Howdy y’all. So I’ve got a ton of great stuff to write up about and bring to you, including some rad demos of bikes, some cool edits and some great trail reports. However, I’ve also been working on something else. Something big. Something that’s taking up a huge amount of time, but I’m confident it’ll be worth it in the end. It’s time to share a little bit about that, as I’ve been super slack with posts lately!
Firstly, the look of Stealth Riders. That lovely image you’ve seen above is one of the awesome new logos, which I’m super stoked about. I’ve got a fair few different designs in the works, which will come into play soon… I’ll reveal more on that when I can. Huge thanks to the designer and good mate @_jamjams. He usually creates unbelievably good geometric artwork of R&B, Hip Hop and Sports stars, which are well worth a look at! I’ll be hanging a commission in the mancave soon. Here’s a look at some of the range, I’d love to know your thoughts.
The new logos are (in my absolutely non-biased opinion), epic! What I love is that the mountains are made from the ‘S’ and the ‘R’, so it just ties in nicely and looks smooth, sleek and stylish. The original logo has been around for over a year now and it’s time to evolve. Along with the new logos, I’m also redesigning the website from the ground up. I’m switching platforms, refining the content and making it more user friendly for everybody (hopefully myself included!).
Excitingly, I’m also looking to offer some dope merch, so you can help represent Stealth Riders when out on the trail on having that post-ride pint. It’s early days, but I’ve been working on some designs and I’m nearly happy with some of them! I want to make things perfect, as that’s what you, fellow Stealth Rider, deserves. There are by no means final designs, but hell, you deserve a look at early concepts:
The current logo will still be in play for a few weeks at least whilst I finalise the new website and merch, so it’s just a teaser of what’s coming for now!
Anyway, it’s just a short post to let you know I’m still here, busy in the background, working away to make things look insane. As the weather has been so nice too, I’ve also been out on the bike in a big way. Whenever I’m not staring at a screen, I’m out on the bike with some top people, progressing at a crazy pace. Here’s a little edit of a recent local ride to show some radness including a sick 360 from Tito:
I’ve also been scoping my local trails a lot more lately, trying to learn the fastest lines to be able to keep up with the Fleet MTB mob. There’s some quick lads for sure, all of whom are absolute legends, so there’s always some superb banter. If you look for #bantacrew on Instagram, you’ll see some of their posts.
Evening rides have been stunning lately, with roasting weather and beautiful views, along with cows hogging the ultra loamy trails.
So now you know what’s going on… loads of exciting shizz, basically! I can’t wait to share the new stuff with you as it all happens. I best get back to slaving over the new website! Until then…. STAY STOKED. STAY STEALTH.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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, howdid 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.
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 hereand 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….).
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.
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!):
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!
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.
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).
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!)
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).
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.
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….
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.