I’ve long been a fan of flat pedals when riding. Over the years, I’ve ridden in running shoes, work boots, skate shoes and finally going bike specific a few years ago, Five Tens for a long time. Back in June, I needed a new set of shoes and wanted to try something new. I also wanted something understated and basically black, which proved quite hard to find; there is a lot of lairy kit out there at the moment!
However, after a bit of searching, I stumbled across the Adidas Terrex Trailcross range, and the hi-top ‘protect’ version caught my eye immediately. All black, save for a few striking white lines, there’s no question that these shoes look the absolute business.
Let’s start with construction and materials. The high-top features the ever-reliable stealth rubber sole found on Five Ten shoes (who are part of the Adidas group), D3O ankle protection, ripstop upper, a simple yet effective lace bungee and Ortholite midsoles, ensuring all day comfort.
For those that don’t like the high-top feel of a riding shoe, there’s a low top SL version available which has pretty much the same features.
The look and feel of the Trailcross shoes is, as you’d expect from Adidas, exceptional. Lightweight (the ‘460’ on the ankle is the actual weight per shoe – mine are a UK 9.5 and this is spot on within sizing being true) and comfortable to slip your foot into, they’ve thought of some important factors for a mountain biker. You put a huge amount of pressure through your legs when riding, so Adidas have gone with their Ortholite midsole which really does provide some incredible support when riding. I’ve had some long and dirty days on the bike and not once have my feet felt sore, which has happened in the past with other shoes.
Another great thing they’ve thought of is that we move our feet around when riding and occasionally ankles meet metal. So, a useful D3O pad placed on the Velcro strap of each shoe is a welcome addition and has absolutely saved me some hits over the past 5 months. There’s also a reinforced heel and a little bit of protection for your toes.
My favourite little touch is the lace bungee. I’m absolutely in love with this feature. All too many times in the past have I been riding and laces come loose and flail towards the drivetrain. This, as I’m sure you know, can result in bad things happening and can also interrupt a great ride if you’re in the zone. Not once has this failed me and I’m very happy for this.
The sole isn’t quite a sticky as my Five Ten Freeriders, but I’m quite happy with this as sometimes I felt almost clipped in when paired with my DMR Vaults. However, with the Trailcross shoes, whilst incredibly grippy, there is a little room for movement, meaning you can angle your feet to mimic the direction and flow of the trail. They’ve found the Goldilocks equivalent of sole stiffness too; not too hard, not too soft, just perfect.
Another side note of the sole (and the shoes as a whole) is that they can double as trail walking shoes. I tried this with a hike around Lands End and the Cornish Coastal Path recently and they held up perfectly. The sole has angled lugs which really do grip into both walking paths and when hiking back up to the top of a trail with the bike.
Whilst the Trailcross may look waterproof, they’re sadly not, but that’s why Sealskinz exist. They do repel a lot of water though and also dry extremely quickly, which I found out with a recent trip to Bikepark Wales.. mud, slop and water and my feet still felt relatively dry by the end of the day.
From racing to big trail centres, local rides to hiking, I’ve honestly given these shoes some abuse over the past few months and have only had to chuck them in the wash once to get them back to new. Usually a quick brush down is sufficient to get them looking great again. Even after some hideous treatment, the Trailcross shoes still look like new.
These are genuinely the comfiest shoes I’ve ever ridden with, so I find it strange that I’ve not seen another set being worn on the trails yet! Light, protective and next-generation comfort all at a great price (mine were from Germany so I paid in €, but you can get them for around £100), these should one hundred percent be a consideration for your next trail shoe.
My only grumble with the Adidas Trailcross Protect shoes is that I don’t have a second pair; they’re that good.
Hope are known for making some beautiful components, that’s widely known and accepted. For their first foray into building a frame, they’ve done it again; the HB160 is truly a jaw-dropping work of art that wouldn’t look out of place if it was hung on a wall of a billionaire’s summer mansion in the Hamptons. The sheer time and effort that has gone into making this bike a reality is difficult to comprehend, but some things are most definitely worth the wait and my word have Hope delivered the goods. This post is going to be picture heavy and for damn good reason.
There’s no doubt this bike is visually stunning, so the question on a lot of people’s minds is, how does it ride? As Hope are only producing 500 bikes per year and with a price tag of a cool £7500, this boutique beauty is out of reach for a large percentage of cyclists, myself included. However, I have some very kind friends at Nirvana Cycles in Westcott who just happen to have a demo bike with the even more exclusive ‘factory green’ colourway, and they asked if I’d like to tag along on one of their shop rides and try out the HB160… naturally I was like a puppy raised on cocaine and kibble and jumped at the chance.
