Santa Cruz Nomad C review

Peaslake is a small, idyllic village that sits unassumingly in the heart of the Surrey Hills. In this village with a quaint little village store, stunning houses and a great pub, sits a small shop called Pedal & Spoke. For the past 7 years, it’s been the unrivalled powerhouse of the UK Santa Cruz market. Owner Howard Wagstaff is a lovely guy,  known for wearing two things in particular; a welcoming smile and his trademark flip flops. Seriously, even in the depths of Winter, Howard is rocking the open feet look. If 5.10 don’t give him a signature set soon, I’d be surprised.
Supporting Howard is shop mechanic and all-round legend Jack ‘Mouse’ Roadley. Again, Jack is always smiling and having a laugh with the locals and newcomers alike and is always happy to help with anything. He’s a big supporter of Stealth Riders too, so I’m naturally chuffed by this!
Finally, there’s Mags, the shop dawg. A beautiful little Jack Russel, Mags can usually be found chilling out in her bed under one of the counters or near the tees. That is, until she hears the rustle of a paper bag with a cheese straw inside. Ears perk up instantly and the stereotypical ‘puppy dog eyes’ come out. All in all, Pedal & Spoke really is the quintessential ‘local bike shop in the small village’, inclusive of boutique brands and the friendly ‘locals service’ which is extended to all who walk through the door. It’s the perfect location; Surrey is one of the most affluent areas in the UK and the Surrey Hills just so happen to have some of the best trails to ride in the South East of the UK too, so it’s all a match made in heaven. It’s no surprise then, that Pedal & Spoke only sell Santa Cruz bicycles. Affluence demands perfection, so why sell anything else?!
After a quick chat with the guys, I was graced with a Large Santa Cruz Nomad C, the ‘S’ model in the gorgeous Ink/Gold colourway, which sits at a shade under £5k, and was told to simply ‘take it out for as long as you want and enjoy it’. And that’s exactly what I did. 6 hours later, I returned the Nomad, and below is what came of my time with the bike.

The Bike:

Nearly everything has changed with the 2018 Nomad and it really has been redesigned from the ground up. After years of development and research with it’s big brother the V10, Santa Cruz have trickled that tech and design down to the Nomad, to allow what seems to be basically a hill friendly mini DH bike.  I’m pleased to see they have stuck with 27.5″ wheels, too.
Longer and slacker, the 2018 Nomad has a much lower placed shock, passing through the split seat tube. This change allows growth in travel from it’s predecessor, from 165mm to 170mm, and allows the bike to effectively feel the same on the descents as a full-blown downhill bike.
The Mk4 Nomad is a big departure in styling terms from the Mk3 and below is the proof of this. I was accompanied on the day by my buddy Phil G, who just so happens to ride a stealth black Mk3 Nomad. Aesthetically, I genuinely cannot choose a favourite; each has it’s own standout points and are both stunning in their own right, so I’m still torn. You can make your own mind up.

The S model I was demoing on the day is the mid-range offering of the Nomad family, with build highlights below:
Frame: Full carbon
Forks: Rockshox Lyrik RC 170
Shock: Rockshox Super Deluxe R
Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed
Brakes: SRAM Code R, 180mm rotors F&R
Bar/Stem: Race Face Aeffect with Santa Cruz Grips
Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb, 170mm (L/XL models, smaller models get a shorter drop)
Wheels: 27.5″ E13 TRS 30mm rims with Novatec hubs, boost spacing.
Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 Front / Maxxis Minion DHR 2.4 Rear
Weight: Approx 29lbs
The Nomad also comes in an alloy guise, with prices starting at a friendlier £3,599. However, if you’re a bit more flush with cash, you can opt for the carbon ‘Reserve’ model; the Cremé de la créme of the range which will set you back over £7,500. Regardless of the model, the 2018 Nomad really is a joy to look at – sleek lines, stunning colours and that unmistakable classy look of a Santa Cruz bicycle:

The Ride:

It was a bit of a grim day and the rain had been coming in over the few days before, so there was going to be some mud. Phil and I decided to start out by stretching the legs with a road climb up to Holmbury St Mary, the typically drier hill of the three on the day, up to one of the Surrey Hills’ more famous trails; Barry Knows Best (BKB). Like an engine on a cold day, I take a little while to get warmed up and into the swing of things, as I’m sure most of you do too. After a bastard climb up,  the descent of Barry gave me the chance to pump the bike through small dips, test the tyres in the corners and put the power down on the fast sections. Soon enough, I was feeling ready for the more gnarly, technical trails the Surrey Hills is known for.
We rode up towards Pitch Hill and I was very pleasantly surprised with the climb up ‘Deathstar’; if you know it, you’ll be pleased to hear that a 170mm bike can sail up. The rider, not so much.. after clipping a small rock, I was guided into a small gully and my climb came to a halt. Still, if I’d not made that mistake, the climb would have been easy enough. We rode ‘Proper Bo’ to warm up a little more and that gave me the first taste of the Nomad in the air. Whilst it’s a tiny double, it’s still good to get a feel before the bigger stuff, and the bike flew smoothly through the 4-5ft double and landed as if it was a kerb.
Feeling more comfortable on the bike, it was time for something a bit bigger. We rode up to the entrance of Thick & Creamy, known for its super rocky, technical gully entrance, which then opens up to two drops; the first being over a downed oak tree and the second launches you into a huge berm before a smooth table. The Nomad sailed through everything with ease. It was, simply put, the smoothest run of that trail I’ve ever experienced, with travel feeling endless and the wheels feeling railed. I didn’t think I’d ever say that the drops on this trail would feel small, but the Nomad swallowed them without question.

We rode towards Winterfold Forest and the climb there once again surprised me. How the hell is a 170mm bike pedalling this well?! I mean it when I say this, the Nomad felt like a 130-140mm bike on the climbs. We reached a favourite trail of mine (and everybody else), Evian, and again, sailed over the first 8-10ft double, through the tight berms and over the second, smaller double. It was at this point I realised my face was beginning to ache a little. I figured out this was because for the past few hours of riding and chatting, all I’d been doing was smiling and laughing, even as the mud and slop began to cling more to me and the bike. It’s not every day I enjoy a ride this much, so I was not going to take it for granted.
We rode a few more of the trails around the Winterfold area, including Northern Monkey and again, the Nomad never skipped a beat. Not once. Even on greasy roots, as soon as I felt a wheel begin to give, the Nomad shifted into autopilot, ensuring I remained upright and railed. Honestly, it was a strange feeling and I can’t quite explain it; where I’m certain I’d have fallen a few times on another bike, I somehow kept things together on the Nomad, saving me an embrace with some of Surreys finest mud.

One thing I was very curious about in the morning when picking the bike up was, considering the state of the trails and the general muddy conditions the UK has in comparison to California, the position of the rear shock. Surely, with the shock placement so low and close to the rear wheel, this was a recipe for disaster. However, it’s amazing what one tiny piece of plastic can do. This just goes to show that the small details really do make the differences. Not once was I hampered by mud clogging the shock, nor did I feel anything other than buttery smooth compression and rebound. Top marks to Santa Cruz for the innovative ways they’re addressing minor points to ensure maximum stoke levels.

Phil and I headed back to the village centre for a bite to eat and a warm brew, courtesy of the ever-lovely Trudy and team at the Peaslake Village Store. At this point, Phil had to head off. Covered in mud, damp and aching a little, I could at this point have finished the ride. But why quit on a good thing? I was still feeling stoked to be on this bike, so I set off for a full climb to the Holmbury St Mary viewpoint and test through Yoghurt pots; undulating corners, much like a roller coaster made of gnar. At the viewpoint, I bumped into Marcia Ellis, who, a few years ago launched Surrey Hills MTB Chix, a group dedicated for getting women out riding. We had a good chat and it’s awesome to see how far women riding has come and it’s thanks to Marcia and co that are driving the revolution.
I hit Yoghurt Pots and managed to get through most of the trail without pedalling, instead opting to pump through everything I could and the immediate speed generation the Nomad produced was inspiring. It’s always a trail that guarantees a smile from me, and this time I think it was just a touch bigger than ever before.
Finally, I headed back to the first trail of the day, BKB. This time however, I knew the bike and how it handled, so the bike and I worked in unison, nailing every rut, root and berm. I finished the trail feeling elated, yet sad to know my time with the Nomad was coming to a close. I span the last few hundred metres back to the shop, reminiscing on the sheer epicness of the ride I’ve just had, hosed the bike down and hung it back up on the rail outside whilst having a chat to a mate that was at the shop, James B. Thanking Howard and Jack, I said my goodbyes and got changed into some fresh clothes before heading home to reflect on the day.

HUGE thanks to everybody on the day, especially Howard and Jack for the demo and Phil for the company. As always, a big shout out to Trudy for the big smiles and beautiful coffee too and a ‘great to see you’ to Marcia and James. The cycling community is just incredible and consistently friendly, no matter who you are.
Talking quickly on Pedal & Spoke, they are, simply put, THE place to go if you want a Santa Cruz. They have an insane choice of demo bikes to try out, offer an impressive part-exchange service on your old Santa Cruz if you’re eyeing the latest model and provide top service, products and advice, all the time with good laughs.
I mentioned it in the opening paragraphs, but one thing that stood out for me was the level of relationship the guys in the shop had with their customers – from loyal clients turned friends, to new customers looking to buy the latest kit, the service was impeccable, dedicated and truly bespoke to each need. Still, it’s hard to see how the service wouldn’t be anything less than world class… the guys work in the heart of the stunning Surrey countryside with some of the best trails in South East on their doorstep, offering some of the nicest bikes currently available to some incredibly friendly people. Add to this the allure of the best cheese straws in the galaxy.. did somebody say dream job?!

Final Thought:

I was going to write something big here, but I honestly don’t think I need to. Simply put, you know that warm fuzzy feeling you got when you had your first crush? By the last few trails of the day, that’s how the Nomad had me feeling. I think it could be love…
Ian @ Stealth Riders




June 22nd is a date that will always stick in my mind. A few things have happened on this date in recent history. In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. In 1986, Maradona scored the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal in the world cup quarter finals.  In 1958, Evil Dead actor Bruce Campbell was born and in 1969, Wizard of Oz actress Judy Garland passed away.
On that date in 2012, I tried inflatable sumo wrestling for the first and last time. It was a glorious evening and I was at a work summer party. Drinks were flowing and there was a ton of fun shit to do. So, after a few free beers, the challenge of inflatable sumo wrestling was laid down and the bravado of drunken lads came out, myself included.

