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Its been a while…

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).

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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!)

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Milland in April. Photo: BigMac Photography

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).

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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.

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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….

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It’s not much, but it’s another one I can tick off!

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!

Until next time, cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Abu Dhabi adventures

I’m super lucky that in my day job in Travel, I get the occasional chance to visit new countries and experience the culture. This month, I was invited by the amazing team at Fred. Olsen Cruises to attend as a guest at the ABTA 2016 Conference on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. I was stoked, although for somebody that doesn’t do well in heat, heading to effectively a developed desert was a bit of a worry! It’s a picture heavy blog post with no mountain bikes, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it!

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It was an incredible conference and I learned a huge amount about the future of travel, met an amazing group of people and sat a few tables away from Abu Dhabi royalty whilst Ronan Keating sang in the background. We also visited the immense Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is one of the most elegant structures I’ve had the honour to visit, as well as the old town (just 50 years ago, Abu Dhabi was a fishing town with a Bedouin heritage, but they hold over 90% of the UAE’s oil, so money has been flowing over the past half-century, turning it into an economic powerhouse along with Dubai).

img_5547img_5574Ferrari World was also on the list, with 2 Guinness world record holding rollercoasters on offer; Flying Aces offering the worlds highest loop the loop, and the fastest in the world at 240km/h; Formula Rosso. Holy shit, these were both mental, with all of the people that braved them coming off with massive grins! This was shaping up to be a bucket list adventure, with a few things I can tick off! Here’s a few shots from the trip:

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From a cyclists point of view, I saw on the itinerary that there was something called the ‘Yas Marina Circuit Challenge’. I messaged Becky Smith from Fred. Olsen to get on board and she arranged it so I’d be heading to the Formula One track on a roadie to give it a crack with her and Mathew, also from Fred. Olsen. Some others from the conference opted to run the track, but if you know me by now, you know my body wasn’t made for running!

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It’s not every day you can cycle around a Formula One track, so I was really excited. We arrived via transfer from the digs for the conference, the stunning 5 star Yas Viceroy hotel and registered. Bear in mind I’ve only tried a road bike once before on a sketchy road in Reading, full of potholes, so there was trepidation! We picked up the bikes and got them adjusted to fit, then headed down to the track on a slow lap to take it in (and for me, to get used to being on skinny wheels).

Stopping to take some photos, none of us could quite believe where we were, or what we were doing. The whole experience was so surreal, especially knowing the greatest track drivers of the world will be driving this circuit at the end of November!

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The Yas Marina Circuit is 5.5km in total, with some tight hairpin bends and insane straight runs, although going between 25-28mph is a little different to 200+mph!

Becky got 2 laps in, whilst sportive competitor Mathew and I put the power down and managed a further 2 1/2 laps at speed. Totalling 27km in intense heat, I was sweatier than I’d ever been, but ended the experience feeling so lucky to have had a go! Becky was waiting for us at the end with Calippos, which were hugely needed!

I ended up 11th fastest on the day with a full lap time of 9:39 and sitting (as I type this) 946th overall, which, for a mountain biker in baggies on a rented bike with shitty gear ratios, I was pretty stoked about! I tracked the ride via Relive.cc, which you can see here.

I never thought I’d enjoy being on a road bike so much, but don’t fear; I’ll be sticking to the trails in the woods, as riding on smooth race track is a world away from potholed roads filled with glass shards and cars! All in all, this was something I’ll never forget and will probably never get to do again, so I had to share it here with you lovely lot. Here’s a few more shots of the ride:

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The final night was spent in great company at the ultra luxury Saadiyat Beach Club, where we chilled by the beach, drinking, eating and reminiscing on what had been a truly special work trip, filled with amazing excursions.

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Finally, I have to say a massive thank you to all of the team at Fred. Olsen Cruises for having me along, especially to Becky for organising everything perfectly and to Mathew for being a great riding partner! Also big thanks to Aly from Saga for being great company and hopefully I’ll see you shredding Peaslake soon! Final thanks to the Yas Viceroy, the Marina Circuit staff and to the people of Abu Dhabi for being so amazingly welcoming. As small thanks back to Abu Dhabi, I purchased a Kandura; the traditional dress for men in the UAE. With the beard, I may have fitted in a little too well!

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My Aeris is currently off the road awaiting new forks, but I’ll be doing some hideously muddy rides over the Surrey Hills and Swinley in no time, so normal service will be resumed shortly!

Until next time, cheers!

