juan Lopez’s bike (little flecks of silvery-looking stuff on the SRAM levers)… what is that?
Aaron Fairly: “That is from the bottles that we have here. It’s something that we’re working on – to do a better job cleaning.”
RIDE Media: Ah, so it’s not a design feature?
Aaron Fairly: “No. It’s nothing worth talking about.” [Laughs]
RIDE Media: Can we just do a little overview of the menu for this race? Who is on an Emonda, who is on a Madone – and if there is someone who has one of each, perhaps?
Aaron Fairly: “Some guys here have the option to switch between the Emonda and the Madone but for the moment everyone is primarily staying on their main bike, so for this Tour Down Under we brought a pretty heavily based climbing team so we have Michel Ries, Juan Lopez, Kenny Elissonde and, of course, Richie Porte riding on the climbing bike – the Emonda.
“And then we have Kiel Reijnen, Koen de Kort and Mads Pedersen who are riding more on the Madone; these are the guys that are normally doing more of the work on the flat and keeping in position before the climbs.”
RIDE Media: Is there some MTB tech on Mads’ cassette? Is that what that rainbow glow is?
Aaron Fairly: “No, that’s just a special coating that SRAM did for him. You’ll also see the chain has this special finish on it.
“Basically, they’re doing it since he’s the world champion. It’s actually just a little bit of bling on his bike, I suppose you could say.”
RIDE Media: And how do they achieve that? What sort of coating is it? Can you explain it?
Aaron Fairly: “I’m actually not sure. I can’t speak about that. Sorry.”
RIDE Media: I had noticed the configuration, the 54/41, earlier. And I asked Jason Phillips from SRAM about it. He told me it was the teams’ request. Can you explain the request?
Aaron Fairly: “Um. At the moment, not everyone across the board is riding a 54/41. Of course we have the 50/37, which is a commercially available option. And there’s also the 48/30 which, I believe, most of our women’s team rides on.
“But [the customised team option] is just an extra gearing option for the guys and it’s really rider preference in terms of how they’re riding.
“And also, a lot of guys who are on the 54/41, they just have a feeling that they’re on top of their gear and that it’s a smoother motion. I don’t know the best way to describe it but it’s more of a sensation thing than anything else.
“Then also, they have the benefit of having larger gears. So, if you are riding downhill or whatever, they have that extra bit of gearing to go just a little faster.”
RIDE Media: Can you just talk, if you can, about SRAM AXS. You would have worked with this groupset probably more than any other mechanic…
Aaron Fairly: “Well, Trek-Segafredo, along with – now the former Team Katusha – we were the two teams that were riding with AXS first.
“At this point, all the mechanics in the team are quite well versed in it and, like any high-end groupset, it’s a really nice piece of material to work with.”
RIDE Media: And you’ve ironed out a few of the problems? Like, there’s the famous [Bauke] Mollema quote which you’re probably sick of hearing…
Aaron Fairly: “Well, the nice thing with working with SRAM is that we work closely with the engineers and we work as a collaboration.
“If we see something, or they know something new, it’s all shared knowledge. That’s kind of the point of almost all the WorldTour teams, whether you’re riding on SRAM, Campagnolo or Shimano.
“Everyone has the newest product, and the first look at the new materials. So, with any brand/team partnership it’s a collaboration. And with SRAM I can definitely say that, with the mechanics and the engineers, there’s a lot of back and forth. It’s a really good collaboration. I was looking for another word because how many times can I say collaboration in one sentence?”
RIDE Media: While we’re talking about this arrangement, can you just tell me if the team is using the SRAM app and if the riders are going for sequential shifting? And: do you manage that or do the riders?
Aaron Fairly: “It’s rider preference.
“So, for sequential shifting, I think it’s more something that’s a set up for the Classics team; just, when you’re on the cobbles, you don’t want to accidentally shift too far up or down…”
RIDE Media: But ordinarily they are just using a fairly standard set up?
Aaron Fairly: “Yeah, exactly.”
RIDE Media: Has there been an occasion when you get the bike back from a rider and you’ve got it on the work stand and you realise, ‘Oh, they’ve used the app themselves and they’ve chucked it into the sequential shifting option…’
Aaron Fairly: “No. Normally not. The only time that might happen is if a rider brings their ‘home bike’ to the race and then I may see it. But, for the most part, at the races the riders leave it up to us, the mechanics, to take care of their bikes.”
RIDE Media: And finally, Richie’s bike: is there ballast on it and, if so, what did it weigh in at before the extra was added?
Aaron Fairly: “Right now, at the moment (before the start of stage four of the Tour Down Under, the first day the Tasmanian wore the race’s leader’s jersey in 2020) – with the mid-profile wheels that he has today – it’s just above the UCI minimum.
“Yesterday (when Richie won the stage on Torrens Hill), I can tell you that it was at 6.8kg.”
RIDE Media: Exactly?
Aaron Fairly: “Exactly 6.8kg. I could have made it lighter but, of course, it’s not possible with the current rules.”
RIDE Media: Did you have to put weights in the frame somewhere?
Aaron Fairly: “Er. No.”
RIDE Media: That’s not happening with disc brake bikes… yet?
Aaron Fairly: “For the moment, that’s not happening. But I can see that happening very soon in the future.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold