Well I’d been looking forward to this one for a couple of months as it sounded right up my street a mass start race from the top to bottom of Glencoe Mountain starting in the snow and with the uplift being provided by a helicopter!  True enough it turned out to be a great event if a little frustrating for me. A few days before the race I quite badly shattered the bone in my little finger and had to decide whether to still make the journey up to Glencoe to give this one off race a crack (no pun intended).

I was due to be at Fort William on the Monday to continue the work I had been carrying out on the World Cup DH and 4x courses ( see article on the work at ft bill here:  so that made the decision a whole lot easier – I travelled up on the friday. I knew that racing as such was out of the window but as I was putting together an article for Dirt magazione on the event I felt that I really needed to experience it to be able to write about it. 


So how was it? – well the event was brilliant, the course rode well, everyone seemed to have a grin on their faces both from the helicopter ride up and the manic race back down. I’ll keep it brief as I will be writing a full feature on the event for the next issue of Dirt magazine.

Joe Barnes rode a great race to take the win and we’ll all be back for another go at it next year and hopefully it will be a more pleasant and less painful experience for me as 30th was all I could manage having very little grip (two fingers strapped together straight around the fractures, one on the brake lever, leaving just one to hold onto the bars with) and having to stop several times to ease the pressure.

Cant hold on with all these damn rocks!!


Pretty sore after the race

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The do it all bike?

Last weekend I thought I’d test the ‘do it all’ bike theory, having not had much time to ride over the past month due to work being crazy busy, I booked myself into two events to get me back into the swing of things – a mini downhill race on the Saturday and a 50km xc enduro event on the Sunday. I set myself one rule, that I couldn’t change anything about my setup other than my pedals.

So I took along my trail bike, an Orange Five, weighing in around 28lbs with fox float 150 forx, stans flow rims on hope pro 2 hubs, sunline 50mm stem and 745mm bars, hope brakes and a 34t single ring set up to see how it faired at the two events.

The steel city downhill in Sheffield on Saturday was another great example of the new movement of mini push-up downhill races that are helping to break down the barriers associated with downhill and open up racing to a much wider spectrum of riders. The courses are less intimidating and people are encouraged to ride whatever their background. Props to the organisers, this is Sheffield who had done a good job organising the bash which was raising money to save the woods we were racing in. People were riding all manner of bikes from hardtails to downhill bikes but the five seemed a decent set up. The course followed a really mellow gradient so even the semi slick xc tyre didn’t seem too bad at first. It was wet and soft and even this easy looking course was proving tricky as the course cut up in the conditions.

Misty, murky and wet but still great fun, the Sheffield Steel Downhill on the Saturday


A steady first run preceded a stack right in front of the baying crowd in run two after I’d jinxed myself by saying that ‘you didn’t really need a lot of grip on this course’, schoolboy error that one. Bars and stem twisted I remounted and then wobbled off down the drop and almost into a tree at the finish, not a great ride! Thoroughly soaked through I loaded the van and hit the M1 for the 3 hr or so journey back home ready for the early start at the Wentwood enduro near my home in the morning.

It was a totally different crowd to the day before and there were many hardtails, much lycra and a few bikes with odd sized wheels! Despite the abundance of racing snakes I didn’t feel too over biked on the course which had a decent mix of technical terrain. After riding the first half with my mate I decided to press on and get my teeth stuck in slowly working through the pack from quite a way back to a decent finish. The organisers had done a first class job of the course with plenty of short technical ups and lots of flowing descents where time could be made up.

Not short of breath - honest!


Back at the car park – I had a look at the bike and thought ‘would I have been better off changing my bike/setup for either event?’ – probably, a light weight xc bike would undoubtedly have given me a better finish today, then I thought ‘would I of had as much fun?’ – I doubt it!

The five still reigns supreme in this household, xc, downhill, the works.

Check out the Goshawk 50km in 2012:

And for all things Sheffield check the blog:

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Urge Cabo Verde

What a trip!

The third Fabien Barel Invitational on the volcanic archipelago of Cabo Verde 500kms off the coast of Senegal in the Atlantic Ocean was an awesome adventure; loads of travel, a beautiful country, warm friendly locals and a great group of riders and people to travel with.

The riding was pretty insane too, four downhill race runs all hit blind on steep technical terrain,with plenty of cliffs to catch you out if you didn’t pay the mountains the 100% attention and focus that they demanded.

See the gallery below for some travel pics from me and some great action photos from Sven Martin – cheers for the images Sven! If the shots are sick they’re Sven’s if they are dull they’re mine…

And thank you to my main sponsors for the trip, Mojo suspension and also to Orange bikes for supplying an Alpine 160 frame to replace the bike that was auctioned after the races to raise money for charity to go to great causes on the islands.

For more information on the trip, read my full report in Dirt Magazine Issue 110 or have a look at the April edition of MBR magazine for an excellent photo journal.

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Gate 23 Trails

On the whole my job is pretty cool, I have to deal with mountains of paperwork for every trail build and lots of bad weather but it’s fun designing and building stuff that hopefully people will enjoy riding.Like any job some days are better than others and one day last week was a gem.

