Matt Walker on Myst development and setup

May 13 2024

Matt Walker on Myst development and setup

Matt Walker on Myst development and setup

From one generation to the next, Matt Walker and the Madison Saracen Factory Race Team have been fundamental to the development of the Myst. But what does that process look like?



BikeRadar speak to Matt Walker in this fascinating interview and cover the whole story; from reaching the end of the line developing the old Myst, to creating an all-new platform to deal with the rigours of modern-day downhill racing and how Matt sets the bike up for World Cup success.

Best of all, we’ve transcribed the best bits below, so you can enjoy the gems wherever you might be…

Matt, take us through the old Myst and the development stages you went through to get to this bike here.

It was a really long process and it was tough at the start because we love the Myst, we were racing it for a long time and it evolved over that period of four or five years.

To start with there was a bit of a craze where everyone went 29 (inch wheels) and eventually found mullet.

Matt's race bike from the 2019 season in full 29er configuration.


I’d ridden the 29er for a little while, the bike was fairly similar although there were a lot of riders in the paddock going over to the mullet setup, it was worth giving it a go, tried it and liked it straight away.

By 2020 Matt was on the mullet setup and winning the World Cup overall.


It felt like it was no compromise; the rolling speed was as good as a 29er and I’m not the tallest by any means, but I felt like it gave me a bit more room and I could be a bit more aggressive with the bike with the smaller back wheel.

Because of that the new bike is mullet specific?

Exactly. You look around a lot of bikes and they’ve all gone in this direction. All the things we liked about the old bike you’ll feel in this new bike as well – the geometry, how well it pedals, it’s efficiency.

The old Myst intermittently featured a braking arm from 2019, in an effort to isolate braking forces and improve traction. 


But then we worked quite hard with the old Myst to improve the braking and how, especially for World Cup tracks, I think they’ve only got faster and rougher and the speeds are higher.

I think you really have to come and watch a World Cup for yourself to see how gnarly rough the tracks have gotten. And it’s just having a bike and a package that was able to cope with that a little bit better.

The suspension design of the old Myst was relatively straightforward – a single pivot with a linkage – there’s a lot more going on with this bike. Can you tell us how you came up with the new rear suspension design and what it offers you?

From my side it was based off of a feeling. So we started at the drawing board with what I wanted to feel out of a bike and it was the designers’ job back at Saracen to create how that was going to look and how we could lower the weight – lower the centre of gravity – but also have the tunability to change parts in the linkage quite quickly and efficiently to give a different feeling.

An early iteration of the new Myst linkage.


Can you take us through anything on your suspension that you’ve done to setup your bike for the track in Fort William?

Generally I think if you got on my bike and rode it as an Average Joe, you’d really dislike it. It’s just so hard, the setup for racing at World Cup level now you need the bike to be supportive in a race run when you’re pushing the bike to its absolute limit.

So I think if anyone was riding their local trails or just jumped on the bike for a go down any bike park trail you’d probably find that it was way too stiff and way too fast in rebound as well.

That’s because the bikes are travelling so fast and hitting the holes so quickly, that the suspension needs to be fast to help it recover.


What’s your typical suspension setup?

On my Fox 40 Factory fork I’m running 93psi and 5 tokens, and on the Fox DHX rear shock I’m running a 525-pound spring. That’s for my 78kg weight.

What about the damping? Is this the way the fork and shock come out of the box?

We go to Fox testing every year and the factory teams get given five different options for compression tunes for the shock.

So it’s generally a compression tune will suit your bike, rather than suit your riding. Some tunes work better with some bikes, depending on how linear or progressive they are.

We’re on the fourth tune, five being the stiffest.

Tell us about your wheels and tyres and what you do to try and avoid punctures in Fort William?

We run the DT Swiss FR1500 wheelset, built by DT Swiss, straight from the factory.

I match that to the tyre that I run all the time, the Maxxis Minion DHRII, it’s my go to staple.

Matt's personal stash of Maxxis rubber.


At Fort William, it’s one of those tracks where if you get a little bit of rain, it actually rides a bit better, it’s not too loose and the gravel and the grit bind together to give you a bit more grip. So you don’t ever really need a spike.

Even if it was torrential rain on Sunday afternoon, I’d still be riding these tyres. The only option we would have if it gets super dusty and try is an Assegai on the front, I like riding that tyre if it gets marblelly.

As far as stopping punctures, it’s well known that Fort William is harsh on tyres and wheels and it’s very hard to stop them, it’s part of the game unfortunately.

We don’t run any kind of insert, it’s just standard tubeless and I think with a good suspension setup, you can really – not eliminate – but decrease you chances of having problems in the race.

I’ve seen that you run Shimano XTR Trail brakes, rather than Saint – can you tell me why you like them?

For me it’s purely lever feel. I think Saint is an unbelievable product in terms of power.


I wouldn’t say using the XTR brake – even though it is a trail or enduro brake – it doesn’t lack in power, it’s purely the lever feel is just slightly different and I prefer it. It’s not that I’ve moved for more power or more feel, it’s just a nicer feeling lever in itself.

Tell us about your cockpit setup.

We’re running a PRO Tharsis 3FIVE setup, the bars are 30mm rise and 780mm wide. That’s pretty standard, I never really change the bar width, it’s what I’ve had for years and years now and it feels pretty comfy.

ODI Longneck grips have been a staple on my bike the last few years, really like them, really consistent wet or dry.

In terms of the stack height, you see some crazy high setups around the world cup paddock, but I’m not really high in my setup, slightly under the average if anything.

What pedals do you run?

I run the Shimano Saint pedals, have done through. My whole career, never had any issues. I have them as tight as they will go pretty much.

With a brand new cleat, a couple of clicks off the maximum until the cleat beds in and then tighten them up to the tightest they will go.

You’re always looking for the smallest advantage in racing at World Cup level, could you tell us about how you collect data and how you use that to make the bike faster?

On our bike we have a couple of things because we’re always trying to push on, always trying to make the bike faster and win races, that’s what we’re here to do.

Currently on the bike we have a little flip chip at the front of the shock and that allows us to change the suspension curve to give us more or less support in the mid-stroke.

At a track like Fort William it’s not as steep, it’s about carrying speed, we run more support in the mid-stroke, whereas at Val di Sole it’s really steep, there’s big holes and you like a bit more weight on the back to let it sit in, you’d actually go the other way.

Factory Team issue only - integrated telemetry routing.


The way we collect data through the race weekend is firstly through my feedback, but then we will always have the BYB Telemetry Data Acquisition system on the bike.

We have a little port above the shock mount where the system is hardwired in. All through practice my mechanic and Will (Longden, team manager) will be looking through the data and be checking how the bike is working based on my feedback.

And we’ll even run the system in a qualifying run, because it’s the first time of the weekend that I’ll do a full effort at race run pace or as close as I can get to it at that point of the weekend.

It just gives us a bit of an idea of how the bike is performing at that speed. Then you just estimate it a little bit for the final because you know you’re going to be a little bit faster than your qualifying, so it’s almost a little bit of guess work where you’re trying to estimate the setup of where you want it to be.

So you’re changing your settings right up until your race run? Pretty much, obviously if the conditions are consistent it’s easier to do. If it’s in the wet it’s very difficult to do that.

Matt, the Myst and the team including Greg Williamson and George Madley had a standout start to the season, with all three riders in the top-10. You'll see the Myst continue to be pushed to it's limits throughout the 2024 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season, which you can watch live exclusively on Discovery Plus and Eurosport.