Blog

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

 

Reviews

Mudhugger Shorty review

You’re the same as me I reckon. You’re always looking for the latest upgrade to your bike that’ll make you radder than Danny Hart, gnarlier than Kurt Sorge or rowdier than Olly Wilkins. You spend hours researching the latest tech, suspension models, wide rims and weight saving options. However, something that is often overlooked is one of the things that keeps your eyes on the prize. Goggles or glasses are important, but what really matters is a top-notch mudguard to keep the mud, dog eggs and other trail terrors at bay.

There are many mudguards available and I’ve been through a few, but for the last few years, I’ve been running a Mudhugger in one form or another. Initially I opted for the FR, the longer length guard that offers additional protection from the elements. However, more recently, mostly due to me throwing my bike in the back of the car and warping my FR version, I decided to slim down and try out their original guard, the Shorty; a ‘diet’ version in the Mudhugger range these days.

First up, the feel of the Mudhugger guards is solid. Although malleable, they feel a lot sturdier in comparison to other guards I’ve tried out. Thicker than your average guard and offering extra coverage, I’ve actually ditched wearing eye protection since fitting a Mudhugger (except for uplift days ‘cos you gotta look Enduro in ya gogs, brah).

A bit about the company. The Mudhugger is owned and operated by brothers Bruce and Jamie Gardiner who are top blokes and also happen to ride the same bike as me, the awesome Bird Cycleworks Aeris. In 2012, they were fed up of mud caked arses and brown eyes (erm..), so they got to work. Fast forward to today and they have a product that graces bikes of World Champions such as Loic Bruni and many other pro riders. Offering up 9 different types of hugger, plus a host of other goodies (air fresheners, helitape, neck warmers and much more), there’s a hugger to suit every bike. From boost to fatties and leftys, they’ve got you (and your eyes) covered. Check out their site right here.

Back to the Shorty in question. It comes with enough zipties to get you fitted (you may opt to double up the ties on the lower legs to keep it from moving if, like me, you remove your front wheel to put your bike in your car) and is ridiculously easy to fit. If you do need help, they’ve even made a sweet video to help you:

It’s impressive in weight at just 60g and measures 340mm in length, so is super light yet sturdy and offers exceptional coverage to boot. The Shorty also caters to all standard wheel sizes (whatever the hell ‘standard’ is these days), fitting 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ wheels. It sits close to the tyre (I run a 2.3″ Maxxis Shorty), but not close enough to cause any concern. Occasionally a small bit of debris may get caught up, leaving you with a ‘moto’ sounding tyre, but a quick bunny hop sorts that out. A lower profile tyre would alleviate this issue though.

On the trails, the Shorty doesn’t interfere with your riding and is barely noticeable except for the looks; I personally feel it adds an extra bit of spark to the bike thanks to the curvy shape, rather than others that I feel are a bit pointy and jagged.

Tried and tested on the new Bird Aeris 145 too.

Riding the trails of the UK, I’m regularly exposed to bad weather and the subsequent slopfest under tyre, so keeping things away from my face when nailing a trail at 20-30mph is essential. The Mudhugger Shorty has excelled at this time and time again. So much so, I keep mine on year round as you always run the risk of a damp spot under tree cover. It’s honestly incredible and the only time I’ve had mud in my eyes (remember I don’t ride with sunnies or goggles 90% of the time), is when I’ve hit a corner and the front wheel has been at an awkward angle. Still, one time from a hundred is absolutely good enough for me!

To sum it up, I genuinely cannot see me changing to any other form of mudguard in the future. The only time I’ll consider it is, if the Mudhugger bring out something better… but that’s a challenge in itself, as, like a Sunday roast or a cold beer, it’s hard to improve on perfection. Bottom line – get one, your eyeballs will thank you.

At just £18 with free delivery, it’s a steal and a surefire way to improve your riding on a budget. After all, the better you can see, the faster you can go, right? Words are great, but a picture paints a thousand of them:

Until next time, peace out.

Ian @ Stealth Riders

www.themudhugger.co.uk

 

Blog

Interview: Scott F – Southern Enduro

To many in the South of England and further afield, he’s a man that needs no introduction. Husband, father, racer, builder, and organiser. This is a man that has taken the Enduro scene by storm, creating the epic series that is the Southern Enduro.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Scott Fitzgerald recently to have a quick chat about all things Enduro. Like his namesake, he’s written a fantastic story so far and the future is looking bright for both him and the Enduro scene. With the departure of the BES in 2017, local ‘grass roots’ events look to be taking the lead and setting a precedent for what a race series should be; competitive but with a familiar, friendly vibe.

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I only met Scott last year, answering his call for volunteers to help shape one of the courses for the 2016 series. Milland in Sussex was the venue for both the first and last round and it was unbelievably good fun; the rain had brought the mud to race day, but in certain sections, Milland was also reminiscent of the ‘brownpow’ segment in the amazing film UnReal. Since then, he’s become a good mate, so a catch up was very much welcome.

So Scott, how did you get into organising the fantastic Southern Enduro series?
It all started racing the fantastic UKGE races. Then, in 2013 the QECP Enduro was born. In 2014 I added the QECP day and night Enduro. In 2015, riders were asking for more races, the obvious choice was a series and the Southern Enduro was born.

What’s your best memory from the 2016 series?
It was actually digging at the Milland venue! It’s still hard to believe that we built 4 stages from scratch in 7 months, absolute madness and what a venue it was!