So let’s take a look at the bike I’d be riding:
Frame: HB160 Carbon, 160mm travel, Horst link suspension platform
Drivetrain: Hope cranks, Hope cassette, SRAM XX1 shifter and mech
Brakes: Hope Tech 3 E4, 180/180mm
Components: Hope Carbon bar 780mm, Hope AM 35mm stem, Hope lock-on grips, SDG Duster Ti saddle, RockShox Reverb seatpost and lever
You can check out behind the scenes video from the Barnoldswick based team here:
As Hope have the benefit of using their components on the bike, they have created some of their own ‘standards’; a 130mm rear hub spacing (‘anti-boost’, if you will) which still gives insane strength, a 17mm rear axle and a unique bottom bracket setup are just a few ‘non-conformist’ additions. However, you can rest assured that, should you break anything or need a replacement, Hope will be able to sort it.
The HB160 was waiting for me on arrival on a sunny Saturday morning and I met with shop owner Simon and buddy Neil and I got the bike set up; a little extra pressure in the forks and shock and it was ready to roll on a shop ride with some great people around the Leith Hill area of the Surrey Hills. I’ve never really ridden this area, as I’ve always stuck more to the Peaslake side historically. After the ride I did, I am absolutely going to explore that area more, it’s brilliant and has a huge variety of trails from Whistler style tech to road gaps, massive drops and monster senders.
PG going HUGE on a road gap.
I tested a large and, at 6’1”, the bike felt a little more compact that I’d have expected, positioning me a bit more over the front wheel than I was used to. However, the HB160 is a bike that was designed to tackle the climbs and long days in the saddle just as much as the descents. Hell, it’s a British bike and we don’t really do uplifts as much as the rest, so I’m sure Hope had this in mind during the design process.
I was out with a great group; Simon, the shop owner was leading the way and buddy and team rider Phil was on fire as always, sending anything in his path (and taking some great photos). I also met some great people, amongst others: Will (who had the gnarliest crash I’ve seen for a long time, which he thankfully came out of with minor scrapes), Kate, a hella fast shredder with the best shorts I’ve ever seen and Miles, a friend of another team rider Charlie and a rapid little dude!
We did a roughly 10 mile loop taking in just under 2000ft, across various terrain, so I felt I got a great test of the HB160.
The climbs were a cinch, the only time I had to put a foot down was due to my shocking line choice over some roots. Otherwise, it would climb like a true mountain goat thanks to the supremely crisp shifting of the Hope cassette and SRAM XX1 shifter working in perfect harmony.
Descending technical singletrack is, in my mind, where the HB160 truly came alive. The grip the bike delivered was astounding. Where I’d usually pick a line carefully through roots, the HB160 genuinely drifted over the top of everything, as if it was dancing on water; the combination of wide tyres with low pressure, a responsive back end and the geometry positioning me perfectly all came together to produce the most grip I’ve experienced when riding, and I genuinely mean it when I say that.
General riding of the HB160 was great fun too. It felt reliable, trustworthy and above all, energetic. I found the HB160 was easy to get on the back wheel and hop over little features on a trail.
We rode some decent sized jumps and drops and the HB160 swallowed them whole, with the Fox shocks absorbing everything with no question, one or two times the plush 160mm of travel compensating for a few simple, sloppy mistakes. Twisting and turning through the trees on loam dusted trails, the HB160 felt like a jacked-up Honey Badger; compact, rowdy and full of rage just waiting to be unleashed. Small bumps turned into an excuse to get the bike airborne and any slight angle in the trail had me flicking the back end out in search for hero dirt.
One small thing I was particularly impressed with were the Hope grips. The black colour almost became transparent and whilst they looked thin to begin with, they felt supremely comfortable and the knurled construction together with the slight ridge on the outer end of the grip ensured my hands felt perfectly placed throughout the ride.
However, the main thing that had me in awe all day was just how refined the bike was. From the carbon weave glistening when hit by a beam of light through the trees, to the meticulous machining on the swingarm, the design of the bike has been thought through in an almost incomprehensible way. The curves on the frame are glorious and every detail has been covered; it truly is a masterpiece of design.
The handling of the bike just increases the ‘wow’ factor of the HB160 too. Snappy, sharp and ultra-responsive, it was an absolute joy to ride and I’m hugely thankful to Nirvana cycles (Neil in particular for organising it) for allowing me to ride this beast of a bike. The shop rides are superb fun with a great vibe and shop owner Simon took the time to offer some great advice to some of the newer riders which was great to see. Even better, the ride ends with a curry back at the shop; a great way to get your energy back for the day ahead!
I only experienced a couple of downsides with the HB160 during my ride; firstly, the Reverb was very slow at returning to its extended position, even after fettling with the speed. Secondly, as I felt a bit more compact on the bike than I was used to, I would have loved a little extra width in the bars. An 800mm bar rather than a 780mm would have been preferable, but both of these are easily rectified, so neither would be a show stopper when considering a purchase.
I actually struggled to write this review as it’s hard to convey how impressive the HB160 was in words. It’s perhaps because I felt a bit humbled riding this bike; if I’m honest, it was almost like letting a gibbon drive a Formula One car.