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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#Swinduro Race Report

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.

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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!

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Photo: Brett Shelfer

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.

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Stage 3 . Photo: Victoria Dawe

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.

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Suits you, Sir. Photo: Lynn Funnell Warr

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!

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Photo : Harris Photo

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:

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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

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Southern Enduro Rd 3: QECP

Hilarious and exhausting. The third round of the Southern Enduro is over and I’m sure there are plenty of big smiles and sore bodies today.

The four stages at this round were longer than at Milland or Tidworth, with all being between around 3-5 minutes in length. The long transition climb (around 8-10 mins of steady incline), meant the legs were kept warm, and the sun was blazing, meaning a roaster of a race day. All in all, we were to ride around 18 miles and climb just over 3000ft on the day, including practise runs.

I arrived early, got a prime parking spot right next to the start of the transition, and went to sign in. With more and more familiar faces arriving each round, the Southern Enduro is really feeling like a mix between a competitive event and a social day out with good mates and fellow riders. It’s hard to capture the vibe at this event, but it’s been there since day one; everybody is out to race, but all are super friendly at the same time. Scott and the Southern Enduro crew have done a stellar job in creating an incredible atmosphere.

The rider briefing took place, then practise began and riders set out to get a feel for the stages. Practise went well for me, although because I’m a fat bastard, I chose to tuck into a burger after riding stages 1-3, didn’t check the time and missed out on trying out stage 4. No biggie, I’ll ride it blind, how bad could it be? (The burger was totally worth it, by the way).

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Practisting stage 2. Photo: Anita Gellatly

Race time rolled around and it was time to go. Up the transition and stage one began. I found this to be the most technical of the 4, with small jumps, drops and root sections scattered throughout the top section of the stage, opening up into a forest sprint through tight trees and a little climb thrown in at the end. Stage one felt super grippy, and I felt relatively fast coming across the finish line.

Stage two was rooty, dusty and twisty. I’d managed to get a good run in practise, which perhaps made me over-confident when trying to pin a rooty left hand turn into a small climb, leaving me sliding out and at a complete stop in the wrong gear for climbing. Ah well, onwards to the steepest section of the day, which I nailed smoothly, across a fireroad and into a stage finish devised by Satan himself… a brutal 2-300 metre sprint along flat grassy ground with a few off camber hips thrown in. I was absolutely ruined by the end of that, as were many others!

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Photo: Dave Williams

Stage three started off with a crazily tight wooded section, with greenery as far as the eye could see, and loose flint on the trail. The top of this stage felt ancient, with moss covered mounds scattered throughout. I was half expecting Gandalf to pop out of the woods to ask me to go on an adventure with him. Challenging is a good way to describe it, especially riding between two trees that I reckon were 801mm apart. My bars are 800mm, so it was a close call! I was chased down this stage by mate and fellow Aeris rider Ben Biggs, and after I got through some tight switchbacks, I moved to the side to let him pass, then sprinted up a small climb, through some great singletrack and over the line.

Stage four, time to go in dark. I’m quite glad I didn’t do this one twice, as it was a hellish yet fun sprint stage through the forest, with a lot of pedalling and tight, flat corners, meaning body and bike positioning were crucial. My legs were done by this point, and my whole body was burning by the time I ended the stage and another exceptional round of the series.

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Photo: Hannah Crossley

After all riders had finished, I ended up 46th out of 52 in the Masters category, with just under three minutes separating first place finisher Tomas Kupstys (Bird Cycleworks) and myself, so results were tight across the board. Although it’s low down the ranks, I am stoked with my placing; I’m not last, and I’m remaining consistent in my first year of racing.

QECP had a fantastic turnout of talent, with Traharn and Joel Chidley, Ben Deakin and Juliet Elliott amongst some of the big names in the Pro/Elite rider list. Bird Cycleworks riders placed very well, with 5 podiums in total. The category winners are below, huge congrats to them:

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You can check the full results, race photos and rider info on Roots & Rain here.

On reflection of the series to date, although my placing has been consistent, there’s been some significant improvement. For round one, I was 30% slower than the fastest finisher in my category. For round two, I was 27% slower, and for round three, I was only 20% slower, so I’m over the moon with that gap being closed. Of course I’d like to be higher up the list, but shit, with the competition I face, it’s not going to be easy.

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Now it’s time for getting fitter and faster, hitting bigger stuff and giving my Aeris some much needed TLC, including a full bearing replacement. Next up for me on the race calendar is the Swinley Forest Enduro on 4th September; they’re some of my local trails, so I’m really looking forward to that one!