With the 2017 series kicking off in June, which round are you most looking forward to?
The two new venues! I have fond memories of racing DH at Okeford hill bike park (the old UKBP) on my Dialled Holeshot hardtail. Then Pippingford Park; this venue has massive potential and in the future, who know, it could make a great 2 dayer Enduro.

What makes the Southern Enduro stand out from the competition?
I would say the at atmosphere. The Southern Enduro team all race Enduro too. You can tell, we all love it!

If it’s somebody’s first Enduro, what advice would you offer? 
Get in the fun category and enjoy your day. There’s no pressure in the fun category, you’re all in the same boat. Make some buddies and give it your best.

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Any insider info you can give racers for any of the upcoming rounds?
Yep! Okeford bike park – go on a uplift day there, is cheap as chips and a really good service. Ride every trail there 🙂

Also, get signed up for the Southern Enduro Champs! It honestly is one of the best places I have ridden in the UK!

Who can we expect to see supporting the 2017 series?
Transition Bikes, they have been a great headline sponsor for the series. You can also expect to see Bird Cycleworks, D&D cycles, Sussed out Suspension, Solent Cycles, Airport Autos and Pedal Addiction. On top of that, some great food and a well-deserved pint will be available at the venues.

How about you, where will we see you and the QECP Team racing in 2017? 
We will be racing lots of Enduros in the UK, some in France and the local DH races from Gravity Project.

When you’re not organising races, where can we find you on the bike? 
Mainly QECP digging and riding. I also have a soft spot for Hindhead, the trails there are insanely good fun.

What’s your favourite pre and post ride fuel?
Water and granola for pre-race. For post-race, I really shouldn’t say beer, but beer.

I’ll certainly drink to that! Massive thanks to Scott for taking the time out to have a chinwag. If you’re interested, you can check out the Southern Enduro site here. The 2 day champs event is set to take place in April with very few remaining spaces left, so sign up here and get involved!

As a taster in addition to the above, here’s the man himself talking through the 2017 series:

All photos are courtesy of Big Mac Photography, who (along with many other great photographers) will be ever present at the series, taking outstanding photos. Don’t worry; if you ride as badly as me, this is a man that can make you look good!

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I’ll be at the Southern Enduro in some form, whether it’s racing or marshalling (or chatting shit trailside to Scott and the series sponsors), so be sure to say hi, or listen out for some shouts of encouragement!

Until next time, cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Reviews

Marin Hawk Hill review

Back in September 2016, the inaugural Swinley Forest Enduro took place. With a super vibe, chilled tunes, a hog roast and a wealth of race sponsors, it was a stunning day out with friends and new faces alike organised by the team at Swinley Bike Hub. You can read the Wideopenmag.co.uk report (written by yours truly) here.

Amongst the race sponsors on the day were Marin Bikes, who not only had branded marsh guards, pint glasses, prototype bikes and a tortoise on their stand, they were giving away a brand new 2017 Hawk Hill; their entry level 120mm full suspension trail bike. To win the competition, riders had to share pictures of the day on social media using #SwinleySpiritofEnduro, with the Marin team choosing the winner.

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As you may know already, I love a bit of Instagram, so I merrily took photos throughout the day, popping them up as and when, never thinking I’d be in with a chance of winning the bike. Guess what? I only went and won the bloody thing with the below picture!

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As I already have my bike, I gifted the Marin to my lovely wife Emily as her current bike was getting a bit dated (husband points right there!). After placing the order for a small frame with Tristan, owner of the Swinley Bike Hub, the day came to pick the bike up and I was massively impressed; a sturdy 6061 aluminium frame, 27.5” wheels with Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35″ tyres, 120mm of smooth travel courtesy of a RockShox Recon silver RL fork and X-Fusion O2 Pro R shock, and a full Shimano Deore 1×10 speed groupset come as standard.

To get a bike at this price with air suspension is refreshing to see and really does allow the rider to fine tune the bike to their weight and riding style; something that you can’t perfect with cheaper coil suspension. The rear suspension uses Marins own ‘MultiTrac’ system, which works in a very similar manner to their  ‘IsoTrac’ system found on their higher end models. Having not ridden a Marin since the Jon Whyte designed ‘Quad Link’ models a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised with the feel of the Hawk Hill; it definitely feels more high end than the price tag would suggest.

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It’s worth noting that the bike doesn’t come tubeless, but at this price, I’d not expect it to anyway. However, a massive bonus is that the wheels and tyres are tubeless ready, so it’ll only take a few quid to convert and allow ultra low pressures and oodles of sweet, sweet grip. A minor thing to point out with a very cheap solution.

To help further keep the price down and appealing to a rider looking for their first full bouncer, Marin have used quite a few of their own brand parts including bars, saddle, post and cranks. All are fantastic quality and the attention to detail is evident, with colour matching the saddle to the frame being a nice little touch. For Emily though, as the saddle had a rather flat profile, it wasn’t suited to her. More on that below though.