The HB160 is an exceptional bike, made by the best. It’s no surprise that it comes at a premium, but then you’d not expect to pay peanuts for a McLaren or an Aston Martin, would you? If you’re lucky enough to have the budget for this one, you simply must test one and you cannot go wrong with a shop ride with Nirvana Cycles to put it through its paces.
I’m off to put one of my kidneys on eBay, I’ll catch you soon.
Peaslake is a small, idyllic village that sits unassumingly in the heart of the Surrey Hills. In this village with a quaint little village store, stunning houses and a great pub, sits a small shop called Pedal & Spoke. For the past 7 years, it’s been the unrivalled powerhouse of the UK Santa Cruz market. Owner Howard Wagstaff is a lovely guy, known for wearing two things in particular; a welcoming smile and his trademark flip flops. Seriously, even in the depths of Winter, Howard is rocking the open feet look. If 5.10 don’t give him a signature set soon, I’d be surprised.
Supporting Howard is shop mechanic and all-round legend Jack ‘Mouse’ Roadley. Again, Jack is always smiling and having a laugh with the locals and newcomers alike and is always happy to help with anything. He’s a big supporter of Stealth Riders too, so I’m naturally chuffed by this!
Finally, there’s Mags, the shop dawg. A beautiful little Jack Russel, Mags can usually be found chilling out in her bed under one of the counters or near the tees. That is, until she hears the rustle of a paper bag with a cheese straw inside. Ears perk up instantly and the stereotypical ‘puppy dog eyes’ come out. All in all, Pedal & Spoke really is the quintessential ‘local bike shop in the small village’, inclusive of boutique brands and the friendly ‘locals service’ which is extended to all who walk through the door. It’s the perfect location; Surrey is one of the most affluent areas in the UK and the Surrey Hills just so happen to have some of the best trails to ride in the South East of the UK too, so it’s all a match made in heaven. It’s no surprise then, that Pedal & Spoke only sell Santa Cruz bicycles. Affluence demands perfection, so why sell anything else?!
After a quick chat with the guys, I was graced with a Large Santa Cruz Nomad C, the ‘S’ model in the gorgeous Ink/Gold colourway, which sits at a shade under £5k, and was told to simply ‘take it out for as long as you want and enjoy it’. And that’s exactly what I did. 6 hours later, I returned the Nomad, and below is what came of my time with the bike.
Nearly everything has changed with the 2018 Nomad and it really has been redesigned from the ground up. After years of development and research with it’s big brother the V10, Santa Cruz have trickled that tech and design down to the Nomad, to allow what seems to be basically a hill friendly mini DH bike. I’m pleased to see they have stuck with 27.5″ wheels, too.
Longer and slacker, the 2018 Nomad has a much lower placed shock, passing through the split seat tube. This change allows growth in travel from it’s predecessor, from 165mm to 170mm, and allows the bike to effectively feel the same on the descents as a full-blown downhill bike.
The Mk4 Nomad is a big departure in styling terms from the Mk3 and below is the proof of this. I was accompanied on the day by my buddy Phil G, who just so happens to ride a stealth black Mk3 Nomad. Aesthetically, I genuinely cannot choose a favourite; each has it’s own standout points and are both stunning in their own right, so I’m still torn. You can make your own mind up.
The S model I was demoing on the day is the mid-range offering of the Nomad family, with build highlights below:
Frame: Full carbon Forks: Rockshox Lyrik RC 170 Shock: Rockshox Super Deluxe R Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed Brakes: SRAM Code R, 180mm rotors F&R Bar/Stem: Race Face Aeffect with Santa Cruz Grips Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb, 170mm (L/XL models, smaller models get a shorter drop) Wheels: 27.5″ E13 TRS 30mm rims with Novatec hubs, boost spacing. Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 Front / Maxxis Minion DHR 2.4 Rear Weight: Approx 29lbs
The Nomad also comes in an alloy guise, with prices starting at a friendlier £3,599. However, if you’re a bit more flush with cash, you can opt for the carbon ‘Reserve’ model; the Cremé de la créme of the range which will set you back over £7,500. Regardless of the model, the 2018 Nomad really is a joy to look at – sleek lines, stunning colours and that unmistakable classy look of a Santa Cruz bicycle:
It was a bit of a grim day and the rain had been coming in over the few days before, so there was going to be some mud. Phil and I decided to start out by stretching the legs with a road climb up to Holmbury St Mary, the typically drier hill of the three on the day, up to one of the Surrey Hills’ more famous trails; Barry Knows Best (BKB). Like an engine on a cold day, I take a little while to get warmed up and into the swing of things, as I’m sure most of you do too. After a bastard climb up, the descent of Barry gave me the chance to pump the bike through small dips, test the tyres in the corners and put the power down on the fast sections. Soon enough, I was feeling ready for the more gnarly, technical trails the Surrey Hills is known for.
