Karl Platt’s BULLS Wild Edge Team 29er Prototype
In the world of ultra-endurance mountain-bike racing, Karl Platt is a giant – a legend who’s carved his name no fewer than five times on one of the cycling world’s most coveted crowns: the Absa Cape Epic winner’s trophy. – By Aaron Borrill
This year he’s hoping to make it a record win number six, after illness and mechanical setbacks wreaked havoc with his and partner Urs Huber’s 2017 campaign. The affable BULLS rider has been using SA as a base for the past decade to prepare for a tough racing season that traditionally kicks off with the Attakwas and Cape Epic.
While it’s always a treat bumping into Platt on the trails, this time it was his unbranded BULLS Wild Edge Team prototype bike that stole the show, and had us rubbernecking like bobbleheads on a hardtail. “It’s the 2018 version. We’ve made a few tweaks here and there. It’s going to be good,” he mused. The 39-year-old German – recovering from a broken hip since November last year – says he has no plans for retirement just yet, and aims to stay pro for two years at least. “My goal will always be to win the Cape Epic. I’ll be here for 2018 and 2019.”
Wheels & tyres: FAST & FAITHFUL
Platt has eschewed last year’s Stan’s NoTubes ZTR Crest wheelset in favour of the team’s in-house rolling stock – Hattori SL carbon hoops. Weighing just 1 650g, these lightweight wheels provide superlative strength and resilience – not to mention an inner rim width of 31.6mm, which allows him to run lower tyre pressures for better traction, comfort and rolling resistance.
When it comes to tyres, the BULLS team uses Schwalbe rubber exclusively. For races such as Attakwas and the Cape Epic, where the surface is variable and unforgiving, a Rocket Ron Snakeskin front/rear combination has proven the most durable compound for the team.
Frame & fork: ROUGH & REFINED
The frame is the biggest talking point here. It’s raw and aggressive, and adds a malevolent touch to an already dynamic-looking bike. Karl likes it too. “Cool, huh?”
It looks this way because it’s a prototype, but it’s essentially the same bike (geometry-wise) Platt will ride at this year’s Cape Epic. Several tweaks attempt to make it more aero and competitive than before: the most notable are new bearings around the rocker linkage, and a streamlined seat tube and chain stays. A solitary ‘Karl Platt’ sticker on the top tube offsets the rawness.
Fork and shock? The venerable RockShox RS-1 (110mm of travel) with remote lockout, as well as a RockShox Monarch (110mm).
Groupset: NO SINGLE TRUTH
Platt is one of only a few contemporary professionals to still prefer a double chainring over the now almost de rigueur 1x set-up. In his case it’s the Shimano 2×11 36-26T front/11-40T rear XTR drivetrain.
Why? Well, he believes the broader gearing saves more energy and keeps the legs fresher. It also allows him to power the open flats at a cadence he prefers, rather than limiting himself to try and save a few hundred grams…
Interestingly, the prototype seen here uses mechanically actuated XTR derailleurs; but we’re told a fully electronic Di2 system will be fitted in time for the Epic. Other notable parts include a Stages XTR power crank, and XTR brakes.
Parts: TRIED & TESTED
European pros feel no shame strapping on a saddle bag. No egos here… Platt uses a Schwalbe bag to carry his spares (tubes, bombs, levers and adaptors), while SahmuraiSword bar ends store his reamer tool and plugs inside the carbon FSA K-Force handlebars. The keen of eye will notice the lack of bar-ends and FSA road-bike handlebar tape (Platt trademarks) on this prototype, but he assures us both features will be in place come the Epic.
A Fizik Antares saddle replaces last year’s Fizik Tundra M1 carbon unit, while the tried-and-tested titanium King Cages look after Platt’s bidons. Everything is monitored via a Sigma ROX 11.0 GPS computer.