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.
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 justLOOK 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.
My day job is in travel and January is always manic, so I decided to book 2 days off and ride bikes instead. Rather than ride mine, I thought I’d give the new Bird Aeris models a go and pop some first impressions up to help people that may be looking for a new bike.
Bird have redesigned their full suspension Aeris and now have 2 more curvy models based around metric shocks and boost spacing; the One20 and the One45.
I gave the guys at Bird a shout and before I knew it, I was picking up the new Aeris One20, Birds newly designed 130/120mm trail bike and was en-route to Swinley Forest, which I figured would make an excellent testing ground for a bike with this amount of travel. It was a damn cold but sunny day, sitting around minus one, so the ground was crisp with some damp spots on the more loamy sections. A perfect day to spend outside, rather than confined to an office. If you’ve not been to Swinley Forest yet, I’d highly recommend it for it’s all weather friendly trails and the laughs you’ll have at the hub with the team there.
The model I tested was a large, which at 6’1”, was spot on. Kitted out with 130mm RockShox Pikes, their new metric Deluxe RT3 rear shock, SRAM GX 11 speed drive and Guide RS brakes and DT Swiss E1900 wheels with Maxxis Minion DHF front, High Roller 2 rear both running low pressures of around 18psi. Keeping the muck away is the ever reliable Mudhugger shorty. It was a setup similar to my current bike, except the new models now sport bottle cage mounts, making them super enduro!
My initial thought was that the weight was very low for an aluminium bike. I didn’t weigh it with scales, but was impressed with both that and the sleek new curves and frame design in general. Heading through the high sided berms of the blue runs at Swinley, immediately I could feel the bike gripping in the cold, icy conditions too. At times, it felt like I could get practically horizontal and still go lower.
The bike is also long. Very long, with a top tube of 655mm on the large, offering a wheelbase of 1220mm! However, thanks to a steep seat tube, during the climbs it also felt compact which worked in my favour… it’s hard to explain, but it just works. You can check out the full measurementsbelow:
What impressed me most however, is when I got to the red sections and off piste areas. I figured I’d hit a few drops that I’d not usually attempt on a short travel bike, but it ate them up with ease. It’s a bike that definitely punches above its weight in terms of gravity riding; I didn’t feel like I had 120mm travel, that’s for sure. As somebody that can’t jump for shit, it also inspires confidence and after a few attempts, I was clearing the table on Babymaker like a (not so) pro.
The metric shock may have something to do with this. It felt a lot smoother and more progressive than my Monarch RT3 Debonair. Technical data isn’t my strong point, but I’m sure the Bird guys would be happy to explain ramp up and linear feels! A few close ups for you:
Like a chainsaw or a scalpel, in the hands of the right person, this is one seriously fun piece of kit and I reckon it’s going to be a sure-fire hit. It’s a bike that is made for the likes of Swinley Forest, but I’m sure people with more talent than me will slay the black runs of Bike Park Wales on one of these! It’s already got a race winning pedigree too; Chris Doney rode one to victory in the Southern Enduro last year.
Its main competition in terms of UK brands will be the Whyte T-130 and the Cotic Flare, neither of which I’ve had the chance to try yet… I’ll look into that soon.
If you’re looking for a really fun trail bike at a great price, the Aeris One20 should definitely be on your demo list. There’s a huge amount of sizing, including a ‘medium long’, as well as a fully custom bike builder, so there will be one to suit you for sure. Prices start from an incredible £1681 and you can choose from Atomic Blue, Candy Orange or Tungsten Grey.
Check out the full range, sizing and pricing here.
To sum it up, at the end of the day when dropping it off at Bird HQ, my legs were aching from pushing myself and climbing faster than ever before and I had a big smile from an epic day out on a stunning bike. It feels superb going up and descending and has a huge grin factor. I do think I’m personally more suited to a larger travel bike, having had a 160/140 Aeris for a while now, but the One20 is a bike that absolutely has its place in the market as a short travel trail destroyer.
However, although sad to give the One20 back, I was handed a One45 and had a date with the Surrey Hills the following day… you can read that review here.