 

Marin have put a lot of thought into the upgrading of this bike over time too. Along with the easy tubeless conversion, the front is already a 15mm maxle, with the rear a QR but allowing you the option to switch to 142x12mm if you feel inclined to do so. Also, there’s stealth dropper routing ready to go which is a welcome sight to see on such a great value bike. Add to this a short stem, wide bars and super comfy geometry and this is a machine that makes for an exceptional foray into the world of full suspension for both beginners and seasoned riders. Check out the full spec and details on the Marin site here. Their promo edit is here:

I’ve only ridden this bike a little bit as it’s too small for me, but Emily has been out a few times now (including the brilliant Swinley Christmas BBQ ride with mates Oscar and Nikki) and already I’ve seen improvement in her riding. Starting on the green trail, we quickly progressed to the blue. The ‘Stickler’ area of the blue trail really does help riders get to grips with a new bike and is great for learning how to ride berms and small features.

The Marin proved confidence inspiring and before we knew it, we were heading to the red trail to test her shiny new bike out! Emily was climbing faster than ever before and remarked that the brakes were really powerful, changing gears was super crisp and the bike was silent. Only minor things, but sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.

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The first thing Emily changed was the saddle, as mentioned above. This is a massively important part of remaining comfortable on a ride and she opted for a Fizik Vesta, which offers great comfort and a concave cutout that extends to the rear of the saddle to prevent any pressure points on sensitive areas.

Talking comfort, the Hawk Hill is a bike that offers buckets of it. With a relatively slack 67.5 degree head angle, it’s both a mile muncher and a trail centre shredder. With the right fitness, this would be a superb bike to take on an epic adventure ride such as the South Down Way. Similarly, you could easily take this to an Enduro event and have an absolute blast.

So far, Emily is having a great time getting more into mountain biking. This is no doubt thanks to her being on board her new Hawk Hill, so a MASSIVE thank you to Tristan Taylor, Swinley Bike Hub and Marin Bikes… it’s great to see such a high number of female shredders in the MTB world already, so to have another join the ranks is an awesome thing and I’m stoked to be able to share the trails with my wife. Here’s how it’s currently looking:

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First thoughts on the Hawk Hill is that it seriously punches above it’s price tag, climbs incredibly well and descends equally so. Thanks to the stiff chassis, great components and grippy tyres, this is a bike that will guarantee progression in your riding and will offer tons of grin inducing moments. It’s been a brilliant bike so far for someone new to both proper mountain biking and full suspension bikes and, because it offers so much upgrade potential, it’s a bike that will grow as the rider progresses. Overall, this is a superb bike that will keep Emily smiling for years to come and who knows, may even seen her claim a podium spot at the 2017 Swinduro!

The Hawk Hill can be picked up for an incredible £1350 and is available to demo and buy from Swinley Bike Hub, along with a host of other stunning Marin models.

Until next time, cheers,

Ian (and Emily) @ Stealth Riders

SBH

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Note – This is my own review and all opinions are mine. I was not paid or asked to do this, I just wanted to share my views in the hope it may help you out if you’re in the market for a new bike.

Reviews

Bird Aeris One45 review

So I recently tested the new Bird Aeris One20 and the review is here. Once I handed that back, I was given the bigger, burlier brother, the One45 and went to the Surrey Hills to put it through its paces. Simply put, at the end of the day, I didn’t want to give this bike back.

Before I get too carried away, let’s talk about the bike. At 6’1” and 87kg, I currently ride a large original (now retro?) Aeris, but opted for the ML (medium long) version of the new bike. The reason for this is due to an increased top tube length (630mm) and wheelbase (1230mm), effectively sitting me in a similar position to my current ride. Measurements are below, these can also be found on the Bird website:

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The demo bike came with 150mm RockShox Yari forks and a metric Deluxe RT3 shock with 145mm travel. I ran the suspension at 30% and 20% sag respectively, opting for a slightly stiffer rear for the terrain I was heading to. Like the One20, it was equipped with SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain and guide r brakes. The wheels were slightly wider DT Swiss M1700’s, with the same Maxxis DHF/HR2 combo I tried the day before. This time though, I ran the rear at 23psi and the front at 20psi. Again, a mighty Mudhugger Shorty was on standby to keep any mud and slop from my face.

The weight was around 30lbs, so a like for like with my current bike and this was evident the second I sat on the bike; I felt instantly at ease with it. The bike has been totally redesigned around metric sizing and boost spacing, but it felt familiar, which is a huge plus when you only have a day to form an opinion!

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It was another cold Winters day, so the ground was frozen with some iced over areas to contend with. I set out and after what is usually a brutal climb out of the Walking Bottom car park up a super steep 13-15% incline, I still had air in my lungs; this bike genuinely climbs like a hardtail with zero feeling of pedal bob… from then, I knew it was going to be a fun day out. I hit Proper Bo to get the measure of the bike and the power was instant. Snaking through the small turns and ruts, the small double and drop on this trail felt like nothing.

Due to it’s steep seat tube angle (440mm), the One45 felt long and slack when attacking the descents but put the saddle up for a killer climb and it shortens up, allowing you to really put the power down and stomp uphill in record time. It’s like Optimus Prime’s wet dream, a transformer of epic proportions.

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I figured it was time to try a bigger trail. Thick & Creamy on Pitch Hill had a hold over me this time last year with its 2 sizeable drops and a crazily steep, tight chute as the entrance. I’d nailed it a few months back, but on the One45, I breezed through and it genuinely made the drops there feel like I was hopping off a kerb. The landings were so smooth and the bike soaked up everything with more to give. Granted it’s not carbon, but when the One45 is released in March with its ultra-stiff chassis and tidy design (and bottle cage mounts!), it may have Nomads and Capras squirming a little uncomfortably in their seats.

