Reviews

Hope HB160

I mean, just look it at.

Hope are known for making some beautiful components, that’s widely known and accepted. For their first foray into building a frame, they’ve done it again; the HB160 is truly a jaw-dropping work of art that wouldn’t look out of place if it was hung on a wall of a billionaire’s summer mansion in the Hamptons. The sheer time and effort that has gone into making this bike a reality is difficult to comprehend, but some things are most definitely worth the wait and my word have Hope delivered the goods. This post is going to be picture heavy and for damn good reason.
There’s no doubt this bike is visually stunning, so the question on a lot of people’s minds is, how does it ride? As Hope are only producing 500 bikes per year and with a price tag of a cool £7500, this boutique beauty is out of reach for a large percentage of cyclists, myself included. However, I have some very kind friends at Nirvana Cycles in Westcott who just happen to have a demo bike with the even more exclusive ‘factory green’ colourway, and they asked if I’d like to tag along on one of their shop rides and try out the HB160… naturally I was like a puppy raised on cocaine and kibble and jumped at the chance.
So let’s take a look at the bike I’d be riding:
  • Frame: HB160 Carbon, 160mm travel, Horst link suspension platform
  • Shock: Fox Factory Float X2, 160mm travel
  • Fork: Fox 36 Float Factory RC2, 160mm travel
  • Wheels: Hope 35W rims, Hope Pro4 HB/110mm hubs, Maxxis High Roller 2 3C EXO 27.5×2.4in tyres
  • Drivetrain: Hope cranks, Hope cassette, SRAM XX1 shifter and mech
  • Brakes: Hope Tech 3 E4, 180/180mm
  • Components: Hope Carbon bar 780mm, Hope AM 35mm stem, Hope lock-on grips, SDG Duster Ti saddle, RockShox Reverb seatpost and lever
  • Weight: ~31lbs
You can check out behind the scenes video from the Barnoldswick based team here:
 As Hope have the benefit of using their components on the bike, they have created some of their own ‘standards’; a 130mm rear hub spacing (‘anti-boost’, if you will) which still gives insane strength, a 17mm rear axle and a unique bottom bracket setup are just a few ‘non-conformist’ additions. However, you can rest assured that, should you break anything or need a replacement, Hope will be able to sort it.
The HB160 was waiting for me on arrival on a sunny Saturday morning and I met with shop owner Simon and buddy Neil and I got the bike set up; a little extra pressure in the forks and shock and it was ready to roll on a shop ride with some great people around the Leith Hill area of the Surrey Hills. I’ve never really ridden this area, as I’ve always stuck more to the Peaslake side historically. After the ride I did, I am absolutely going to explore that area more, it’s brilliant and has a huge variety of trails from Whistler style tech to road gaps, massive drops and monster senders.


PG going HUGE on a road gap.

I tested a large and, at 6’1”, the bike felt a little more compact that I’d have expected, positioning me a bit more over the front wheel than I was used to. However, the HB160 is a bike that was designed to tackle the climbs and long days in the saddle just as much as the descents. Hell, it’s a British bike and we don’t really do uplifts as much as the rest, so I’m sure Hope had this in mind during the design process.
I was out with a great group; Simon, the shop owner was leading the way and buddy and team rider Phil was on fire as always, sending anything in his path (and taking some great photos). I also met some great people, amongst others: Will (who had the gnarliest crash I’ve seen for a long time, which he thankfully came out of with minor scrapes), Kate, a hella fast shredder with the best shorts I’ve ever seen and Miles, a friend of another team rider Charlie and a rapid little dude!
We did a roughly 10 mile loop taking in just under 2000ft, across various terrain, so I felt I got a great test of the HB160.
THE RIDE:
The climbs were a cinch, the only time I had to put a foot down was due to my shocking line choice over some roots. Otherwise, it would climb like a true mountain goat thanks to the supremely crisp shifting of the Hope cassette and SRAM XX1 shifter working in perfect harmony.
Descending technical singletrack is, in my mind, where the HB160 truly came alive. The grip the bike delivered was astounding. Where I’d usually pick a line carefully through roots, the HB160 genuinely drifted over the top of everything, as if it was dancing on water; the combination of wide tyres with low pressure, a responsive back end and the geometry positioning me perfectly all came together to produce the most grip I’ve experienced when riding, and I genuinely mean it when I say that.
General riding of the HB160 was great fun too. It felt reliable, trustworthy and above all, energetic. I found the HB160 was easy to get on the back wheel and hop over little features on a trail.
We rode some decent sized jumps and drops and the HB160 swallowed them whole, with the Fox shocks absorbing everything with no question, one or two times the plush 160mm of travel compensating for a few simple, sloppy mistakes. Twisting and turning through the trees on loam dusted trails, the HB160 felt like a jacked-up Honey Badger; compact, rowdy and full of rage just waiting to be unleashed. Small bumps turned into an excuse to get the bike airborne and any slight angle in the trail had me flicking the back end out in search for hero dirt.
One small thing I was particularly impressed with were the Hope grips. The black colour almost became transparent and whilst they looked thin to begin with, they felt supremely comfortable and the knurled construction together with the slight ridge on the outer end of the grip ensured my hands felt perfectly placed throughout the ride.
However, the main thing that had me in awe all day was just how refined the bike was. From the carbon weave glistening when hit by a beam of light through the trees, to the meticulous machining on the swingarm, the design of the bike has been thought through in an almost incomprehensible way. The curves on the frame are glorious and every detail has been covered; it truly is a masterpiece of design.
The handling of the bike just increases the ‘wow’ factor of the HB160 too. Snappy, sharp and ultra-responsive, it was an absolute joy to ride and I’m hugely thankful to Nirvana cycles (Neil in particular for organising it) for allowing me to ride this beast of a bike. The shop rides are superb fun with a great vibe and shop owner Simon took the time to offer some great advice to some of the newer riders which was great to see. Even better, the ride ends with a curry back at the shop; a great way to get your energy back for the day ahead!

