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PISTONS AND PIVOTS

Rémi Gauvin's Mercedes Sprinter & Rocky Mountain Slayer

Words AJ Barlas
Photos AJ Barlas
Date Mar 9, 2020
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Presented By
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Pistons and Pivots is presented by Maxxis. Every second Monday, we'll present a new round of Pistons and Pivots which features cool vehicles with character, and a little about their owners and the bikes they ride.

If you've got a vehicle and bike that fit the series, we'd love to help you share them with a wider audience, and you can take a crack at winning some tires from Maxxis.

You can submit your photos in one of two ways:

Send photos and articles to submissions@nsmb.com. Make sure to include 'Pistons and Pivots' in the subject line.

Or simply post a few vehicle and bike photos and details to Instagram and use the hashtags #pistonsandpivots and #nsmb.

Once a month, we'll pick a winning submission and feature it on the site, and the person that submitted it will earn a fresh set of tires for their bike, courtesy of Maxxis. At the end of six months, we'll pick a grand prize winner, who will walk away with Maxxis rubber for the vehicle they submitted for Pistons and Pivots!


Rémi Gauvin is a key member of the Rocky Mountain Race Face EWS team, the fully Canadian crew drinking canned syrup and sharing their exploits with the jank files. He's been with the EWS team for four years and finished the 2019 season sixth in the world, his best overall ranking to date. Before turning to enduro, Rémi spent a couple of years racing World Cup DH as a privateer and in 2019 got back to his roots at the Les Gets World Cup, where he qualified 42nd and finished 43rd in the ultra-competitive field. It's safe to say Rémi's okay at riding bikes fast.

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Rémi enjoying the space he's made in the van.

Prior to taking on the challenges of Enduro racing, Rémi was studying engineering in Vancouver. He'd moved from his home on Vancouver Island to do so but shortly after his studies began, he was offered an opportunity to join what was then the Rocky Mountain Urge EWS team. He doesn't like to dip his toes into something and he couldn't see himself mixing school and EWS racing; it had to be one or the other. Rémi jumped at the opportunity to race bikes all over the world, and while school is on hold for now, he plans to return when he's done racing. That may be awhile, since Rémi is going from strength to strength and is now a threat for the podium at any EWS event.


Not giving 100% to university and racing didn't sit well with me so I decided to take a schooling hiatus. – Rémi Gauvin
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Rém's 2011 Mercedes Benz Sprinter 2500.

Rémi's Custom Converted Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van

Rémi was quite keen on a van for a while, geeking out on other MTB'ers setups and building a database of what he wanted to do for his own, well before owning one. Once he found the van, this 2011 Sprinter 2500 which was actually the first he went to look at in person, it was all hands on deck. He and his father bit into the challenge in a large way and had a great time bonding throughout the experience, despite at times after long days working on the van, getting frustrated with each other. Family time can do that.

The Sprinter replaced Rémi's old 2003 Ford F-150, which was getting 'long in the tooth' with about 350,000kms – of which Rémi accounted for 150,000. He was drawn to a van because of his constant road-tripping to races and riding locations, something he was keen to do more of. Since owning it he's taken off-season training trips to California, escaping the grips of winter in the Northwest.

2011 Mercedes Sprinter Van Specs

  • 3.0L V6 Turbo producing 188 horsepower
  • 144-inch wheelbase
  • Bought second hand and converted to the #vanlife
  • Customizations include a bed, bike storage trays, diesel heater, an electrical system including 200aHr battery bank, 1200w inverter, lights, diesel heater, fan, USB charging.
  • Rémi estimates $8-9k spent on the conversion. He'd planned on no more than $12k and reckons he's on track
  • Odometer is just about to roll over 200,000km. Rémi purchased it with 155,000km
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The custom carbon fibre wrap on the hood is a carry over from the previous owner. It looks good and gets Rémi heaps of praise.

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No re-badging here. It's the real deal.

