Well not quite. I rode Hadleigh Park, the centre that the team behind the Olympics created the 2012 Olympic cross country course at.
Getting to it is super easy. Simply head to Hadleigh in Essex’s and it’s just on the outskirts, just follow the signs. Parking costs £6 and then you’re done.
So what’s it like?
Well first and foremost it’s not the most well signposted trail centre. I rode both the blue and the red. In short, forget the blue, it’s wide open and not terribly inspiring for the experienced rider. The red is where you want to be. You’ve got about a 15 minute loop with optional black rated features which are pretty tasty. Climbing is equally balanced with desents so you’re never short changed. Given the Olympians road the same course, especially the black rated rock gardens on high XC bikes, certainly gets you thinking they’re more than race horses!
So after getting lost a few times admittedly we ran out of time to do a proper loop. So you’ve read this far and gone “great, that was pointless”. Bare with…
It’s worth a trip for sure!
What I did discover/find out, is that it’ll be an awesome place to do laps round. The trails are really well built, with the optional black rocky features keeping you on your toes. Riding a 150mm trail bike also feels like the best option to really get the most out of the centre and features.
The place also sports a well built tarmac pump track and a decent trail head. The views aren’t bad either over the Thames estery!
So one for your list next year for sure. See you there!
Let’s first start at why I bought a downhill bike and let’s face it, who doesn’t want a downhill bike. They look insane and if you’ve ever dreamt of putting your bike on steroids, the end result is a downhill bike.
So it had been on the shopping list for a while and when I finally had a rational-ish excuse to buy one, I went for it! The Excuse you ask? Well, my Family and I were off to Sainte Foy for a summer holiday, a little skiing village in the French Alps, which is conveniently a 10-minute drive from Tignes. Tignes a world-renowned ski resort has recently turned to Downhill/Enduro for the summer months, sporting ten or so LONG trails. Oh by the way, the lift pass is free, so it’ll cost you nothing to ride.
Long story short, however, it would cost me £600 to rent a downhill bike for the week, so the small increase to £2000 for my own felt plausible! So a month before we left, my shiny new Canyon Torque DHX arrived.
How did it ride?
I’ve only ever ridden three DH bikes so I can hardly call myself an expert. What I would say however is that it had a long wheelbase which meant agility wasn’t its strong point. Pointing it downhill and clinging on, was. Tignes and neighbouring resort Val D’isere, part of the same trail network, are rocky and to say it ploughed the land would be an understatement. Nothing was too big it felt and the more speed the better! I remember riding it at Antur Stiniog where the rocks are big, and it took me a while to mentally adjust. That metre drop followed by a rock garden can actually be taken at full speed, with no brakes. The bike will be fine and in fact, sail right across. Compared to my 100mm hardtail, mentally readjusting your limits was the hardest thing about riding the Canyon.
So why sell then?
Well, I don’t live in the Alps. Not yet anyway. For the UK it was like bringing a shotgun to a knife fight. Massively more capable than for the riding I was doing. Granted it would be ace at Revo Bike Park and the young chap that bought it off me is doing exactly that, however, for East of England 210mm of travel, big tyres and lazy handling meant it saw more time in the garage than the trails. Even the nearby bike parks like Chicksands could be ridden on 140mm or less. So time to rehome!
Would I buy one again?
No. I’ve now got my new bike in replacement; the YT Industries CF One which has all the attitude and some of the downhill capability of the Canyon, but you can pedal it for hours at a time. Saying that, if lived near to big mountain riding, you betcha it would be back on the shopping list.
So, onto my next bike then. Stay tuned to my channels as I get into the swing of things.
You’ve got four touch points on the bike, two hands, two feet. I’ve learnt the difference between clipless and flats, with their positives and negatives. What I haven’t done until now, is experiment with gloves.
Thanks to the team at Gripgrab, I now can. So over the past 3 months of riding, across different terrains and in different weather conditions, I’ve worked out what I like. It’s interesting though, I’ve disproven my hypothesis – comfort above feel.
So, the gloves I chose to test were;
Racing “The Racing is a pro level performance mountain bike glove, with the ingenious InsideGrip technology that delivers an unforeseen level of handlebar control.”
Whether it’s riding the XC or the DH bike, I’ve gone for gloves which provided a layer of absorption between handle bar and hand. I’ve always found after a long ride, or even a short intense one, my hands feel it, be it pressure points or pulling of the skin.
