Update – If you want to read the version on Wideopenmag.co.uk, you can do so here!
The dust has settled and the ground nesting birds have now retaken the forest. The inaugural Swinley Forest Enduro is now over, and what an incredible event it was. Before I get started, I wanted to give a massive shout out to Swinley Bike Hub main man Tristan Taylor for organising such a brutally enjoyable event, as well as the riders, marshals, spectators and sponsors, who ensured the day was one to remember for all the right reasons. From strangers, new faces, old and new mates, it was awesome to see you all!
The Swinley Forest Enduro (or Swinduro as it was known on the day), consisted of 7 timed stages between a minute and 7 minutes long, with a loop of around 20km on the day including transitions. As these are some of my local trails and the fact I’ve been on the Hub night rides for the past year gave me some idea of which trails were going to make up the stages; I knew there would be some timed climbing, which suited me well. Having a home advantage also made the fact that there would be no practise much easier for me, as I knew the trails, and knew them well. It had pissed it down the day before, which meant the trails would be tacky and grippy; my Bird Aeris with Maxxis Shorty/Minion SS combo was going to love it.
I turned up nice and early to get signed in, get my race card (#116) and catch up with a bunch of mates that were there on the day. This one really felt like a social gathering with the amount of familiar faces. The MTB world is a small one; a community of like-minded shredders all up for a laugh and a healthy dose of competition.
Categories were called, with Masters setting off at 10am. I rolled off the start line and headed to stage 1. It started from Blue 3, which consists of some massively flowy berms cascading down the side of a hill, then a sharp right into Blue 16 (Helter Skelter); a monster of a climb on the best of days, but knowing you were being timed upped the ante massively. Blue 16 finished with a few small jumps and another set of flowing berms. By the end of stage one I was busted; it was definitely a good stage to get warmed up on!
Stage 2 was an off-piste affair through what’s known as New England. Tight corners, rooted sections and a neat little sprint to the finish. Although my legs still felt a bit battered from stage 1, I got through pretty quickly and sped on to stage 3, which was the killer for me on the day. Starting by Blue 5 (Stickler), riders went down the old route and through off camber roots and tight trails for what felt like forever, before coming to a small double drop just before the finish line. A few unfortunate riders had a crash here, but I luckily sailed through.
Stage 4; Red 15, one of my favourite marked trails at Swinley. We lined up and put the power down through fast turns, big berms and a cheeky double, before rattling through some roots and smashing past the finish. Bosh.
Stage 5 was a quick run through one of the red sections of the Labyrinth area which has many names; ‘Berminator’, ‘Bermasaurus’, or on Strava, ‘Does my berm look big in this?’ As you can guess, it was a constant bermfest, tightly sweeping through the forest with a few jumps thrown in for good measure. This was the preface for stage 6, and after climbing back up K2 (affectionately named because it’s a bitch to ride up!), we queued up for the longest stage of the day; the old Deerstalker trail into the winding roots that make up the Labyrinth. The old Deerstalker started with a small drop that I got wrong and had to put a foot down, but the rest flowed without an issue. I managed to catch up to the rider in front of me, which gave me some confidence that my times may be alright! Stage 6 over and I, along with many other riders, collapsed on the floor to get our breath back after a lung-busting 6(ish) minutes of hammering the pedals through this stage.
Almost over, stage 7 beckoned and I headed towards the final hurdle; my favourite blue graded trail, blue 14. It started with a blast through the woods, pumping anywhere and everywhere I could to conserve energy before a short uphill and into the downhill section; 2 hips to send, then a bunch of fast flowing berms to the finish. Swinley regular Lynn was at the bottom of the run, catching some great shots of haggard riders, so naturally I had to pose like a knob.
Race over, back to the race village to hand in the timing chips. I genuinely couldn’t believe it when it said I was sitting in 10th place of 33 finishers… holy balls! I knew it wouldn’t stay that way, but that still made me smile massively. All said and done, I ended up in 16th from 58 finishers in the Masters category, which I was immensely stoked about, that’s top 20 which is by far my best result so far!
