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Reviews

Pivot Switchblade Carbon 27.5+ XT Pro 1x

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.

www.pivotcycles.com

 

Reviews

2018 Marin B-17 First Ride

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.

Until next time… Stay Stoked. Stay Stealth.

www.marinbikes.com

www.swinleybikehub.com

Blog

Fleet MTB Group Survey

Hey y’all,

As you know from my last post, I’m currently working on a new website, which is coming on beautifully! However, I’m also helping out some good mates over at Fleet MTB Group with a survey they’re running, and would love you to have your input. There’s nothing up for grabs for the online survey (although if you can make it to the QECP Southern Enduro on 23rd July you could win an Apple watch courtesy of FMG!), but your voice matters, fellow shredder!

The survey link is below, and you’re awesome in advance for completing it!

https://surveyplanet.com/594e9d990181f921d3320094

Again, thank you! Your email address will not be shared with any third parties, although the dudes at Fleet MTB Group may drop you a note on a rare occasion to give an update in regards to the survey.

The guys also have some super cool jerseys, the first batch has just dropped  and the second order has been placed. If you want more info on getting in on their third run, give me a shout via the contact tab in the menu.  Costs are £55 per jersey (I  wear a large at 187cm and 86kg).

I’m heading back to work on the new website for now, stay tuned (and for sneak previews, keep an eye on the Stealth Riders instagram stories)!

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

 

Please note – whilst there is no prize on offer for completing the online survey, if you wanted to have a read of the T&C’s for the Apple watch competition available to paper based entrants at the first two Southern Enduro rounds, you can do so here.

Blog

YT Rolling Circus / Tues CF Pro ride

Swinley Forest is home to some great trails and the team at Swinley Bike Hub arrange some incredible events too. The #Swinduro, the recent Fox Proframe demo day, regular night rides and BBQ’s, to name a few. From May 5-7, it was no different and I got to channel my inner Gwin… YT Industries had come to town on their ‘Rolling Circus’ tour; a global showcase of the YT demo fleet of Jeffsys, Capras and the Tues.

Of the 10 European stops, 3 were in the UK and I was stoked when I heard one of the venues was Swinley. I booked the day off work immediately with the intention of rocking up and trying all 4 models on the day.

The 5th came around and due to an X-Ray appointment in the morning, I didn’t arrive at Swinley until around 10.30. Boo. By this time, the queue was pretty beastly due to the huge demand of trying out the models from the direct sell German brand, so I chatted with a few of the crowd and then went for a ride on some other bikes in the hope the queue would die down.

Sadly, although the queues did quieten down in the afternoon, I didn’t get the chance to try either of the Jeffsys or the Capra which was a shame, but the vibe on the day was superb; chilled beats, smiling riders, an ever tasty BBQ and the hub had some great products on sale from Fox and Dakine (two of my favourite riding brands), so I was kept entertained even when off the bike.

If you know Swinley, you’ll know that, whilst a brilliant trail centre with something to cater for everyone, a downhill venue it is not. That meant the 2016 UCI World Cup winning Tues was not in as high demand as the trail and enduro bikes. So, Swinley team rider Michael Wilson and I had a chat and before we knew it, we were picking up some jaw-dropping, super stealthy carbon Tues models; Michael took the large £2,870 CF,  with Rockshox Boxxer and Kage shock, whilst I took a new for 2017 XL sized, £3,380 CF Pro, equipped with Fox 40 and X2 shock. At 6’1″, the XL felt perfect.

On the large CF model.

I should add at this point, I have never ridden a downhill bike, so immediately I was impressed by the ultra plush seemingly endless travel… and that’s just taking the bike for a quick warm up around the green trail (possibly the most overkill bike for a green trail ever!).

The CF Pro is dripping with choice components. From the E*Thirteen LG1+ wheelset, cranks and cassette (7 speed, 9-21 ratio), the stealthy carbon frame (203mm front and 208mm rear travel), carbon Renthal fatbars and Integra 35 stem, this bike felt absolutely indestructible, whilst also being a thing of beauty.  Impressively, the CF Tues weighs in at a very modest 35lbs too! Super slack angles, 650b wheels (we’re still waiting to see if 29″ DH is the next big thing… roll on Fort Bill) ensured that the bike is planted, grippy and railed. All in all, quality kit, quality looks and all at a quality price.