What I’ve found though it the complete opposite. The thinner the glove, the more comfortable it felt due to having less material in between handlebar and hand, that could then pinch and cause pressure points. The Racing glove nailed this in one. A thin glove, but one which not only allowed great feel on the bike but didn’t cause me to suffer – #LadyHands. It’s clearly a summer glove though, as its light and airy.
What surprised me was the Supergel XC and how it got in the way of the ride. I love the exterior look, part of the reason I chose it, however, the big palm gel pad just felt like something was always caught under my hand, eventually causing pins and needles. Bar that excellent grip and decent feel, but it was my palms that felt it.
As for the Raptor – well it’s an out and out winter glove. When I rode with it down Thorpe Cloud in the Peak district, it was just above freezing and blowing a gale, though my hands would never know. They do have a bit of gel cushioning like the Supergels, though must have a smaller amount as I had only positive things to say about this glove. It’s the Rolls Royce of gloves and makes winter riding far more appealing.
As the title suggests, it’s personal when it comes to Gloves. What would you go for and why?
Any questions on the high quality gloves from GripGrab, do hit me up.
Forest of Dean, 2017 bikes and the best day’s weather in March. Welcome to MBR’s Demo Day.
I’m not going to pretend I’m a mountain bike reviewer, so this will be a short and sweet article covering the bikes I rode, and what score I gave them. Putting that aside for a second, can I just say how good this event was. Minimal waiting time, maximum fun, and crucially you weren’t sold to by the brands – just, “wonna try this mate?”. The red trail, my brother and I rode most was a corker too. I believe it was a previous enduro stage and you could tell. Naturally loamy and rooty routes heading straight down the tree crowded hillside. Bang on.
So bike number one.Canyon Neuron. 6/10
This was box fresh, so took a while to bed in, however, if you’re looking for an XC machine that “could” handle the rough stuff, then this performed very well indeed, though I found the geometry to be too front heavy focused. P.S looks lovely!
Onto bike number two. Canyon Spectral CF. 10/10
Playful, light, and confidence inspiring. This for me was the cross between by DH Canyon Torque in regards to confidence and grip, but even better than my Trek Cobia hardtail’s pedalling ability. This is all the bike you need. Curious now what the Strive would be like…
Three is the magic number – ROSE Root Miller 9/10 (27.5+ & 29)
I freely admit it, I was drawn to this bike because of the frame. It looks sweeeet! There were also two, one 27.5+ and a 29er, with the same frame. So my brother and I took both of them to do a back to back test. More for our own understanding regarding plus tyres. Before getting onto the wheel side, the Root Miller was awesome. Not quite as gratifying as the Canyon, but not far behind. I would say the 27.5+ was more fun on the descents than the Spectral, but not as much going up. But what about 27.5+ vs 29er. Well, it comes down to your riding spots. For me the faster rolling, more efficient 29er took top place due to the places I ride it, however, if I lived in a less flat environment the 27.5+ would take it easy – twice as confidence inspiring on the descents as the 29er.
The final countdown – Trek E-Bike 9/10
We had spent about 3 hours in the saddle, half of which had been going uphill. Our last bike of the day was going to have to be an E-Bike or we were out. Luckily the super friendly Trek stand was here to help. I’ve ridden an E-Bike before at the NEC Bike Show and thought they were gimmicky – this time round I thought they were awesome. Why? Because after my legs had pretty much given up the ghost, the E-Bike gave me new legs. My riding day had just been extended! So what’s it like? Well, there are no hills (well sorta) and the descents are ploughed through, due to its weights and plus sized tyres. Think of this has a Bugatti Veryon. Not much fun in the corners, but point it straight up or downhill and it’s super stable and very quick. Would I buy one? Absolutely, just as a second bike, not my primary.
Rising to nearly 1000 ft in the south Peak District with a very clear ridge line, a nice country walk 4 weeks ago, turned into a me getting very excited about bringing the bike back. So I rallied the troop(s), and looped Jamie Hewitt into the mix, a fellow GoPro Family Member. This was never going to be an epic day’s ride, more an adrenaline hit, but why not?
This was also the perfect time to test out some of my new gear I’ve very kindly received from GripGrab. Storm Doris had passed shortly before, so heading to an exposed peak with winds in excess of 50mph probably wasn’t the best idea for riding, but sure put their gear to good use.
