Downhill: Mullets and Downhill

Words by: Johan (Pottie) Potgieter | Images by: Shawn Van Zyl

Johann Potgieter (Pottie) is our newest regular contributor. Pottie is a multiple South African downhill champion and he starts off with some interesting new trends within the downhill industry.

Hi Guys and Girls! I am so stoked to have this opportunity to be sharing my thoughts with you every couple of months through this column.

For those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Johann Potgieter and I am a multiple South African downhill champion. I’ve been riding for 20 years and I race for Team Racing Dudes and YT-Industries in Germany and I also do Youth skills camps and skills clinics for all mountain bike disciplines all around the country. Coffee is a big passion of mine and I also own two coffee bars, one in Cape Town (Hooggekraal) and one in Port Elizabeth (Cyclo Pro).

This month for my first column I would like to delve a little deeper into the new trends in the gravity scene. Now there are constantly new things and tech popping up throughout the scene but one of the most talked-about trends in my opinion would be the mullet bike. A mullet bike is a bike with a 29er wheel up front and a 27.5 wheel in the rear. Cross Country mountain biking went from 26 inch straight to 29er… then for a brief period there was a 27.5 craze and then they went back to 29er as the accepted better option. In downhill (this period was before enduro got mainstream, I would say) we went from 26 inch to 27.5, then it stayed there for a couple of seasons and then some teams and brands started experimenting with 29ers. In XC and marathon riding rolling is the biggest part of the game, where as in the gravity scene handling plays just as big a part and the riders have to be able to ride the bike close or on the limit more comfortably.

Straight off the bat you could see the riders who were comfortable on the bigger wheels and also the guys who were struggling to adapt. There was a period where all the manufacturers just tried to get 29er bikes out there as soon as possible and some just made the wheels fit onto the current bikes which made the geometry on some of the bikes a bit awkward, and that saw a lot of guys ditch the bigger wheels and go back to the more trusted 27.5 options. Come the next year and more manufacturers had fully fledged race-ready 29ers out on the courses. More riders were on full 29er bikes, whereas some guys stayed on the 27.5 bikes. The funny thing is, where it was the taller guys who adapted well, and the short to mid-sized riders who weren’t fully comfortable or fully convinced, and thus not long after, the mullet bike was born. The goal with the mullet was to have the best of both worlds, with the front wheel rolling over obstacles easier and the back wheel being smaller made it easier to handle and lean the bike.

Thus far the mullet bike has seen great success under riders like Loic Bruni and Danny Hart with both being on the mullet bikes during the 2019 race season. 29ers were also still up there with Amaury Pierron and Greg Minnaar as well as 27.5 with the super-fast Aussie Troy Brosnan deciding to stay with the smaller wheels.

Which one is better? I guess this is a debate that could go on for a long time, but in my opinion it will be the length and riding style of the specific rider that will decide what would be best for them. Until next time.

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