Russell Downing's Fuji Altamira SL
Russell Downing, Fuji Altamira SL
Fuji isn't a huge brand in the UK, but that looks set to change in 2013. As the name suggests, the firm was originally Japanese before growing big in America, where it is now based.
There are over 120 bike models in the range, from 29er mountain bikes to town bikes, from downhill mountain bikes to hybrids, and road bikes - including the Altamira SL, the model Russell Downing and his fellow NetApp-Endura pros will race on this season.
It's a high-modulus full carbon monocoque with a tapered all-carbon fork finished with a combination of Prologo saddle and bar tape and Oval wheels, stem and bars - the latter brand is owned by Fuji's parent company Advanced Sports International. The pedals are Speedplay, the groupset is 11-speed Shimano Dura-Ace and the tyres on this bike are tubulars.
There's not a lot of fancy stuff on any of the bikes (unless you count the SRM power meter head unit, waiting for the not-yet-fitted cranks), but in these days of carbon-fibre frames, riders are used to riding whatever pops out of the mould in Taiwan.
Downing, a pro for 15 years, has ridden and raced more bikes than most, and has seen trends come and go.
"When I was younger, I never used to bother with [adjusting] my bike that much," he confesses, "but as I get older, I take a bit more time and pay more attention to the set-up. The thing is, with a carbon-fibre team bike you can't change the geometry the team rides, so you have to adapt to it instead. There's not a lot of point in wasting your time moaning.
"I start with the top tube and measure that, and everything else flows from that," Downing adds. "The saddle height is the same from bike to bike, but the length of the top tube dictates the length of the stem and the amount of layback in your saddle.
"A lot of companies have similar but slightly different bar shapes and depths, so you measure the distance from the centre of the front axle spindle to the bottom of the bar drop and make sure that the spacers in the headset are going to give you the right position, so you can raise or lower the bars a little to get it right. I measure the distance between the bottom of the brake lever and the curve of the drop on the handlebar too, to make a little adjustment to where the lever needs to be positioned on the bar."
And then? Then Downing can ride his bike and get bedded in. "I've used Prologo saddles and Speedplay pedals at different teams before, so I was happy to be back on them both. I knew and liked the shape of the Prologo Nago Evo, so I asked the team for them for my training and race bikes and it's sorted. You get guys trying out a new saddle every couple of days and I don't see how you can get used to the feel of a saddle in that short time. Maybe I'm a bit old school."
At the January Spanish training camp where we spoke to Downing, the team had just taken delivery of their race bikes and boxes of kit, so there was still a certain amount of testing of wheels going on.
The team will be racing on all-carbon, normal-section 20-spoke front and 24-spoke rear Oval Concepts wheels and the deeper 50mm versions, both shod with Vittoria Corsa CX tubulars. The ‘yellow' soft brake compound was a bit on the grabby side on heavier braking descents when the rim incurred a little heat build-up in the dry weather.
If Downing is happy to be back on a Prologo saddle, he was even happier with his Speedplay pedal and Bont shoe combo. "I go and see Simeon Hempsall [former GB amateur road champion] to get my bike-fit done, and he makes sure my back and hips are always working," smiles Downing.
"He fitted orthotics in my shoes - it makes a huge difference, but in the course of the fitting we discovered my feet are different sizes and so my cleats need to be repositioned. It's just a few millimetres but it makes a big difference to my left hip and being back on Speedplay pedals helps too. I really like the way they allow your body to find a more natural pedalling position with the amount of float they allow."
This article was first published in the February 14 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio, download from the Apple store and also through Kindle Fire.