Why dream it when you can live it? ENDURO magazine – or rather 41 Publishing – has its roots in downhill racing and after 10 years, it’s high time to return to them for one season – with less skills and no fitness, though with the best bikes and lots of beer! Beep, beep, beeeeeeep!
Remember the good old days? Back when you were young and wild? When you did things instead of just thinking about them? We certainly can… but things have changed over the years, we’ve become more serious – or we at least try to be less risky and wild at this stage in our lives. However, ENDURO magazine is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and instead of doing what everyone would do on an anniversary – to look back at the past and celebrate our achievements – we thought, why reminisce about the past when we could redo it. It’s the perfect time to not just think back to the good old days, but to relive them for a season. With that said, let’s go racing!
Why dream it when you can live it?”
A few nights later, we had a plan: three dudes, three bikes, a lot of gear that we could never have afforded before, and a local downhill race – in our current state, our bodies couldn’t handle more than one… Cheers!
MAG41 and the story behind the ENDURO story
Hold on, what’s MAG41, eh? Ten years ago, we founded ENDURO magazine, or rather renamed it to that. Before that, our magazine was called MAG41 and it was all about downhill racing. Today, all that remains of our roots is the number in “41 Publishing”, the publishing house responsible for ENDURO along with three other magazines we founded over the years, and our pursuit of adrenaline, albeit a little more careful. Alongside our early editorial work for MAG41, we also founded a racing team, which became one of the most successful German downhill teams within a few months. In addition to participating in countless European and World Cup races, we won gold and silver in the Elite Men category and claimed the Junior title at the 2011 German National Championship. The team, consisting of Noah Grossmann, Benny Strasser, Ferdinand Brunold and magazine founder Robin Schmitt doesn’t exist any longer, but why should that stop us? As luck would have it, the iXS Cup is also celebrating an anniversary this year – 20 years of downhill racing history and the perfect occasion for a combined party. The more the merrier, right? ;)
The 41 dream team for the 2022 season – experience instead of results
Since we’re hands-on kind of people, it’s obvious we wanted to fill our newly founded racing team with riders from our own ranks. Right up front is Robin Schmitt, the founding member of MAG41 and ex-team manager. At the time, he didn’t just manage the downhill racing team but also competed in countless iXS Cup and some World Cup races as a team rider. Needless to say, he’s got plenty of racing experience. Some say that he’s mastered the art of switching off his head as soon as he hears the nerve-racking beeping in the start hut.
Team member number 2 also has plenty of racing experience, but without ever having ridden in a large team and, much to the chagrin of his parents, spending all his savings on the sport. As a little boy, Ben Topf was inspired by movies like New World Disorder and Kranked. It’s no surprise that he mixed up the local racing scene around Bad Tabarz, Germany. Today – as editor-in-chief of GRAN FONDO and DOWNTOWN – his world looks very different. But Ben is sure that despite having shifted his focus – which is primarily on asphalt and gravel roads – he can still put down a good run on a downhill bike. Moreover, after many successful and memorable years of working together, Ben is setting off for new shores this summer, and what better way to send him off than with a downhill party?
Peter Walker is the last and youngest member to round off the team. In terms of the number of races, he has the least experience, but if you take his total race time, the other two team members have got their work cut out. By focusing on enduro racing, which has much longer stages than DH tracks, and with a reputation of a bike park rat, Peter has spent more time on a mountain bike in recent years than Ben and Robin combined. After 16 months in “heaven on earth” a.k.a. Whistler, big jumps and nasty gaps are just his thing. So, to the iXS Cup track builders reading this, you know what to do. ;)
After 10 years away from the DH racing circuit, we – especially Robin and Ben – have no idea where we’ll end up on the rankings and whether we can even keep up. We can clearly remember the overcrowded shuttles at the races; having to pee out of anxiety mixed with excitement just before the start; the beep, beep, beeeeep in the start hut; the shouting fans through the gnarliest sections; the big hits on the bike, and the relief of crossing the finish line – having clocked a good time, of course. However, we’re going racing to have fun, not to win races or prove anything. Like many at the hobby race scene, we’re excited about riding the hottest bikes and enjoying the experience instead of chasing results. As such, we’ll be competing in the hobby class – that is, with less training time and more focus on having fun.
Rule number 1: what we lack in skill we’ll make up for with top of the range gear”
All the gear, no idea! Our dream setup
Mountain biking – and especially downhill racing – is a luxury sport, and if you’ve got the resources of a factory team – or the doors that are open to a renowned magazine – there’s no holding back. We all love dreaming about the hottest bikes, but it’s even better to actually ride them, which is exactly what we set out to do!
The bikes of our dreams
The new RAAW downhill bike has already been spotted out in the open, but it’s still a prototype and won’t be available until next year. It features a damn cool, clean look and straight lines. It was specced according to Peter’s preferences, using the finest components from SRAM, RockShox, DT Swiss and Michelin. What more could you ask for?
Need we say more? The MAG41 racing team relied entirely on Specialized bikes in 2012. It’s no surprise that Robin’s dream bike starts with a big S in this case too. Red is the fastest colour, and it matches nicely with the fork and shock, giving an added boost on the trail. Moreover, the mullet setup of the Demo Race suits Robin’s wild riding style. The Demo is a classic amongst downhill bikes and has been ridden to victory by countless DH legends.
The Trek Session was last season’s hottest and most successful downhill race bike, making it the perfect bike for us. ;) With its high pivot rear suspension and glittering paint job, it’s Ben’s weapon of choice. He’s still used to big rigs with 26″ wheels and tubes, so it will definitely be a big step ahead for him and promises to make him a lot faster than before!