We rode up towards Pitch Hill and I was very pleasantly surprised with the climb up ‘Deathstar’; if you know it, you’ll be pleased to hear that a 170mm bike can sail up. The rider, not so much.. after clipping a small rock, I was guided into a small gully and my climb came to a halt. Still, if I’d not made that mistake, the climb would have been easy enough. We rode ‘Proper Bo’ to warm up a little more and that gave me the first taste of the Nomad in the air. Whilst it’s a tiny double, it’s still good to get a feel before the bigger stuff, and the bike flew smoothly through the 4-5ft double and landed as if it was a kerb.
Feeling more comfortable on the bike, it was time for something a bit bigger. We rode up to the entrance of Thick & Creamy, known for its super rocky, technical gully entrance, which then opens up to two drops; the first being over a downed oak tree and the second launches you into a huge berm before a smooth table. The Nomad sailed through everything with ease. It was, simply put, the smoothest run of that trail I’ve ever experienced, with travel feeling endless and the wheels feeling railed. I didn’t think I’d ever say that the drops on this trail would feel small, but the Nomad swallowed them without question.
We rode towards Winterfold Forest and the climb there once again surprised me. How the hell is a 170mm bike pedalling this well?! I mean it when I say this, the Nomad felt like a 130-140mm bike on the climbs. We reached a favourite trail of mine (and everybody else), Evian, and again, sailed over the first 8-10ft double, through the tight berms and over the second, smaller double. It was at this point I realised my face was beginning to ache a little. I figured out this was because for the past few hours of riding and chatting, all I’d been doing was smiling and laughing, even as the mud and slop began to cling more to me and the bike. It’s not every day I enjoy a ride this much, so I was not going to take it for granted.
We rode a few more of the trails around the Winterfold area, including Northern Monkey and again, the Nomad never skipped a beat. Not once. Even on greasy roots, as soon as I felt a wheel begin to give, the Nomad shifted into autopilot, ensuring I remained upright and railed. Honestly, it was a strange feeling and I can’t quite explain it; where I’m certain I’d have fallen a few times on another bike, I somehow kept things together on the Nomad, saving me an embrace with some of Surreys finest mud.
One thing I was very curious about in the morning when picking the bike up was, considering the state of the trails and the general muddy conditions the UK has in comparison to California, the position of the rear shock. Surely, with the shock placement so low and close to the rear wheel, this was a recipe for disaster. However, it’s amazing what one tiny piece of plastic can do. This just goes to show that the small details really do make the differences. Not once was I hampered by mud clogging the shock, nor did I feel anything other than buttery smooth compression and rebound. Top marks to Santa Cruz for the innovative ways they’re addressing minor points to ensure maximum stoke levels.
Phil and I headed back to the village centre for a bite to eat and a warm brew, courtesy of the ever-lovely Trudy and team at the Peaslake Village Store. At this point, Phil had to head off. Covered in mud, damp and aching a little, I could at this point have finished the ride. But why quit on a good thing? I was still feeling stoked to be on this bike, so I set off for a full climb to the Holmbury St Mary viewpoint and test through Yoghurt pots; undulating corners, much like a roller coaster made of gnar. At the viewpoint, I bumped into Marcia Ellis, who, a few years ago launched Surrey Hills MTB Chix, a group dedicated for getting women out riding. We had a good chat and it’s awesome to see how far women riding has come and it’s thanks to Marcia and co that are driving the revolution.
I hit Yoghurt Pots and managed to get through most of the trail without pedalling, instead opting to pump through everything I could and the immediate speed generation the Nomad produced was inspiring. It’s always a trail that guarantees a smile from me, and this time I think it was just a touch bigger than ever before.
Finally, I headed back to the first trail of the day, BKB. This time however, I knew the bike and how it handled, so the bike and I worked in unison, nailing every rut, root and berm. I finished the trail feeling elated, yet sad to know my time with the Nomad was coming to a close. I span the last few hundred metres back to the shop, reminiscing on the sheer epicness of the ride I’ve just had, hosed the bike down and hung it back up on the rail outside whilst having a chat to a mate that was at the shop, James B. Thanking Howard and Jack, I said my goodbyes and got changed into some fresh clothes before heading home to reflect on the day.
HUGE thanks to everybody on the day, especially Howard and Jack for the demo and Phil for the company. As always, a big shout out to Trudy for the big smiles and beautiful coffee too and a ‘great to see you’ to Marcia and James. The cycling community is just incredible and consistently friendly, no matter who you are.
Talking quickly on Pedal & Spoke, they are, simply put, THE place to go if you want a Santa Cruz. They have an insane choice of demo bikes to try out, offer an impressive part-exchange service on your old Santa Cruz if you’re eyeing the latest model and provide top service, products and advice, all the time with good laughs.
I mentioned it in the opening paragraphs, but one thing that stood out for me was the level of relationship the guys in the shop had with their customers – from loyal clients turned friends, to new customers looking to buy the latest kit, the service was impeccable, dedicated and truly bespoke to each need. Still, it’s hard to see how the service wouldn’t be anything less than world class… the guys work in the heart of the stunning Surrey countryside with some of the best trails in South East on their doorstep, offering some of the nicest bikes currently available to some incredibly friendly people. Add to this the allure of the best cheese straws in the galaxy.. did somebody say dream job?!
