Nina Hoffmann of the Santa Cruz Syndicate reasserted her dominance at Round 2 of the British Downhill Series in Fort William. Piloting a new and updated version of the V10 DH Bike, still-to-be-released, Nina took the win in style, putting almost two seconds into the 2022 World Cup Overall Winner, Camille Balanche. The win rounded out a consistent weekend for Hoffmann, who took P1 in Saturday’s seeding run, too.
Looking back to this time last year, we recall Hoffmann’s win at the 2022 British Downhill Series event in Fort William; that preceded her win at the World Cup DH Round in the same location just a few weeks later. With Fort William set to host the World Championships this coming August, we can’t help but think things are looking promising for the German star. Will a new World Champion be crowned on Aonach Mòr?
Speculation aside, we caught up with Nina herself, to find out things have been going on for her recently, and what her ambitions are for the season ahead.
We also met with Nina’s mechanic, Ethan Jones – not to check out her race bike, which remains off limits for now, but to check out the bike that Nina does quite a few more miles on. For much of her training, she heads out on her Santa Cruz Bronson CC; a 150mm travel bike dedicated to a mixed-wheel configuration. This is an updated model of Santa Cruz’s do-it-all mountain bike, complete with sag window on the non-drive side and a Glove Box for the easy-access storage of snacks and trail side fix essentials.
Interview: Nina Hoffmann
Bikerumor: Congratulations on a convincing win at the British Downhill Series in Fort William! A perfect start to the season, one could say. How do you feel the weekend went?
Nina Hoffman: It feels pretty pretty good! I love Fort William and I enjoy the track a lot and that’s probably why I can go fast. That was almost a perfect start into the season and I want to keep that momentum now going into the World Cups and onto Worlds!
Bikerumor: We saw you juggling some rocks before dropping into your seeding run. Can you tell us a bit more about your warm up routine and how you get yourself in the right head space before a race run?
Nina Hoffman: Haha, I love juggling – and playing some games with my mechanic Ethan just before the start. Warms my brain up and gets me focused. Some breathing exercises help me as well to find optimal focus, especially when I’m pretty nervous. And visualizing the track is a good tool as well!
Bikerumor: What is your training look like in the run up to the first World Cup of the season in Lenzerheide?
Nina Hoffman: A lot less training now than in the winter as season is close and you don’t wanna get to tired. Sprints and intervals and light gym workouts focused on fast movements and coordination stuff and then a lot of bike time – either DH or trail bike.
Bikerumor: Do you take part in any other sports outside of mountain biking, to supplement your training perhaps?
Nina Hoffman: I just started to love running again, participated in an XC race in my hometown lately haha. Also Motocross is sick and helps to get faster on the DH bike.
Bikerumor: Congratulations on completing your Masters Thesis this Spring. Can I ask, what was the topic, and can you tell us how you juggled academia with life as a professional athlete?
Nina Hoffman: My Thesis is about an audio hypnosis I developed to help you focus before a DH race start. We tested it with about 20 participants and it showed great results! I extended my studies a lot the last years, so that made racing and university easy to handle and I always worked only in the winter on the studies to focus a 100% on racing in the summer.
Bikerumor: Can you tell us more about the audio hypnosis, and do you use it yourself?
Nina Hoffman: So to the audio hypnosis – it contains a relaxation part at the beginning to get into a hypnotic trance, then we visualize an optimal race day and connect this feeling to a personal trigger to elicit it later before a race. I’m about to publish a paper about my work, so everyone can read through it. And yes, I do hypnosis and meditation by myself.
Bikerumor: It is no secret that yourself and the wider Santa Cruz Syndicate race team are on the next generation Santa Cruz V10. Did you play a part in its development, and can you tell us much about that at this stage?
Nina Hoffman: The development started already in 2021 when I wasn’t on the team yet. So Greg did the major work for us haha. But we’re still collecting feedback on the prototype frame now as it’s a ready to race bike.