First and foremost, Thorpe Cloud. What’s it like? Well, do you like hiking, with a bike? If so it’s right up your street. There’s a lot of climbing, about 30 minutes of intense climbing, and even then you can’t get right to the top due to it getting too rocky to ride down, if you’re not an Atherton. We were however pleasantly surprised by a hikers trail on the north ridge which doubles up nicely as a great bit of downhill single track. There were also huge gulley’s and the much steeper, south ridge, but with 50+ mph winds, safety won the battle with trying it. A full video will be going up sometime in April, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.
GripGrab; their promise being to build products that makes sports more enjoyable no matter how cold, wet and windy it is. So first up is the Winter Raptor glove.
I’ve always been a fan of a heavier built gloves, so wanted to give these winter specials a true testing. They actually felt reasonably similar to my Troy Lee Design pair in terms of fit, but the quality was noticeably turned up a notch, as was the windproofing. My hands were kept comfortably warm but not at the extent of sweaty palms. Clearly, some breathable technology going on here. The thickness neither had any negativity on feel, underlined by riding my DH rig, which absorbs a lot of the high frequency bumps. Any negatives? The gel inserts, which I’m a big fan of in other gloves, were too much in this case, with finding my hand sliding on top of them if I put a lot of pressure through. That aside, I’m thoroughly impressed by “NAME”. The key outtake I took was, quality and the overall look aint bad either!
The second, more experimental test was GripGrab’s Aquarepel Leg Warmers. I’m no fair weather cyclist, happy to get dirty, wet and a bit cold, but what if I could avoid all of that and stay comfortably warm? Well that’s exactly what happened. Good thing the body receives all 5 senses, otherwise who would have known it was blowing a gale? Using their on-site size guide, I chose medium, however after time, the thigh part does slide down, so I’ll explore this further on a proper pedal ride. There was also little moisture in the air to give their water repellent qualities a true test, but they’ve sure peeked my interest in wearing them…
I’ll be sharing my thoughts throughout the year on the suite of GripGrab products I’ll be testing.
In the meantime, go ride Thorpe Cloud. The locals will love you. Genuinely, curiosity and excitement was expressed by everyone we bumped into.
GripGrab is based on a passion for sports and the dream of building a brand of products that makes sports more enjoyable no matter how cold, wet or windy it is. So being based in the UK, where it normally is cold, wet and windy in Summer, let alone Winter, is probably going to be useful.
So over the course of the next year, I’ll test out their gear to fully determine whether it does, what it says on the tin!
Test number one; Thorpe Cloud, aka cold and windy. What better way to give their warming qualities a true test than heading to an exposed mountain in the Peak District? In early March…
The time has come to move up with GoPro. I’ve had my trusty Hero 3 Silver since the start. It’s been everywhere with me, but as my experience and ambition has grown, it’s been struggling to keep up.
GoPro or DSLR?
I’ve been umming and ahhing over what’s next. Do I get a compact DSLR, a full fat DSLR or stay with GoPro. If I stay with GoPro, then what’s best? Session or Black?
You’ve got to think about how you’ll use it. I’m inevitably an activity first, camera second kind of guy. Lofting a heavy DSLR round with me though would yes out perform a GoPro, doesn’t give me the flexibility of chucking it in your pocket and if you never use it, you haven’t wasted energy lugging it around. S’all good!
So that ruled out DSLR, but then if I continue you my rational of maximum convenience, then the GoPro Hero 5 Session is the one. It does everything you realistically need. You’re not a production house. However even after 3 or so years of using my GoPro Hero 3, not having a screen did it in the end. Worth the extra doh? Yup.
When it comes to whipping it out of your pocket to grab a snap before the sun passes over the hill, faffing about with getting your phone out, turning on wifi and using it as a view finder is hassle. Even now I get it wrong occasionally and end up missing half the shot when I can’t be bothered with the hassle.
So, GoPro Hero 5 Black is the one. At this point, I do have to give a big shout out to GoPro – cheers!
What am I going to try first?
Sun. With the vast improvement of the image sensor from Hero 3 to 5, capturing something like the below has been high on my priority list. There is something about capturing some good old sun flair that seems so attractive. No matter what you’re doing, it’s always going to look good.
Night and low light. Its been the one big feature that the Hero 3 really limited your creativity on. Capturing silhouettes, the night’s sky or the ambience of the evening has been on my list for sometime.
Burst mode. Aka shutter speed. I like my mountain biking, which is generally a reasonable high speed bumpy affair. The slow to medium shutter speeds on my GoPro Hero 3 hindered you no end, as after attempt after attempt you produce blurry shots. So with up to 30 shots a second on the GoPro Hero 5 Black, the time has come to stop the action like never before.