I stepped up, climbed into the inflatable suit and faced up against my buddy Jon. The ref signalled the start of the bout and we smashed into each other, each gaining a point by getting the other out of the ring. The third and final round came up and I was feeling good; I’ve got this, it’s time to be declared the champ. You could liken the atmosphere to the recent Mayweather vs McGregor clash, with drunken cheers from all sides. I went in for the kill, but my buddy had seen my move coming and, fuelled by booze, picked my fat arse up and body slammed me for the win.
It’s at that exact moment my body hit the ground that makes this day memorable. Not because I lost, but I felt a bit of a ‘pop’ when I landed, then struggled to get up. “It’s just a combination of the becks and admitting defeat”, I thought. I managed to get through the rest of the evening and went home, ready to nurse a savage hangover for the weekend.
Saturday morning came and I was in agony. I’ve got a high pain threshold and I was in tears just trying to get out of bed, so I knew something was, to quote Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys, fucky. After a week off work in serious pain (the typical man thoughts of ‘meh, it’ll go away’ were in full swing), I was forced to the doctors. After a quick check, I was told it was probably some muscle damage, was told to take some ibuprofen and was sent on my merry way.
Things didn’t get better and I was back at the doctors a few days later in even more pain. I’m talking ‘can’t put your socks on or have a piss without shedding a tear’ kinda pain. I persisted and was referred to the hospital for a scan. After waiting what felt like forever, I was told I had 2 herniated discs in my lower back (L4/L5 and L5/S1). Great.

Why am I posting this? Because it’s at this point I was told to give up cycling. I admitted defeat and eventually sold my bike, resigning to the fact that cross stich or extreme netflixing was to become my hobby of choice for the rest of my days.
I went from 3 rides a week to simple physio and ditched a balanced diet for mostly Papa Johns, so the weight ballooned. I hated life and the pain in my back was unbearable, so the doctors prescribed me with a repeat prescription of Tramadol and told me to take up to 8 a day. Now, anybody that has experienced Tramadol will already know, but hooooooly shit. Imagine floating through life without a care in the world. Tramadol is an opioid, along the lines of morphine, which essentially blocks the pain to your nerves. Whilst this helped me forget the pain (and pretty much everything else around me), it didn’t solve the problem.
Persisting with the doctors, I was finally booked in for an op… nearly two years after the fateful day and after two years of taking ridiculous amounts of Tramadol. March 19th came around and the last thing I remember on the morning of the op was a nurse spraying something very cold on my arse, then I was out like a light. I should clarify too; when I say op, it was a caudal epidural, which is effectively a very strong steroid injection directly into the spine. I came around and remember talking shit with the nurse and going home the same day.

Things were still sore, but I was given a great physio who was also a cyclist and he worked absolute wonders. I came off the Tramadol with huge difficulty (2 years of daily opioid taking had left me hooked, which fucking sucked) and slowly started to feel more human again.
It’s at the point of working with the physio that cycling came back into my life. He asked me to set a goal, and I chose to compete in a race. We focused on core exercises to strengthen my back and general core and, after a few months, I began to feel myself again. Granted, I was out of shape and super fat (topping at 17st at one point), but it was time; I needed a bike in my life and I went for a pure XC machine from German direct sell manufacturer Canyon. The Nerve 120 put a spark back in my life that had been missing for 2 years and I was complete again.

From there, I rode with a smile every time. I met increasingly more people that I’m stoked to call my buddies and I changed the Nerve for the much more enduro Bird Aeris. More importantly, in late 2015 I was feeling back to my full self and entered the 2016 Southern Enduro series, of which you can read about my crap results in earlier posts. But fuck it, I’d achieved my goal my physio set me and I wish I could thank him now. Without his help, I’d probably be an Olympic cross stitcher, but not a cyclist. However, I cannot remember his name, and I hate myself for that, but, random physio, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve made me myself again and I am forever grateful.
Thankfully, all this time later, my back is feeling much better. There’s occasional pain, but with the right exercise (mountain biking, duh), life is more than manageable and I’m stoked to sling my leg over my bike every single time.
I write this now as I’ve not yet raced in 2017, choosing to only race one event; the Swinley Forest Enduro on the 17th September. My diet has been awful and I’m not anywhere near as fit as I’d like to be, but I don’t care. Just a few years ago I was told I’d never ride a mountain bike again so, regardless of my result, I just cannot wait to get involved and be amongst friends and like minded shredders at what is sure to be an incredible event. If you’re there, give me a shout; I look forward to seeing you. If you’re hunting a podium then good luck. If you’re there for the vibes, enjoy. If you’re just there to shout and cheer, then be loud.

There’s five things this post may help you out with in terms of advice:
1 – You can do anything. Injuries heal and, with the right support, you can get back to your old self. I know some rad riders that have arthritis, false hips and many other ailments but, with the correct attention and treatment, they’re out there amongst it, shredding with the best of them. You can do it too.
2 – Take the offer of support from your friends and family. Immerse yourself around those that want to help and develop you, helping get you, back to you. If it wasn’t for them, I may have just given up completely.
3 –  Whatever you’re doing, have fun doing it and remember to keep smiling. Never give up.
4 – Set yourself goals that, at the time, you may think are unrealistic and unattainable. Then go out there and smash that goal. Everybody has it in them… as Shia LeBeouf once famously said… “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.. JUST. DO. IT”.
5 – Don’t bother with inflatable sumo wrestling. It fucking sucks.
Stay stoked, see you at the Swinduro,
Ian @ Stealth Riders
Ps – I’ll leave you with point 4 above. Enjoy.


A wee update

Hey everybody,

So once again I’ve been super slack with posting, but there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I’ve been busy with my gorgeous wifes birthday and then had some family visiting from overseas; my Ma from the US and my bro and his family from Poland, all of whom I’ve not seen for a few years, so I’ve been spending some quality time with them (which included getting my bro and bro-in-law out on some bikes to shred the Swinley Forest trails).

Secondly, I’ve been busy having some conversations with a lot of people with regards to some exciting upcoming things. I won’t say any more at this stage but trust me, it’ll be worth the lack of posts!