Bikerumor: As I am sure you are acutely aware, Fort William will crown the 2023 World Champions this coming August. How are you feeling about it, having had such a great race run at the BDS?
Nina Hoffman: Definitely did not harm my confidence! But you know, it’s still a long time to go until Worlds and a lot can happen. I’ll give my best that’s for sure, but there are many other fast girls out there.
Bikerumor: What are your overall ambitions for this season?
Nina Hoffman: Top 3!
Pro Bike Check: Nina Hoffmann’s Santa Cruz Bronson CC
The Santa Cruz Bronson is Nina’s go-to trail bike. At 5ft 8″ tall, the Santa Cruz Syndicate athlete rides a medium in its intended MX wheel size configuration. It boasts a 452mm reach and proportional length chainstays of 435mm, with a 160mm travel fork supported at a 64.5° head tube angle. Nina runs a 150mm drop Fox Transfer post.
“Every ride in the woods is on this bike, also intervals when I’m on the road and don’t have my road bike with me. I ride it at home and take it to races and then ride enduro trails with it. It’s potent enough for proper rough tracks but also playful and light enough for flow lines and little XC rides”
To service its 150mm rear wheel travel, the Bronson employs a VPP linkage wherein the swingarm articulates about the front triangle via two non co-rotating links, the lowermost of which drives the shock.
In the suspension department, Nina runs a Fox 38 Factory Fork with the GRIP2 damper, and the Fox FLOAT X Factory Shock. Weighing 73 kg, Nina’s preferred settings see 70 PSI in the fork with use of a single volume spacer. She runs the LSC at 9 clicks, HSC at 8 clicks, HSR at 5 clicks and LSR at 4 clicks – all from closed. The shock is pressurized to 150 PSI, with the compression dial at 5 clicks from closed, and the rebound at 6 from closed.
New for this model year is a sag window on the non-drive side of the front triangle. Given that the shock is well nestled into the seat tube partition, the small opening allows the rider to more easily assess travel usage, something that will make setting the sag a little easier than it may previously have been.
The Bronson has two distinct geometry settings; Hi and Lo. A flip-chip on the lower link, where it connects the base of the rear shock, determines the bike’s bottom bracket height and overall handling. Hoffmann runs her Bronson in the Lo position, with a BB height of 341mm. A miniature fender bolted to the back of the seat tube protects the shock’s shaft from debris flung off the rear tire.
For speed control, Hoffmann relies on the Shimano XTR 4-Piston Brakes, with 203mm rotors of the IceTechnologies Freeza flavor. These sandwich an aluminum center between the steel braking surfaces, a center that fans out toward the hub in a bid to expedite heat dissipation. Nina also runs finned brake pads for the very same reason.
Rounding out the cockpit is a Burgtec RideWide Carbon DH Bar with a 30mm rise, measuring up to 770mm with the Burgtec grips. It is clamped by a 42.5mm Burgtec stem. Nina keeps the front end relatively tall with around 20mm worth of spacers underneath the stem. The bearings of a Chris King NoThreadSet keep the whole assembly rotating smoothly.
“I like to keep handlebar width and cockpit in general the same. Also I wanted to ride a mullet trail bike because of having a DH mullet. Trying to ride same tires as well, basically make it as close to the DH as possible”
Nina’s Bronson rolls on a Reserve 30 DH Carbon Wheelset, laced to a set of Chris King hubs, the rear of which has 72 POEs. Seated to these 30mm internal width rims is a set of Maxxis tires; a 29″ x 2.5″ Assegai in the MaxxGrip EXO+ casing, and a 27.5″ x 2.4″ Minion DHRII in the MaxxTerra DoubleDown casing.
Atop the 150mm drop Fox Transfer post is an SQLab 611 saddle. Replicating the setup on the V10 DH Bike, she pushes 165mm cranks with Crankbrothers Mallet DH Pedals.
You can keep up to date with Nina Hoffmann’s season by following her on Instagram @nina.hoff96, or by following her team @scsyndicate.