Jolanda Neff's all-new Kross Earth finally breaks cover
© Bartek Woliński
Get up close and personal with the XCO world champion's secret weapon, as she talks you through her race bike and its brand new Shimano XTR groupset.
The second round of the Mercedes-Benz UCI World Cup XCO felt, at times, like a war. Rain saturated the German round in Albstadt, leaving behind a quagmire of clay that coated the long, steep ascents. It was a battle, and there was only one true victor – Jolanda Neff.
The Swiss rider's win in the Women's XCO race was an incredible statement of intent and she’ll be looking to hammer home this weekend at round three in Nové Město, Czech Republic. To help with this, she's finally racing aboard the bike that's been hitherto a stealth-clad prototype; the all-new Kross Earth.
Watch the video below, as she talks you through her new rig and then scroll down for more images and details.
At the heart of the new race machine lies an entirely fresh full suspension frame design built around 29" wheels, which takes it's name from a now defunct 26" wheel model.
Visibly, it shares a lot of its silhouette with the Level hardtail that Neff dominated Albstadt aboard. It's a linkage-driven single pivot with flex stays – ideal for the efficiency and weight demands of top flight XCO racing.
The design provides 100mm of suspension travel via a metric shock. The rear brake mount is a flat one, and is positioned on the chain stays. It sits the calliper neatly out of harms way and also transfers braking forces along a stiffer route, as opposed to back up along the seat stays.
The rear axle has Boost spacing, and all the cables enter the frame's internal routing neatly through ports at the head tube. Neff rides a stock size small frame, which weighs 1800g without shock.
The Kross Racing Team are sponsored by DT-Swiss so it's unsurprising that they run the brand's suspension products.
As mentioned, the rear R414 air shock features metric sizing and has a uniquely conical air chamber, which the brand says helps to promote it's progressive ramp up characteristics. The loop of cable goes to a bar-mounted lock-out, but is something the brand are currently working on to provide a tidier solution.
Out front, Neff's Earth uses the 100mm travel DT Swiss ODL 100 fork, which, again, is fitted with a lock-out, which are of vital importance in Nové Město due to the long asphalt start/finish straight.
Like the majority of Shimano-sponsored riders, Neff is making use of the Japanese firm's all-new XTR drivetrain. The model line has been their top XC groupset since it was first introduced in 1992, and behind the fairly predictable 'better, faster, lighter' marketing spiel lies a thoroughly cutting edge system of components.
The XTR M9100 (to give it's full title) is 12-speed, which is new for the brand, and features a range of 10–51T on the rear cassette. Shimano have also developed an 11-speed cassette minus the big 51T ring, as it's XC and enduro racers claimed that for their needs, the big final drive just wasn't necessary.
Other neat touches include a titanium centre section of cogs in the cassette, a top secret hardwearing coating and a new direct-mount spline crank and chainring interface. Interestingly, the M9100 cranks are made from good old-fashioned aluminium alloy.
Shimano created carbon fibre cranks during testing, but found the metal options to offer a superior spread of talents. Double chainring shifting is increasingly becoming a thing of the past in most disciplines, but if you have your heart set on it then both the new XTR and Kross Earth frame can accommodate your wishes.
As with suspension, full DT-Swiss products take care of Neff when it comes to wheels, in the form of their XRC 1200 SPLINE 22.5 set-up. They feature 24mm tall carbon fibre rims and the brand's 240 hubs, laced together with Aero Comp straight pull spokes.
Neff ran Mitas Hyperion tyres in the mud of Albstadt, but will probably stick with the dry weather Scylla rubber for this weekend's race in Nové Město.