Third, I’ve been working away on the merch side and again, having some great conversations to increase the selection of goodies to offer you amazing people. The great news is, sticker packs will shortly be available to buy, and I’m waiting on a few other things which I’m so stoked about. But, back to the stickers for now, as everybody loves stickers. Once again, I’ve used the brilliant Stickers-Decals-Graphics to produce them.

Mike at SDG is amazing and understands things first time as he’s a bit of a shredder too, so I can’t wait for them to arrive in the coming days. There will be 5 different stickers per pack, available in both black and white on a transparent background. So, once they hit the SR store, get involved and stick them wherever you can.. your bike, car, lid, cat, nan.. anywhere! Pop them on Instagram and use #stealthriders for some sweet, sweet karma! Here’s a preview of the stickers (ignore the pink lines, they’re cut lines so will not feature. These are also not to scale):

All stickers will be sized to be bike friendly, you’ll be pleased to hear! Stay tuned for the post on Instagram to let you know when they’re on sale. As with everything, there will be a limited stock, so you’ll need to be quick!

I’ve also been busy with getting tees posted out to everybody that has ordered one. A huge, sincere thank you to you all – you’re the ones that are here at the beginning and hopefully for the long run, and each and every one of you is a legend in my books. Whilst there’s many more of you rocking tees, here’s a few shots of some of you heroes:

On top of that, I’ve been working on an ambassador programme, where I’ll be doing all I can to support 5 riders through 2018. Each month I’ll be calling out for a shredder and August saw some incredible entries. In the end, the first #teamstealth ambassador was chosen for his insane skills for such a youngster.. welcome Charlie Waller! You can check out his bio here. If you were wondering who the featured image is, that’s Charlie himself.

Everybody who entered in August will go into the draw for September, but you can still enter too; stick to the Instagram page to see the next call out and get involved. Whether you’re stepping on podiums or propping up the bottom, or, if you’re not racing and just love to ride any discipline, Stealth Riders is looking for you. Remember, all you have to do to be in with a chance is #staystoked when you’re out on two wheels.

The icing on the cake is I’ve been drafting some reviews of some smaller bits, as I think it’s worth sharing my views on some ace accessories. These will be up soon, once I’ve got some worthy shots!

Oh yeah, and I’ve been riding as much as I can in between all of this and the day job… the 2017 Swinley Forest Enduro is coming up very soon, so I’ve been trying to cram in a few miles in preparation for that! It’s the only race I’m doing this year as I have other commitments, but if it’s anything like 2016, it’s sure to be an absolute blast and I can’t wait to get involved, regardless of the result!

I’m stoked for the journey ahead and look forward to keeping you all updated on happenings as and when I can do so.

Until then,  peace out.

Ian @ Stealth Riders


Pivot Switchblade Carbon 27.5+ XT Pro 1x

Ok, so the title is a bit of a mouthful, but Pivot don’t do things by half measures. From the first bike brand to use Di2, to the first to use pressfit bottom brackets, Pivot are always ahead of the curve when knocking out new and unique bikes.

The reason for the long title of this absolutely stunning bike is the sheer option of builds Pivot offer. I was at Swinley Bike Hub recently and they let me loose on this model, which sits in the middle of the range of the carbon models with a few choice upgrades, which sits around the £6k mark. Whilst their latest Mach 5.5 is the talk of the town at the moment, I really wanted to try this one out and once again, the Hub generously sorted me out.

Let’s start off with Pivots very own introduction video:

Now you’ve had a proper introduction, let’s get to it. I tried the 27.5+ variant, but the Switchblade, as the name suggests, can also change to a 29″ Enduro weapon. In the 27.5+ guise, it’s genuinely like riding a bike that, instead of tyres, has octopus tentacles wrapped around some ‘holy crap I’d sell a kidney they’re so nice’ Reynolds carbon wheels with ‘ugggghhhhh’ inducing Industry Nine hubs, which look (and sound) resplendent on a bright Summers day.

The chainstays on the Switchblade are the shortest on the market at a tiny 428mm and, with their huge 157mm ‘Super Boost Plus’ rear hub (usually reserved for DH bikes) and long, low geometry, this bike refuses to let you get sketchy, no matter how hard you try. And trust me, I tried. Swinley Forest has some great hidden trails with some great features that allow you to really test a bike out in all ways, and the Switchblade never missed a beat.

The looks of the bike are downright filthy, with the red and black complementing each other perfectly. Weight, even with plus tyres, is incredibly light, sitting around 28lbs. Here’s some of the standout features:

  • Compatible with both 29 and 27.5+ wheelsizes
  • Fits 27.5+ tires up to 3.25” wide
  • Fits 29er tires up to 2.5” wide
  • Features Pivots new long and low geometry
  • Ultra short 428mm (16.85”) chainstays beat every other bike in the category
  • Front derailleur compatible with Pivot’s stealth E-Type mounting system
  • 135mm dw-link rear suspension with upper clevis and linkage and double wishbone rear triangle
  • Designed for a 150mm fork, fits forks up to 160mm
  • 27.5+ spec’d with 40mm inner width Reynolds carbon wheels and aggressive new Maxxis REKON 2.8 tires
  • Pivot Cable Port system for easy internal routing of shifters, brakes and droppers and full Di2 Integration

The DW link is a tried and tested winner too, with premium brands such as Turner and Ibis also using the same design. It’s evident that any pedal bob disappears and you get an extremely smooth, progressive feeling throughout the stroke. Not only does it work like a charm, it looks great, too.

Whilst I didn’t get too much time on this bike, I genuinely enjoyed every single second. Climbing was a breeze, descending was a dream, hell, even fireroads were fun to ride on the Switchblade, with the hum of the Maxxis Rekon tyres nearly getting you into a meditative state and in the zone before the next trail.