Thick & Creamy done, I gave Thicker & Creamier a go next. Another crazy steep entrance gives way to loamy turns and fast bombholes. However, there was a monster puddle in one of these, which I tried riding around, only to eat dirt. After a nice soft landing and a little chuckle to myself, I was back up and finished the end of the run with its nice step up before leading out to the road and a nice climb back to the top.

The Surrey Hills is great, too, with an abundance of trails and friendly riders. I bumped into a film crew from Fly Creative and a guy called Phil, chatted to them for a while, then saw Joe Williams of Physio 1 to 1. Check him out here if you’re in need of a top class physio! Here’s a couple of close ups:

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Taking so many pictures, riding like a bat out of hell and laughing like a mental case made me hungry, so I set my sights for the Peaslake village store, via the renovated Captain Clunk. When I say renovated, I mean ruined. It’s been tamed down massively and wasn’t anywhere near as challenging as it once was. A huge shame, but there’s still a vast network of trails to keep every level of rider entertained.

Whilst I was tucking into a red velvet cupcake and slurping coffee to refuel courtesy of the ever lovely ladies at the store, a few Trek staffers rocked up on some of their 2017 demo models, so we had a chat about the Aeris and their Remedy and EX models before I set off for round 2 and my old favourites on Holmbury Hill; Yoghurt Pots and Barry knows best.

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Consistently, the One45 climbed like a trooper, making light work of the Radnor Road climb. With sore legs, I hammered through Yoghurts as best as I could and then flew down BKB as if I had sprouted wings. I did pick up some PR’s earlier in the day (including climbs), which is testament to the bike. The Surrey Hills is a place I’ve been riding for so long and riding this bike breathed new life into very familiar trails, rejuvenating my love for some that had become a little stale over the years.

Massive thanks to Bird for the demo. The One45 drops in March and you can pre-order yours here. As with the One20, a huge range of sizing and a fully custom bike builder means there will be an Aeris One45 for you. Colours are delightful too; lime green, the tangerine orange model I tested and my favourite of course; stealth black. Frame prices start from a wallet friendly £900, so this is set to be another outstanding value for money machine.

I absolutely love my current Aeris and I’m sure it’ll go on for a long time yet. However, when it’s time to change, the One45 will be at the top of my list. The One20 is superb, but from the second I slung my leg over the One45, I felt at home; one with nature and metal, with nothing but zen thoughts of shredding epic trails in my mind.

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I’ve been trying to pick out a flaw or a negative point, but after sleeping on it, I honestly have nothing bad to say about this bike. To sum it up, imagine if you will, that Hercules and Icarus had a baby. Their lovechild would be an Aeris One45. Immensely strong, stiff and solid, yet light as a feather when climbing and faster than me at an all you can eat buffet.

It’s a most welcome addition to their line up and is simply an outstanding successor to the Mk1 and Mk1.5 Aeris models.

The Aeris is dead; long live the Aeris.

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

Note – This is my own review and all opinions are mine. I was not paid or asked to do this, I just wanted to share my views in the hope it may help you out if you’re in the market for a new bike. The ride I did can be seen on Relive right here. I’ve also included a video full of sketchy riding, crap angles and a little stack from my day out:

 

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Whatever the weather

Winter riding. It’s a very difficult thing to drag yourself from a warm, cosy bed at 7.30am on a weekend when you can hear the sound of rain hitting your bedroom window. Your snooze button suddenly becomes your best friend and your bed sheets seem to soften a thousand fold, as if you’re wrapped up in the carcass of a Tauntaun on the ice planet Hoth. Still, you’ve made plans to meet your mates (who, coincidentally, have suddenly come down with man-flu or he-bola), so like an Olympic weightlifter you gurn and throw yourself out into the cold of the real, duvet-less world.

A shower and a super strong coffee later, you’re dressed, your gear is in the car and you’re on your way to your favourite riding spot to see your mates and tear up the trails. You know you’ll end up covered in mud and soaked through, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be grinning like an idiot at the end of the ride. To that measure, I figure I’d do a post on Winter riding tips that I’ve found helpful over the years.

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Preparation is key

As above, you’re more likely to sleep in a little more on cold, dark mornings, so pack your bag and sort your kit out the night before. Remember to take a spare set of clothes for the return journey home, unless you want to feel like you’ve rolled through a field of fresh fertiliser. Your car and significant other will thank you for this.

Sandwich bags

I always carry a bit of kit with me (see my post here on what I carry). In the winter, cheap sandwich bags are a lifesaver. Pack all of your tools and spares into a couple of bags and it ensures rust free tools and dry bandages, should you need them. It’s also good to pop your phone/keys and any cash in one for that extra level of protection.

Waterproof up, son

A no brainer if the rain is coming down or if you know there will be mud and standing water. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve sharted after a night on the curry within the first 10 minutes of your ride. I’ve recently picked up a Madison Roam jacket and some Tenn Protean Waterproof shorts (My POC Flow shorts do a great job in the meantime, but are by no means waterproof). Add in a set of Sealskinz socks and hopefully the only dampness on your body will be your own. Granted, waterproof gear is less breathable so you will heat up faster, but I know what I’d prefer out of the options.