All in all, the climbing was tough when against the clock, but this added an additional challenge to the course and I loved every second of it (I’m one of those weirdos that loves a climb, thanks to my old XC days) and the loop was put together so well by the team. I’m already looking forward to the 2017 event and will be seeking a top 10 there for sure.
Bird Cycleworks had another successful day, with Francie Arthur taking 1st in Women’s, Charles Griffith taking 1st in U18’s and Chris Doney taking 2nd in Elites. Local rider Mark Hemmings took 2nd in Vets too, representing the Stealth black Aeris crew… top job my man! The full results are here, with photos available on Roots & Rain here. You can see an overview of the race circuit on Relive.cc here.
It’s well worth mentioning the race village again too; chilled tunes and a hog roast from Pig & Rig made for a super relaxed atmosphere, allowing for all riders to catch up and chat about their results, bike setups and general shit-chat. The Marin stand was great too; I picked up a neat pint glass and mudguard and even met a quality little tortoise! One thing was evident; the amount of smiles and laughs proved that this was definitely an event to remember, and I, like many others, finished the day in high spirits. Here’s a little slideshow of some snaps I got through the day:
After the podium presentations, a few mates and I headed back out for a 7 mile leg stretcher and to session a little drop we’d found on the previous night ride, which was a good laugh (Thanks to Vlad for the vid below). Heading home after, I was all smiles, listening to some tunes up loud. Arriving home, there was a giant pizza waiting for me, which I reckon was thoroughly deserved.
No time to rest for Stealth Riders, as the final round of the Southern Enduro is fast approaching on the 18th September… time to put the power down and do what I can to finish my first series on a high note. Swinduro, you were awesome, thank you for having me.
Until next time, cheers!
Ian @ Stealth Riders
It’s been bloody hot here in England. We’re used to clouds and drizzle, even in the Summer months. Typically, we complain that we never see any sun. So, what did we collectively do when the recent heatwave kicked in? Naturally, we complained. First it’s too cold, now it’s too hot.
Conversations about the weather rank in the top three grumbles Brits have; the others being queuing and public transport being so shit. Not me, though. I won’t ever complain about seeing actual blue and a strange yellow disc in the sky! No, instead, I get out and ride.
19th July was the hottest day of 2016 so far, peaking at around 32 degrees in Surrey. After a shitty day at work and 2 weeks off the bike due to a hectic workload, getting out and destressing was all that was on my mind. I chatted with my good friend Oscar and we were soon on the road to the ever stunning Surrey Hills to enjoy a sweatfest of a ride.
Although we only managed to get in 12.5 miles before the light began to fade below the tree line, we both smashed some great goals in some intense heat (It was still around 30 degrees when we set out). Oscar absolutely NAILED Yoghurt Pots and Barry knows best, and I finally got down the chute into Thick & Creamy on the first attempt at a decent speed! No matter how small, it’s always good to achieve something!
We weren’t out for Strava times, it was just about getting out, enjoying the weather, dusty trails and having a laugh. It’s always the case though; don’t try, and you seem to do better! It was great to see a few others on the trail, including another Aeris rider (Andy, if you read this, good to meet you).
The colours on a day like that are spectacular; vivid blue skies and a sea of green slowly descend into pink and orange hues with the sun setting and the full moon rising. It truly makes for an incredible scene, only made better by being on the bike and having a good time. Snaking through Barry knows best with the sky turning to blood red in a glorious sunset was a definite highlight for me, topping off an incredible ride. The trails were dry, dusty and loose, with my Maxxis Shorty/Minion SS tyre combo searching for grip in every turn, resulting in a few sketchy moments and some good laughs!