The combination of Fox 36 up front and a custom tuned DPS Evol rear shock are superb additions to an already great bike, which ooze performance at every bump, rut or root. There were times the 135mm of rear travel felt like it needed a little more, but that was only on the bigger features of the off-piste areas.

As above, as I didn’t get to spend as much time as I’d like on this bike, I can’t really give too much detail on specs, geo and everything I’m sure you’re here to read, but what I can tell you is this; the Pivot Switchblade, whilst expensive, is truly a ‘rip the lips off of your face’ fun bike to ride. Granted, at a certain level, the cost of bikes does get to the ‘law of diminishing returns’ levels, but I do think that, if I was in the market for a plus sized carbon trail bike with huge versatility, it would be between this and possibly the Santa Cruz Hightower. I’ve not tried the Hightower, but the sheer fact that it offers a more ‘industry standard’ 148mm boost rear spacing means I would probably err towards that, rather than the Switchblade.

That said, I can’t form a proper opinion until I’ve had a blast on a Hightower. I’d love to feel the difference between the VPP and DW suspension designs and truly make my mind up, so I may get in touch with my local Santa Cruz dealer, Pedal & Spoke, very soon to make it happen, so stay tuned.

Pivot are making some fantastic bikes and they’re absolutely worth checking out if you’re looking for a high end bike with a proven pedigree. I very much enjoyed my ride on the Switchblade, I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed either.



2018 Marin B-17 First Ride

I think the technical bods at Marin have been very busy with R&D. Rather than metal and carbon, I can’t help but think they’ve been experimenting with genetic engineering. Somehow, they’ve managed to mix a fluffy little kitten with a freight train and they’ve created something stunning; the 2018 B-17.

I was lucky enough to be at Swinley Forest recently on a solo ride and the pre-production B-17 was available. So, I switched my SR71 Blackbird for the all new heavy hitter, the B-17. Swinley Bike Hub had a few of the top of the range ‘three’ models and my word, do they look stunning! A raw finished aluminium frame housing a 120mm Rockshox super deluxe shock within their acclaimed MultiTrac platform, Vee Tire Co Crown Gem 2.8” tyres with gorgeously retro gum walls, Sram GX Eagle 12 speed drivetrain, SLX brakes, 2018 Rockshox Pikes with new charger damper, KS Lev dropper post and a whole host of other perfectly paired components.

All of this sits around boost spacing front and rear and 38mm internal diameter rims, leaving you feeling sturdier than Hulk Hogan sitting on Andre the Giants shoulders. Planted does not even begin to describe the feeling of the B-17.

I mean, for the love of all that is holy, look at it and tell me it doesn’t throw you back to the good old days of dial up internet, brick phones and global hypercolour t-shirts:

In case you can’t tell, I was won over by the looks and price of this bike as soon as I saw it. At a touch over £3k, it, like many other Marins, is superb value for money and like a Rogers DAB radio, manages to blend a mix of retro and modern together – again, engineering (genetic or otherwise) at its finest!

They’ve always been one of my favourite brands. I’ve owned 2 Mount Visions from 2008 and a 2010 Attack Trail, all with the beautiful quad link suspension design that worked flawlessly and my wife has the 2017 Hawk Hill, so they definitely hold a special place in my heart.

However, the past few years have seen Marin quite possibly reach the pinnacle of their designs to date. With the eye-catching Wolf Ridge, the ever-reliable Mount Vision and now the B-17, they’re winning the hearts and minds of mountain bikers worldwide.

Anyway, enough of the rose-tinted reflections and back to the bike. I’d already done 12 miles on my bike in the morning in some nice weather, so the legs were feeling ready for a tear up on the B-17. I headed out to the sweeping trails of the forest to hit some berms and gauge grip from the beefy plus tyres. I’d not been convinced of plus bikes before now, but I’m now absolutely sold on them. It was genuinely like being on rails, with confidence in the corners running at an all-time high. The Vee Tire Crown Gems easily hold their own against the competition and I felt more at home on these than the Maxxis Rekon or DHF plus tyre.

I tested a large frame and it was absolutely spot on. The ride felt compact despite a long toptube thanks to super-short 435mm chainstays, which gave it a positively aggressive stance that begged you to push the bike to its limits. The feel of the bike in general was sublime, with everything working in unision. Roots felt like twigs, braking bumps were a thing of the past and the ‘hummmmmmmmmmmm’ of the tyres when riding between trails kept me smiling all day. Even when the British Summer decided to do one and the rain came in.

Still, a bit of rain meant I got to sample the bike in some new conditions and I’m pleased to say that not once did the B-17 miss a beat. Whilst I was getting soaked (protip – if you have a waterproof jacket in the car, take the damn thing with you), the B-17 remained faithful and powered through newly developed ruts, mud, slop and anything else it was confronted with.

Although I only managed to get in another 12 miles on the B-17 before I resembled a prune and had to call it quits, I immediately felt like I belonged on this bike; a feat only managed by a few other bikes before. I cannot fault the B-17, nor can I fault Marin for what they’re doing; breaking boundaries and pushing limits. Other bike manufacturers take note; this is how you make a fun to ride, great to look at bike at an equally pleasant price.

If the ‘three’ is out of your budget, there are two further models to choose from, both with some great kit and colourways. The range starts from approximately £1600, so very much entry level contenders and, in my humble opinion, quite possibly a bike of the year contender.

If I had the spare funds, a B-17 three would one hundred percent be gracing my mancave. Sadly, a bathroom renovation is apparently my priority according to the better half (you can all booooo her if you want), so I can only hope that Marin find a spare one behind their R&D sofa that they simply don’t want anymore and feel kind enough to donate it…

Big thanks as always to the team at Swinley Bike Hub for being so accommodating and getting me on board this beauty of a bike at such short notice. They really do go above and beyond and prove that customer service and the independent bike shop is definitely not dead.