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Added extras

Waterproofs alone won’t keep you away from the worst of it. At a minimum, a front mudguard is essential for winter rides. I swear by the Mudhugger products, having tried a lot of different ones in my time. The Mudhugger shorty is my current guard, which does a stellar job of keeping the mud from my eyes. A good set of clear glasses or goggles are a great shout too however, as there will always be a chance of the guard not catching everything.

Pressures

Squish is good. Muddy, wet trails prefer lower pressures. As you search for every last piece of grip available in the slop, reducing the pressures in your tyres will allow you to dig in that little bit more where it’s needed, allowing you to get your drift on and destroy your PR’s. The downside is your bike will roll slower. Coupled with the muddy trails, this is never fun, but the upside of this is your fitness will increase at a much faster rate when riding through the winter.

Tyre choice

A huge difference between staying railed or hugging trees is tyre choice. A mud tyre on the front and a well gripping, mud clearing tyre on the rear is a no brainer in the winter. My personal recommendation is a Maxxis Shorty 2.3” up front, and a Maxxis High Roller 2 2.3” at the rear. I run between 17-20psi in the front and 19-22 psi in the rear, depending on the conditions of the trails. However, another great option is a Schwalbe Magic Mary / Hans Dampf combo, which is also grippy as hell. It’s your call, but you won’t get very far with semi slicks in the winter (trust me, I’ve tried….).

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Cleanliness

It’s next to godliness apparently, although I’d reserve that spot for some tacos and a cold beer. Anyway, get yourself a mobile pressure washer or even a pump sprayer and take it with you along with a small bit of wet lube for your drivetrain. Post ride, hose the bike (and yourself) down, it’ll make life easier in the long run and keep that beautiful bike of yours running for longer. I use a simple, £10 pump sprayer from Homebase, although if you want to spend a little more (I’ll be investing soon), a Mobi is a great shout.

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In terms of riding, you’ll have your own styles. I find taking a little weight off the front of the bike on the singletrack is helpful, but then try to pump the front to dig the tyres in around the corners. Always be on the look out for sniper roots too; those little bastards hide under leaves and mud, ready to take you down at any second. Also, always mind your GoPro (and make sure it’s recording for when you have the inevitable bail in the slop!):

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Hopefully these help – I’ve been practising what I preach with some ultra-boggy rides over the Surrey Hills, Fleet and Swinley Forest over the past few weeks with some brilliant people and, thanks to the right setups, I’ve interestingly been getting some better times on trails in the winter than in the summer! Get outside, get riding and get smiling; your body will thank you and you can at least get away with a cheeky pint post ride… you’ve definitely earned it for riding through the worst of the weather!

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Life has been a little bit hectic lately with no signs of slowing down, but I am back in the zone with keeping Stealthriders.com running smoothly and providing more regular blogs and reviews. I am, however, going to stop sending the monthly newsletter out for now, instead focusing on a quarterly update.

Until next time, cheers!

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Its been a while…

Hey y’all! Before I start, let me apologise for the lack of posts lately. Since I got back from Abu Dhabi, life has been insanely busy!

Firstly, my poor bike has been off the road awaiting new forks under warranty. The 2015 batch of RockShox Pike RCT3’s had a known fault with a creaky CSU (Crown Steerer Upper). After the abuse the bike has undergone over the past year from racing to shredding local trails and taking bigger hits as my riding progresses, my Pikes suffered the dreaded creaking.

I popped to Bird HQ and the guys, as ever, were super accommodating and got the forks sent back to RockShox. A few weeks later, a set of 150mm Pikes arrived for my bike. The ones sent off were 160mm, so Dave very kindly offered to replace them for a set of 2017 Lyrik RCT3’s in their 160mm guise. Gratefully I accepted and my bike has now been running the forks for a few weeks. The major change is the front end feels a lot more planted, thanks to a stiffer brace and slightly longer lower legs. The ride is sublime now too; buttery smooth, instant response and all round beautiful feelings. A huge thank you to Bird as always; I’ve said it countless times, but their service is seriously incredible, despite them being mega busy with the launch of their new Aeris 120 and Aeris 145 models (which look stunning… I need to get a test ride on both and report back, so stay tuned).

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Work has also been crazy… I’ve left the world of homeworking and returned to office life after an offer I couldn’t refuse, so time has been lacking in order for me to post as regularly as I’d have liked. Any spare time I’ve had, I’ve been trying to get the miles in to reach my goal of 1000 off road miles this year. I’m super happy to say I hit that last week. I guess I need to set the bar higher for 2017, considering I’ve got some epic adventures planned in between racing!

On the subject of racing, the Southern Enduro series goes on sale on 3rd December, so I’ll be up early hoping to bag my place in all 4 rounds. The 2017 series will see new venues such as Okeford Bike Park and Pippingford Park (I say sir, how posh!), which look brilliant. If the 2016 series was anything to go by, 2017 will be bigger, better and bolshier. I cannot wait to get back on the trails in competition and hopefully move up the ranks a little (or a lot!)

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Milland in April. Photo: BigMac Photography

The 2017 racing will now see me racing in my custom Stealth Riders jersey too, thanks to Stak Racewear. I am over the moon with how awesome the jerseys are and I’ll be looking to get some produced for anybody interested. If you want your own Stealth Riders jersey with your name on the back, get in touch here. I’ll be looking to place orders in December/January, which gives plenty of time for them to arrive for the race season. At a guess, they’ll be £35 including postage (UK, overseas may be a little more).