If you’ve not ridden the Surrey Hills, you are seriously missing out. It’s arguably the best place to ride in the South East, just for the fact that there are so many hidden trails to explore over a huge area of land. From the Holmbury St Mary viewpoint, you can see both the London skyline to the North East and the undulating South Downs to the South. Stunning views, trails for all levels and friendly locals; it’s got to be on your list of places to ride. Take a local if you can, to ensure you get the best selection of trails. If you don’t know anybody local, always ask – us mountain bikers are always willing to help out!
I’ll be sure to take the GoPro over there soon, to get a full, in depth trail review up, to help you out.
With just a few days until the third round of the Southern Enduro at a venue near Queen Elizabeth Country Park called Headdown Wood, my fitness is awful and once again, I’m up against some amazing competition. I’m fairly confident in the fact I’ll be propping up the bottom again, but I refuse to drop to the fun category… I’d rather do badly in masters than decent in fun! It looks like I’ve got race number 99, it’s always nice to have double, rather than triple digit numbers. Let’s just hope I can pin it on the day and improve my placing over my last time out.
As always, I’ll be popping a race report up once the dust has settled – stay tuned!
Ian @ Stealth Riders
If you’re here for a cake recipe, sorry to disappoint. I do make a killer cheesecake, but we’ll save that for another time. No, this is about keeping things fresh.
When you’ve been riding for many years, monotony can set in. With me, it’s a rare occurrence thankfully, but it does happen and I’m sure it has happened to you at some point too. Following a pretty painful crash and a subsequent lower than hoped placing at my last race in the Southern Enduro, it wasn’t just my body that took a knock, my confidence did too, which had me digging for the takeaway menus and bailing on rides.
So, what’s the best way to get out of the slump, and get back riding with a smile? For me, it’s about mixing it up. Here’s a few options that I’ve found help me, they may help you too. Have a read, put the Dominos menu down and hit the trails.
Ride solo? Join a group – I used to ride solo all of the time. A lot of friends stopped riding, and I got super blasé about it, riding the same old place, slowly bumbling around the trails, occasionally saying hello to another rider. I then started going out on group rides with Swinley Bike Hub, which were great. Social rides, great laughs and new friends that share the passion. If you ride solo, try heading out with a group… you might just like it.
Night rides – Life is busy, we know this. On the weekends, you may have other commitments, so night rides are a fantastic way to ride your local trails with a twist. Lines seem tighter, trees come out of nowhere and you really find yourself focusing more on getting each section nailed perfectly. If you’re going out on a night ride however, it’s always good to go with somebody, or at least let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. IceDot is a great option too; if you do have an off, IceDot can sense no movement and hard impacts and send an alert to your emergency contact. A small spend for extremely valuable peace of mind.
Explore somewhere new – The same trails become monotonous. Try a new route on your local trails, search for off-piste trails, or try somewhere completely new. Better yet, speak to the locals… we’re all a friendly bunch in the cycling world. Last weekend, my riding buddy Oscar and I got chatting to a local rider over the Surrey Hills… somewhere we’ve been riding for years. He was kind enough to show us some trails we had no idea existed, and in the sloppy conditions, it was absolute hilarity. Dave, if you’re reading this; thank you my man, you were a hero that day.
Enter a race – Challenge yourself. You may be a weekend warrior or trail centre junkie, but how do you fare against your peers? For me, racing was never something I considered until this year. I thought I was pretty quick, but riding the first 2 stages in the Southern Enduro this year has shown me otherwise! Granted, I’d have taken 10th and 14th respectively in the Fun category, but I’m happy propping up the bottom of the Masters, it’s pushing me to develop as a rider, so that next year, I can hunt for better results.
Of course, there are so many races to choose from; Enduro, Downhill, XC, the list goes on and there really is something for everyone with grass roots racing becoming ever more popular. Sign up, have a go, have a laugh. The atmosphere at a race venue with 200+ likeminded people is superb.
Charity rides & Adventures – I’ve only done a few charity rides as I hate begging people for money, but if you’re comfortable in doing so, it can be an incredible experience. The London to Brighton for example (and it’s off road cousin) are fantastic ways of testing your stamina and endurance, and are sure to put a smile on your face. With so many charities existing, I’m sure you could all think of at least one you’d like to help out. Plus, not only are you making a difference to your chosen charity, you’re getting fit at the same time.