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It's in the name…

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From the outside, Rémi's van is a complete sleeper. Unless viewing it from a higher vantage point, where the roof vent is visible, it looks pretty much bone stock.

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But inside… the van was built around hauling bikes. Four bikes easily fit.

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Slide out trays make access to each bike easy.

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The sliders came from Lee Valley and Rémi and his father made the trays themselves. "Gerber for when things get real." The axe is a nice touch for times of need.

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Rocky Mounts hooked Rémi up with these axle mounts and he's a big fan. An internal shim makes mounting any axle size possible; DH bike, trail bike or road bike. It also locks, which is a bonus.

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Rém discovered these organizers on another van build and thought they looked pretty handy. He keeps one on each of the rear doors.

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They are for horse trailers, cost $40 on Amazon and do the trick for keeping the tools, bike parts and whatever else from rattling around on the floor.

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Magnetic window covers keep the light out and some heat in. The magnets make them easy to install and remove.

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A small light bar was added to the rear door and there's also one under the bed, lighting the bikes. If any bike work or access to the bikes is needed, there's enough light to work with.

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Rém says the stock Sprinter van sound system is subpar, so he added JBL Speakers in all four corners (even though speaker cover is Kenwood) as well as a sub. "Now the van pumps."

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Shore power for all the power. As long as there is a hook up…

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Light switches for the rear door lightbars and shore power control. He also keeps a container of water in the back.

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The living quarters…

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The fridge sits behind the driver's seat and I imagine is often used as a table.

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Bikes have been known to make their way into the cab from time to time as well…

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The bed tucked away so people can sit in the rear passenger seat. Rémi still wanted proper seats for people to sit in when on the road, rather than camping chairs or other hill-billy options.

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Removing the headrests from the seats, the bed then folds down for sleeping. The van is on the short side for a full-size bed and functioning passenger seat, forcing Rémi and his dad to get creative

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"Sleeping bags aren't quite as trendy as the Hudson Bay Company Blankets and duvets that you see in most vans but they keep you pretty cozy at night." – Rémi

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A friend gave Rémi these cabinets out of his van build when he decided they wouldn't work for his own. They are built specifically for a Sprinter and keep things stowed away nicely.

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They're big and sturdy but also cut into the best space, meaning someone has to sleep partially under the cabinet. Rémi said he often does the gentlemanly thing and gives his partner Miranda Miller the better spot.

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Moisture is the enemy in a van so an overhead fan is key.

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Bus bar that powers the rear lights etc. It will eventually be panelled and covered up but for now it's fun to sleep next to.

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The electrical system at a glance. A 200amp hour battery bank, which is housed underneath the van, is charged by 200watts of solar power. There's 1200w inverter/charger for using AC appliances, which charges from off-shore power. Lights, fridge, water pump (yet to be installed), overhead fan, and USB ports all run on DC power. There is also another 100amp hour battery under the hood that is charged off of the alternator. It powers the Espar Diesel heater, the amp for the subwoofer, and a smaller inverter that could potentially charge the house system if things went sideways.

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DC breaker panel. Most of the electrical components used for the van are actually sold as marine hardware.

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Inverter Controller

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Marine grade electronic hardware was used. Rémi's father feels if they last in a boat, they should work well for a long time in a van.

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Master battery switch.

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Solar charge controller.

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Magnum! 1,200w inverter charger. Rémi says he wanted a bigger one so he could potentially run an espresso machine off of it since he's a coffee fiend. But the inverter chargers are pricey and there are other ways to make good coffee…

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I tested out the power supply with a quick battery refresh.

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Espar heater controller. Set to a comfortable 69 degrees F…

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Pre-made overhead shelves can be purchased for around $500 but in the spirit of this van build, Rémi and his father decided to build it themselves. It's a great place to put more odds and ends and make an otherwise useless space useful.

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Swivel seats with Race Face seat covers to keep the mud off the upholstery. These are a fairly common conversion in vans, allowing owners to spin the seat and surround the chill zone in the back.

