Blog

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!

https://surveyplanet.com/594e9d990181f921d3320094

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)!

Cheers,

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.

Blog

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

www.yt-industries.com 

 

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

Bird Aeris One20 review

My day job is in travel and January is always manic, so I decided to book 2 days off and ride bikes instead. Rather than ride mine, I thought I’d give the new Bird Aeris models a go and pop some first impressions up to help people that may be looking for a new bike.

Bird have redesigned their full suspension Aeris and now have 2 more curvy models based around metric shocks and boost spacing; the One20 and the One45.

I gave the guys at Bird a shout and before I knew it, I was picking up the new Aeris One20, Birds newly designed 130/120mm trail bike and was en-route to Swinley Forest, which I figured would make an excellent testing ground for a bike with this amount of travel. It was a damn cold but sunny day, sitting around minus one, so the ground was crisp with some damp spots on the more loamy sections. A perfect day to spend outside, rather than confined to an office. If you’ve not been to Swinley Forest yet, I’d highly recommend it for it’s all weather friendly trails and the laughs you’ll have at the hub with the team there.

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The model I tested was a large, which at 6’1”, was spot on. Kitted out with 130mm RockShox Pikes, their new metric Deluxe RT3 rear shock, SRAM GX 11 speed drive and Guide RS brakes and DT Swiss E1900 wheels with Maxxis Minion DHF front, High Roller 2 rear both running low pressures of around 18psi. Keeping the muck away is the ever reliable Mudhugger shorty. It was a setup similar to my current bike, except the new models now sport bottle cage mounts, making them super enduro!

My initial thought was that the weight was very low for an aluminium bike. I didn’t weigh it with scales, but was impressed with both that and the sleek new curves and frame design in general. Heading through the high sided berms of the blue runs at Swinley, immediately I could feel the bike gripping in the cold, icy conditions too. At times, it felt like I could get practically horizontal and still go lower.

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The bike is also long. Very long, with a top tube of 655mm on the large, offering a wheelbase of 1220mm! However, thanks to a steep seat tube, during the climbs it also felt compact which worked in my favour… it’s hard to explain, but it just works. You can check out the full measurements below:

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What impressed me most however, is when I got to the red sections and off piste areas. I figured I’d hit a few drops that I’d not usually attempt on a short travel bike, but it ate them up with ease. It’s a bike that definitely punches above its weight in terms of gravity riding; I didn’t feel like I had 120mm travel, that’s for sure. As somebody that can’t jump for shit, it also inspires confidence and after a few attempts, I was clearing the table on Babymaker like a (not so) pro.

The metric shock may have something to do with this. It felt a lot smoother and more progressive than my Monarch RT3 Debonair. Technical data isn’t my strong point, but I’m sure the Bird guys would be happy to explain ramp up and linear feels! A few close ups for you:

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Like a chainsaw or a scalpel, in the hands of the right person, this is one seriously fun piece of kit and I reckon it’s going to be a sure-fire hit. It’s a bike that is made for the likes of Swinley Forest, but I’m sure people with more talent than me will slay the black runs of Bike Park Wales on one of these! It’s already got a race winning pedigree too; Chris Doney rode one to victory in the Southern Enduro last year.

Its main competition in terms of UK brands will be the Whyte T-130 and the Cotic Flare, neither of which I’ve had the chance to try yet… I’ll look into that soon.

If you’re looking for a really fun trail bike at a great price, the Aeris One20 should definitely be on your demo list. There’s a huge amount of sizing, including a ‘medium long’, as well as a fully custom bike builder, so there will be one to suit you for sure. Prices start from an incredible £1681 and you can choose from Atomic Blue, Candy Orange or Tungsten Grey.

Check out the full range, sizing and pricing here.

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To sum it up, at the end of the day when dropping it off at Bird HQ, my legs were aching from pushing myself and climbing faster than ever before and I had a big smile from an epic day out on a stunning bike. It feels superb going up and descending and has a huge grin factor. I do think I’m personally more suited to a larger travel bike, having had a 160/140 Aeris for a while now, but the One20 is a bike that absolutely has its place in the market as a short travel trail destroyer.