Adventure rides are something on my list. I’d love to get a big Bergen, pack it out and ride. Destination unknown, heading out to the wilderness and exploring some of the country you can’t see by car. Luckily, in the UK we don’t need to worry about bears or mountain lions, just the occasional cow, and perhaps an angry rambler or two.
Treat yourself – It’s called retail therapy for a reason. Shopping can be extremely therapeutic. From crank boots to carbon, treating yourself to something new is a great way to put a smile on your face. It’ll also make you want to try the new bit of kit out. Fresh goggles, a fancy new Ohlins fork, or even a new energy gel. I’m not endorsing overspending, of course. Only spend within your means!
Set a goal – 1k, 10k, 100k. Day, month, year. It doesn’t matter. If you’ve got a goal, you’ll strive to succeed. There’s no point in being unrealistic of course, as this can demotivate. I’ve set a personal goal of 1000 off-road miles this year (well on the way at 573 miles as I type this), and completing all 4 rounds of my race series. Goals are great, set one, and smash it. You’ve got this.
Strava – The competitive aspect of trying to beat not only your own PR’s on your favourite segments, but your mates, too. It’s similar to setting a goal, but throws your buddies into the mix. What’s great is you can follow pro/elite riders in your area and try to get as close to their times as possible (if you beat them, then well done you!). I’m lucky that a lot of great UK pros ride the same trails I do, so it’s always a laugh to try. I’m a long way behind them, if you were wondering.
With any luck, this has been helpful and you now want to ride. Just typing it, I’m smiling thinking about the upcoming weekend ride, exploring the Surrey Hills some more with mates. So now it’s over to you. Be great, hit that shit hard and make sure you end the ride grinning like an idiot… it’s why we do it, after all.
Ian @ Stealth Riders
Things to avoid before a race include, but aren’t limited to:
- Having a 4-hour tattoo session two days before.
- Crashing in spectacular fashion one day before, hitting a tree with the same arm that you’ve just had tattooed.
On the weekend just gone, clearly I’d left my brain somewhere else, but I had these things penned in for a while so couldn’t bail at the last minute. These had left me feeling sore, aching and lacking in confidence massively for race day. I’m just spouting excuses now, so enough of that.
Regardless of my result (a lowly 40th from 42 finishers in the ever tough Masters category), it was a fantastic day once again. Thanks to Scott Fitzgerald and the Southern Enduro team, all of the marshals, spectators, riders and photographers, Swinley Bike Hub Race Team, Bird Cycleworks, my riding mates (for some of whom this was their first race), and new faces on the day. A special thanks to Stuart Ross (Foot Out, Flat Out), for the great conversation on the transition stages and through the day.
The final and most important thanks though, have to go to Phil, Neal and the whole crew at Tidworth Freeride and Ian at B1KE for making it all possible and for the excellent trails we rode on the day.
So, Sunday, 12th June, and the morning of the race arrived. I met up with good mates Chris and George in the picturesque Tidworth Polo Club grounds, which was the rider parking venue for the day. We got our gear together and headed to the venue, catching up with the rowdy Swinley Bike Hub race team, all absolute legends in their own rights. I popped down to say hi to the always smiling and ever helpful Bird Cycleworks team too, and spent my rest time on the day between the two tents, catching up with everybody, talking lines, conditions and all things bike.
As we were chatting, riders were signing up and a familiar yellow Mavic jersey stood out in the line-up; Ben Deakin had been offered a place by a friend of his who had dropped out last minute, so, although he’s more at home on the downhill racing circuit and is still coming back from a nasty injury in New Zealand, he absolutely smashed it, coming in third in the Elite category. His antics are well worth a follow on Instagram. #OiOi
We had a short briefing, then headed out to practise the refreshed Tidworth stages; 4 lines, with stages 1 and 2 being ridden twice, to bring the total to 6 timed runs. The overall times are added up, and that determines your result. The weather had been on and off, with spots of rain the night before and forecast throughout the day. Tidworth is quite a chalky venue, so mechanicals, crashes and conservative lines were sure to affect the outcome of the days racing for some riders.