Stay tuned to the Marin website to see full information very soon and, if you have a spare £3k burning a hole in your pocket and you’re looking for plus sized perfection, you will absolutely not go wrong with the B-17. I genuinely couldn’t speak higher of this bike if I tried.

Until next time… Stay Stoked. Stay Stealth.


Fleet MTB Group Survey

Hey y’all,

As you know from my last post, I’m currently working on a new website, which is coming on beautifully! However, I’m also helping out some good mates over at Fleet MTB Group with a survey they’re running, and would love you to have your input. There’s nothing up for grabs for the online survey (although if you can make it to the QECP Southern Enduro on 23rd July you could win an Apple watch courtesy of FMG!), but your voice matters, fellow shredder!

The survey link is below, and you’re awesome in advance for completing it!

Again, thank you! Your email address will not be shared with any third parties, although the dudes at Fleet MTB Group may drop you a note on a rare occasion to give an update in regards to the survey.

The guys also have some super cool jerseys, the first batch has just dropped  and the second order has been placed. If you want more info on getting in on their third run, give me a shout via the contact tab in the menu.  Costs are £55 per jersey (I  wear a large at 187cm and 86kg).

I’m heading back to work on the new website for now, stay tuned (and for sneak previews, keep an eye on the Stealth Riders instagram stories)!


Ian @ Stealth Riders


Please note – whilst there is no prize on offer for completing the online survey, if you wanted to have a read of the T&C’s for the Apple watch competition available to paper based entrants at the first two Southern Enduro rounds, you can do so here.


YT Rolling Circus / Tues CF Pro ride

Swinley Forest is home to some great trails and the team at Swinley Bike Hub arrange some incredible events too. The #Swinduro, the recent Fox Proframe demo day, regular night rides and BBQ’s, to name a few. From May 5-7, it was no different and I got to channel my inner Gwin… YT Industries had come to town on their ‘Rolling Circus’ tour; a global showcase of the YT demo fleet of Jeffsys, Capras and the Tues.

Of the 10 European stops, 3 were in the UK and I was stoked when I heard one of the venues was Swinley. I booked the day off work immediately with the intention of rocking up and trying all 4 models on the day.

The 5th came around and due to an X-Ray appointment in the morning, I didn’t arrive at Swinley until around 10.30. Boo. By this time, the queue was pretty beastly due to the huge demand of trying out the models from the direct sell German brand, so I chatted with a few of the crowd and then went for a ride on some other bikes in the hope the queue would die down.

Sadly, although the queues did quieten down in the afternoon, I didn’t get the chance to try either of the Jeffsys or the Capra which was a shame, but the vibe on the day was superb; chilled beats, smiling riders, an ever tasty BBQ and the hub had some great products on sale from Fox and Dakine (two of my favourite riding brands), so I was kept entertained even when off the bike.

If you know Swinley, you’ll know that, whilst a brilliant trail centre with something to cater for everyone, a downhill venue it is not. That meant the 2016 UCI World Cup winning Tues was not in as high demand as the trail and enduro bikes. So, Swinley team rider Michael Wilson and I had a chat and before we knew it, we were picking up some jaw-dropping, super stealthy carbon Tues models; Michael took the large £2,870 CF,  with Rockshox Boxxer and Kage shock, whilst I took a new for 2017 XL sized, £3,380 CF Pro, equipped with Fox 40 and X2 shock. At 6’1″, the XL felt perfect.

On the large CF model.

I should add at this point, I have never ridden a downhill bike, so immediately I was impressed by the ultra plush seemingly endless travel… and that’s just taking the bike for a quick warm up around the green trail (possibly the most overkill bike for a green trail ever!).

The CF Pro is dripping with choice components. From the E*Thirteen LG1+ wheelset, cranks and cassette (7 speed, 9-21 ratio), the stealthy carbon frame (203mm front and 208mm rear travel), carbon Renthal fatbars and Integra 35 stem, this bike felt absolutely indestructible, whilst also being a thing of beauty.  Impressively, the CF Tues weighs in at a very modest 35lbs too! Super slack angles, 650b wheels (we’re still waiting to see if 29″ DH is the next big thing… roll on Fort Bill) ensured that the bike is planted, grippy and railed. All in all, quality kit, quality looks and all at a quality price.

Measurements wise, the XL has a top tube of 647mm with a reach of 470mm. Chainstays remain the same across the size range at 435mm, as does the head angle at an ultra slack 63.5 deg. With a wheelbase of 1258mm, it’s around 60mm longer than my Aeris, so nothing too drastic which helped me adjust to the bike very quickly.

The CF Pro

Although the bike was light for what it is, it’s hardly the right bike to ride uphill (duhhhh…). Conveniently however, Tristan had hired a Toyota Hilux for the weekend… so, Michael and I hopped in the back and were treated to a VIP experience; Swinley Forests inaugural shuttle service!

It was a bit of a surreal experience, getting driven to the top of a trail in style – Michael ran a live Facebook video to document the experience, which was a great laugh!

We got to the top of Blue 14 and tried a couple of runs on the DH monsters. Simply put… they flew. I know this trail very well and feel I know every bump, rut and hole. On the Tues, it was like riding on an F1 track.. buttery smooth once again, but great fun too! After a few runs of the trail, we headed to the woods to mess about on a hidden drop, which has a few lines of varying size. Here’s a little clip of Michael and I doing what I think may be my biggest drop to date:

I was stoked to have hit that line, as I love the feeling you get when you know you’re progressing. Big thanks to Michael too for the encouragement. We headed back after a brilliant little session on the Tues models for a burger and a catch up. All in all, a top day, even if the queues were rather long, which did leave a few hopeful testers a little frustrated.