I only experienced a couple of downsides with the HB160 during my ride; firstly, the Reverb was very slow at returning to its extended position, even after fettling with the speed. Secondly, as I felt a bit more compact on the bike than I was used to, I would have loved a little extra width in the bars. An 800mm bar rather than a 780mm would have been preferable, but both of these are easily rectified, so neither would be a show stopper when considering a purchase.
OVERALL:
I actually struggled to write this review as it’s hard to convey how impressive the HB160 was in words. It’s perhaps because I felt a bit humbled riding this bike; if I’m honest, it was almost like letting a gibbon drive a Formula One car.
The HB160 is an exceptional bike, made by the best. It’s no surprise that it comes at a premium, but then you’d not expect to pay peanuts for a McLaren or an Aston Martin, would you? If you’re lucky enough to have the budget for this one, you simply must test one and you cannot go wrong with a shop ride with Nirvana Cycles to put it through its paces.
I’m off to put one of my kidneys on eBay, I’ll catch you soon.
Cheers,
Ian @ Stealth Riders
https://www.hopetechhb.com/
I took a huge amount of photos, so here’s a small gallery to feast your eyes on, including a few shots of the new team jersey (but more on that in a separate post soon):

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Blog

Fleet MTB Group Survey

Hey y’all,

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

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

https://surveyplanet.com/594e9d990181f921d3320094

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

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

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

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

 

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

Blog

SDG Custom Decals (#glitterbitch)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few close ups:

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

Catch you soon,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

 

