During the UCI MTB World Cup, val Di Sole, Italy

Interview // Jordi Cortes

If you have even a slight interest in following MTB racing or you like to check out what the big riders and teams are doing throughout the season, then you’ll definitely have seen this guy’s face pop up a million times.

Jordi is the top dog in the Fox pits, and he and his team of techs are tasked with making sure the suspension of some of the world’s fastest (and pickiest) riders is on-point at all times. It’s certainly no easy feat however Jordi is a wizard and his magical touch has helped win more races and championships than you could count. As the 2019 season drew to a close, we caught up with Jordi to pick his brain on a ton of different topics. This is how it went…

Okay, okay, let’s start with the basics; what is your official job title and ultimately what ‘do you do’ on a daily basis, mate?

Jeez who knows. I’d need to find a business card and check. Something about Global Technician probably. It’s a bit tricky to put a title to my job because I do a bit of everything.  January, February are deep in new product, test session planning and world cup season planning, as well as helping with OE product camps and working with prototype stuff. Also losing the 10kg I put on over the season. Basically, if I’m not traveling, you’ll find me in the office.

How long have you been with Fox for now?

6 years? Actually, maybe this’ll be 7. Sorry, I’m old, I can’t remember stuff like that!

What is your background, how did you get into the suspension game and come to be the head guy in the Fox pits?

I was just a juvenile delinquent! Haha. My path here was definitely not a direct one, even though bikes have always had a place in my life. From BMX in the 70’s (told you I’m fucking old) to MTB’s in the 90’s they’ve been one of the only constants in my life. As far as suspension, I’d say I started tinkering in the late 90’s. I was racing street motos and looking for any advantage I could get because as with most things I didn’t actually have any skill. Around 2002 that stuff was put away and I started work as a fabricator, building random bits for people for the next 10 years or so. That job burned me out… and randomly a friend at Specialized asked if I could wrench for their XC program. I had no idea what I was doing. I showed up to team camp with a crappy plastic toolbox and a jumble of non-bike tools (similar to how Marshy does now). That was a steep learning curve. That program gave me my first exposure to European world cups (both XC and cyclocross).  Cross World Champs in Koksijde is still one of the most amazing events I’ve ever seen. The level of party there put everything else to shame.  Somewhere along the line I’d met Mark Fitzsimmons who is basically responsible for turning the Fox race program into what it is today. He approached me one day wondering if I’d be interested in working for him and the rest is history. As far as being the “head guy” I’m not sure. We are a small team and each person pulls their weight.  

“I just seem to have found something I’m passionate about and that I seem to be good at.  But really I think if you genuinely care about, not just what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it you’ll have success. I’m not trying to be the smartest guy out there or reinvent bikes. I just want people to have the best experience possible with our product.”

Can I divert for a second here and state for the record that the Fox ‘Dialled’ Youtube series is kickass! It’s awesome to be able to see so much of the behind the scenes style content of what goes on at the races for you guys and with all the factory rider cameos, it’s just really interesting. Has it been fun for you guys to work on that project?

Haha thanks, you have no idea how much I appreciate that. I really love it, especially anything that helps people get a better experience. I’m hoping we can carry it on next year and get a bit more in depth with some of the info.

The quality of each of those episodes is super high too. Which begs the question, how the hell have you managed to make so many so quickly? At last count you’re up to 49 episodes this year already!

Well that definitely wasn’t due to me. Our guys, Connor and Cole, put in a mega amount of late nights editing and what not to make each episode happen. The only hard part for me was not repeating myself or having food stuck to my face.

If I may go ahead and say, the way that you interact with your riders in the pits and what not always makes for great viewing. It’s really interesting to hear how differently each of the riders articulates to you how their bike is feeling and what they’d like to change in terms of their set-up. What’s it like for you being on the other end of those conversations?

That really all depends on who’s talking…. it takes a bit of time to learn each rider and what it is they’re trying to communicate. Sometimes they just want a coffee and some chocolate (Loris) or talk about rebound then move the brake levers up 1mm (Greg). Or the last-minute stress fest (that’s you Seagraves!) It’s all about trust and relationships.

During the UCI MTB World Cup, val Di Sole, Italy

Having to deal with so many different riders at a race, at the top level, is it sometimes challenging to deliver a rider exactly the kind of ‘feel’ and performance that each of them is after? 

Yes! Some tracks more than others. For instance, this year West Virginia was a really tricky one. DH bikes don’t like flat.  Go figure… But it’s also a slippery slope for some riders who can’t make the call of when to just crack on.

 When you first start working with a new rider, like when a pro switches across to Fox, is there a period of building an understanding between each other and a level of trust to be gained or am I just over thinking it and really it’s just another rider with some suspension knobs on their bike?