However, although sad to give the One20 back, I was handed a One45 and had a date with the Surrey Hills the following day… you can read that review here.

Big thanks to the guys at Bird HQ for the demo bike and to Swinley Forest (and the ever awesome hubdudes) for the fantastic test ground.

Peace out for now,

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.

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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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Southern Enduro Rd 3: QECP

Hilarious and exhausting. The third round of the Southern Enduro is over and I’m sure there are plenty of big smiles and sore bodies today.

The four stages at this round were longer than at Milland or Tidworth, with all being between around 3-5 minutes in length. The long transition climb (around 8-10 mins of steady incline), meant the legs were kept warm, and the sun was blazing, meaning a roaster of a race day. All in all, we were to ride around 18 miles and climb just over 3000ft on the day, including practise runs.

I arrived early, got a prime parking spot right next to the start of the transition, and went to sign in. With more and more familiar faces arriving each round, the Southern Enduro is really feeling like a mix between a competitive event and a social day out with good mates and fellow riders. It’s hard to capture the vibe at this event, but it’s been there since day one; everybody is out to race, but all are super friendly at the same time. Scott and the Southern Enduro crew have done a stellar job in creating an incredible atmosphere.

The rider briefing took place, then practise began and riders set out to get a feel for the stages. Practise went well for me, although because I’m a fat bastard, I chose to tuck into a burger after riding stages 1-3, didn’t check the time and missed out on trying out stage 4. No biggie, I’ll ride it blind, how bad could it be? (The burger was totally worth it, by the way).

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Practisting stage 2. Photo: Anita Gellatly

Race time rolled around and it was time to go. Up the transition and stage one began. I found this to be the most technical of the 4, with small jumps, drops and root sections scattered throughout the top section of the stage, opening up into a forest sprint through tight trees and a little climb thrown in at the end. Stage one felt super grippy, and I felt relatively fast coming across the finish line.

Stage two was rooty, dusty and twisty. I’d managed to get a good run in practise, which perhaps made me over-confident when trying to pin a rooty left hand turn into a small climb, leaving me sliding out and at a complete stop in the wrong gear for climbing. Ah well, onwards to the steepest section of the day, which I nailed smoothly, across a fireroad and into a stage finish devised by Satan himself… a brutal 2-300 metre sprint along flat grassy ground with a few off camber hips thrown in. I was absolutely ruined by the end of that, as were many others!

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Photo: Dave Williams

Stage three started off with a crazily tight wooded section, with greenery as far as the eye could see, and loose flint on the trail. The top of this stage felt ancient, with moss covered mounds scattered throughout. I was half expecting Gandalf to pop out of the woods to ask me to go on an adventure with him. Challenging is a good way to describe it, especially riding between two trees that I reckon were 801mm apart. My bars are 800mm, so it was a close call! I was chased down this stage by mate and fellow Aeris rider Ben Biggs, and after I got through some tight switchbacks, I moved to the side to let him pass, then sprinted up a small climb, through some great singletrack and over the line.

Stage four, time to go in dark. I’m quite glad I didn’t do this one twice, as it was a hellish yet fun sprint stage through the forest, with a lot of pedalling and tight, flat corners, meaning body and bike positioning were crucial. My legs were done by this point, and my whole body was burning by the time I ended the stage and another exceptional round of the series.

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Photo: Hannah Crossley

After all riders had finished, I ended up 46th out of 52 in the Masters category, with just under three minutes separating first place finisher Tomas Kupstys (Bird Cycleworks) and myself, so results were tight across the board. Although it’s low down the ranks, I am stoked with my placing; I’m not last, and I’m remaining consistent in my first year of racing.

QECP had a fantastic turnout of talent, with Traharn and Joel Chidley, Ben Deakin and Juliet Elliott amongst some of the big names in the Pro/Elite rider list. Bird Cycleworks riders placed very well, with 5 podiums in total. The category winners are below, huge congrats to them:

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You can check the full results, race photos and rider info on Roots & Rain here.

