Reviews

Santa Cruz Nomad C review

Peaslake is a small, idyllic village that sits unassumingly in the heart of the Surrey Hills. In this village with a quaint little village store, stunning houses and a great pub, sits a small shop called Pedal & Spoke. For the past 7 years, it’s been the unrivalled powerhouse of the UK Santa Cruz market. Owner Howard Wagstaff is a lovely guy,  known for wearing two things in particular; a welcoming smile and his trademark flip flops. Seriously, even in the depths of Winter, Howard is rocking the open feet look. If 5.10 don’t give him a signature set soon, I’d be surprised.
Supporting Howard is shop mechanic and all-round legend Jack ‘Mouse’ Roadley. Again, Jack is always smiling and having a laugh with the locals and newcomers alike and is always happy to help with anything. He’s a big supporter of Stealth Riders too, so I’m naturally chuffed by this!
Finally, there’s Mags, the shop dawg. A beautiful little Jack Russel, Mags can usually be found chilling out in her bed under one of the counters or near the tees. That is, until she hears the rustle of a paper bag with a cheese straw inside. Ears perk up instantly and the stereotypical ‘puppy dog eyes’ come out. All in all, Pedal & Spoke really is the quintessential ‘local bike shop in the small village’, inclusive of boutique brands and the friendly ‘locals service’ which is extended to all who walk through the door. It’s the perfect location; Surrey is one of the most affluent areas in the UK and the Surrey Hills just so happen to have some of the best trails to ride in the South East of the UK too, so it’s all a match made in heaven. It’s no surprise then, that Pedal & Spoke only sell Santa Cruz bicycles. Affluence demands perfection, so why sell anything else?!
After a quick chat with the guys, I was graced with a Large Santa Cruz Nomad C, the ‘S’ model in the gorgeous Ink/Gold colourway, which sits at a shade under £5k, and was told to simply ‘take it out for as long as you want and enjoy it’. And that’s exactly what I did. 6 hours later, I returned the Nomad, and below is what came of my time with the bike.

The Bike:

Nearly everything has changed with the 2018 Nomad and it really has been redesigned from the ground up. After years of development and research with it’s big brother the V10, Santa Cruz have trickled that tech and design down to the Nomad, to allow what seems to be basically a hill friendly mini DH bike.  I’m pleased to see they have stuck with 27.5″ wheels, too.
Longer and slacker, the 2018 Nomad has a much lower placed shock, passing through the split seat tube. This change allows growth in travel from it’s predecessor, from 165mm to 170mm, and allows the bike to effectively feel the same on the descents as a full-blown downhill bike.
The Mk4 Nomad is a big departure in styling terms from the Mk3 and below is the proof of this. I was accompanied on the day by my buddy Phil G, who just so happens to ride a stealth black Mk3 Nomad. Aesthetically, I genuinely cannot choose a favourite; each has it’s own standout points and are both stunning in their own right, so I’m still torn. You can make your own mind up.

The S model I was demoing on the day is the mid-range offering of the Nomad family, with build highlights below:
Frame: Full carbon
Forks: Rockshox Lyrik RC 170
Shock: Rockshox Super Deluxe R
Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed
Brakes: SRAM Code R, 180mm rotors F&R
Bar/Stem: Race Face Aeffect with Santa Cruz Grips
Seatpost: Rockshox Reverb, 170mm (L/XL models, smaller models get a shorter drop)
Wheels: 27.5″ E13 TRS 30mm rims with Novatec hubs, boost spacing.
Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 Front / Maxxis Minion DHR 2.4 Rear
Weight: Approx 29lbs
The Nomad also comes in an alloy guise, with prices starting at a friendlier £3,599. However, if you’re a bit more flush with cash, you can opt for the carbon ‘Reserve’ model; the Cremé de la créme of the range which will set you back over £7,500. Regardless of the model, the 2018 Nomad really is a joy to look at – sleek lines, stunning colours and that unmistakable classy look of a Santa Cruz bicycle:

The Ride:

It was a bit of a grim day and the rain had been coming in over the few days before, so there was going to be some mud. Phil and I decided to start out by stretching the legs with a road climb up to Holmbury St Mary, the typically drier hill of the three on the day, up to one of the Surrey Hills’ more famous trails; Barry Knows Best (BKB). Like an engine on a cold day, I take a little while to get warmed up and into the swing of things, as I’m sure most of you do too. After a bastard climb up,  the descent of Barry gave me the chance to pump the bike through small dips, test the tyres in the corners and put the power down on the fast sections. Soon enough, I was feeling ready for the more gnarly, technical trails the Surrey Hills is known for.
We rode up towards Pitch Hill and I was very pleasantly surprised with the climb up ‘Deathstar’; if you know it, you’ll be pleased to hear that a 170mm bike can sail up. The rider, not so much.. after clipping a small rock, I was guided into a small gully and my climb came to a halt. Still, if I’d not made that mistake, the climb would have been easy enough. We rode ‘Proper Bo’ to warm up a little more and that gave me the first taste of the Nomad in the air. Whilst it’s a tiny double, it’s still good to get a feel before the bigger stuff, and the bike flew smoothly through the 4-5ft double and landed as if it was a kerb.
Feeling more comfortable on the bike, it was time for something a bit bigger. We rode up to the entrance of Thick & Creamy, known for its super rocky, technical gully entrance, which then opens up to two drops; the first being over a downed oak tree and the second launches you into a huge berm before a smooth table. The Nomad sailed through everything with ease. It was, simply put, the smoothest run of that trail I’ve ever experienced, with travel feeling endless and the wheels feeling railed. I didn’t think I’d ever say that the drops on this trail would feel small, but the Nomad swallowed them without question.

We rode towards Winterfold Forest and the climb there once again surprised me. How the hell is a 170mm bike pedalling this well?! I mean it when I say this, the Nomad felt like a 130-140mm bike on the climbs. We reached a favourite trail of mine (and everybody else), Evian, and again, sailed over the first 8-10ft double, through the tight berms and over the second, smaller double. It was at this point I realised my face was beginning to ache a little. I figured out this was because for the past few hours of riding and chatting, all I’d been doing was smiling and laughing, even as the mud and slop began to cling more to me and the bike. It’s not every day I enjoy a ride this much, so I was not going to take it for granted.
We rode a few more of the trails around the Winterfold area, including Northern Monkey and again, the Nomad never skipped a beat. Not once. Even on greasy roots, as soon as I felt a wheel begin to give, the Nomad shifted into autopilot, ensuring I remained upright and railed. Honestly, it was a strange feeling and I can’t quite explain it; where I’m certain I’d have fallen a few times on another bike, I somehow kept things together on the Nomad, saving me an embrace with some of Surreys finest mud.

One thing I was very curious about in the morning when picking the bike up was, considering the state of the trails and the general muddy conditions the UK has in comparison to California, the position of the rear shock. Surely, with the shock placement so low and close to the rear wheel, this was a recipe for disaster. However, it’s amazing what one tiny piece of plastic can do. This just goes to show that the small details really do make the differences. Not once was I hampered by mud clogging the shock, nor did I feel anything other than buttery smooth compression and rebound. Top marks to Santa Cruz for the innovative ways they’re addressing minor points to ensure maximum stoke levels.

Phil and I headed back to the village centre for a bite to eat and a warm brew, courtesy of the ever-lovely Trudy and team at the Peaslake Village Store. At this point, Phil had to head off. Covered in mud, damp and aching a little, I could at this point have finished the ride. But why quit on a good thing? I was still feeling stoked to be on this bike, so I set off for a full climb to the Holmbury St Mary viewpoint and test through Yoghurt pots; undulating corners, much like a roller coaster made of gnar. At the viewpoint, I bumped into Marcia Ellis, who, a few years ago launched Surrey Hills MTB Chix, a group dedicated for getting women out riding. We had a good chat and it’s awesome to see how far women riding has come and it’s thanks to Marcia and co that are driving the revolution.
I hit Yoghurt Pots and managed to get through most of the trail without pedalling, instead opting to pump through everything I could and the immediate speed generation the Nomad produced was inspiring. It’s always a trail that guarantees a smile from me, and this time I think it was just a touch bigger than ever before.
Finally, I headed back to the first trail of the day, BKB. This time however, I knew the bike and how it handled, so the bike and I worked in unison, nailing every rut, root and berm. I finished the trail feeling elated, yet sad to know my time with the Nomad was coming to a close. I span the last few hundred metres back to the shop, reminiscing on the sheer epicness of the ride I’ve just had, hosed the bike down and hung it back up on the rail outside whilst having a chat to a mate that was at the shop, James B. Thanking Howard and Jack, I said my goodbyes and got changed into some fresh clothes before heading home to reflect on the day.

