The Man Behind the Rat

Doug Hatfield is the Team Support Manager for the Santa Cruz Syndicate racing team. One of his main responsibilities is taking care of Josh “Ratboy” Bryceland’s race bike. On Friday after qualifying at the Windham World Cup I asked him a few questions about his job and wrenching on the World Cup.

 

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Above: Doug posted up at the Syndicate pit.

 

ET – So let me first ask you about your job. There are only six or seven World Cup races in a season. Is your job fulltime?

DH – My job is fulltime. I’m pretty much in charge of all the ordering and preparation that goes into the team. So my job’s fulltime. When I go to work my days just fly by so never a dull moment.

ET – So you are based in Santa Cruz, CA? Do you go to IXS Cups and BDS Races or do you just do World Cups?

DH – We do the BDS and there are a couple of IXS races on the schedule. We opted not to do most of those this year.

ET – You go to them? It’s not like Josh is on his own for a BDS?

DH – Josh’s dad likes to go to the races and then we have our mechanic Tom who lives in Sheffeild near Steve Peat and he’ll take care of both at a BDS. I’ve been to a couple, but this year my schedule hasn’t let me get there.

ET – So you’re pretty busy.

DH – My job is flat out.

ET – I was wondering about the bike. Do you consider it to be yours and Josh rides it or is it Josh’s and you wrench on it.

DH – It’s definitely Josh’s.

ET – Yeah? It’s not like the crew chief for a fighter jet, “Don’t crash my plane!”?

DH – Well I don’t like it when he crashes it. It gives me more work to do, but then that’s job security so it keeps me busy, but it’s Josh’s bike and I’m happy to be working for him.

ET – Are you ever nervous about the bike once you set him loose from the top of the track? Stand there with a pair of wheels and he’s gone?

DH – It’s just like you said, you know, it’s like back in the day when the fighters go off the deck and then they’re gone and you’re hoping they come back and everything’s intact. It’s kinda the same scenario. When Josh goes I have complete confidence in Josh – he’s one of the best riders out there.

ET – You’re not nervous about your work that something might fall off?

DH – I don’t get too nervous.

ET – I imagine you could get nervous with a top rider because you don’t want to mess him up.

DH – No, I have pretty good confidence in myself. I’ve been doing it for a while, I think I’m going on 20 years now. So I mean you gotta check yourself and make sure everything is correct.

ET – Yeah it looks like you pretty much fully strip the bike every day.

DH – We definitely go through the bikes to make sure the preparation is there. Have to make sure that everything is correct. That’s something we do that is routine.

ET – I saw you just had the cranks out and pretty much everything off the bike. I guess you inspect for cracks in the chainguide and whatever else.

DH – Yeah, we gotta make sure. Inspect everything. Gotta make sure it’ll make it down the hill.

 

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Josh unleashed for finals at Mont Sainte Anne.

 

ET – I’d like to ask you some techy questions.

DH – Sure.

ET – How about spoke tension? I understand that it varies from track to track.

DH – We’ve been going to a lower spoke tension. It absorbs better. We’ve actually gone back to three cross instead of two cross as well. It just seems a little bit more natural for a DH wheel and it seems like the wheels have a bit more endurance.

ET – So the wheels are stronger with lower tension?

DH – Stronger with lower tension and three cross just seems to be a better wheel which in the past is how we did it anyway.

ET – Yeah, how many spokes do you have?

DH – These are thirty two hole.

ET – Do you vary tension from track to track or have you just been going lower and found that you like that?

DH – No, I can’t go too low. I don’t wanna go too tight because it makes the wheel have a different feel, but you have to have some tension or the wheel won’t stay straight and survive.

ET – Do you think that part of making them softer is the stiffness of the carbon bike being stiffer? That it tracks better?

DH – A little bit. The wheels are so stiff anyway, so we need to make sure the wheels have a little bit of elasticity so to speak so they can absorb rocks and stuff. Going into turns and flicking the bike from turn to turn we want to be sure that the wheels have a good feel.

ET – What’s it feel like to the rider if they’re too stiff?

DH – The direction change. It’s definitely noticeable in the direction change.

ET – It’s harder to change direction?

DH – I wouldn’t say it’s harder. It’s more about longevity, more about surviving the big hits.

ET – How about flat tires? I think that there’s a perception that people are getting more flats now than they did a few years ago. Do you think that’s true? That there are more flats across the field?

DH – Seems about the same. Flats are just an unlucky thing.

ET – Part of the game.

DH – Yeah, part of the game. Um yeah, flats are a tough one.

ET – How much is there that you can do about it and how much can the rider do about it like, “Don’t hit that rock!”?

DH – It’s definitely line choice and if they keep flatting continuously they probably should change their line But it’s our job to keep the tires full of air obviously.

ET – So what do you change if they keep flatting?

DH – We have a couple of little things that we do with the tires. A couple little systems.

ET – Do you do all of the shock service on the bike or do you just undo the crown bolts and walk it over to Fox?

DH – I know how to do shock service but we have the tech guys here and they would rather us not do it so we have them do it which is nice.

ET – Is that one of the things you might change when having flats? Take out a click of high speed?

DH – Sometimes. Sometimes yes.

ET – How much did you change from St Anne to here or is there much of a change?

DH – I thought this track was gonna be maybe more destructive than St Anne. Luckily it hasn’t been and we definitely did some tuning to the suspension. We changed some stuff today at the beginning of the day and uh, it seems to be working.

ET – Yeah, it does seem to be working. Pole Position!

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It’s hard to tell when the wheels are off the ground, but yeah, the suspension is working.

 

DH – Yeah, this track the suspension doesn’t get quite as hot. It’s not such a long ride down the hill so we can use a different tune on the suspension.

ET – I saw Lapierre had little heat stickers on Emmeline’s shock reservoir. Do you ever use that?

DH – Not recently, but yes, we have.

ET – Do you ever wire the bike up with data capture stuff?

DH – We have in the past. We’ve done diagnostic evaluation with Fox.

ET – From the logistics standpoint, I notice that your pit is two easy-ups and a U-Haul. Are you ever jealous of the teams like GT and Giant with the 18-wheelers, or are you glad you don’t have one?

DH – Glad, really glad. I still have a CDL. I used to drive 50,000 miles a year in the GT truck. Now we fly to all of the races. Tomorrow everything you see will be in thirteen bike boxes.

ET – Thanks for the interview and good luck tomorrow.

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Josh moves into first in the World Cup Overall with another win at Windham.

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