On reflection of the series to date, although my placing has been consistent, there’s been some significant improvement. For round one, I was 30% slower than the fastest finisher in my category. For round two, I was 27% slower, and for round three, I was only 20% slower, so I’m over the moon with that gap being closed. Of course I’d like to be higher up the list, but shit, with the competition I face, it’s not going to be easy.

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Now it’s time for getting fitter and faster, hitting bigger stuff and giving my Aeris some much needed TLC, including a full bearing replacement. Next up for me on the race calendar is the Swinley Forest Enduro on 4th September; they’re some of my local trails, so I’m really looking forward to that one!

Finally, a huge thanks to Scott and the QECP collective, Bird Cycleworks, Dave G, Zoe, Michael, Josh, Ben, Mark, the dude on the 12spd Evil and everybody else on the day, whether you were racing, marshalling, catering or spectating. See you at Milland on 18th September for the final stage!

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Summertime Scorcher

It’s been bloody hot here in England. We’re used to clouds and drizzle, even in the Summer months. Typically, we complain that we never see any sun. So, what did we collectively do when the recent heatwave kicked in? Naturally, we complained. First it’s too cold, now it’s too hot.

Conversations about the weather rank in the top three grumbles Brits have; the others being queuing and public transport being so shit.  Not me, though. I won’t ever complain about seeing actual blue and a strange yellow disc in the sky! No, instead, I get out and ride.

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19th July was the hottest day of 2016 so far, peaking at around 32 degrees in Surrey. After a shitty day at work and 2 weeks off the bike due to a hectic workload, getting out and destressing was all that was on my mind. I chatted with my good friend Oscar and we were soon on the road to the ever stunning Surrey Hills to enjoy a sweatfest of a ride.

Although we only managed to get in 12.5 miles before the light began to fade below the tree line, we both smashed some great goals in some intense heat (It was still around 30 degrees when we set out). Oscar absolutely NAILED Yoghurt Pots and Barry knows best, and I finally got down the chute into Thick & Creamy on the first attempt at a decent speed! No matter how small, it’s always good to achieve something!

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We weren’t out for Strava times, it was just about getting out, enjoying the weather, dusty trails and having a laugh. It’s always the case though; don’t try, and you seem to do better! It was great to see a few others on the trail, including another Aeris rider (Andy, if you read this, good to meet you).

The colours on a day like that are spectacular; vivid blue skies and a sea of green slowly descend into pink and orange hues with the sun setting and the full moon rising. It truly makes for an incredible scene, only made better by being on the bike and having a good time. Snaking through Barry knows best with the sky turning to blood red in a glorious sunset was a definite highlight for me, topping off an incredible ride. The trails were dry, dusty and loose, with my Maxxis Shorty/Minion SS tyre combo searching for grip in every turn, resulting in a few sketchy moments and some good laughs!

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If you’ve not ridden the Surrey Hills, you are seriously missing out. It’s arguably the best place to ride in the South East, just for the fact that there are so many hidden trails to explore over a huge area of land. From the Holmbury St Mary viewpoint, you can see both the London skyline to the North East and the undulating South Downs to the South. Stunning views, trails for all levels and friendly locals; it’s got to be on your list of places to ride. Take a local if you can, to ensure you get the best selection of trails. If you don’t know anybody local, always ask – us mountain bikers are always willing to help out!

I’ll be sure to take the GoPro over there soon, to get a full, in depth trail review up, to help you out.

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With just a few days until the third round of the Southern Enduro at a venue near Queen Elizabeth Country Park called Headdown Wood, my fitness is awful and once again, I’m up against some amazing competition.  I’m fairly confident in the fact I’ll be propping up the bottom again, but I refuse to drop to the fun category… I’d rather do badly in masters than decent in fun! It looks like I’ve got race number 99, it’s always nice to have double, rather than triple digit numbers. Let’s just hope I can pin it on the day and improve my placing over my last time out.

As always, I’ll be popping a race report up once the dust has settled – stay tuned!

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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