I was contacted to provide an assessment of a dirt jump site for the Forestry Commission down in Sudbourne, Suffolk. The group who have build the trails up are called Gate 23 and they’ve been busy over the past few years carving the lovely sandy soils into a pretty dialled trails spot.

Jumps everywhere - there were a good few lines running at Gate 23

Often when I have to assess or inspect one of these sites there are loads of issues that need to be put right to make the site safe or to fit in with the best practice construction necessary on FC land but these guys were on it, they had already dealt with most of the issues. So after a morning walking the site and carrying out the assessment a few suggestions were made but on the whole it was a well oiled site with a good group of builders who were king enough to invite me to ride with them so I stayed on for a couple of hours and got the M111 out for their first hit of the trails for 2011.

Cheers guys!

Well you’ve got to test that they all work..!?
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Sponsors for 2011

I’m really pleased to be working with a number of my long time sponsors again and to welcome some new ones for 2011 . One thing is for sure I will have the best kit available for riding, racing and working around the country.

Here’s a quick run down of the kit I will be using this year and some product shots – I will update the post as new kit arrives through the season.

Orange are once again my frame sponsor and I’m really pleased to be on board their bikes. This year I will be riding my favourite bike the Orange Five around the UK, the Alpine 160mm at selected events home and abroad, the M111 for the pump tracks, dirt jumps and when testing out our 4x tracks and after a year of riding the great Orange 225 it is all change and time to test the 322 downhill frame which I will be getting my hands on very soon and looking forward to getting up to speed and providing some feedback for the guys in Halifax.

The polished Orange Alpine 160mm Frame


Orange M111 Hardtail - great for the trails

The bikes are kitted out with Fox suspension front and rear provided by Mojo Suspension including the great new Kashima coated forx and very soon rear shocks making the already smooth set up, even slicker. Mojo are on hand to custom tune the suspension to suit my riding style and further refine the set up.

The superb Fox 40's

The Fox Float 36 160's


Brakes come in the form of Hope Technology’s great race X2 and the M4 callipers paired up with the works of art that are the race levers. Hubs and headsets are also provided by Hope which means a maintenance free year again as they are bombproof.

The Neat Hope Race Levers in Team Green


Control points are provided by Sunline who’s bars, grips, stems seatposts and pedals I have been using since they were launched in this country, it is all solid dependable gear with a good feel to it and this year comes in a few colour options aside from the grey of previous years.

Perfect Sweep and Rise on the Sunline V-One Bars


I’m running Maxxis tyres which have a great range  including my favourite the crossmark and of course the Minion and Wet Scream super tacky tyres for the 322.

The best rear wheel trail tyre out their - the Maxxis Crossmark


It’s great to be part of the Royal Racing family again and they have developed their range with a lot more trail riding kit this year whilst still maintaining the race presence, Royal is going to be even bigger in 2011.

Royal trail wear with the epic jersey and the Matrix shorts


Six Six One provide body armour with Urge helmets supplying full face and trail helmets that offer great protection with Oakley eyewear stepping in to provide goggles and glasses.

Urge Down-o-matic and Endur-o-matic helmets and Oakley Eyewear


Feet are kept firmly planted to pedals by the awesome five ten shoes, with some great new designs in the range this year, I’m pleased to be on board with them. 

The freerider, Lineking and Baron shoes from five ten


Trail packs for the longer days, multi day trips and enduro races are provided by evoc they have a great range of packs, holdalls and the ultimate bike bag that really is brilliant.

Evoc bike and trail bags


And finally, mechanical support and upkeep of the bikes is provided by Skyline cycles based in Glyncorrwg in South Wales.

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Christmas Indulgence

It’s that time of year when everyone winds up work for christmas and the new year. Back on Track have down tooled till the new year and once all this bloody snow disappears we will make the most of the break on our mountain bikes but untill then its all about the motor bikes and the snow…

Too much fun


Last week we all hit up the dirt magazine christmas party which was rowdy as ever, it was a great day of uplifts on the bikes with mass start chainless downhill races – it was so much fun, good old elbows out action, how we all walked away from that unscathed I’ll never know.

After the days riding the motley crew rolled into Monmouth where much wine was consumed and anyone and everyone was bombarded with paper planes and water soaked napkins, I had to pinch myself that I hadn’t regressed back to school. Rolling out of the pubs in the early hours and into the vans for a bit of R & R, I woke to a fresh new dump of snow so it looks like the mountain bike will be consigned to the workshop for a little while longer yet.

Before things livened up

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Run to the Sun

Back from a weeks travels in the south of Spain around Granada and Malaga. We set out to find, ride and document some of the stunning trails in the area with James Mcknight and Mark Huskisson from reset films.

Rowan and Mark trying to find a 'system' to get the bikes and all the kit in the micro van

The trip was timely as the cold snap set in back in the UK and it was a pleasure to ride some warm, dry and dusty trails. The riding was amazing and as usual the week was hectic as we shoehorned in as much as we could.
“One more time”


Highlight has to be our night bivouacking out under the stars in a little cliff overhang. Its the first time I have bivouacked (well I’ve slept on a few kerbs and car parks 😉 but this was intentional ) and it was great watching about 15 shooting stars wizzing past through the night once my eyes and lungs had recovered from our extra smoky camp fire!

Our Camp for the night


Look out for the footage in the future on the next release by reset films.

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