Reviews

Mudhugger Shorty review

You’re the same as me I reckon. You’re always looking for the latest upgrade to your bike that’ll make you radder than Danny Hart, gnarlier than Kurt Sorge or rowdier than Olly Wilkins. You spend hours researching the latest tech, suspension models, wide rims and weight saving options. However, something that is often overlooked is one of the things that keeps your eyes on the prize. Goggles or glasses are important, but what really matters is a top-notch mudguard to keep the mud, dog eggs and other trail terrors at bay.
There are many mudguards available and I’ve been through a few, but for the last few years, I’ve been running a Mudhugger in one form or another. Initially I opted for the FR, the longer length guard that offers additional protection from the elements. However, more recently, mostly due to me throwing my bike in the back of the car and warping my FR version, I decided to slim down and try out their original guard, the Shorty; a ‘diet’ version in the Mudhugger range these days.
First up, the feel of the Mudhugger guards is solid. Although malleable, they feel a lot sturdier in comparison to other guards I’ve tried out. Thicker than your average guard and offering extra coverage, I’ve actually ditched wearing eye protection since fitting a Mudhugger (except for uplift days ‘cos you gotta look Enduro in ya gogs, brah).
A bit about the company. The Mudhugger is owned and operated by brothers Bruce and Jamie Gardiner who are top blokes and also happen to ride the same bike as me, the awesome Bird Cycleworks Aeris. In 2012, they were fed up of mud caked arses and brown eyes (erm..), so they got to work. Fast forward to today and they have a product that graces bikes of World Champions such as Loic Bruni and many other pro riders. Offering up 9 different types of hugger, plus a host of other goodies (air fresheners, helitape, neck warmers and much more), there’s a hugger to suit every bike. From boost to fatties and leftys, they’ve got you (and your eyes) covered. Check out their site right here.
Back to the Shorty in question. It comes with enough zipties to get you fitted (you may opt to double up the ties on the lower legs to keep it from moving if, like me, you remove your front wheel to put your bike in your car) and is ridiculously easy to fit. If you do need help, they’ve even made a sweet video to help you:
It’s impressive in weight at just 60g and measures 340mm in length, so is super light yet sturdy and offers exceptional coverage to boot. The Shorty also caters to all standard wheel sizes (whatever the hell ‘standard’ is these days), fitting 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ wheels. It sits close to the tyre (I run a 2.3″ Maxxis Shorty), but not close enough to cause any concern. Occasionally a small bit of debris may get caught up, leaving you with a ‘moto’ sounding tyre, but a quick bunny hop sorts that out. A lower profile tyre would alleviate this issue though.
On the trails, the Shorty doesn’t interfere with your riding and is barely noticeable except for the looks; I personally feel it adds an extra bit of spark to the bike thanks to the curvy shape, rather than others that I feel are a bit pointy and jagged.
Tried and tested on the new Bird Aeris 145 too.
Riding the trails of the UK, I’m regularly exposed to bad weather and the subsequent slopfest under tyre, so keeping things away from my face when nailing a trail at 20-30mph is essential. The Mudhugger Shorty has excelled at this time and time again. So much so, I keep mine on year round as you always run the risk of a damp spot under tree cover. It’s honestly incredible and the only time I’ve had mud in my eyes (remember I don’t ride with sunnies or goggles 90% of the time), is when I’ve hit a corner and the front wheel has been at an awkward angle. Still, one time from a hundred is absolutely good enough for me!
To sum it up, I genuinely cannot see me changing to any other form of mudguard in the future. The only time I’ll consider it is, if the Mudhugger bring out something better… but that’s a challenge in itself, as, like a Sunday roast or a cold beer, it’s hard to improve on perfection. Bottom line – get one, your eyeballs will thank you.
At just £18 with free delivery, it’s a steal and a surefire way to improve your riding on a budget. After all, the better you can see, the faster you can go, right? Words are great, but a picture paints a thousand of them:
Until next time, peace out.
Ian @ Stealth Riders
www.themudhugger.co.uk
Blog

Interview: Scott F – Southern Enduro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Reviews

Marin Hawk Hill review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, cheers,

Ian (and Emily) @ Stealth Riders

SBH

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Note – This is my own review and all opinions are mine. I was not paid or asked to do this, I just wanted to share my views in the hope it may help you out if you’re in the market for a new bike.