Finally, a huge thanks to Scott and the QECP collective, Bird Cycleworks, Dave G, Zoe, Michael, Josh, Ben, Mark, the dude on the 12spd Evil and everybody else on the day, whether you were racing, marshalling, catering or spectating. See you at Milland on 18th September for the final stage!

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Swinley Forest Enduro!

I’d heard rumours about this for a while, thanks to going on regular Thursday night rides with the Swinley Bike Hub. Now it’s become a reality; the Swinley Forest Enduro is good to go, and is selling like hotcakes as I type this!

The Swinley Forest Enduro takes place on Sunday, 4th September and will consist of 7 timed stages, all between 2 and 5 minutes in length and a total of around 20km of riding on the day, including transition stages.

Highlights outside of the race itself include a BBQ, locally brewed booze, coffee and some amazing supporting brands including Whyte, Marin, Pivot, DMR, Fox and Burgtec, which will allow you to get your grubby mitts on the latest 2017 offerings. Result!

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I have, of course, entered this event, once again in the Masters category. I’m well aware that my prior results at the first two rounds of the Southern Enduro have not been where I’d hoped they would be… however, Swinley Forest is one of my local playgrounds; a place I’ve spent countless hours exploring both marked and off-piste trails. I know the terrain, I ride with confidence there and know how both my body and my bike react to the mix of loam, ginger and roots of the forest, in all weather conditions. Surely, I have some competitive advantage on this one, right?

Who knows, only the minutes and seconds on the day will matter. The Masters category is still going to be ultra-competitive and full of exceptional riders, but I’ll have a quiet, underlying hope that the  knowledge of the trails will no doubt help me, even if just a little.

I have no idea what the stages will look like, as I’m sure the trail team will sculpt some absolutely stunning routes, I can’t wait to try them out on race day.

A few things are for sure. The Swinley Hub Race Team have been the rowdiest, loudest bunch at the Southern Enduro events at Milland and Tidworth this year, so they’re guaranteed to bring the noise at their home race!

Also, it’ll be exceptionally well organised, if the social night rides and the BBQ’s are anything to go by. Knowing the amount of effort the crew put into every detail to get things right, I’ve no doubt that this will be one hell of a race day.

You can race in confidence, too. The Swinley Forest Enduro is part of, and follows the guidelines set out by the British Enduro Mountain Bike Association (BEMBA), which ensures that safety is a key aspect of what will be a hugely fun event.

If you’ve not signed up yet, what are you waiting for?! Entry is £42.50 for any category, but just be aware than the car parking for the day (£4) is not included. I’ll even make it easy for you, the link is here.

A bunch of my good riding mates have also signed up, so this is going to be a social blast as well as a superb Enduro race!

I’ve still got round three of the Southern Enduro to focus on first, with the race at Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) taking place on Sunday, 24th July. I’m putting the miles in, and have even signed up to a gym (boooo) to help with overall strength, so I’m going for a placing beginning with a ‘3’ at least!

It’s time to get the Enduro face on again.. see you there!

Cheers,
Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Mixing it up

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Southern Enduro Rd 2: Tidworth

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.

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Photo: BigMacPhotography

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

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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.

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George & Chris pinning it. Photo: BigMacPhotography

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.

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Photo: BigMacPhotography

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.

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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:

Tidworth results

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.

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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No dig, no ride

As you may know by now, I’m racing in the Southern Enduro this year, with the first round at a closely guarded location in Milland, West Sussex on April 17th. A few weeks ago the event organiser, Scott Fitzgerald, put a message on various social media sites asking for volunteers for a dig day. I signed up without hesitation. Firstly, as we all know; no dig, no ride. I wanted to get involved more in the background, helping to shape the trails I’ll be racing on. Secondly, I figured it’d be good to get the lay of the land to truly understand what I’d let myself in for.

What I didn’t know when I signed up to dig, was that Scott had planned to invite volunteers back for a pre-race test to check the finished product out and to help bed the trails in.

Sunday, 3rd April rolls around and I’m in the car heading down the A3 blasting some questionable music (those that know me, know my music taste is eclectic… and that’s putting it kindly!). I arrived in Milland to meet Laurence, Sam and a few of the other volunteers that I met on the dig day and we waited for the rest to arrive; more volunteers, event organisers and some headline sponsors, including the guys from Bird Cycleworks; Dan, Dave, Josh and Tomas.