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Under the passenger seat is an Espar diesel heater which is tapped directly into the diesel tank of the van. It kept the van warm even when there was no insulation in it and it uses next to no diesel to do so.

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Rémi likes his music but also listens to the odd podcast…

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Last but not least, the most important part for Rémi is his coffee maker, which he travels the globe with in this modified case.

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It's no built-in espresso maker, but for Rémi and his fine tastes, it still makes a great cuppa.

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His "on the road espresso" maker. The EspressoForge, to a non-coffee drinker like me, looks wild and hearing how it works is simple but quite interesting.

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Chris King coffee press? (Ed note: that's a portafilter tamper, AJ - we'll forgive you since you don't partake in the black gold).

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Rémi's current bike is the Rocky Mountain Slayer. He's been testing between large and medium in preparation for the race season but isn't sure if he'll race a Slayer yet.

Rémi's Rocky Mountain Slayer

In 2019 the team was riding Rocky Mountain Instincts but for 2020, Rémi is dropping hints that he may be moving to the Slayer. Released in August 2019, the bike has garnered much attention and once race season ended Rémi began spending heaps more time on it. He's been a fan of the bike since it's launch, mentioning that he gets along with the newer geometry of the bikes today.

In addition to training, off-season preparation also means testing bikes and equipment and Rémi sounds like he's been busy on that front. On top of evaluating frame sizes, Rémi's also been checking stem lengths and playing around with some new goods from his suspension sponsors. This Slayer hasn't been raced yet and doesn't feature any fancy products that his race bikes sometimes receive, but he's enjoyed riding it nonetheless.

2020 Rocky Mountain Slayer Specs

  • Size medium but Rémi has been testing a size large
  • 170mm travel front and rear
  • 29-inch wheels
  • Maxxis Assegai front, DHRII rear
  • Shimano XTR 12-speed drivetrain
  • Shimano XTR 4-piston brakes w/ 203mm rotors front and rear
  • Carbon Race Face wheels
  • OneUp Components EDC Steerer tool and top guide
  • Race Face bar and stem
  • Crankbrothers Mallet-E

[I'm] Currently enjoying the career I have going for me and am in no rush to change at the moment. – Rémi Gauvin
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The 2019 Fox Factory 36 with GRIP2 takes care of the 170mm front wheel travel.

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Rémi says he's a fan of the Maxxis Assegai for the front tire. He uses the Double Down version and he runs 22psi.


I have gotten along well with the Assagai in the front from the moment that tire was released. It just has grip at every lean angle as well as working well in the wet. In the rear, I like the Minion DHR2 because it is predictable. It brakes well and will slide predictably and doesn't overwhelm the front tire. – Rémi Gauvin
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A Fox Float X2 takes care of the 170mm or rear wheel travel. Rémi prefers the progression he's able to achieve with this and runs the can chock full of spacers.

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The Slayer features Rocky's Ride-4 geometry chip system. Rémi has been running it in position two, which provides a 64.1-degree head angle and 76.1-degree seat tube angle with a 30mm BB drop.

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Crankbrothers Mallet-E pedals provide Rémi a stance he's comfortable with, despite his DH background.

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The more recent Rocky's feature a chainstay protector not dissimilar to the one Specialized released a couple of years ago. The ridges help dampen chain slap, quietening the bike down.

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An early production version of Shimano's XTR drivetrain features on Rémi's Slayer. No doubt this will be replaced with a fresh one in 2020 – while this one continues to work wonderfully, it's seen some abuse.

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Cranks courtesy of the pre-launch issues feature minimal branding. He's running a 34t chainring.

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XTR for Shimano's top level racers.


Even though I have been racing Enduro for the last few years, I will always consider myself a DH rider at heart and this bike is as close as you can get to a DH bike that can still pedal back up to the top of the hill. – Rémi Gauvin
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Shimano XTR 4-piston brakes take care of rapidly stopping Rémi when he's at full tilt. He also runs 203mm rotors front and rear.

