ONE INDUSTRIES MINI-ENDURO
EASTRIDGE, SHROPSHIRE 12th May
“Kitchen’s open, help yourself to food dude” that’s what Dan Atherton had said, as he headed off to Metabief, whilst I grafted away at Atherton manor, making the family a rather large deck. I finished work early with lots of excitement and headed off on the trip from North Wales to BETD bike shop in Staffordshire, where a mate, Dan Critchlow had sorted me my first ever 29er on test for the weekend, and a carbon fully tricked out one to boot. As I munched down on the family pack of dry roasted nuts during the hour long journey, I wondered whether I would like the bike. The idea was to do a local 48k XC loop event called the Batch Burner on the Intense during Saturday, then Sunday’s plan was to do the mini Enduro (also local) at Eastridge, either on my GT or the Intense, if I thought it was up to such a big hitting rocky coarse, although I did have my reservations! I arrived after finishing off the whole bag of nuts and nearly puking when tipping the last bit of salt in my gob like a true pig! First impressions were “that’s one gorgeous looking bike and HOW FOOKIN’ LIGHT!”
Back at mine, she got a good clean, bolt check and personal set-up, I chucked her on the fish scales and was amazed at the 26.5 lbs (12kg), but looking at the build I wasn’t surprised, carbon bars, rims and cranks made this bike a feather weight, the only concern was the poxy grip lacking Hutchinson summer tyres. Early night was in order for the weekend ahead. 3 am saw me up with the worst stomach cramps I’ve ever had in my life, caused (found out after a bit of googling) by the massive amount of salt I had devoured! this went on all night, no sleep was had, but I managed to drag myself to the Batch Burner doubled over in pain, “it’ll get better soon” I thought. Well, it didn’t and I never made it to the first climb, feeling sick as a dog and not even having the energy to pedal on the flat, that was that, game over, couldn’t even tell what the bike was like, so it would have to be tested at Eastridge, like it or not!
After a 3 hour nap waiting for my mates to do the race, I felt a fair bit better, when they came in they said it was the most savage thing they had ever done, so I probably did OK missing it, so I kept some energy for the following day. I dropped the boys off in the afternoon and headed off up to Eastridge where I was quickly heading out up the trail for some practice, as my energy was coming back by the minute, although my mouth was drier than a witch’s ditch! The fire road climb was a couple of miles and the first major thing I noticed, was just how ridiculously easy it is to climb on this thing, I mean it’s just unreal, almost like someone’s pushing you! This bike was built up with the Sram XXI gearing and that too I would say is pretty amazing and so quiet, although the idea of forking out over £300 when you wear out the cassette is beyond me.
The thing that amazes me about 29ers, is how many people have a negative opinion on them, “you can’t get them round tight corners”, “they’re shit on jumps” they’re scary on fast rocky sections”, “they’re ugly and don’t look like a proper bike” etc, etc. But what you will find with most of these people is they have never even had a go of one, and when it comes to this bike they couldn’t be further from the truth!
Bearing in mind Eastridge is about as rocky, rooty and gnarly as an English hill can get, I was shocked at this bike’s capability, it just seems to hold it’s line over anything, the only thing letting it down was the crap tyres upon hitting the slimy mud sections. Tight steep corners were easily manoeuvred through, and on jumps I’d say it gave me more confidence to hit them faster, with the centrifugal force of the larger wheel keeping the bike more stable in the air. Plus the obvious thing about such a light, large wheeled bike was the mental rolling speed down and across the trails, it’s just nuts. It seemed like a real revelation to me, but maybe I was deceiving myself, only race-day would tell, although as I hit the sack that night (this time not full of salt!) I found myself hoping for a dry day to suit the tyres.
Race day was upon us, with typical UK rain on and off all morning, putting my hopes of a drying track right out of the window. I was soon back up the hill with all my mates for a day of fun. The amount of attention the bike got was unbelievable, lots of people eyeing it like it was some super model on my arm. To all that came over asking about it, the first thing I said was “pick it up” just to see the disbelief on their face, followed by them mostly coming out with things like “NO WAY!” and all remarking on how pretty it was. Also on riding up the hills with certain mates, who usually pull away from me on their 26ers, the ease to keep up was once again very evident.
With a bit of morning practice done on the three sections to be raced in the afternoon I was soon back up the top for Stage 1 race run. I just felt like I had a steady run at the top, I had probably a five second off when the skinny tyres hit the mud half way down (gutted) then on the 50 metre uphill dash the 29er came into it’s own, just seeming to accelerate up the trail like there was a turbo fitted! Stage 2 was fast and very rocky, I held my lines well up the top, only to puncture 3/4 the way down then run with the bike to finish (with the expensive XC carbon rims being the main thing on my mind!) At the bottom I tried a full speed rear wheel tube insertion, but after getting a load of mud in the rear hub I then wound the axle into that same mud and that was it, the thread was mullered’ oops, that’ll teach me to rush, game over, GUTTED!
As Shropshire has a massive MTB race fraternity it was one big competitive affair, with loads of locals trying to outdo the outside competition, so who would be the fastest of the Monners? Local favourite Richard George Arthur Selwyn Cunnynghame (aka Cunny) snapped his chain on Stage 1 and although posting fastest Stage 2 time was a DNF with local John Owen taking top spot in the Pro-Am. Seniors saw Andy Walker in top spot, with local Dan Pardesi in 2nd only 2 second off. Robin weaver was fastest Master, Top 2011 UK Gravity Enduro Veteran took top spot in his (and my) category, Chris Waddup won Super Vets and Robert Goodey won the U18’s. Adam Page won the fastest (and bravest) hardtail category and fastest lady was Maxine Filby.
I checked my times from Stage 1 & 2 and they said it all about the bike, I had posted 3rd fastest time on stage 1, only 1 10th of a sec off 2nd and Stage 2 saw me 5th with a puncture, like I say these 29ers are deceiving, making you ride faster than you think. If I had the money in my pocket that day I would have parted with it for what is undoubtably the fastest and most fun bike I have ever ridden! And with some good tyres on a 29er and a bit more practice I think an Enduro podium could be in sight.
As for the event, it was absolutely spot on, everyone loved it and the one day format ran perfectly plus it was great to see it supported by such a prominent name as One Industries, who were there with give-aways all day.
Big thanks to BETD and Intense for the bike loan, Naked Racing for putting on such a good event and all the Monners for making the atmosphere spot on!
Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Doc Ward (http://www.doc-photography.com/)