Reviews

Bird Aeris One45 review

So I recently tested the new Bird Aeris One20 and the review is here. Once I handed that back, I was given the bigger, burlier brother, the One45 and went to the Surrey Hills to put it through its paces. Simply put, at the end of the day, I didn’t want to give this bike back.
Before I get too carried away, let’s talk about the bike. At 6’1” and 87kg, I currently ride a large original (now retro?) Aeris, but opted for the ML (medium long) version of the new bike. The reason for this is due to an increased top tube length (630mm) and wheelbase (1230mm), effectively sitting me in a similar position to my current ride. Measurements are below, these can also be found on the Bird website:
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The demo bike came with 150mm RockShox Yari forks and a metric Deluxe RT3 shock with 145mm travel. I ran the suspension at 30% and 20% sag respectively, opting for a slightly stiffer rear for the terrain I was heading to. Like the One20, it was equipped with SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain and guide r brakes. The wheels were slightly wider DT Swiss M1700’s, with the same Maxxis DHF/HR2 combo I tried the day before. This time though, I ran the rear at 23psi and the front at 20psi. Again, a mighty Mudhugger Shorty was on standby to keep any mud and slop from my face.
The weight was around 30lbs, so a like for like with my current bike and this was evident the second I sat on the bike; I felt instantly at ease with it. The bike has been totally redesigned around metric sizing and boost spacing, but it felt familiar, which is a huge plus when you only have a day to form an opinion!
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It was another cold Winters day, so the ground was frozen with some iced over areas to contend with. I set out and after what is usually a brutal climb out of the Walking Bottom car park up a super steep 13-15% incline, I still had air in my lungs; this bike genuinely climbs like a hardtail with zero feeling of pedal bob… from then, I knew it was going to be a fun day out. I hit Proper Bo to get the measure of the bike and the power was instant. Snaking through the small turns and ruts, the small double and drop on this trail felt like nothing.
Due to it’s steep seat tube angle (440mm), the One45 felt long and slack when attacking the descents but put the saddle up for a killer climb and it shortens up, allowing you to really put the power down and stomp uphill in record time. It’s like Optimus Prime’s wet dream, a transformer of epic proportions.
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I figured it was time to try a bigger trail. Thick & Creamy on Pitch Hill had a hold over me this time last year with its 2 sizeable drops and a crazily steep, tight chute as the entrance. I’d nailed it a few months back, but on the One45, I breezed through and it genuinely made the drops there feel like I was hopping off a kerb. The landings were so smooth and the bike soaked up everything with more to give. Granted it’s not carbon, but when the One45 is released in March with its ultra-stiff chassis and tidy design (and bottle cage mounts!), it may have Nomads and Capras squirming a little uncomfortably in their seats.
Thick & Creamy done, I gave Thicker & Creamier a go next. Another crazy steep entrance gives way to loamy turns and fast bombholes. However, there was a monster puddle in one of these, which I tried riding around, only to eat dirt. After a nice soft landing and a little chuckle to myself, I was back up and finished the end of the run with its nice step up before leading out to the road and a nice climb back to the top.
The Surrey Hills is great, too, with an abundance of trails and friendly riders. I bumped into a film crew from Fly Creative and a guy called Phil, chatted to them for a while, then saw Joe Williams of Physio 1 to 1. Check him out here if you’re in need of a top class physio! Here’s a couple of close ups:
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Taking so many pictures, riding like a bat out of hell and laughing like a mental case made me hungry, so I set my sights for the Peaslake village store, via the renovated Captain Clunk. When I say renovated, I mean ruined. It’s been tamed down massively and wasn’t anywhere near as challenging as it once was. A huge shame, but there’s still a vast network of trails to keep every level of rider entertained.
Whilst I was tucking into a red velvet cupcake and slurping coffee to refuel courtesy of the ever lovely ladies at the store, a few Trek staffers rocked up on some of their 2017 demo models, so we had a chat about the Aeris and their Remedy and EX models before I set off for round 2 and my old favourites on Holmbury Hill; Yoghurt Pots and Barry knows best.
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Consistently, the One45 climbed like a trooper, making light work of the Radnor Road climb. With sore legs, I hammered through Yoghurts as best as I could and then flew down BKB as if I had sprouted wings. I did pick up some PR’s earlier in the day (including climbs), which is testament to the bike. The Surrey Hills is a place I’ve been riding for so long and riding this bike breathed new life into very familiar trails, rejuvenating my love for some that had become a little stale over the years.
Massive thanks to Bird for the demo. The One45 drops in March and you can pre-order yours here. As with the One20, a huge range of sizing and a fully custom bike builder means there will be an Aeris One45 for you. Colours are delightful too; lime green, the tangerine orange model I tested and my favourite of course; stealth black. Frame prices start from a wallet friendly £900, so this is set to be another outstanding value for money machine.
I absolutely love my current Aeris and I’m sure it’ll go on for a long time yet. However, when it’s time to change, the One45 will be at the top of my list. The One20 is superb, but from the second I slung my leg over the One45, I felt at home; one with nature and metal, with nothing but zen thoughts of shredding epic trails in my mind.
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I’ve been trying to pick out a flaw or a negative point, but after sleeping on it, I honestly have nothing bad to say about this bike. To sum it up, imagine if you will, that Hercules and Icarus had a baby. Their lovechild would be an Aeris One45. Immensely strong, stiff and solid, yet light as a feather when climbing and faster than me at an all you can eat buffet.
It’s a most welcome addition to their line up and is simply an outstanding successor to the Mk1 and Mk1.5 Aeris models.
The Aeris is dead; long live the Aeris.
Cheers,
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. I’ve also included a video full of sketchy riding, crap angles and a little stack from my day out:
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Reviews

Bird Aeris One20 review

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.
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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.
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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 measurements below:
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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:
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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.
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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.
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Uncategorized

Whatever the weather

Winter riding. It’s a very difficult thing to drag yourself from a warm, cosy bed at 7.30am on a weekend when you can hear the sound of rain hitting your bedroom window. Your snooze button suddenly becomes your best friend and your bed sheets seem to soften a thousand fold, as if you’re wrapped up in the carcass of a Tauntaun on the ice planet Hoth. Still, you’ve made plans to meet your mates (who, coincidentally, have suddenly come down with man-flu or he-bola), so like an Olympic weightlifter you gurn and throw yourself out into the cold of the real, duvet-less world.