Measurements wise, the XL has a top tube of 647mm with a reach of 470mm. Chainstays remain the same across the size range at 435mm, as does the head angle at an ultra slack 63.5 deg. With a wheelbase of 1258mm, it’s around 60mm longer than my Aeris, so nothing too drastic which helped me adjust to the bike very quickly.

The CF Pro

Although the bike was light for what it is, it’s hardly the right bike to ride uphill (duhhhh…). Conveniently however, Tristan had hired a Toyota Hilux for the weekend… so, Michael and I hopped in the back and were treated to a VIP experience; Swinley Forests inaugural shuttle service!

It was a bit of a surreal experience, getting driven to the top of a trail in style – Michael ran a live Facebook video to document the experience, which was a great laugh!

We got to the top of Blue 14 and tried a couple of runs on the DH monsters. Simply put… they flew. I know this trail very well and feel I know every bump, rut and hole. On the Tues, it was like riding on an F1 track.. buttery smooth once again, but great fun too! After a few runs of the trail, we headed to the woods to mess about on a hidden drop, which has a few lines of varying size. Here’s a little clip of Michael and I doing what I think may be my biggest drop to date:

I was stoked to have hit that line, as I love the feeling you get when you know you’re progressing. Big thanks to Michael too for the encouragement. We headed back after a brilliant little session on the Tues models for a burger and a catch up. All in all, a top day, even if the queues were rather long, which did leave a few hopeful testers a little frustrated.

The Tues feels like an insane bike and something I would love to own. However, it is absolutely overkill for anything I am likely to ride for now, although would be a good laugh at places like Bike Park Wales or Forest of Dean. I’ll admit, I am still tempted by a downhill bike to add to the stable though, and I don’t think I’d go wrong with a Tues CF. After all, if it’s good enough for Aaron Gwin, surely it’s good enough for little old me! Again, it’s a thing of beauty to look at, especially in the gloriously stealthy Pro guise, with full black everything! Perfect for Stealth Riders worldwide!

Whilst I was disappointed with not being able to ride the Jeffsy models and the Capra, overall, the Rolling Circus was a great event. Tris and the team ensured it was superbly organised and the YT guys were awesome, helping with any queries, getting you set up on the demo bikes and also offering out some mega tasty beer (thanks to Kia at the hub, I got to sample a fair few of these!).

The tireless efforts that the team, shop staff and ambassadors put in to ensure everybody has a good time is, at times, unreal. They always manage to take a huge event and make it incredibly personal, as though you’re one of the team or an old mate catching up for a chat. It’s hard to explain, but their ethos is about getting rad. You don’t have to be the best or the fastest, you just need to have a great time. That is Swinley summed up.

Back to the bike quickly, the YT Tues is a formidable bit of kit, capable of much more than I am. However, if you like your trails rocky as fook, rutted to hell and steep as a cliffside, this is absolutely the bike for you. I hate the term, but the ‘cockpit’ looks sooooo nice too. The little touches such as the placement of graphics helps remind you that you’re riding a world class downhill bike, guaranteed to leave you smiling for hours after every single ride.

It’s no wonder YT are gaining more and more market dominance year on year. Their formula of producing killer looking, flawlessly performing bikes and matching them with some of the best riders in the world is working very well and YT bikes are becoming the machine of choice for a massive amount of riders globally. The Rolling Circus has only just begun, so by the time they’ve finished the world tour, there will no doubt be thousands of happy new members of the YT Mob, ready to shred their local trails with a massive grin.

YT,  and Swinley, thank you for having me and treating me like a VIP on the day. I felt truly humbled and incredibly grateful, you’re all amazing. I’ll sum the event up by stealing YT’s tagline: GOOD TIMES.

Until next time, catch you later.

Ian @ Stealth Riders

www.yt-industries.com 

 

Reviews

Fox Proframe helmet – first ride

Open face breathability. Full face protection. This is the tagline from Fox for their new Proframe helmet, launched recently. It’s hard to think that a full face lid would be anything other than a sweatbox for all day riding, so I wanted to try one out to see if that tagline rang true.

Sunday 23rd April 2017 saw the Fox Europe team embark on Swinley Forest, one of my local trail centres, on their Proframe World Tour. This was the perfect opportunity for riders like me to try out the new helmet and see what the fuss was about. Even better, they had Pierre-Edouard Ferry (Red Bull Rampage sender and damn nice guy) leading out rides, Russ Cosh from the Swinley Hub cooking up some mean burgers, the awesome Stuart, Joe and the team from Fox and the lovely Rachel (Stuarts other half), in attendance.