HUGE thanks to everybody on the day, especially Howard and Jack for the demo and Phil for the company. As always, a big shout out to Trudy for the big smiles and beautiful coffee too and a ‘great to see you’ to Marcia and James. The cycling community is just incredible and consistently friendly, no matter who you are.
Talking quickly on Pedal & Spoke, they are, simply put, THE place to go if you want a Santa Cruz. They have an insane choice of demo bikes to try out, offer an impressive part-exchange service on your old Santa Cruz if you’re eyeing the latest model and provide top service, products and advice, all the time with good laughs.
I mentioned it in the opening paragraphs, but one thing that stood out for me was the level of relationship the guys in the shop had with their customers – from loyal clients turned friends, to new customers looking to buy the latest kit, the service was impeccable, dedicated and truly bespoke to each need. Still, it’s hard to see how the service wouldn’t be anything less than world class… the guys work in the heart of the stunning Surrey countryside with some of the best trails in South East on their doorstep, offering some of the nicest bikes currently available to some incredibly friendly people. Add to this the allure of the best cheese straws in the galaxy.. did somebody say dream job?!

Final Thought:

I was going to write something big here, but I honestly don’t think I need to. Simply put, you know that warm fuzzy feeling you got when you had your first crush? By the last few trails of the day, that’s how the Nomad had me feeling. I think it could be love…
Cheers,
Ian @ Stealth Riders
http://pedalandspoke.co.uk/ 
https://www.santacruzbicycles.com/en-GB/nomad

 

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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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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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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Summertime Scorcher

It’s been bloody hot here in England. We’re used to clouds and drizzle, even in the Summer months. Typically, we complain that we never see any sun. So, what did we collectively do when the recent heatwave kicked in? Naturally, we complained. First it’s too cold, now it’s too hot.

Conversations about the weather rank in the top three grumbles Brits have; the others being queuing and public transport being so shit.  Not me, though. I won’t ever complain about seeing actual blue and a strange yellow disc in the sky! No, instead, I get out and ride.

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19th July was the hottest day of 2016 so far, peaking at around 32 degrees in Surrey. After a shitty day at work and 2 weeks off the bike due to a hectic workload, getting out and destressing was all that was on my mind. I chatted with my good friend Oscar and we were soon on the road to the ever stunning Surrey Hills to enjoy a sweatfest of a ride.

Although we only managed to get in 12.5 miles before the light began to fade below the tree line, we both smashed some great goals in some intense heat (It was still around 30 degrees when we set out). Oscar absolutely NAILED Yoghurt Pots and Barry knows best, and I finally got down the chute into Thick & Creamy on the first attempt at a decent speed! No matter how small, it’s always good to achieve something!

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We weren’t out for Strava times, it was just about getting out, enjoying the weather, dusty trails and having a laugh. It’s always the case though; don’t try, and you seem to do better! It was great to see a few others on the trail, including another Aeris rider (Andy, if you read this, good to meet you).

The colours on a day like that are spectacular; vivid blue skies and a sea of green slowly descend into pink and orange hues with the sun setting and the full moon rising. It truly makes for an incredible scene, only made better by being on the bike and having a good time. Snaking through Barry knows best with the sky turning to blood red in a glorious sunset was a definite highlight for me, topping off an incredible ride. The trails were dry, dusty and loose, with my Maxxis Shorty/Minion SS tyre combo searching for grip in every turn, resulting in a few sketchy moments and some good laughs!

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If you’ve not ridden the Surrey Hills, you are seriously missing out. It’s arguably the best place to ride in the South East, just for the fact that there are so many hidden trails to explore over a huge area of land. From the Holmbury St Mary viewpoint, you can see both the London skyline to the North East and the undulating South Downs to the South. Stunning views, trails for all levels and friendly locals; it’s got to be on your list of places to ride. Take a local if you can, to ensure you get the best selection of trails. If you don’t know anybody local, always ask – us mountain bikers are always willing to help out!

I’ll be sure to take the GoPro over there soon, to get a full, in depth trail review up, to help you out.

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With just a few days until the third round of the Southern Enduro at a venue near Queen Elizabeth Country Park called Headdown Wood, my fitness is awful and once again, I’m up against some amazing competition.  I’m fairly confident in the fact I’ll be propping up the bottom again, but I refuse to drop to the fun category… I’d rather do badly in masters than decent in fun! It looks like I’ve got race number 99, it’s always nice to have double, rather than triple digit numbers. Let’s just hope I can pin it on the day and improve my placing over my last time out.

As always, I’ll be popping a race report up once the dust has settled – stay tuned!

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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