Practise went really well, scoping the lines and making mental notes of the best routes through the numerous technical sections. This was nothing like the Tidworth I had ridden the weekend before, which threw me off a few times over the day! Chris had a massive OTB on the drop/rock garden area of stage 4, but was up and flying again in no time, ending up placing a fantastic 14th in the Fun category; a great result for his first race! George also had a couple of tumbles, but came in 43rd in the Vets category. Again, a cracking result for his first Enduro in a very strong field of riders… well done, lads! After a spot of relaxing after practise, I dropped tyre pressures a little, psyched myself up and headed to the start line, ready to go.
Stage 1 was stunning. A freshly cut, powdery trail, with some neat rooted sections, tight lines and steep descents into loose, loamy switchbacks. All good so far. Back up the transition, the foot traffic began to create a bit of a slippery push up, making for hard work and plenty of sweating by the top!
Stage 2 was my nemesis on the day. One section near the top of this technical track in particular threw me on both attempts, adding a huge amount of time to my runs. The rest was great, with tricky rooted corners, small rock gardens and drops dotted along the way, ending with a few doubles and out to the race village.
Stage 3 was a fast flowing mix of loose dirt corners and chalky berms (which got super greasy and slippery when some showers passed through), ending with a line of tabletops (although a ‘Strava line’ had emerged on the left, which looked a fair bit faster and a lot of riders were taking, myself included). A couple of corners more and stage 3 was done. It was time for a 45 minute break to grab some food, chat shit and re-energise, ready for the final 3 runs.
Rest over, I headed back up to the stage start. Stage 4 used some of the new ‘River Flow’ trail, with a ton of small drops, jumps and the main gathering point of the day for spectators and Ambulance crew; the rocky drop into a brilliantly made rock garden that Chris got acquainted with earlier in the day. This section was hilarious and challenging at the same time; I just survived making it through, despite being rattled about and picking an awful line.
Stages 5 and 6 went pretty much identical to stages 1 and 2 for me – slow, sketchy and lacking in confidence. I ended my day out of breath, but with a huge smile. Although my result was low, I took a lot of learnings from the day, and now it’s time to get working on improving (and not being injured or freshly tattooed!) for round three at Queen Elizabeth Country Park on July 23rd.
There’s really not much point in me putting up my GoPro footage.. not unless you enjoy bad line choices, slow riding, lots of swearing and out of breath 33 year olds. Instead, here’s a short clip of Swinley Team rider Cassie, storming her way to second place even after taking part in an ‘Endure 24’ running event the day before – nice one! As usual, the SBH Team were out on course giving some great encouragement to every rider:
Once again, huge congratulations to everybody on the day, especially to the podium finishers. QECP could be a round for the triple wins for Chris Doney (Elite), Charles Griffith (U-18), Francie Arthur (Womens), Phil Payter (Grand Vets) and Daryl Biles (Senior), all first place finishers in their categories at both Milland and Tidworth, and are all in amazing form this year. No pressure!
You can check out the full results and race photos on Roots & Rain, podiums are below:
Another great race over, I headed for home, exhausted and aching. Although disappointed with my result, the spirit of the day and the laughs shared with fellow cyclists kept me smiling for the entire drive and beyond. For me, the Southern Enduro has so far been a perfect series to find my feet, figure out where I fit in rank and category wise, and is helping me develop massively as a rider. If you’re interested in racing, you can’t go wrong with the Southern Enduro series. QECP is set to be a banger!
The world of cycling is an incredibly friendly one, with everybody supporting each other both on and off the bikes, no matter where you are in the ranks, what you ride, or how old you are. English football ‘fans’ could learn a lot from watching an Enduro series race, that’s for sure.
Ian @ Stealth Riders