I was going to write something big here, but I honestly don’t think I need to. Simply put, you know that warm fuzzy feeling you got when you had your first crush? By the last few trails of the day, that’s how the Nomad had me feeling. I think it could be love…
June 22nd is a date that will always stick in my mind. A few things have happened on this date in recent history. In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. In 1986, Maradona scored the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal in the world cup quarter finals. In 1958, Evil Dead actor Bruce Campbell was born and in 1969, Wizard of Oz actress Judy Garland passed away.
On that date in 2012, I tried inflatable sumo wrestling for the first and last time. It was a glorious evening and I was at a work summer party. Drinks were flowing and there was a ton of fun shit to do. So, after a few free beers, the challenge of inflatable sumo wrestling was laid down and the bravado of drunken lads came out, myself included.
I stepped up, climbed into the inflatable suit and faced up against my buddy Jon. The ref signalled the start of the bout and we smashed into each other, each gaining a point by getting the other out of the ring. The third and final round came up and I was feeling good; I’ve got this, it’s time to be declared the champ. You could liken the atmosphere to the recent Mayweather vs McGregor clash, with drunken cheers from all sides. I went in for the kill, but my buddy had seen my move coming and, fuelled by booze, picked my fat arse up and body slammed me for the win.
It’s at that exact moment my body hit the ground that makes this day memorable. Not because I lost, but I felt a bit of a ‘pop’ when I landed, then struggled to get up. “It’s just a combination of the becks and admitting defeat”, I thought. I managed to get through the rest of the evening and went home, ready to nurse a savage hangover for the weekend.
Saturday morning came and I was in agony. I’ve got a high pain threshold and I was in tears just trying to get out of bed, so I knew something was, to quote Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys, fucky. After a week off work in serious pain (the typical man thoughts of ‘meh, it’ll go away’ were in full swing), I was forced to the doctors. After a quick check, I was told it was probably some muscle damage, was told to take some ibuprofen and was sent on my merry way.
Things didn’t get better and I was back at the doctors a few days later in even more pain. I’m talking ‘can’t put your socks on or have a piss without shedding a tear’ kinda pain. I persisted and was referred to the hospital for a scan. After waiting what felt like forever, I was told I had 2 herniated discs in my lower back (L4/L5 and L5/S1). Great.
Why am I posting this? Because it’s at this point I was told to give up cycling. I admitted defeat and eventually sold my bike, resigning to the fact that cross stich or extreme netflixing was to become my hobby of choice for the rest of my days.
I went from 3 rides a week to simple physio and ditched a balanced diet for mostly Papa Johns, so the weight ballooned. I hated life and the pain in my back was unbearable, so the doctors prescribed me with a repeat prescription of Tramadol and told me to take up to 8 a day. Now, anybody that has experienced Tramadol will already know, but hooooooly shit. Imagine floating through life without a care in the world. Tramadol is an opioid, along the lines of morphine, which essentially blocks the pain to your nerves. Whilst this helped me forget the pain (and pretty much everything else around me), it didn’t solve the problem.
Persisting with the doctors, I was finally booked in for an op… nearly two years after the fateful day and after two years of taking ridiculous amounts of Tramadol. March 19th came around and the last thing I remember on the morning of the op was a nurse spraying something very cold on my arse, then I was out like a light. I should clarify too; when I say op, it was a caudal epidural, which is effectively a very strong steroid injection directly into the spine. I came around and remember talking shit with the nurse and going home the same day.
Things were still sore, but I was given a great physio who was also a cyclist and he worked absolute wonders. I came off the Tramadol with huge difficulty (2 years of daily opioid taking had left me hooked, which fucking sucked) and slowly started to feel more human again.
It’s at the point of working with the physio that cycling came back into my life. He asked me to set a goal, and I chose to compete in a race. We focused on core exercises to strengthen my back and general core and, after a few months, I began to feel myself again. Granted, I was out of shape and super fat (topping at 17st at one point), but it was time; I needed a bike in my life and I went for a pure XC machine from German direct sell manufacturer Canyon. The Nerve 120 put a spark back in my life that had been missing for 2 years and I was complete again.
From there, I rode with a smile every time. I met increasingly more people that I’m stoked to call my buddies and I changed the Nerve for the much more enduro Bird Aeris. More importantly, in late 2015 I was feeling back to my full self and entered the 2016 Southern Enduro series, of which you can read about my crap results in earlier posts. But fuck it, I’d achieved my goal my physio set me and I wish I could thank him now. Without his help, I’d probably be an Olympic cross stitcher, but not a cyclist. However, I cannot remember his name, and I hate myself for that, but, random physio, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve made me myself again and I am forever grateful.
Thankfully, all this time later, my back is feeling much better. There’s occasional pain, but with the right exercise (mountain biking, duh), life is more than manageable and I’m stoked to sling my leg over my bike every single time.