There’s a bit of learning. But I’ve been around and know most of these kids even if they don’t ride Fox. It’s a small world, and after parties are non-denominational.

“Pressure and sag. Know it. Be precise.”

You and Minnaar appear to squabble about his suspension settings like an old couple that have been married for 50 years! Is that just for the cameras or do you two just love to disagree about everything? Haha 

We can’t have been married for 50 years as he’s only 49! Besides he’s responsible for the most debilitating hangovers I’ve ever had so any chance for payback…

So, run us through a ‘standard’ day at the races in the Fox pits. How many techs will you typically have working away and what kind of duties are getting done throughout the day?

There’s usually a setup day where we get to ride and check out the tracks, then its track walk day. This is usually the busiest as all the factory teams bring product in for service and depending on how long the gap between races is stuff can be pretty clapped. Once guys get back from track walk we’ll start discussing tuning options, but we try not to do much until they actually get on track. Practice days are a mixed bag, I usually get out the door for a ride around 6:30 and roll into the truck by 8:30 to set things up. This is when the bulk of actual setup happens. Then race day. Hopefully this is pretty quiet if we’ve done our jobs right, there will be slight adjustments for track conditions or moods but hopefully not much. I usually just try not to puke from stress. Then as soon as our top rider goes up to the start house were done. At this point I need a drink.

“To be honest there’s really no such thing as a standard day.”

 What kind of hours are you guys pulling each day at a big event?

Events, barring any big issues, are pretty straight forward. Probably 8-10 hours. It’s travel days that ruin you.

How different is your workload if the weather at a race is pissing down rain ‘vs hot and dry?

I love rainy days. It’s so quiet. I just try to keep people from making some nonsensical ‘rain setup’. Dry days are where we can really make or break it.

Okay let’s hone in on your role. What are some of the highlights of your job?

I love bikes. I want to ride all the time (not really true a couple of hours is fine) being able to hop on a bike has pulled me through some shit times. I don’t understand industry people who don’t ride. Just why? But there’s so many other things as well. Being able to help someone that are at the top of their game to accomplish goals is incredibly exciting to me. I sure can’t do it on a bike but I can help others do it by applying what I’ve learned. 

And yes, obviously I’m now going to ask what sucks about your job? Surely there’s a few things, be honest! Haha

Too easy; airplanes suck! Hotels suck! The food at lots of these places sucks! I travel with my own coffee setup, so that’s not an issue anymore. I’m such a pain in the ass about sleeping and for the most part beds in Europe suck!

Obviously a large part of your ‘work’ involves travelling the world to some of the finest riding destinations imaginable. Do you get to take your bike and spend some time riding whilst you’re away?

I always take a bike, and I’ve ridden in some amazing spots with some awesome folks. If there’s a week break I’ll just make sure I can do all my work wherever I go and spend time there rather than flying home.

Jordi getting dialled at Les Gets. France.

Speaking of bikes, give us a run-down of your current personal steed?

Let’s see…. in Santa Cruz (home) I’m usually on a tallboy in Europe I brought a Transition Sentinel. Then there’s always the odd test bike here and there. Sometimes I need to find something that fits a specific shock or fork because it’s all we have.

For you personally do you prefer the day-to-day stuff at the races during the season or do you prefer the pre-season testing and working with prototype product stuff?

I love being at the races. I like pressure. I thrive on that. I’ll probably have a stroke soon.

Do you get involved with the R&D side for new product as well?

Oh for sure it’s a big part of what we do. In fact as soon as I’m done with this interview I’m heading out to test ride something new. I can tell you this; our 2021 product is going to be amazing.

For all those folks reading this at home that have seen you working with some of the world’s fastest riders to make them even faster, do you have a few ‘back to basics’ tips for getting the most out of the stock suspension on their DH or enduro rigs?

Pressure and sag. Know it. Be precise. How can you buy a $5000.00 bike and a $5 pump? We did a couple of off the cuff setup videos for Dialled, and they really do work if you follow the process. I get a bit pissy with people who are fine taking up my time but can’t even tell me what air pressure they run. But on the other hand if you show up with some info and are genuinely stuck I’ll take as much time as I can to make sure you’re happy.

What would be the most common set-up mistakes you guys find on ‘regular riders’ bikes?

Not knowing anything. If you know enough to ask you know enough to check pressure and sag. Those 2 things go a long way and are the basis for any setup.

Last question; I heard you wanted to give us the exclusive scoop on the rumoured new Fox 38 fork… Go on then!

Did I?

Haha cheers for taking the time to chat with us today mate!

Cheers guys, it’s always a pleasure. [R]