I’m sure i’ll find plenty more on the Hero 5 above and beyond merely having a screen and a better sensor. Voice control will at least be a welcomed rest bite to having to get on and off the bike when capturing.
So 2017. You’ve kicked off with some pretty shoddy weather, though now I’ll soon have a new tool in my arsenal, that may not be such a bad thing.
It’s days to go to Christmas and after moving into our new house, the bikes have been left gathering dust for a few months now. So when an old mate from school mentioned he was coming back home for Christmas, we had to get a ride in, big or small.
My old mate Gareth, pictured above, was responsible for getting me into the mindset of taking your bike to the woods and finding lines. Prior to that, it was just who’s the fastest and who go could jump further in the back garden with the little bro.
SO, we needed a ride that can’t take us hours to get to, but packed a punch. Aston Hill is a Bike Park not far from Luton, off the M1 which fitted the bill. Not just a good Bike Park, but a trail specifically. Surface to Air. The name says it all and was the trail in question. Take a look at its launch video which sells it well. It’s a good quality production, which makes up for my dark and blurry GoPro shots as I struggled to get enough light on the shortest day of the year.
Surface To Air starts relatively flat, over a series of berms and tables before quickly building speed as you start pointing the bike downhill. Running over a series of drops that only get bigger and bigger as you now head down the valley of the hill, you’re soon to arrive at the best section.
There’s one particular drop that though not massive, certainly requires you to take stock before heading over the edge. I reckon you must drop between 6 – 10ft, but what makes it so poignant is that after hurtling down you come to a point where you naturally slow, almost stop. At this point is where you meet the biggest drop on the course, with none of your momentum, your normal friend when it comes to drops. However, balance the bike right, keep your eyes up, and enjoy as you go from zero to 60 (HA more like 20/30) in 10 metres and finish with a nice jump on the other side of the small valley.
It’s an adrenaline fuelled riot Surface To Air, which if you haven’t ridden it yet you should, though I would recommend a full suspension bike, bigger the better. I’ve ridden a lot of the country both on DH and XC, and Surface To Air remains in my top ten.
So where exactly is this gem?
There’s only one thing…
To get back up from your runs, you have to walk back up, which isn’t normally an issue. However the walk back up takes about 20 – 25 minutes which unfortunately means you spend the majority of your energy walking back up. So there’s no short cut here, you need to be fit to enjoy it.
Get more deets here and explore the seven other trails! They’re also good, especially The Black Run if you enjoy techy descents.
The season is almost here. The Ski season I mean. I was in Tignes, French Alps, earlier this year and have been counting down until the snows returns; And it’s making a return this weekend!
Fortunately, but unfortunately in this case particularly, i’ve just bought a house, so a ski holiday is well and truly off the cards this season.
So to imagine i’m there again, I thought it i’d put together a quick listicle on four angles to try this season with your GoPro. Last season was the first time I had my GoPro while skiing, previously it’s always been shaky, pixelated, cam corder footage, so it was good to finally get those Instabangers going.
Anyway, without further ado, here are my top four angles to try this season;
Using either your ski pole with a handlebar mount, or in the below case, my GoPole, position the camera so that you’re framing yourself, the skis and ideally where you’re heading in the background of the shot.
SKI Boot POV
Not the obvious one here, but try strapping your GoPro to your ski boot or lower leg, in this case using a GoPro Chesty mount and capturing the pistes from the Ski’s perspective. This angle works particularly well when going through powder or with flick ups of snow. It gives the shot that sense of speed and energy.
Reverse helmet POV
Surely the whole point of skiing it to wear your pair of iridescent lensed Oakley goggles no? For those groups shots at the top of the lifts, on the chairlifts or at the restaurant enjoying the sun, get a group selfie by using the GoPro 3 way, or GoPole Arm in this case, to capture those groupies from a new perspective.
Its your stablemate, can’t go wrong angle. Beware though, your typical chesty shot taken on the slopes will be pretty dull unless there’s something in the foreground to give the shot perspective. Whether that be your hands, or skies in deep powder as you crouch over, experiment with getting that true POV shot. My particular favourite is leaving the restaurant into the white out – it really captured the atmosphere.
With all four of these switch to time-lapse mode and away you go! 1 every 0.5 seconds ideally. These all do require various mounts so head to Amazon for a browse.
Got anymore, any better? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org and i’ll add them to the article with credits – don’t forget your explanation.