I write this now as I’ve not yet raced in 2017, choosing to only race one event; the Swinley Forest Enduro on the 17th September. My diet has been awful and I’m not anywhere near as fit as I’d like to be, but I don’t care. Just a few years ago I was told I’d never ride a mountain bike again so, regardless of my result, I just cannot wait to get involved and be amongst friends and like minded shredders at what is sure to be an incredible event. If you’re there, give me a shout; I look forward to seeing you. If you’re hunting a podium then good luck. If you’re there for the vibes, enjoy. If you’re just there to shout and cheer, then be loud.
There’s five things this post may help you out with in terms of advice:
1 – You can do anything. Injuries heal and, with the right support, you can get back to your old self. I know some rad riders that have arthritis, false hips and many other ailments but, with the correct attention and treatment, they’re out there amongst it, shredding with the best of them. You can do it too.
2 – Take the offer of support from your friends and family. Immerse yourself around those that want to help and develop you, helping get you, back to you. If it wasn’t for them, I may have just given up completely.
3 – Whatever you’re doing, have fun doing it and remember to keep smiling. Never give up.
4 – Set yourself goals that, at the time, you may think are unrealistic and unattainable. Then go out there and smash that goal. Everybody has it in them… as Shia LeBeouf once famously said… “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.. JUST. DO. IT”.
5 – Don’t bother with inflatable sumo wrestling. It fucking sucks.
So once again I’ve been super slack with posting, but there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I’ve been busy with my gorgeous wifes birthday and then had some family visiting from overseas; my Ma from the US and my bro and his family from Poland, all of whom I’ve not seen for a few years, so I’ve been spending some quality time with them (which included getting my bro and bro-in-law out on some bikes to shred the Swinley Forest trails).
Secondly, I’ve been busy having some conversations with a lot of people with regards to some exciting upcoming things. I won’t say any more at this stage but trust me, it’ll be worth the lack of posts!
Third, I’ve been working away on the merch side and again, having some great conversations to increase the selection of goodies to offer you amazing people. The great news is, sticker packs will shortly be available to buy, and I’m waiting on a few other things which I’m so stoked about. But, back to the stickers for now, as everybody loves stickers. Once again, I’ve used the brilliant Stickers-Decals-Graphics to produce them.
Mike at SDG is amazing and understands things first time as he’s a bit of a shredder too, so I can’t wait for them to arrive in the coming days. There will be 5 different stickers per pack, available in both black and white on a transparent background. So, once they hit the SR store, get involved and stick them wherever you can.. your bike, car, lid, cat, nan.. anywhere! Pop them on Instagram and use #stealthriders for some sweet, sweet karma! Here’s a preview of the stickers (ignore the pink lines, they’re cut lines so will not feature. These are also not to scale):
All stickers will be sized to be bike friendly, you’ll be pleased to hear! Stay tuned for the post on Instagram to let you know when they’re on sale. As with everything, there will be a limited stock, so you’ll need to be quick!
I’ve also been busy with getting tees posted out to everybody that has ordered one. A huge, sincere thank you to you all – you’re the ones that are here at the beginning and hopefully for the long run, and each and every one of you is a legend in my books. Whilst there’s many more of you rocking tees, here’s a few shots of some of you heroes:
On top of that, I’ve been working on an ambassador programme, where I’ll be doing all I can to support 5 riders through 2018. Each month I’ll be calling out for a shredder and August saw some incredible entries. In the end, the first #teamstealth ambassador was chosen for his insane skills for such a youngster.. welcome Charlie Waller! You can check out his bio here. If you were wondering who the featured image is, that’s Charlie himself.
Everybody who entered in August will go into the draw for September, but you can still enter too; stick to the Instagram page to see the next call out and get involved. Whether you’re stepping on podiums or propping up the bottom, or, if you’re not racing and just love to ride any discipline, Stealth Riders is looking for you. Remember, all you have to do to be in with a chance is #staystoked when you’re out on two wheels.
The icing on the cake is I’ve been drafting some reviews of some smaller bits, as I think it’s worth sharing my views on some ace accessories. These will be up soon, once I’ve got some worthy shots!
Oh yeah, and I’ve been riding as much as I can in between all of this and the day job… the 2017 Swinley Forest Enduro is coming up very soon, so I’ve been trying to cram in a few miles in preparation for that! It’s the only race I’m doing this year as I have other commitments, but if it’s anything like 2016, it’s sure to be an absolute blast and I can’t wait to get involved, regardless of the result!
I’m stoked for the journey ahead and look forward to keeping you all updated on happenings as and when I can do so.
Ok, so the title is a bit of a mouthful, but Pivot don’t do things by half measures. From the first bike brand to use Di2, to the first to use pressfit bottom brackets, Pivot are always ahead of the curve when knocking out new and unique bikes.