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In other news, I’ve been out and about in the muck recently, covering Swinley and the Surrey Hills mostly. A few night rides have happened and I’ve got some new lights courtesy of MTB Batteries; their Lumenator combo is a steal at £145, producing 2000 lumens from a tiny head torch and dual bar mounted light. Both are incredibly light, powerful and their throw and pitch is perfect. I’d recommend them massively and will be doing a full review after a few more rides.

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The weather has turned, but the trails are still running sweet. Over the last few months, my riding has progressed more and more, with drops getting much more comfortable and I’ve started dipping my toe into gaps and jumps too. Here’s a little vid of a recent mess about with the new forks at Swinley Forest:

I’ve also conquered another nemesis that’s been hanging over me on Secret Santa in the Surrey Hills.. it’s not much to most, but there’s a gap jump on the trail that I’ve always taken the chicken run past. On Saturday just gone, I finally hit it, sending the bike across the ~10ft gap. Granted, I landed like a squid, but the first is the worst, so next time should be spot on. Next up, Northern Monkey….

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It’s not much, but it’s another one I can tick off!

Anyway, that’s enough from me for now! I’m due to be picking up  a prize shortly (oooo….), so stay tuned for that post!

Until next time, cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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#Swinduro Race Report

Update – If you want to read the version on Wideopenmag.co.uk, you can do so here

The dust has settled and the ground nesting birds have now retaken the forest. The inaugural Swinley Forest Enduro is now over, and what an incredible event it was. Before I get started, I wanted to give a massive shout out to Swinley Bike Hub main man Tristan Taylor for organising such a brutally enjoyable event, as well as the riders, marshals, spectators and sponsors, who ensured the day was one to remember for all the right reasons. From strangers, new faces, old and new mates, it was awesome to see you all!

The Swinley Forest Enduro (or Swinduro as it was known on the day), consisted of 7 timed stages between a minute and 7 minutes long, with a loop of around 20km on the day including transitions. As these are some of my local trails and the fact I’ve been on the Hub night rides for the past year gave me some idea of which trails were going to make up the stages; I knew there would be some timed climbing, which suited me well. Having a home advantage also made the fact that there would be no practise much easier for me, as I knew the trails, and knew them well. It had pissed it down the day before, which meant the trails would be tacky and grippy; my Bird Aeris with Maxxis Shorty/Minion SS combo was going to love it.

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I turned up nice and early to get signed in, get my race card (#116) and catch up with a bunch of mates that were there on the day. This one really felt like a social gathering with the amount of familiar faces. The MTB world is a small one; a community of like-minded shredders all up for a laugh and a healthy dose of competition.

Categories were called, with Masters setting off at 10am. I rolled off the start line and headed to stage 1. It started from Blue 3, which consists of some massively flowy berms cascading down the side of a hill, then a sharp right into Blue 16 (Helter Skelter); a monster of a climb on the best of days, but knowing you were being timed upped the ante massively. Blue 16 finished with a few small jumps and another set of flowing berms. By the end of stage one I was busted; it was definitely a good stage to get warmed up on!

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Photo: Brett Shelfer

Stage 2 was an off-piste affair through what’s known as New England. Tight corners, rooted sections and a neat little sprint to the finish. Although my legs still felt a bit battered from stage 1, I got through pretty quickly and sped on to stage 3, which was the killer for me on the day. Starting by Blue 5 (Stickler), riders went down the old route and through off camber roots and tight trails for what felt like forever, before coming to a small double drop just before the finish line. A few unfortunate riders had a crash here, but I luckily sailed through.

Stage 4; Red 15, one of my favourite marked trails at Swinley. We lined up and put the power down through fast turns, big berms and a cheeky double, before rattling through some roots and smashing past the finish. Bosh.

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Stage 3 . Photo: Victoria Dawe

Stage 5 was a quick run through one of the red sections of the Labyrinth area which has many names; ‘Berminator’, ‘Bermasaurus’, or on Strava, ‘Does my berm look big in this?’ As you can guess, it was a constant bermfest, tightly sweeping through the forest with a few jumps thrown in for good measure. This was the preface for stage 6, and after climbing back up K2 (affectionately named because it’s a bitch to ride up!), we queued up for the longest stage of the day; the old Deerstalker trail into the winding roots that make up the Labyrinth. The old Deerstalker started with a small drop that I got wrong and had to put a foot down, but the rest flowed without an issue. I managed to catch up to the rider in front of me, which gave me some confidence that my times may be alright! Stage 6 over and I, along with many other riders, collapsed on the floor to get our breath back after a lung-busting 6(ish) minutes of hammering the pedals through this stage.

Almost over, stage 7 beckoned and I headed towards the final hurdle; my favourite blue graded trail, blue 14. It started with a blast through the woods, pumping anywhere and everywhere I could to conserve energy before a short uphill and into the downhill section; 2 hips to send, then a bunch of fast flowing berms to the finish. Swinley regular Lynn was at the bottom of the run, catching some great shots of haggard riders, so naturally I had to pose like a knob.

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Suits you, Sir. Photo: Lynn Funnell Warr

Race over, back to the race village to hand in the timing chips. I genuinely couldn’t believe it when it said I was sitting in 10th place of 33 finishers… holy balls! I knew it wouldn’t stay that way, but that still made me smile massively. All said and done, I ended up in 16th from 58 finishers in the Masters category, which I was immensely stoked about, that’s top 20 which is by far my best result so far!

