There’s a new face on the British Downhill scene. The 2022 British Cyclocross Champion, a former UCI World Cup XCO racer, and 2022 World #3 Enduro racer, Hattie Harnden, is now trying her hand at Downhill. Mixing it up with some of the world’s finest descenders, Hattie and the Trek Factory Racing Team headed to Fort William for Round 2 of the British Downhill Series just a couple weekends ago.
Hattie is fairly new to downhill. With mechanic Andy Lund, she spent just 10 days on the Trek Session over winter, making use of Dyfi Bike Park to get some welcome air time. While she took the top step at Round 1 of the BDS in Rheola, the challenge at Fort William was another kettle of fish entirely.
The former cross-country racer gets comfortable on the gaps, tables and step-downs of Fort William’s motorway sector. Credit: Phil Rodham / Digital Downhill
This was Hattie’s very first time racing down Aonach Mòr’s World Cup DH Track, and she had the likes of Nina Hoffmann, Camille Balanche, Monika Hrastnik and Veronika Widmann to contend with, as well as a few rapid locals like Mikayla Parton and Phoebe Gale.
We were stoked to see her put in a solid race run, finishing up in P8, just 5 seconds off the box. Notably, she secured the 4th fastest time in Sector 2 – full results here. Clearly, the woman has pace. Hattie is an incredibly talented all-round bicycle rider, and if anyone has the capacity to scale it up from there, it’s her.
We caught up with the woman herself to find out more about her DH ambitions, and we also chatted with mechanic, Andy Lund, to get the details on her Session DH Bike.
Bikerumor: Congratulations on a solid result in a stacked field of World Cup DH riders. How do you feel the weekend went?
Hattie Harnden: The weekend went smoothly, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. It was my first time at Fort William, so the main focus was on my learning and getting up to speed on the track rather than on changing bike setup too much. So I felt like I did quite a few laps on track but I think the benefit of learning outstayed the additional fatigue I had during my race run.
Bikerumor: You rode particularly well in Sector 2, placing fourth ahead of DH athletes far more experienced than yourself. Why do you think you excelled on this part of the track?
Hattie Harnden: I honestly thought sector 2 felt like my worst one, as I had a big moment and had to almost come to a stop. However I do feel like I managed to carry my speed well though the tighter sections on that sector, as it’s more like some of the enduro tracks we ride.
Bikerumor: What were your aims for this weekend, and did you achieve them?
Hattie Harnden: My personal aims were to have fun, survive and finish in the top 10. I achieved all of these 🙂 I had so much fun on the track and meeting so many new faces, I stayed on my bike (just) and I finished 8th, so we ticked all the boxes for the weekend 🙂
Credit: Phil Rodham / Digital Downhill
Bikerumor: You are relatively new to downhill – I think your mechanic, Andy Lund, said you’d ridden the Trek Session DH Bike just 10 times over winter. What are your ambitions within the discipline for this season?
Hattie Harnden: Yes it is all still very new to me, I am enjoying just learning something so different but also very similar at the same time. The initial idea was to just ride DH to compliment my enduro riding and help me work on some different areas of my riding. This has changed sightly though as Worlds are in Scotland, so it would be amazing to qualify myself a spot to race at World Championships, that is my new ambition. I’m sure it’ll never happen again in my career, I’d be silly not to try and get a spot, just to be a part of such a special event.
Bikerumor: What has it been like for you getting used to the downhill bike, having spent so much time on the Trek Slash enduro bike?
Hattie Harnden: It honestly hasn’t really taken any time at all to get used to the DH bike, I felt right at home straight away. Plus I ride so many different bikes I am almost on a different one each day of the week, I enjoy the way each bike feels different and is suited to something different.
Hattie with her Trek Slash enduro race bike at the 2021 EWS Tweed Valley, where she very narrowly missed out on the win to Bex Baraona
Bikerumor: Are you looking to qualify for the World Cup?
Hattie Harnden: I am currently looking to race Lenzerheide World Cup, between the enduro world cups. No one is expecting anything, it is just a great learning experience for me, I believe the best way to learn is at races.
Bikerumor: Finally, what is the focus of your training now, in the run up to the European block of Enduro World Cup races?
Hattie Harnden: I am training really hard at the moment as it is the last few weeks before I am off to Europe, mostly fitness focused, as I have had the DH races in between.
Pro Bike Check: Hattie Harnden’s Trek Session
At 174 cm tall, Hattie rides the Trek Session in the R2 size. It can be run as a complete 29er, or in a mullet configuration; Hattie runs hers with the Mino-Link in the higher geometry position to accomodate for the lower bottom bracket height that comes with the 27.5″ rear wheel. The Session has size-specific chainstays, coming in at 441mm on the R2 shown here.
The frame’s 200mm travel is delivered through Trek’s four-bar suspension platform, wherein the seat stays and chain stays meat at a pivot concentric to the dropouts. This is Trek’s ABP linkage design, or Active Braking Pivot, put in place to isolate the suspension from forces exerted under rear braking. The main pivot is in a mid-to-high position on the seat tube, necessitating use of an idler pulley to minimize chain growth.
Hattie runs the Session with a RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate air shock, pressurized to 190 PSI, with the lower shock mount flip-chip oriented to give the linkage its less progressive curve, with an overall progression of 20%.
Details on the fork are off-limits; as you can see, this is a prototype RockShox Boxxer, the stanchion diameter of which we were not permitted to measure.
Hattie’s Trek Session rolls on an aluminum Bontrager Line DH 30 wheelset, which actually has a 29mm internal rim width. Seated onto those rims are Pirelli tires, with Trek Factory Racing having switched to the Italian manufacturer’s tires for the 2023 season after many years on own-brand Bontrager tires.
On the front, we see a Scorpion Race DH M tire, inflated to 24 PSI. On the rear, Hattie runs a Pirelli Prototype #0 inflated to 26 PSI. Despite those CushCore valves on display, there are no inserts inside these tires.
In the cockpit, Hattie runs a Title MTB Bar cut to 760mm, with a 25mm rise. The stem is Title’s DM1 35, with a reach of 45mm. ODI grips, an extremely popular choice among DH riders, round things out.
Managing speed are the SRAM Code RSC brakes with 4-piston calipers, with levers boasting tool-free adjustment of bite point and reach. These are paired with a 200mm SRAM HS2 rotors, front and rear.
To finish, a SRAM XO 7-Speed Drivetrain translates Hattie’s efforts into forward propulsion via Crankbrothers Mallet DH Pedals.
You can keep up to date with Hattie’s training and racing on her Instagram @hatt1e_hardnen.