The reason for the long title of this absolutely stunning bike is the sheer option of builds Pivot offer. I was at Swinley Bike Hub recently and they let me loose on this model, which sits in the middle of the range of the carbon models with a few choice upgrades, which sits around the £6k mark. Whilst their latest Mach 5.5 is the talk of the town at the moment, I really wanted to try this one out and once again, the Hub generously sorted me out.
Let’s start off with Pivots very own introduction video:
Now you’ve had a proper introduction, let’s get to it. I tried the 27.5+ variant, but the Switchblade, as the name suggests, can also change to a 29″ Enduro weapon. In the 27.5+ guise, it’s genuinely like riding a bike that, instead of tyres, has octopus tentacles wrapped around some ‘holy crap I’d sell a kidney they’re so nice’ Reynolds carbon wheels with ‘ugggghhhhh’ inducing Industry Nine hubs, which look (and sound) resplendent on a bright Summers day.
The chainstays on the Switchblade are the shortest on the market at a tiny 428mm and, with their huge 157mm ‘Super Boost Plus’ rear hub (usually reserved for DH bikes) and long, low geometry, this bike refuses to let you get sketchy, no matter how hard you try. And trust me, I tried. Swinley Forest has some great hidden trails with some great features that allow you to really test a bike out in all ways, and the Switchblade never missed a beat.
The looks of the bike are downright filthy, with the red and black complementing each other perfectly. Weight, even with plus tyres, is incredibly light, sitting around 28lbs. Here’s some of the standout features:
Compatible with both 29 and 27.5+ wheelsizes
Fits 27.5+ tires up to 3.25” wide
Fits 29er tires up to 2.5” wide
Features Pivots new long and low geometry
Ultra short 428mm (16.85”) chainstays beat every other bike in the category
Front derailleur compatible with Pivot’s stealth E-Type mounting system
135mm dw-link rear suspension with upper clevis and linkage and double wishbone rear triangle
Designed for a 150mm fork, fits forks up to 160mm
27.5+ spec’d with 40mm inner width Reynolds carbon wheels and aggressive new Maxxis REKON 2.8 tires
Pivot Cable Port system for easy internal routing of shifters, brakes and droppers and full Di2 Integration
The DW link is a tried and tested winner too, with premium brands such as Turner and Ibis also using the same design. It’s evident that any pedal bob disappears and you get an extremely smooth, progressive feeling throughout the stroke. Not only does it work like a charm, it looks great, too.
Whilst I didn’t get too much time on this bike, I genuinely enjoyed every single second. Climbing was a breeze, descending was a dream, hell, even fireroads were fun to ride on the Switchblade, with the hum of the Maxxis Rekon tyres nearly getting you into a meditative state and in the zone before the next trail.
The combination of Fox 36 up front and a custom tuned DPS Evol rear shock are superb additions to an already great bike, which ooze performance at every bump, rut or root. There were times the 135mm of rear travel felt like it needed a little more, but that was only on the bigger features of the off-piste areas.
As above, as I didn’t get to spend as much time as I’d like on this bike, I can’t really give too much detail on specs, geo and everything I’m sure you’re here to read, but what I can tell you is this; the Pivot Switchblade, whilst expensive, is truly a ‘rip the lips off of your face’ fun bike to ride. Granted, at a certain level, the cost of bikes does get to the ‘law of diminishing returns’ levels, but I do think that, if I was in the market for a plus sized carbon trail bike with huge versatility, it would be between this and possibly the Santa Cruz Hightower. I’ve not tried the Hightower, but the sheer fact that it offers a more ‘industry standard’ 148mm boost rear spacing means I would probably err towards that, rather than the Switchblade.
That said, I can’t form a proper opinion until I’ve had a blast on a Hightower. I’d love to feel the difference between the VPP and DW suspension designs and truly make my mind up, so I may get in touch with my local Santa Cruz dealer, Pedal & Spoke, very soon to make it happen, so stay tuned.
Pivot are making some fantastic bikes and they’re absolutely worth checking out if you’re looking for a high end bike with a proven pedigree. I very much enjoyed my ride on the Switchblade, I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed either.
I think the technical bods at Marin have been very busy with R&D. Rather than metal and carbon, I can’t help but think they’ve been experimenting with genetic engineering. Somehow, they’ve managed to mix a fluffy little kitten with a freight train and they’ve created something stunning; the 2018 B-17.
I was lucky enough to be at Swinley Forest recently on a solo ride and the pre-production B-17 was available. So, I switched my SR71 Blackbird for the all new heavy hitter, the B-17. Swinley Bike Hub had a few of the top of the range ‘three’ models and my word, do they look stunning! A raw finished aluminium frame housing a 120mm Rockshox super deluxe shock within their acclaimed MultiTrac platform, Vee Tire Co Crown Gem 2.8” tyres with gorgeously retro gum walls, Sram GX Eagle 12 speed drivetrain, SLX brakes, 2018 Rockshox Pikes with new charger damper, KS Lev dropper post and a whole host of other perfectly paired components.
