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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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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Uncategorized

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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