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Once everybody had arrived, we set off on a small ride to the venue and immediately headed up the transition to stage 1. It had rained the night before, so the transition was super muddy, slippery and all round hideous, which I thought would be the shape of things to come. How wrong I was. I won’t give too much away, but anybody entered into this is in for a real treat!

We got to stage 1 and buzzed down through a mix of tight, loose, loamy singletrack and some nicely packed rollers to end the stage. Stage 1 was easily the flattest of the 4 stages, with a lot of pedalling required. Hopefully the miles I’ve been putting in over the past few months will pay dividends on this one!

Heading back up the transition to stage 2, I was feeling stoked – my first enduro stage completed (albeit slowly) and I was still in one piece! This isn’t going to be too hard… yeah right. Stage 2 began immediately with a drop into a tight berm, with super loose, off camber switchbacks making up most of the stage. It was like riding on a slip & slide, drifting, holding on for dear life. This was my kind of stage though.. loose, technical and flowy. Great stuff. It’s worth adding at this stage that the first practise runs were at a gentle pace to scope the trails and pick my lines for the second runs.

Another sloppy ride up the transition to stage 3. This is the stage I helped shape on the dig day, but I only saw the bottom of it. Once again, the loam was fresh and the berms were loose. I was sauntering down the stage approaching a road gap and was so busy focusing on that, I totally missed the drop before it and went sketchy into a berm, wiping out in an instant. No biggie. Dust yourself off, get back on and ride. Stage 3 ended with some insanely tight singletrack through a coppice and a nice little jump into the finish, which was great fun. Here’s how not to ride a bike:

Back up for the final climb to stage 4. The final stage was short, fast and flowy, with some amazing rollers, doubles and high, tight off camber turns the left me giggling like a child, leading to a sprint finish through a field to the end. Cracking stuff, time to do it all again!

The second practise runs were much better. I’d scoped my lines and approached with more speed, although my front tyre always wanted to go a different direction to the rest of my bike. Tyre choice will be invaluable on the 17th. Most importantly, I remained on the bike throughout all stages on the second attempts, which gave me a huge confidence boost. The day wrapped up with a nice cold pint of Guinness at the local pub and some post-ride banter.. perfect!

The pre-race testing was more valuable than I could have ever imagined. I thought I was progressing well with fitness and, going into the day, I felt I was pretty fast on the bike. How wrong I was! Some of the guys there made me realise that I have a long way to go, with not much time remaining. I’ve got the speed, but technique requires a lot of work if I don’t want to be in the bottom of the pack. I know for sure I’ll not be standing on any podiums on the day (barring any miracles!), and currently feel like the middle of the table will be a great result.

Two weeks to go until the big day, the actual timed race. It’s time to put the miles in, work on my sprints and, most importantly my technique, especially on off camber switchbacks and drops. Will I do well? Will I suck with more force than the latest Dyson? Who knows. What I do know, is that I am super excited to head back to Milland, to give the first round my absolute best. Mind over matter, it’s time to smash the Southern Enduro and give it my all.

Lastly, I just wanted to say a huge thanks to Scott for inviting me back, and also to him and the whole team at QECP Collective, fellow volunteers, diggers and anybody else invoved in the Southern Enduro – the venue is amazing and if the other rounds shape up like Milland, this is going to be one hell of an Enduro series!

Don’t forget to follow Stealth Riders on Instagram, to stay up to date with the latest news, progress and insights. You’re all amazing for reading this, thanks for sticking around.

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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All the gear, no idea

It’s Easter Sunday, I’ve consumed my body weight in chocolate and it’s been raining all weekend. The weather hasn’t stopped me tearing up the trails, hopefully you’ve been out as well. There’s a saying in the Mountain Bike world; there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.

On this note, I thought a post for beginners would perhaps be useful. I’ve been riding a lot with people new to the sport and riders getting back into the sport after a few years out, so they’re either absolute beginners, or technology has changed enough for questions to be asked. Some of the questions that have come up are frequently asked, so with any luck, this may help you if you’re looking to get into MTB, or if you’ve had a few years out!

Really, everything can be summed up by watching this video by the guys at IFHT:

But, to help out a bit more, some common Q&A’s are below:

What type of bike should I get?