The Tues feels like an insane bike and something I would love to own. However, it is absolutely overkill for anything I am likely to ride for now, although would be a good laugh at places like Bike Park Wales or Forest of Dean. I’ll admit, I am still tempted by a downhill bike to add to the stable though, and I don’t think I’d go wrong with a Tues CF. After all, if it’s good enough for Aaron Gwin, surely it’s good enough for little old me! Again, it’s a thing of beauty to look at, especially in the gloriously stealthy Pro guise, with full black everything! Perfect for Stealth Riders worldwide!

Whilst I was disappointed with not being able to ride the Jeffsy models and the Capra, overall, the Rolling Circus was a great event. Tris and the team ensured it was superbly organised and the YT guys were awesome, helping with any queries, getting you set up on the demo bikes and also offering out some mega tasty beer (thanks to Kia at the hub, I got to sample a fair few of these!).

The tireless efforts that the team, shop staff and ambassadors put in to ensure everybody has a good time is, at times, unreal. They always manage to take a huge event and make it incredibly personal, as though you’re one of the team or an old mate catching up for a chat. It’s hard to explain, but their ethos is about getting rad. You don’t have to be the best or the fastest, you just need to have a great time. That is Swinley summed up.

Back to the bike quickly, the YT Tues is a formidable bit of kit, capable of much more than I am. However, if you like your trails rocky as fook, rutted to hell and steep as a cliffside, this is absolutely the bike for you. I hate the term, but the ‘cockpit’ looks sooooo nice too. The little touches such as the placement of graphics helps remind you that you’re riding a world class downhill bike, guaranteed to leave you smiling for hours after every single ride.

It’s no wonder YT are gaining more and more market dominance year on year. Their formula of producing killer looking, flawlessly performing bikes and matching them with some of the best riders in the world is working very well and YT bikes are becoming the machine of choice for a massive amount of riders globally. The Rolling Circus has only just begun, so by the time they’ve finished the world tour, there will no doubt be thousands of happy new members of the YT Mob, ready to shred their local trails with a massive grin.

YT,  and Swinley, thank you for having me and treating me like a VIP on the day. I felt truly humbled and incredibly grateful, you’re all amazing. I’ll sum the event up by stealing YT’s tagline: GOOD TIMES.

Until next time, catch you later.

Ian @ Stealth Riders 



Fox Proframe helmet – first ride

Open face breathability. Full face protection. This is the tagline from Fox for their new Proframe helmet, launched recently. It’s hard to think that a full face lid would be anything other than a sweatbox for all day riding, so I wanted to try one out to see if that tagline rang true.

Sunday 23rd April 2017 saw the Fox Europe team embark on Swinley Forest, one of my local trail centres, on their Proframe World Tour. This was the perfect opportunity for riders like me to try out the new helmet and see what the fuss was about. Even better, they had Pierre-Edouard Ferry (Red Bull Rampage sender and damn nice guy) leading out rides, Russ Cosh from the Swinley Hub cooking up some mean burgers, the awesome Stuart, Joe and the team from Fox and the lovely Rachel (Stuarts other half), in attendance.

Before I go any further, go follow Rachel on Instagram for all things Fox, MTB for chicks and brilliant posts. Top marks too, to Tristan, owner of Swinley Bike Hub, for once again putting on a great event. The Swinley Enduro, the BBQ’s, night rides and all other events are always a brilliant laugh, check one out if you can!

A bearded goon and Pierre-Edouard Ferry – Top bloke and half decent on a bike, too!

I had a chat with the guys and picked up a Proframe in Medium in Moth Teal and the fit was perfect, like Goldilocks tucking into a bears porridge. If it’s not the right fit for you immediately, the helmet comes with a number of different cheek pads to get sizing just right.

I set off on a small solo ride to get some first thoughts and take some photos and WOW. I felt like I wasn’t wearing a helmet on the first trail, and the climb on the second trail usually has me warm in my current helmet (Bell Super 2R, which I usually run without the chin guard), but the Proframe kept me feeling fresh as a daisy.

It probably helps that the visor is fixed to allow for maximum airflow, but more on tech later.

Heading down blue 3 with the wind rushing through my hair and beard (the Proframe has a massive beard vent at the front…), I saw a mate of mine, Marius, taking photos so stopped for a chat and to get a banger shot – cheers Marius!

Photo – Marius Howard

After some more climbs (helter skelter, if you know Swinley), my head was still cool thanks to the 15 big bore intake vents and 9 exhaust vents placed perfectly across the helmet. After a few miles at a reasonable pace, my head was dry and I headed back to the trailhead to catch up with everybody and talk tech with Stuart, Country Manager for Fox GB. So, let me pass that tech talk to you.

Stuart (Front row, second left) on a recent night ride with the Swinley mob

Firstly, the Proframe comes in 8 colours, so there’s guaranteed to be one to suit you. Of course, I’d go with black, but after wearing the ‘Moth Teal’ colourway, I actually really liked it (just don’t tell anybody, ok)! Even with its ridiculously light weight (735 grams for the Medium), it’s fully downhill certified, so you could genuinely feel confident about taking on Fort William or Mont St Anne whilst rocking this lid. Even more so that it comes as standard with MIPS and also includes a ‘Varizorb’ liner, both of which help to spread the force of any impacts away from a central point on your head. Which is always nice.