Big thanks to the guys at Bird HQ for the demo bike and to Swinley Forest (and the ever awesome hubdudes) for the fantastic test ground.
Peace out for now,
Ian @ Stealth Riders
Note – This is my own review and all opinions are mine. I was not paid or asked to do this, I just wanted to share my views in the hope it may help you out if you’re in the market for a new bike. The ride I did can be seen on Relive right here.
Hey y’all! Before I start, let me apologise for the lack of posts lately. Since I got back from Abu Dhabi, life has been insanely busy!
Firstly, my poor bike has been off the road awaiting new forks under warranty. The 2015 batch of RockShox Pike RCT3’s had a known fault with a creaky CSU (Crown Steerer Upper). After the abuse the bike has undergone over the past year from racing to shredding local trails and taking bigger hits as my riding progresses, my Pikes suffered the dreaded creaking.
I popped to Bird HQ and the guys, as ever, were super accommodating and got the forks sent back to RockShox. A few weeks later, a set of 150mm Pikes arrived for my bike. The ones sent off were 160mm, so Dave very kindly offered to replace them for a set of 2017 Lyrik RCT3’s in their 160mm guise. Gratefully I accepted and my bike has now been running the forks for a few weeks. The major change is the front end feels a lot more planted, thanks to a stiffer brace and slightly longer lower legs. The ride is sublime now too; buttery smooth, instant response and all round beautiful feelings. A huge thank you to Bird as always; I’ve said it countless times, but their service is seriously incredible, despite them being mega busy with the launch of their new Aeris 120 and Aeris 145 models (which look stunning… I need to get a test ride on both and report back, so stay tuned).
Work has also been crazy… I’ve left the world of homeworking and returned to office life after an offer I couldn’t refuse, so time has been lacking in order for me to post as regularly as I’d have liked. Any spare time I’ve had, I’ve been trying to get the miles in to reach my goal of 1000 off road miles this year. I’m super happy to say I hit that last week. I guess I need to set the bar higher for 2017, considering I’ve got some epic adventures planned in between racing!
On the subject of racing, the Southern Enduro series goes on sale on 3rd December, so I’ll be up early hoping to bag my place in all 4 rounds. The 2017 series will see new venues such as Okeford Bike Park and Pippingford Park (I say sir, how posh!), which look brilliant. If the 2016 series was anything to go by, 2017 will be bigger, better and bolshier. I cannot wait to get back on the trails in competition and hopefully move up the ranks a little (or a lot!)
The 2017 racing will now see me racing in my custom Stealth Riders jersey too, thanks to Stak Racewear. I am over the moon with how awesome the jerseys are and I’ll be looking to get some produced for anybody interested. If you want your own Stealth Riders jersey with your name on the back, get in touch here. I’ll be looking to place orders in December/January, which gives plenty of time for them to arrive for the race season. At a guess, they’ll be £35 including postage (UK, overseas may be a little more).
In other news, I’ve been out and about in the muck recently, covering Swinley and the Surrey Hills mostly. A few night rides have happened and I’ve got some new lights courtesy of MTB Batteries; their Lumenator combo is a steal at £145, producing 2000 lumens from a tiny head torch and dual bar mounted light. Both are incredibly light, powerful and their throw and pitch is perfect. I’d recommend them massively and will be doing a full review after a few more rides.
The weather has turned, but the trails are still running sweet. Over the last few months, my riding has progressed more and more, with drops getting much more comfortable and I’ve started dipping my toe into gaps and jumps too. Here’s a little vid of a recent mess about with the new forks at Swinley Forest:
I’ve also conquered another nemesis that’s been hanging over me on Secret Santa in the Surrey Hills.. it’s not much to most, but there’s a gap jump on the trail that I’ve always taken the chicken run past. On Saturday just gone, I finally hit it, sending the bike across the ~10ft gap. Granted, I landed like a squid, but the first is the worst, so next time should be spot on. Next up, Northern Monkey….
Anyway, that’s enough from me for now! I’m due to be picking up a prize shortly (oooo….), so stay tuned for that post!
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.
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.