This is a rather personal choice and depends what type of riding you want to do. If you plan on getting driven to the top of a mountain and riding down, you should look at Downhill (DH), or possibly Freeride (FR) bikes. If you’d rather be doing some super long distance singletrack, a Cross Country (XC) bike may be up your street. However, for the trail centre riders and weekend warriors, a Trail, All Mountain or Enduro bike will more often than not be the best weapon of choice. Full suspension, with 140-160mm of travel and slack head angles, 1x gearing and a dropper post seems to be today’s standard. The best thing you can do is research and ask your local bike shop (LBS) if you’re unsure.

Size is important too – again, your LBS will be able to help here, but be sure to check Geometry charts carefully if you’re buying online.

What should I take with me when I ride?

Again, personal preference here, but below is what I take with me on my usual rides. Most importantly, (after a bike of course) are a helmet and a huge smile; the rest is optional!

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On the body – Helmet, cycling specific shorts and jersey, full finger gloves, kneepads and flat soled shoes (Five Tens are awesome) are my go to kit. Not pictured are socks and a padded liner short to keep your undercarriage comfy!

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In the bag – Bandage, alcohol wipe and surgical tape make for a very basic first aid kit. Powerlink, chain tool, allen/hex key set and a small multi tool, Energy bar, tablets (to pop in your water – bladder not pictured) or gel and a spare tube, tyre lever and pump (not pictured) are great to have. Zip ties and electrical tape are useful for ‘bodge’ fixes to get you home in a squeeze.

Bottle or bladder?

Bladder.. what? Simply, it’s a plastic reservoir with a drinking tube that fits snugly in your backpack. Most hydration packs will come with one, and they’re fantastic. I usually take a bladder filled with 1.5-2 litres of water in my backpack, as I can keep everything together and secure. For smaller rides, a water bottle would be fine, but I would personally always recommend a bladder for anything over 2 hours. Some good companies to look at are CamelBak, Osprey and Evoc.

Where to buy a bike from?

These days, the internet is full of bike sites, with massive sales to attract business. Direct sale sites (Such as Bird Cycleworks, Canyon and YT) are really starting to take a serious chunk of the online market, as they cut out the middle man (physical shops), which allow them to offer incredible bikes for incredible prices. The only downside is that the service will more often than not be through email and phone. Luckily, Bird are local to me and really do offer some of the absolute best service in the industry.

Local Bike Shops are also a great place to buy from, as you can get some very personalised service and the aftersales is usually very impressive. Brilliant Bikes in Chobham, or Swinley Bike Hub, for example. The benefit of a Local Bike Shop is that you’ll usually be able to demo the bike properly, to allow you to get a feel for how it rides.

I tend to avoid chain stores, purely because they work on volume, which means the service can be a lot worse (I am generalising here!). If you are set on a bike from a chain store, please check everything is tightened properly for your own sake.. from experience, loose bolts can cause major problems to your bike and you! You can expect the test ride to be in a car park, if you’re lucky.

What should I upgrade first?

You don’t have to upgrade anything, just ride and enjoy it! That said, a lot of companies will stock lower specification pedals, handlebars, stems and saddles, to allow them to offer higher end gearing, wheels or suspension.

If you’re adamant on changing parts, shop around and know what you want. Pedals can make a huge difference, Shimano Saints or DMR Vaults (if you’re riding with flat pedals) are both outstanding (M530 or XT Trail pedals if you’re clipping in are both superb). Stems and bars are a personal choice, but for trail riding, generally the wider the bar and the shorter the stem, the more fun you’ll have. Charge make some extremely comfortable saddles on a budget, with their award winning ‘Spoon’ available for around £25 (or less if you shop around)!

Should I service myself?

If you have the space to do so, absolutely. The more you learn, the better. If you have a mechanical issue when you’re out riding, you may just be able to get yourself home if you spend the time to learn some basic maintenance. In the Winter months, the main thing is keeping the bike clean, lubricated and rust free.. look after your bike and it’ll look after you. I personally use Muc Off products, although Hope, Pedros and Fenwicks also make some great cleaning gear.

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In terms of servicing, Park Tools not only do the best tools, they have an amazing resource of information online, or YouTube is your friend here! It all else fails, go to your LBS and ask if you can watch what they do to fix your bike. Most mechanics shouldn’t mind, as cyclists love to talk bike to anybody willing to listen (even if that’s their poor wife that couldn’t care less about cycling… sorry Emily!)

With any luck, this has helped you out at least a little. If you’d like any questions answered, leave a comment below!

Don’t forget to follow the Stealth Riders Instagram, and if you like this post, subscribe to keep up to date!

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Thanks to Osc, Jason, Adam and Em for the help on making this post!