One thing I was super impressed with, was the ‘Fidlock’ buckle; sometimes when wearing gloves, unbuckling your helmet can be a hassle. The Fidlock allows you to softly press a small button which releases the buckle in a split second. It’s just as easy to do up and, when buckled, it’s not going anywhere.. once again, keeping you feeling confident that the Proframe is going to keep you safe on the trails.

I don’t really do tech talk though, I prefer to focus on the feel on the trail and my personal thoughts, so here’s some more tech from the source and a promo vid:

It’s all fair and well going our for a solo mooch at a decent pace, but I met up with two of the Swinley Bike Hub race team; Michael Wilson and Aidan Burrill, both of whom are absolute weapons on a bike. So, I went for a proper little ride with them to get the sweat going. Even when trying to keep up with the big boys, I felt much cooler than if I was wearing my Super 2R, both in open and full face guises. Incredible stuff, Fox! Don’t get me wrong, I was still a sweaty mess at the end of the ride (damn my love of pizza), but a little less so I think, thanks to the Proframe.

Pricing is also very reasonable, considering the protection, weight, technology and looks (which, can I just say are stunning). At £215 rrp, it’s fantastic value in my opinion. Here’s a few shots to show the look of the Proframe both on and off the head:

Put simply, although I only tried this helmet for an hour or so, first impressions are verrrrryyyyy good. It allows you to climb like a goat and stay cool, yet smash the descents with the confidence of a ‘traditional’ downhill/full face helmet. Sometimes, trying to combine two things can go horribly wrong. Fox however, have created the PB&J of helmets; a delicious combination of open faced breathability, with the performance and confidence inspiring protection of a much heavier helmet.

Top marks for pushing the boundaries, I can see this being a huge hit on the trails across the globe. I’m actually in the market for a new helmet myself and this is now a serious contender. I’d love to have had a longer time demoing it, but I was short on time and to be able to even try before you buy is a wonderful thing!

Is it overkill for the trails you ride? I’d say no. It’s so light and there’s always the chance that even at your local trails you become complacent, so to be able to have the option to ride all day without overheating whilst knowing you’re protected is surely a win-win situation.

Available at all good Fox retailers, although I’d recommend you order yours through Swinley Bike Hub; it’s a great place and, considering Fox chose Swinley as a venue, surely that says a lot.


Ian @ Stealth Riders

Note – This review is my own, I was not asked or paid to do this, I just wanted to give my honest thoughts in the hope that it may help you, fellow shredder. 




SDG Custom Decals (#glitterbitch)

So if you follow the Stealth Riders Instagram, you’ll know I’ve been showing off something new with a little bit of sparkle on the stealth machine. I didn’t need any new decals as I’ve only just got my new RockShox Lyriks, but when Fox from South Coast Suspension shared a post from a company called Stickers – Decals – Graphics, it caught both my eye and attention.

Along with your standard replacement decals, SDG offer custom designs in some incredible colourways including a wide range of coloured glitter, oil slick chrome, rainbow, camo and many, many more. There was only one choice for me though, which was stealth black glitter.

I dropped SDG a message on Facebook at around lunchtime on a Wednesday a while back to see if I could get some custom decals for my fork and shock and Mike replied very quickly to say that custom decals weren’t an issue, nor were some stickers. We chatted for a bit and by Wednesday night at around 10.30pm, Mike had sent over a few designs and we agreed on one. Bosh, super speedy service!

Below are some of the rough drafts sent over to show placing and cut lines, so you get an idea of the process:

I paid Mike the next morning and by the Saturday I was in possession of my awesome new decals. Custom design, print and delivery in a matter of days is absolutely unreal, so I was massively impressed with this!

SDG don’t just do fork and shock decals, they offer a whole host of options including wheel and frame decals and 100% custom jobs too. They also offer a load of goodies outside of the MTB world, so be sure to check them out or get in touch for full information.

It’s worth mentioning that pricing is brilliant too. It’s best to get in touch with SDG directly for any custom quotes, but for a whole bunch of stickers, 2 sets of fork decals and some rear shock decals, I was very happy with what I paid.

The quality is fantastic – high grade black vinyl and a glossy laminate are standard (both gloss and matt options are available) and the glitter is smooth to the touch, one slight hesitation I had with ordering. Removing decals can be a pain, but I found it surprisingly easy and application was a piece of cake. Aesthetically, the glitter is subtle enough to go unnoticed in the black guise, but if you’re a colour lover and opt for something other than black, these will stand out in an incredibly good way. I like the subtlety though, as it invites people to take a closer look at the bike, creating a talking point (as you can tell, I like talking bike).

I was also interested in seeing the decals being created and cut, so Mike did me a solid and recorded the whole thing, including a few test runs of some standard stickers. The video is below, check it out if you like that kind of thing (raw sound included):

The final result in video form is below. I used low light and my camera phone to give an idea of how they’d look on a night ride (and also how they’d react to light):

Do the decals make me faster? Nah, but just LOOK AT THEM. Mike has managed to get the Stealth Riders logo into the fork decals and rear shock decal which is incredible. They shimmer in the sun and sparkle at night and yes, I’m starting to sound like I should have my own Disney movie but whatever. Some of my trail buddies have started calling me princess since I fitted them, but I think they look super cool and add a touch of individuality to a bike.  Hell, I’m stoked to be the #glitterbitch of the trails.

A few close ups:

Point is, they look awesome and if you’re looking for something a little different, get in touch with SDG today and see what magic they can work for you. This may have been the first thing I ordered from SDG, it most definitely won’t be the last. Although it’s a picture heavy blog post, even this many photos don’t do the real thing justice. Take a punt, give them a shout and see how good they are for yourself.

Catch you soon,

Ian @ Stealth Riders