A shower and a super strong coffee later, you’re dressed, your gear is in the car and you’re on your way to your favourite riding spot to see your mates and tear up the trails. You know you’ll end up covered in mud and soaked through, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be grinning like an idiot at the end of the ride. To that measure, I figure I’d do a post on Winter riding tips that I’ve found helpful over the years.

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Preparation is key

As above, you’re more likely to sleep in a little more on cold, dark mornings, so pack your bag and sort your kit out the night before. Remember to take a spare set of clothes for the return journey home, unless you want to feel like you’ve rolled through a field of fresh fertiliser. Your car and significant other will thank you for this.

Sandwich bags

I always carry a bit of kit with me (see my post here on what I carry). In the winter, cheap sandwich bags are a lifesaver. Pack all of your tools and spares into a couple of bags and it ensures rust free tools and dry bandages, should you need them. It’s also good to pop your phone/keys and any cash in one for that extra level of protection.

Waterproof up, son

A no brainer if the rain is coming down or if you know there will be mud and standing water. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve sharted after a night on the curry within the first 10 minutes of your ride. I’ve recently picked up a Madison Roam jacket and some Tenn Protean Waterproof shorts (My POC Flow shorts do a great job in the meantime, but are by no means waterproof). Add in a set of Sealskinz socks and hopefully the only dampness on your body will be your own. Granted, waterproof gear is less breathable so you will heat up faster, but I know what I’d prefer out of the options.

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Added extras

Waterproofs alone won’t keep you away from the worst of it. At a minimum, a front mudguard is essential for winter rides. I swear by the Mudhugger products, having tried a lot of different ones in my time. The Mudhugger shorty is my current guard, which does a stellar job of keeping the mud from my eyes. A good set of clear glasses or goggles are a great shout too however, as there will always be a chance of the guard not catching everything.

Pressures

Squish is good. Muddy, wet trails prefer lower pressures. As you search for every last piece of grip available in the slop, reducing the pressures in your tyres will allow you to dig in that little bit more where it’s needed, allowing you to get your drift on and destroy your PR’s. The downside is your bike will roll slower. Coupled with the muddy trails, this is never fun, but the upside of this is your fitness will increase at a much faster rate when riding through the winter.

Tyre choice

A huge difference between staying railed or hugging trees is tyre choice. A mud tyre on the front and a well gripping, mud clearing tyre on the rear is a no brainer in the winter. My personal recommendation is a Maxxis Shorty 2.3” up front, and a Maxxis High Roller 2 2.3” at the rear. I run between 17-20psi in the front and 19-22 psi in the rear, depending on the conditions of the trails. However, another great option is a Schwalbe Magic Mary / Hans Dampf combo, which is also grippy as hell. It’s your call, but you won’t get very far with semi slicks in the winter (trust me, I’ve tried….).

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Cleanliness

It’s next to godliness apparently, although I’d reserve that spot for some tacos and a cold beer. Anyway, get yourself a mobile pressure washer or even a pump sprayer and take it with you along with a small bit of wet lube for your drivetrain. Post ride, hose the bike (and yourself) down, it’ll make life easier in the long run and keep that beautiful bike of yours running for longer. I use a simple, £10 pump sprayer from Homebase, although if you want to spend a little more (I’ll be investing soon), a Mobi is a great shout.

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In terms of riding, you’ll have your own styles. I find taking a little weight off the front of the bike on the singletrack is helpful, but then try to pump the front to dig the tyres in around the corners. Always be on the look out for sniper roots too; those little bastards hide under leaves and mud, ready to take you down at any second. Also, always mind your GoPro (and make sure it’s recording for when you have the inevitable bail in the slop!):

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Hopefully these help – I’ve been practising what I preach with some ultra-boggy rides over the Surrey Hills, Fleet and Swinley Forest over the past few weeks with some brilliant people and, thanks to the right setups, I’ve interestingly been getting some better times on trails in the winter than in the summer! Get outside, get riding and get smiling; your body will thank you and you can at least get away with a cheeky pint post ride… you’ve definitely earned it for riding through the worst of the weather!

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Life has been a little bit hectic lately with no signs of slowing down, but I am back in the zone with keeping Stealthriders.com running smoothly and providing more regular blogs and reviews. I am, however, going to stop sending the monthly newsletter out for now, instead focusing on a quarterly update.

Until next time, cheers!

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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