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Photo : Harris Photo

All in all, the climbing was tough when against the clock, but this added an additional challenge to the course and I loved every second of it (I’m one of those weirdos that loves a climb, thanks to my old XC days) and the loop was put together so well by the team. I’m already looking forward to the 2017 event and will be seeking a top 10 there for sure.

Bird Cycleworks had another successful day, with Francie Arthur taking 1st in Women’s, Charles Griffith taking 1st in U18’s and Chris Doney taking 2nd in Elites. Local rider Mark Hemmings took 2nd in Vets too, representing the Stealth black Aeris crew… top job my man! The full results are here, with photos available on Roots & Rain here. You can see an overview of the race circuit on Relive.cc here.

It’s well worth mentioning the race village again too; chilled tunes and a hog roast from Pig & Rig made for a super relaxed atmosphere, allowing for all riders to catch up and chat about their results, bike setups and general shit-chat. The Marin stand was great too; I picked up a neat pint glass and mudguard and even met a quality little tortoise! One thing was evident; the amount of smiles and laughs proved that this was definitely an event to remember, and I, like many others, finished the day in high spirits. Here’s a little slideshow of some snaps I got through the day:

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After the podium presentations, a few mates and I headed back out for a 7 mile leg stretcher and to session a little drop we’d found on the previous night ride, which was a good laugh (Thanks to Vlad for the vid below). Heading home after, I was all smiles, listening to some tunes up loud. Arriving home, there was a giant pizza waiting for me, which I reckon was thoroughly deserved.

No time to rest for Stealth Riders, as the final round of the Southern Enduro is fast approaching on the 18th September… time to put the power down and do what I can to finish my first series on a high note. Swinduro, you were awesome, thank you for having me.

Until next time, cheers!

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Swinley Forest Enduro!

I’d heard rumours about this for a while, thanks to going on regular Thursday night rides with the Swinley Bike Hub. Now it’s become a reality; the Swinley Forest Enduro is good to go, and is selling like hotcakes as I type this!

The Swinley Forest Enduro takes place on Sunday, 4th September and will consist of 7 timed stages, all between 2 and 5 minutes in length and a total of around 20km of riding on the day, including transition stages.

Highlights outside of the race itself include a BBQ, locally brewed booze, coffee and some amazing supporting brands including Whyte, Marin, Pivot, DMR, Fox and Burgtec, which will allow you to get your grubby mitts on the latest 2017 offerings. Result!

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I have, of course, entered this event, once again in the Masters category. I’m well aware that my prior results at the first two rounds of the Southern Enduro have not been where I’d hoped they would be… however, Swinley Forest is one of my local playgrounds; a place I’ve spent countless hours exploring both marked and off-piste trails. I know the terrain, I ride with confidence there and know how both my body and my bike react to the mix of loam, ginger and roots of the forest, in all weather conditions. Surely, I have some competitive advantage on this one, right?

Who knows, only the minutes and seconds on the day will matter. The Masters category is still going to be ultra-competitive and full of exceptional riders, but I’ll have a quiet, underlying hope that the  knowledge of the trails will no doubt help me, even if just a little.

I have no idea what the stages will look like, as I’m sure the trail team will sculpt some absolutely stunning routes, I can’t wait to try them out on race day.

A few things are for sure. The Swinley Hub Race Team have been the rowdiest, loudest bunch at the Southern Enduro events at Milland and Tidworth this year, so they’re guaranteed to bring the noise at their home race!

Also, it’ll be exceptionally well organised, if the social night rides and the BBQ’s are anything to go by. Knowing the amount of effort the crew put into every detail to get things right, I’ve no doubt that this will be one hell of a race day.

You can race in confidence, too. The Swinley Forest Enduro is part of, and follows the guidelines set out by the British Enduro Mountain Bike Association (BEMBA), which ensures that safety is a key aspect of what will be a hugely fun event.

If you’ve not signed up yet, what are you waiting for?! Entry is £42.50 for any category, but just be aware than the car parking for the day (£4) is not included. I’ll even make it easy for you, the link is here.

A bunch of my good riding mates have also signed up, so this is going to be a social blast as well as a superb Enduro race!

I’ve still got round three of the Southern Enduro to focus on first, with the race at Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) taking place on Sunday, 24th July. I’m putting the miles in, and have even signed up to a gym (boooo) to help with overall strength, so I’m going for a placing beginning with a ‘3’ at least!

It’s time to get the Enduro face on again.. see you there!

Cheers,
Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Southern Enduro Rd 2: Tidworth

Things to avoid before a race include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Having a 4-hour tattoo session two days before.
  • Crashing in spectacular fashion one day before, hitting a tree with the same arm that you’ve just had tattooed.

On the weekend just gone, clearly I’d left my brain somewhere else, but I had these things penned in for a while so couldn’t bail at the last minute. These had left me feeling sore, aching and lacking in confidence massively for race day. I’m just spouting excuses now, so enough of that.

Regardless of my result (a lowly 40th from 42 finishers in the ever tough Masters category), it was a fantastic day once again. Thanks to Scott Fitzgerald and the Southern Enduro team, all of the marshals, spectators, riders and photographers, Swinley Bike Hub Race Team, Bird Cycleworks, my riding mates (for some of whom this was their first race), and new faces on the day. A special thanks to Stuart Ross (Foot Out, Flat Out), for the great conversation on the transition stages and through the day.

