Mountain Gear

Leadville Bike Tech: Levi, Ned and Jeremiah’s Rigs's resident tech guru Lennard Zinn caught up with Levi, Ned and Jeremiah to check out their Leadville bikes.

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While every one of them is equipped with SRAM XX groups with 2X10 drivetrains and a RockShox XLoc hydraulic fork lockout, the contrasts are striking between the bikes that Levi Leipheimer, Ned Overend, and Jeremiah Bishop are riding in the Leadville Trail 100.

Leipheimer’s bike is custom painted with tasteful paint details based on a design by his wife and is brand new from the bottom up. Overend’s is also brand new and painted specially for him, but taste could be up for argument. Bishop’s bike has been heavily personalized by him and includes some items so beat up that replacement seems more in order than racing 100 miles on them.

Overend and Bishop are on 29ers, Leipheimer is on a 26er, and none of them use inner tubes. Leipheimer and Overend ride full suspension rigs with carbon rims and forks with two legs, while Bishop rides a hardtail with aluminum rims and a single fork leg, but even though he has the biggest bike of the three, his is the lightest. And his is the only one with a built-in trashcan.

Levi’s Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SSL (a 26er)

Leipheimer’s wife, Odessa, designed the logo of a bear with a crown made of chain and other bike parts that represents the Gran Fondo Levi Leipheimer, a mass-participation race/ride in Northern California. When Trek asked Leipheimer what he wanted on his custom paint job for the Leadville Trail 100, he gave the designers one of the jerseys for his event and asked them to work that theme into it.

A big version of the bear and its crown takes up the largest piece of real estate on either side of the frame, namely the head tube/top tube/down tube area. Smaller versions are painted on each side of the one-piece Evo carbon suspension linkage levers, and the bear’s crown is on the back of the seat tube. Tiny silver bear heads are spattered throughout all of the black areas on the top tube and down tube.

It not only says “Levi Leipheimer” in giant letters on the top tube, but it also says “Levi” on the front of each brake lever. And just to clarify that this bike, which Leipheimer had only ridden twice before the race, is made for one special event, it says “Leadville 100” on the inboard side of the left seatstay.

The evening before the race, Leipheimer and his Trek team mechanic Ben Coates were agonizing over the decision of whether to add a rear remote lockout for his Fox RP2 shock with Boost Valve and had still not decided. His XLoc hydraulic remote lockout lever for his RockShox SID XX World Cup fork was a given. The fork is set at 100mm of travel, matching his Top Fuel 9.9 SSL’s 100mm of rear travel and 100 miles he is riding.

Levi clips into the bike with Look Quartz Carbon pedals. His wheels are Bontrager carbon XXX, as is his stem and handlebar. His tires are low-knob tubeless Hutchinson Cobras.

Also staying at the same beautiful rental vacation home with Leipheimer, Coates, and speedy Honey Stinger marketing manager Len Zanni is Chris Carmichael. Coach to Lance Armstrong and effectively coach to thousands more through his company, Carmichael Training Systems, he is switching back to the role of athlete and racing the event. Coach Carmichael is riding a carbon Trek Elite 9.9 SSL hardtail 26er.

Ned Overend’s Specialized Epic 29

While Ned Overend has been working in product development for Specialized arguably for almost 20 years, he apparently is rarely asked to design paint jobs.

“When they told me I would be getting a custom paint job on this bike and asked me what I wanted, I kind of panicked,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

As a way to explain the bright, glowing green color adorning the inward-facing surfaces of his top tube, down tube and chainstays, the man who won the cross-country mountain-bike world championship in his hometown of Durango shrugged, “I hear neon is coming back.” The green is offset by red around the perimeter of the front tubes.

Like Leipheimer and Bishop, he pedals a SRAM XX 2 X 10 drivetrain with an 11-36 in the rear and has his XX shifters attached to his XX brake levers via MatchMaker X modular mounts. But Deadly Nedly will attack the 100-mile course with 40/27 Rotor ovalized chainrings adorning his Specialized S-Works carbon BB30 cranks. His feet, in Specialized shoes, of course, connect to them via Shimano XTR pedals.

Bucking the current trend eschewing them, Overend will be using bar ends, something that he personally brought to immediate popularity by winning the first world mountain bike championship in 1990 on them. His fork is a Specialized Future Shock and his carbon Roval wheels roll on low 29er knobs on Specialized tires he had a hand in designing.

Specialized founder and president Mike Sinyard rides a bigger version of the same bike, all black, in his second Leadville Trail 100. He says, “This thing is like riding on a cloud, with these carbon rims and everything! But when you see my time, just remember it’s not the bike!”

Jeremiah Bishop’s Cannondale Flash Carbon 29’er

Commenting that he loves Leadville partially because some of its alleyways look like you could be in Peru, Jeremiah Bishop has high hopes for being the first one back into town after 100 miles outside of it. Carrying him and his hopes is his weapon of choice, a tricked-out Cannondale Flash Carbon 29er. With 2.25-inch Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29-inch low-knob tires, his bike weighs a mere 19.4 pounds.

His bike’s thin seatstays will take a bit of the edge off, but Bishop discounts the roughness of the course.

“It’s a Levi/JHK kind of course,” he said. “If it were rocky and technical, they’d be in trouble, but if they slip up, I’ll get ‘em.”

Bishop’s Lefty 29’er Carbon SL fork is controlled by a RockShox XLoc hydraulic lockout. But besides dealing with bumps with only a single leg, his fork provides Bishop with a unique item: a trashcan! The 26-inch version of the Lefty has a single-piece forged stem/steering tube that is closed on top. By contrast, the 29-inch Lefty has a separate steering tube that clamps into the upper and lower fork crowns, and the stem clamps around it. That leaves the huge oversized steering tube open, and Bishop uses it as a receptacle for his energy-bar wrappers. Beats the heck out of fumbling for a jersey pocket or dropping them on the ground.

Bishop’s handlebar has a unique feature: padded handlebar tape wrapped around his handlebar on either side of the stem. By means of explanation, Bishop said, “I ride lots of 100-milers; these other guys are rookies.” He grabs the taped sections to ride in a low, narrow, aerodynamic tuck. “You’ll see me in this position a lot,” he said.

Another Bishop addition is athletic tape around his Crank Brothers Eggbeater 4Ti pedals to reduce slop between his shoes and the worn pedals.

“I think they (CrankBrothers) got a new manufacturer or something. They haven’t been able to get me any pedals. These ones are two years old. If I can borrow some for tomorrow, I will.”

Bishop runs his Racing Ralphs tubeless on NoTubes ZTR Race 29 wheels. But that PowerTap computer head on his handlebar is not connected to them, because he is not running a PowerTap hub; he only relies on the PowerTap head for heart rate and distance information. He pedals Cannondale Hollowgram BB30 hollow, clamshell-bonded double cranks with his SRAM XX group.

Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Lennard Zinn.

Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (, a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”

Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn.

Follow Lennard on Twitter.