Before I go any further, go follow Rachel on Instagram for all things Fox, MTB for chicks and brilliant posts. Top marks too, to Tristan, owner of Swinley Bike Hub, for once again putting on a great event. The Swinley Enduro, the BBQ’s, night rides and all other events are always a brilliant laugh, check one out if you can!

A bearded goon and Pierre-Edouard Ferry – Top bloke and half decent on a bike, too!

I had a chat with the guys and picked up a Proframe in Medium in Moth Teal and the fit was perfect, like Goldilocks tucking into a bears porridge. If it’s not the right fit for you immediately, the helmet comes with a number of different cheek pads to get sizing just right.

I set off on a small solo ride to get some first thoughts and take some photos and WOW. I felt like I wasn’t wearing a helmet on the first trail, and the climb on the second trail usually has me warm in my current helmet (Bell Super 2R, which I usually run without the chin guard), but the Proframe kept me feeling fresh as a daisy.

It probably helps that the visor is fixed to allow for maximum airflow, but more on tech later.

Heading down blue 3 with the wind rushing through my hair and beard (the Proframe has a massive beard vent at the front…), I saw a mate of mine, Marius, taking photos so stopped for a chat and to get a banger shot – cheers Marius!

Photo – Marius Howard

After some more climbs (helter skelter, if you know Swinley), my head was still cool thanks to the 15 big bore intake vents and 9 exhaust vents placed perfectly across the helmet. After a few miles at a reasonable pace, my head was dry and I headed back to the trailhead to catch up with everybody and talk tech with Stuart, Country Manager for Fox GB. So, let me pass that tech talk to you.

Stuart (Front row, second left) on a recent night ride with the Swinley mob

Firstly, the Proframe comes in 8 colours, so there’s guaranteed to be one to suit you. Of course, I’d go with black, but after wearing the ‘Moth Teal’ colourway, I actually really liked it (just don’t tell anybody, ok)! Even with its ridiculously light weight (735 grams for the Medium), it’s fully downhill certified, so you could genuinely feel confident about taking on Fort William or Mont St Anne whilst rocking this lid. Even more so that it comes as standard with MIPS and also includes a ‘Varizorb’ liner, both of which help to spread the force of any impacts away from a central point on your head. Which is always nice.

One thing I was super impressed with, was the ‘Fidlock’ buckle; sometimes when wearing gloves, unbuckling your helmet can be a hassle. The Fidlock allows you to softly press a small button which releases the buckle in a split second. It’s just as easy to do up and, when buckled, it’s not going anywhere.. once again, keeping you feeling confident that the Proframe is going to keep you safe on the trails.

I don’t really do tech talk though, I prefer to focus on the feel on the trail and my personal thoughts, so here’s some more tech from the source and a promo vid:

It’s all fair and well going our for a solo mooch at a decent pace, but I met up with two of the Swinley Bike Hub race team; Michael Wilson and Aidan Burrill, both of whom are absolute weapons on a bike. So, I went for a proper little ride with them to get the sweat going. Even when trying to keep up with the big boys, I felt much cooler than if I was wearing my Super 2R, both in open and full face guises. Incredible stuff, Fox! Don’t get me wrong, I was still a sweaty mess at the end of the ride (damn my love of pizza), but a little less so I think, thanks to the Proframe.

Pricing is also very reasonable, considering the protection, weight, technology and looks (which, can I just say are stunning). At £215 rrp, it’s fantastic value in my opinion. Here’s a few shots to show the look of the Proframe both on and off the head:

Put simply, although I only tried this helmet for an hour or so, first impressions are verrrrryyyyy good. It allows you to climb like a goat and stay cool, yet smash the descents with the confidence of a ‘traditional’ downhill/full face helmet. Sometimes, trying to combine two things can go horribly wrong. Fox however, have created the PB&J of helmets; a delicious combination of open faced breathability, with the performance and confidence inspiring protection of a much heavier helmet.

Top marks for pushing the boundaries, I can see this being a huge hit on the trails across the globe. I’m actually in the market for a new helmet myself and this is now a serious contender. I’d love to have had a longer time demoing it, but I was short on time and to be able to even try before you buy is a wonderful thing!