All of this sits around boost spacing front and rear and 38mm internal diameter rims, leaving you feeling sturdier than Hulk Hogan sitting on Andre the Giants shoulders. Planted does not even begin to describe the feeling of the B-17.
I mean, for the love of all that is holy, look at it and tell me it doesn’t throw you back to the good old days of dial up internet, brick phones and global hypercolour t-shirts:
In case you can’t tell, I was won over by the looks and price of this bike as soon as I saw it. At a touch over £3k, it, like many other Marins, is superb value for money and like a Rogers DAB radio, manages to blend a mix of retro and modern together – again, engineering (genetic or otherwise) at its finest!
They’ve always been one of my favourite brands. I’ve owned 2 Mount Visions from 2008 and a 2010 Attack Trail, all with the beautiful quad link suspension design that worked flawlessly and my wife has the 2017 Hawk Hill, so they definitely hold a special place in my heart.
However, the past few years have seen Marin quite possibly reach the pinnacle of their designs to date. With the eye-catching Wolf Ridge, the ever-reliable Mount Vision and now the B-17, they’re winning the hearts and minds of mountain bikers worldwide.
Anyway, enough of the rose-tinted reflections and back to the bike. I’d already done 12 miles on my bike in the morning in some nice weather, so the legs were feeling ready for a tear up on the B-17. I headed out to the sweeping trails of the forest to hit some berms and gauge grip from the beefy plus tyres. I’d not been convinced of plus bikes before now, but I’m now absolutely sold on them. It was genuinely like being on rails, with confidence in the corners running at an all-time high. The Vee Tire Crown Gems easily hold their own against the competition and I felt more at home on these than the Maxxis Rekon or DHF plus tyre.
I tested a large frame and it was absolutely spot on. The ride felt compact despite a long toptube thanks to super-short 435mm chainstays, which gave it a positively aggressive stance that begged you to push the bike to its limits. The feel of the bike in general was sublime, with everything working in unision. Roots felt like twigs, braking bumps were a thing of the past and the ‘hummmmmmmmmmmm’ of the tyres when riding between trails kept me smiling all day. Even when the British Summer decided to do one and the rain came in.
Still, a bit of rain meant I got to sample the bike in some new conditions and I’m pleased to say that not once did the B-17 miss a beat. Whilst I was getting soaked (protip – if you have a waterproof jacket in the car, take the damn thing with you), the B-17 remained faithful and powered through newly developed ruts, mud, slop and anything else it was confronted with.
Although I only managed to get in another 12 miles on the B-17 before I resembled a prune and had to call it quits, I immediately felt like I belonged on this bike; a feat only managed by a few other bikes before. I cannot fault the B-17, nor can I fault Marin for what they’re doing; breaking boundaries and pushing limits. Other bike manufacturers take note; this is how you make a fun to ride, great to look at bike at an equally pleasant price.
If the ‘three’ is out of your budget, there are two further models to choose from, both with some great kit and colourways. The range starts from approximately £1600, so very much entry level contenders and, in my humble opinion, quite possibly a bike of the year contender.
If I had the spare funds, a B-17 three would one hundred percent be gracing my mancave. Sadly, a bathroom renovation is apparently my priority according to the better half (you can all booooo her if you want), so I can only hope that Marin find a spare one behind their R&D sofa that they simply don’t want anymore and feel kind enough to donate it…
Big thanks as always to the team at Swinley Bike Hub for being so accommodating and getting me on board this beauty of a bike at such short notice. They really do go above and beyond and prove that customer service and the independent bike shop is definitely not dead.
Stay tuned to the Marin website to see full information very soon and, if you have a spare £3k burning a hole in your pocket and you’re looking for plus sized perfection, you will absolutely not go wrong with the B-17. I genuinely couldn’t speak higher of this bike if I tried.
As you know from my last post, I’m currently working on a new website, which is coming on beautifully! However, I’m also helping out some good mates over at Fleet MTB Group with a survey they’re running, and would love you to have your input. There’s nothing up for grabs for the online survey (although if you can make it to the QECP Southern Enduro on 23rd July you could win an Apple watch courtesy of FMG!), but your voice matters, fellow shredder!
The survey link is below, and you’re awesome in advance for completing it!
Again, thank you! Your email address will not be shared with any third parties, although the dudes at Fleet MTB Group may drop you a note on a rare occasion to give an update in regards to the survey.
The guys also have some super cool jerseys, the first batch has just dropped and the second order has been placed. If you want more info on getting in on their third run, give me a shout via the contact tab in the menu. Costs are £55 per jersey (I wear a large at 187cm and 86kg).
I’m heading back to work on the new website for now, stay tuned (and for sneak previews, keep an eye on the Stealth Riders instagram stories)!
Ian @ Stealth Riders
Please note – whilst there is no prize on offer for completing the online survey, if you wanted to have a read of the T&C’s for the Apple watch competition available to paper based entrants at the first two Southern Enduro rounds, you can do so here.
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.