What’s going on with Jolanda Neff’s down tube?

A quick explanation of the wavy shape seen on the Olympic race-winner's bike.

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Those who just watched the women’s cross country mountain bike event may have noticed something weird on the down tube of Jolanda Neff’s Trek Supercaliber.

With the women anticipating muddy conditions, the eventual gold medal winner seemingly took a page from the book of fellow Swiss rider Nino Schurter who had used a similar trick at the most recent mudfest of a World Cup round at Les Gets.  

Simply, it’s just duct tape (gaffer tape) stuck along the frame in a way that makes a wavy and floppy shape.  

With no bike changes allowed, mud can quickly become a nemesis to a mountain bike racer. It can clog tyres, stop drivetrains from shifting, and it can add significant weight to the bike. And it’s that last element that the duct tape aims to prevent. 

Firstly, the wavy shape of the duct tape gives a steep angle for the mud to cling to. Secondly, if the mud does manage to cling on, then the next jump, drop, or bump will likely cause that wavy tape to fling the mud away. 

The duct tape seems to be a simple and low-effort hack to an age-old problem. However, following Nino Schurter’s use of the trick a few weeks back there was plenty of conjecture over whether it’s the best approach. The wavy shape is effectively increasing the surface area of the down tube and so in theory it’s possible (although highly unlikely) for more mud to collect. 

Nino Schurter at Les Gets a few weeks back.

Other experienced racers will note that cooking spray has long been a successful hack to keep mud from sticking on the tubes. However cooking spray also makes the tubes slippery to grab in the event of an urgent off-bike moment. 

The Swiss Cycling Federation may be the only ones who know just how effective this hack is. Either way, it’s fair to say it didn’t have any impact on the day’s result.

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