Is it overkill for the trails you ride? I’d say no. It’s so light and there’s always the chance that even at your local trails you become complacent, so to be able to have the option to ride all day without overheating whilst knowing you’re protected is surely a win-win situation.

Available at all good Fox retailers, although I’d recommend you order yours through Swinley Bike Hub; it’s a great place and, considering Fox chose Swinley as a venue, surely that says a lot.

Cheers!

Ian @ Stealth Riders

www.foxracing.com

Note – This review is my own, I was not asked or paid to do this, I just wanted to give my honest thoughts in the hope that it may help you, fellow shredder. 

 

 

Blog

SDG Custom Decals (#glitterbitch)

So if you follow the Stealth Riders Instagram, you’ll know I’ve been showing off something new with a little bit of sparkle on the stealth machine. I didn’t need any new decals as I’ve only just got my new RockShox Lyriks, but when Fox from South Coast Suspension shared a post from a company called Stickers – Decals – Graphics, it caught both my eye and attention.

Along with your standard replacement decals, SDG offer custom designs in some incredible colourways including a wide range of coloured glitter, oil slick chrome, rainbow, camo and many, many more. There was only one choice for me though, which was stealth black glitter.

I dropped SDG a message on Facebook at around lunchtime on a Wednesday a while back to see if I could get some custom decals for my fork and shock and Mike replied very quickly to say that custom decals weren’t an issue, nor were some stickers. We chatted for a bit and by Wednesday night at around 10.30pm, Mike had sent over a few designs and we agreed on one. Bosh, super speedy service!

Below are some of the rough drafts sent over to show placing and cut lines, so you get an idea of the process:

I paid Mike the next morning and by the Saturday I was in possession of my awesome new decals. Custom design, print and delivery in a matter of days is absolutely unreal, so I was massively impressed with this!

SDG don’t just do fork and shock decals, they offer a whole host of options including wheel and frame decals and 100% custom jobs too. They also offer a load of goodies outside of the MTB world, so be sure to check them out or get in touch for full information.

It’s worth mentioning that pricing is brilliant too. It’s best to get in touch with SDG directly for any custom quotes, but for a whole bunch of stickers, 2 sets of fork decals and some rear shock decals, I was very happy with what I paid.

The quality is fantastic – high grade black vinyl and a glossy laminate are standard (both gloss and matt options are available) and the glitter is smooth to the touch, one slight hesitation I had with ordering. Removing decals can be a pain, but I found it surprisingly easy and application was a piece of cake. Aesthetically, the glitter is subtle enough to go unnoticed in the black guise, but if you’re a colour lover and opt for something other than black, these will stand out in an incredibly good way. I like the subtlety though, as it invites people to take a closer look at the bike, creating a talking point (as you can tell, I like talking bike).

I was also interested in seeing the decals being created and cut, so Mike did me a solid and recorded the whole thing, including a few test runs of some standard stickers. The video is below, check it out if you like that kind of thing (raw sound included):

The final result in video form is below. I used low light and my camera phone to give an idea of how they’d look on a night ride (and also how they’d react to light):

Do the decals make me faster? Nah, but just LOOK AT THEM. Mike has managed to get the Stealth Riders logo into the fork decals and rear shock decal which is incredible. They shimmer in the sun and sparkle at night and yes, I’m starting to sound like I should have my own Disney movie but whatever. Some of my trail buddies have started calling me princess since I fitted them, but I think they look super cool and add a touch of individuality to a bike.  Hell, I’m stoked to be the #glitterbitch of the trails.

A few close ups:

Point is, they look awesome and if you’re looking for something a little different, get in touch with SDG today and see what magic they can work for you. This may have been the first thing I ordered from SDG, it most definitely won’t be the last. Although it’s a picture heavy blog post, even this many photos don’t do the real thing justice. Take a punt, give them a shout and see how good they are for yourself.

Catch you soon,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

 

Reviews

Mudhugger Shorty review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tried and tested on the new Bird Aeris 145 too.

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

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

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

Until next time, peace out.

Ian @ Stealth Riders

www.themudhugger.co.uk

 

Blog

Interview: Scott F – Southern Enduro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Reviews

Marin Hawk Hill review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, cheers,

Ian (and Emily) @ Stealth Riders

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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.