Reviews

Fox Proframe helmet – first ride

Open face breathability. Full face protection. This is the tagline from Fox for their new Proframe helmet, launched recently. It’s hard to think that a full face lid would be anything other than a sweatbox for all day riding, so I wanted to try one out to see if that tagline rang true.
Sunday 23rd April 2017 saw the Fox Europe team embark on Swinley Forest, one of my local trail centres, on their Proframe World Tour. This was the perfect opportunity for riders like me to try out the new helmet and see what the fuss was about. Even better, they had Pierre-Edouard Ferry (Red Bull Rampage sender and damn nice guy) leading out rides, Russ Cosh from the Swinley Hub cooking up some mean burgers, the awesome Stuart, Joe and the team from Fox and the lovely Rachel (Stuarts other half), in attendance.
Before I go any further, go follow Rachel on Instagram for all things Fox, MTB for chicks and brilliant posts. Top marks too, to Tristan, owner of Swinley Bike Hub, for once again putting on a great event. The Swinley Enduro, the BBQ’s, night rides and all other events are always a brilliant laugh, check one out if you can!
A bearded goon and Pierre-Edouard Ferry – Top bloke and half decent on a bike, too!
I had a chat with the guys and picked up a Proframe in Medium in Moth Teal and the fit was perfect, like Goldilocks tucking into a bears porridge. If it’s not the right fit for you immediately, the helmet comes with a number of different cheek pads to get sizing just right.
I set off on a small solo ride to get some first thoughts and take some photos and WOW. I felt like I wasn’t wearing a helmet on the first trail, and the climb on the second trail usually has me warm in my current helmet (Bell Super 2R, which I usually run without the chin guard), but the Proframe kept me feeling fresh as a daisy.
It probably helps that the visor is fixed to allow for maximum airflow, but more on tech later.
Heading down blue 3 with the wind rushing through my hair and beard (the Proframe has a massive beard vent at the front…), I saw a mate of mine, Marius, taking photos so stopped for a chat and to get a banger shot – cheers Marius!
Photo – Marius Howard
After some more climbs (helter skelter, if you know Swinley), my head was still cool thanks to the 15 big bore intake vents and 9 exhaust vents placed perfectly across the helmet. After a few miles at a reasonable pace, my head was dry and I headed back to the trailhead to catch up with everybody and talk tech with Stuart, Country Manager for Fox GB. So, let me pass that tech talk to you.
Stuart (Front row, second left) on a recent night ride with the Swinley mob
Firstly, the Proframe comes in 8 colours, so there’s guaranteed to be one to suit you. Of course, I’d go with black, but after wearing the ‘Moth Teal’ colourway, I actually really liked it (just don’t tell anybody, ok)! Even with its ridiculously light weight (735 grams for the Medium), it’s fully downhill certified, so you could genuinely feel confident about taking on Fort William or Mont St Anne whilst rocking this lid. Even more so that it comes as standard with MIPS and also includes a ‘Varizorb’ liner, both of which help to spread the force of any impacts away from a central point on your head. Which is always nice.
One thing I was super impressed with, was the ‘Fidlock’ buckle; sometimes when wearing gloves, unbuckling your helmet can be a hassle. The Fidlock allows you to softly press a small button which releases the buckle in a split second. It’s just as easy to do up and, when buckled, it’s not going anywhere.. once again, keeping you feeling confident that the Proframe is going to keep you safe on the trails.
I don’t really do tech talk though, I prefer to focus on the feel on the trail and my personal thoughts, so here’s some more tech from the source and a promo vid:
It’s all fair and well going our for a solo mooch at a decent pace, but I met up with two of the Swinley Bike Hub race team; Michael Wilson and Aidan Burrill, both of whom are absolute weapons on a bike. So, I went for a proper little ride with them to get the sweat going. Even when trying to keep up with the big boys, I felt much cooler than if I was wearing my Super 2R, both in open and full face guises. Incredible stuff, Fox! Don’t get me wrong, I was still a sweaty mess at the end of the ride (damn my love of pizza), but a little less so I think, thanks to the Proframe.
Pricing is also very reasonable, considering the protection, weight, technology and looks (which, can I just say are stunning). At £215 rrp, it’s fantastic value in my opinion. Here’s a few shots to show the look of the Proframe both on and off the head:
Put simply, although I only tried this helmet for an hour or so, first impressions are verrrrryyyyy good. It allows you to climb like a goat and stay cool, yet smash the descents with the confidence of a ‘traditional’ downhill/full face helmet. Sometimes, trying to combine two things can go horribly wrong. Fox however, have created the PB&J of helmets; a delicious combination of open faced breathability, with the performance and confidence inspiring protection of a much heavier helmet.
Top marks for pushing the boundaries, I can see this being a huge hit on the trails across the globe. I’m actually in the market for a new helmet myself and this is now a serious contender. I’d love to have had a longer time demoing it, but I was short on time and to be able to even try before you buy is a wonderful thing!
Is it overkill for the trails you ride? I’d say no. It’s so light and there’s always the chance that even at your local trails you become complacent, so to be able to have the option to ride all day without overheating whilst knowing you’re protected is surely a win-win situation.
Available at all good Fox retailers, although I’d recommend you order yours through Swinley Bike Hub; it’s a great place and, considering Fox chose Swinley as a venue, surely that says a lot.
Cheers!
Ian @ Stealth Riders
www.foxracing.com
Note – This review is my own, I was not asked or paid to do this, I just wanted to give my honest thoughts in the hope that it may help you, fellow shredder. 

 

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 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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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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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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