The final and most important thanks though, have to go to Phil, Neal and the whole crew at Tidworth Freeride and Ian at B1KE for making it all possible and for the excellent trails we rode on the day.

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Photo: BigMacPhotography

So, Sunday, 12th June, and the morning of the race arrived. I met up with good mates Chris and George in the picturesque Tidworth Polo Club grounds, which was the rider parking venue for the day. We got our gear together and headed to the venue, catching up with the rowdy Swinley Bike Hub race team, all absolute legends in their own rights. I popped down to say hi to the always smiling and ever helpful Bird Cycleworks team too, and spent my rest time on the day between the two tents, catching up with everybody, talking lines, conditions and all things bike.

As we were chatting, riders were signing up and a familiar yellow Mavic jersey stood out in the line-up; Ben Deakin had been offered a place by a friend of his who had dropped out last minute, so, although he’s more at home on the downhill racing circuit and is still coming back from a nasty injury in New Zealand, he absolutely smashed it, coming in third in the Elite category. His antics are well worth a follow on Instagram. #OiOi

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We had a short briefing, then headed out to practise the refreshed Tidworth stages; 4 lines, with stages 1 and 2 being ridden twice, to bring the total to 6 timed runs. The overall times are added up, and that determines your result. The weather had been on and off, with spots of rain the night before and forecast throughout the day. Tidworth is quite a chalky venue, so mechanicals, crashes and conservative lines were sure to affect the outcome of the days racing for some riders.

Practise went really well, scoping the lines and making mental notes of the best routes through the numerous technical sections. This was nothing like the Tidworth I had ridden the weekend before, which threw me off a few times over the day! Chris had a massive OTB on the drop/rock garden area of stage 4, but was up and flying again in no time, ending up placing a fantastic 14th in the Fun category; a great result for his first race! George also had a couple of tumbles, but came in 43rd in the Vets category. Again, a cracking result for his first Enduro in a very strong field of riders… well done, lads! After a spot of relaxing after practise, I dropped tyre pressures a little, psyched myself up and headed to the start line, ready to go.

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George & Chris pinning it. Photo: BigMacPhotography

Stage 1 was stunning. A freshly cut, powdery trail, with some neat rooted sections, tight lines and steep descents into loose, loamy switchbacks. All good so far. Back up the transition, the foot traffic began to create a bit of a slippery push up, making for hard work and plenty of sweating by the top!

Stage 2 was my nemesis on the day. One section near the top of this technical track in particular threw me on both attempts, adding a huge amount of time to my runs. The rest was great, with tricky rooted corners, small rock gardens and drops dotted along the way, ending with a few doubles and out to the race village.

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Photo: BigMacPhotography

Stage 3 was a fast flowing mix of loose dirt corners and chalky berms (which got super greasy and slippery when some showers passed through), ending with a line of tabletops (although a ‘Strava line’ had emerged on the left, which looked a fair bit faster and a lot of riders were taking, myself included). A couple of corners more and stage 3 was done. It was time for a 45 minute break to grab some food, chat shit and re-energise, ready for the final 3 runs.

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Rest over, I headed back up to the stage start. Stage 4 used some of the new ‘River Flow’ trail, with a ton of small drops, jumps and the main gathering point of the day for spectators and Ambulance crew; the rocky drop into a brilliantly made rock garden that Chris got acquainted with earlier in the day. This section was hilarious and challenging at the same time; I just survived making it through, despite being rattled about and picking an awful line.

Stages 5 and 6 went pretty much identical to stages 1 and 2 for me – slow, sketchy and lacking in confidence. I ended my day out of breath, but with a huge smile. Although my result was low, I took a lot of learnings from the day, and now it’s time to get working on improving (and not being injured or freshly tattooed!) for round three at Queen Elizabeth Country Park on July 23rd.

There’s really not much point in me putting up my GoPro footage.. not unless you enjoy bad line choices, slow riding, lots of swearing and out of breath 33 year olds. Instead, here’s a short clip of Swinley Team rider Cassie, storming her way to second place even after taking part in an ‘Endure 24’ running event the day before – nice one! As usual, the SBH Team were out on course giving some great encouragement to every rider:

Once again, huge congratulations to everybody on the day, especially to the podium finishers. QECP could be a round for the triple wins for Chris Doney (Elite), Charles Griffith (U-18), Francie Arthur (Womens), Phil Payter (Grand Vets) and Daryl Biles (Senior), all first place finishers in their categories at both Milland and Tidworth, and are all in amazing form this year. No pressure!

You can check out the full results and race photos on Roots & Rain, podiums are below:

Tidworth results

Another great race over, I headed for home, exhausted and aching. Although disappointed with my result, the spirit of the day and the laughs shared with fellow cyclists kept me smiling for the entire drive and beyond. For me, the Southern Enduro has so far been a perfect series to find my feet, figure out where I fit in rank and category wise, and is helping me develop massively as a rider. If you’re interested in racing, you can’t go wrong with the Southern Enduro series. QECP is set to be a banger!

The world of cycling is an incredibly friendly one, with everybody supporting each other both on and off the bikes, no matter where you are in the ranks, what you ride, or how old you are. English football ‘fans’ could learn a lot from watching an Enduro series race, that’s for sure.

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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