The gear of our dreams
While we all had different ideas about the frame, it didn’t take long for us to agree on the components and gear. See for yourself.
As you parhaps already guessed from looking at the bikes, we got support from the American brand with its European headquarters in Schweinfurt, Germany, for the components. RockShox supplied us with fast BOXXER Ultimate forks and matching shocks. SRAM took care of both the acceleration and braking with their DH drivetrain and CODE RSC four-piston brakes.
For the tires, we placed our bets on the friendly face behind the blue and yellow colours. While somewhat unknown in the bike sector until recently, the brand has claimed a spot in our hearts and so the Michelin rubber was a no brainer, giving us a choice between the DH22, DH34 and a Mud version. We hope we won’t have to use the last option. ;)
Rapha still draw blank looks from most mountain bikers, though roadies and gravel disciples have been celebrating the iconic London-based brand since day one. The outfits are low-key and casual looking, available in cool colours, and you’ll rarely find others in the bike park wearing the same kit. Since we already stand out enough as is, this discreet look and minimalist branding was just what we needed.
Our helmet and goggle choice probably needs the least explanation. Troy Lee’s new stealth looking D4 carbon helmet and Oakley Airbrake goggles have long been go to items for the most timeless and stylish downhillers in the shuttle queue – and it’s a damn good combination in terms of function too.
Fast bikes, fast cars?! While a Porsche might not be the first vehicle you think of for a bike trip, we’d be lying if we said we’ve never fantasised about it. And making our fantasies come true is what this is all about! A sports car for sports? What could be better, and as chance would have it, Porsche provided us with three models: the legendary 911, the spacious Panamera and the ultra-fast, all-electric Taycan Turbo S. The latter almost certainly generates as many G’s when accelerating as an elite World Cup racer flying through a berm at warp speed. Considering that, the occasional charging stops were a minor inconvenience and gave us a good excuse for a power nap in the Yakima roof tent. Besides, we would never have expected to meet such cool people at a charging station and waiting together always made for interesting conversations.
Granted, the roof tents did limit the fun on the motorway, but we don’t like speeding on public roads anyway, and after a few days on the downhill bike, there’s nothing better than a leisurely cruise with a Burmester sound system turned up.
Camping vibes: whether it’s a race or a bike park weekend, it’s best to spend the nights close to the action, where you can make new friends and end the day with a cool beer (or two). As on our Land Rover road trip , we relied on roof tents from Yakima. However, the advantages of doing so with Porsches is that the roof tents are much lower, making them easier to set up and climb into.
The master plan for an unforgettable “season”
As mentioned, this plan was a spur of the moment thing. We’re all busy enough to fill our magazines with a wide variety of stories from around the world. As such, our racing season is a bit shorter than most and the team can’t pitch up together at every race. And since the stop in Bad Wildbad – which would have been a home race for us – was cancelled, we settled on the iXS Downhill Cup Bad Tabarz as the season highlight.
Maiden voyage – Same same, but different
None of us had ridden a real downhill bike for some time and we wanted to go riding together at least once, which is why we had to have a preparation weekend. We wanted realistic – in other words rooty – training conditions and a relaxed camping atmosphere, and we quickly found the ideal race prep location. After one charging stop (Taycan with a roof tent!) and a few coffees, we reached Bikepark Brandnertal. Our setup piqued a lot of interest and we soon made plenty of cool camping acquaintances, so it was rather late when we finally stumbled drunkenly into our luxurious Yakima beds. A proper camping weekend then… The fact that we were too excited to fall asleep didn’t help the next morning, but this was all part of our (realistic) preparation. However, we soon got over our initial disorientation and the occasional attempt at using the non-existent dropper remote, and were up to speed before we knew it. Turns out, it’s like riding a bike… Do you remember the feeling of quickly making huge progress? Like when you first started riding? Thanks to the convenience of a chairlift, it was like that for us in Brandnertal, allowing us to get in plenty of runs. And so, many years later we return to our roots, though from a new perspective with new experiences and knowledge gained.
No man ever enters the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” – The Greek philosopher Heraclitus
We’ve done our prep and have a clear goal in mind
Pros say things like “I want to be the best” or “I race to win – no matter whether DH or XC”. They always associate racing with the best performance, competition, and winning or losing. More than 10 years ago, we were just as obsessed with getting good results and being faster than the others. It is a different story today. On the one hand, it’s because we no longer have anything to prove and are successful elsewhere. Mostly, however, it’s because we’ve come to realise over the years that you don’t have to please others or meet their expectations, whether it’s your parents, friends, or anyone else. You do you. The best things are the things that you do for yourself. Why not pursue your own dreams and race the way you want? And in that sense, we’re doing exactly what we did over 10 years ago, but it feels completely different. Over the last decade since founding ENDURO magazine, we’ve learnt that it pays to stand up for your dreams, create new things, and go against the norm, even at the risk of rubbing some people the wrong way. It’s the only way to stay young, grow and take control of your life and future. By staying courageous, composed and mentally flexible, you’ll get a lot further – things don’t always have to be perfect. Instead of dreaming and waiting for the perfect moment, just go out there and get your hands dirty.
The past 10 years have taught us that you’ve got to follow your dreams, especially when it seems like the opportunity is being presented to you on a golden platter like it is now. So, for our 10-year ENDURO anniversary, we’re not just celebrating old times, but also reinterpreting them. And we’re doing so with an A-class team, our dream kit and a clear goal in mind: to enjoy the experience and just have fun! We hope to see you at the iXS Cup Bad Tabarz.
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Words: Peter Walker Photos: Ben Topf, Peter Walker, Robin Schmitt, Noah Benjamin