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His rear tire of choice is the DHRII. He opts for the tougher DH casing and adds in a Cushcore for added security. Air pressure is set to 24psi.

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A 175mm Fox Transfer Dropper post provides Rémi with enough drop to get out of the way.

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A WTB Silverado is his saddle of choice.

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The OneUp EDC tool keeps Rémi prepared for any trailside repairs. After some testing, he's chosen a 50mm stem, noting that he enjoys the room it provides.

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Shimano XTR all over. Rémi runs a 760mm wide bar.

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Race Face Grippler grips soften the blows and keep his hands firmly grasping the bar.

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Tires of choice. The Assegai in a Double Down casing for grip at the front…

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And a DHRII in a DH casing with a Cushcore insert in the rear.

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Rocky Mountain has backed Rémi for years now, and he's going into his fifth year as an EWS athlete with the brand.

Rémi's home away from home is a work in progress but one that he's really happy with nonetheless. It has enough of the creature comforts he needs – good coffee being a priority – while fitting his lifestyle well. He may be away often with his racing but I'm sure that after only a few weeks back home in Squamish, he's loading up to disappear again, bikes in tow.

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Comments

Timer
+1 Pete Roggeman
Timer  - March 9, 2020, 4:50 a.m.

I would love a closer look at that coffemaker/floorpump/rocketship. The most fascinating and unique piece of hardware in the article?

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - March 9, 2020, 8:34 a.m.

Who's sleeping bag gets squeezed under the cabinets? Nightly rock, paper, scissors?

Reply

Jotegir
+1 Pete Roggeman
Lu Kz  - March 9, 2020, 11 a.m.

perhaps this van requires some "good friends" spooning?

Reply

andrewbikeguide
0
AndrewR  - March 9, 2020, 9:04 a.m.

Mallet E LS (just to be exact) as Mallet E are single colour only. So he is running the same 57mm Q Factor that the Mallet DH pedal has. Great pedals.

Reply

sandy-james-oates
+1 Pete Roggeman
Sandy James Oates  - March 9, 2020, 9:28 a.m.

He’s lucky to have a caring dad.

Reply

khai
+2 DanL Pete Roggeman
khai  - March 9, 2020, 9:33 a.m.

Cue a massing Google spike for Espresso Forge to be followed by a long waitlist.

Reply

mrbrett
+3 Mammal Timer Pete Roggeman
mrbrett  - March 9, 2020, 10:42 a.m.

I was riding up to the top of Half Nelson last year in April, and heard someone coming up behind me fast. I recognized Remi. He passed me on the road like I wasn't even moving, and I was hoping seriously that he might have been on an eBike. He wasn't. I'm not even sure he was breathing hard.

Remi, would you consider working a little on acting skills, for the rest of us? Like acting winded? Maybe acting like it's hard work?

Would make me, and surely countless others, feel better about ourselves.

Reply

DanL
0
DanL  - March 9, 2020, 1:22 p.m.

I also get phantom ebike issues when I'm riding.

Reply

velocipedestrian
+2 Pete Roggeman Timer
Velocipedestrian  - March 9, 2020, 2:53 p.m.

"looks wild and hearing how it works is simple but quite interesting". 

Tease. Come on, don't make us Google it. I want a full Jeff teardown and write up.

Reply

IslandLife
+2 Velocipedestrian grambo
IslandLife  - March 9, 2020, 9:12 p.m.

Did you ask him about that black Fox 38?

Noticed the forks got swapped for the beauty shots...

Reply

grambo
+1 AJ Barlas
grambo  - March 13, 2020, 12:33 p.m.

The athletes with the RAD 38's and the new RAD air/coil shocks won't talk about them if you ask :)

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - March 30, 2020, 5:39 p.m.

Not too much tbh. No fork swap though, the other bike with the special fork remained in the van and we shot the beauty shots with his Slayer (the other one is a tester for some things he’s trying out)

Reply

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