Yes…it’s back, the second annual ‘Rad or Bad Awards’! A round-up of what was good and what was rubbish from my POV over the last 12 months. It’s been a bit of a weird year for me on the bike…lots of excitement and anticipation coming into it but it never quite panned out as planned. Anyway, races, rides or things I’ve used…here’s a run-down of what made my riding more enjoyable this year and what didnae.
Article cover image photo credit: (left) @jaredgravesmtb, (right) Paul Blackburn
Southern Enduro Championships, Minehead
What a way to kick off racing this year! My one big memory of this race was the ridiculous amount of ‘brown pow’ on offer. I’d quite literally never ridden anything like it. The race had great stages and a fun atmosphere and showcased some of the great riding we have in the south west…if you fancy reading more then take a looky at my race report. It’s back in Minehead for 2018 and I’ll be there hoping for a second serving of that tasty Sunday Roost.
PMBA National Enduro Championships, Lake District
PMBA really pulled out a great weekend worthy of a ‘National Championship’ back in April up in the Lake District. Two days of practice and an epic race day totalling nearly 50 miles, 11,500 ft of climbing and 10 amazing stages ranging from super steep and natural to bike park blasts – just don’t mention the hike-a-bike wall climb at the end of the gruelling day! (Race report). Although the the National Champs switches to Scotland for 2018, PMBA are running a shorter 2 dayer version of this race again, and I’m hoping to give it another shot next in a healthier state.
Pearl Izumi ‘PI Champion’ Induction Day
After a few months of online chit-chat on Facebook, Pearl Izumi gathered it’s nominated crack-team of brand ambassadors at Madison HQ in Milton Keynes to educate everyone on the brand, hand out some free kit and of course, get a ride in afterwards. The guys and girls at Pearl really made everyone feel welcome and put on an excellent day that made everyone feel like pros. Cheers folks. (Induction Day report)
Southern Enduro Championships
Tough call but surfing the loam at the Southern Champs with the Southwest Syndicate team mates on some great fun stages just pips the Nationals. Might have been a different story if the weather has been more ‘British’ though!
Dainese Trail Skins II knee pads
I endured the original Trail Skins for a couple of years but they always left my knees rawer (is that a word?!) than a frozen chicken in Antarctica. The Trail Skinz II are SO much comfier and fit like a glove so pedalling around in them all day means they go unnoticed, until you crash and burn to your knees when they do their job nicely.
Well ventilated and comfy all day…what more could you ask for in knee protection?
Rad8 MTB Glasses 502
“Andy, this doesn’t count…you’re a brand ambassador for them, of course you’re going to put it as one of your favourite products!”
Errr….no. I don’t work like that! I’m all about straight up, honest reviews on my blog as I value keeping the blog’s (and my) integrity so that people can trust my thoughts. So with that in mind, I can honestly say the 502 Rad8 MTB glasses are one of my favourite products this year. I only ever used to wear glasses when riding MTB, in really muddy conditions or bright sunshine – cheap safety specs for the shite and sunnies for the bright. The 502 with photocromic lenses have barely left my face this year on the bike. I wear them every day on the commute and every MTB trail ride or gravel ride simply because they’re comfortable, light and keep my contact-lensed peepers protected from dirt and tree branches. I’ve got the 504 style frames which offer a bit more coverage but have to admit that the style isn’t quite to my personal taste, but the 502 is great. I can’t wait to try out the new styles coming in 2018! (Rad8 502 Review)
Rad8 MTB Glasses 502
After a bike, my helmet, the 502 Rad8 MTB Glasses are now an essential bit of kit I need everytime I ride so for that reason, they get the nod by far.
Collapse of British Enduro Series
Towards the end of last year, I decided I was going to commit to doing the whole British Enduro Series in 2017. I got my entry in for the first round at Innerleithen and I put out a request for support and sponsors and was hugely thankful for the likes of Performance MTB and Dash Drive Van Hire to offer their help with racing for the upcoming season…2017 was looking good. Then pretty much as 2017 dawned, the shock announcement came that the series was folding and there would be no national series. Although there was still the Southern Enduro Champs and National Champs to look forward to, suddenly my main goal for the year had disappeared and with it, a fair amount of motivation to race.
Getting injured for the National Champs
See ‘Worst ride’ below for the reason for getting injured, but the National Champs was the big race event for me in 2017. Up until the night before I was leaving for the 8 hour drive up to the Lake District, I just wasn’t sure about going. My shoulder was really sore to ride and it seemed pointless to go if I couldn’t get a respectable place, but I realised there was no point thinking about that and to just go and ride bikes anyway. It still turned out to be great weekend of riding, but that 92nd place on Roots and Rain hurts a little!
WINNER (or should I say loser…):
Collapse of the British Enduro Series
It came out of the blue for sure this year. The collapse of the BES was the catalyst for a general loss of MTB mojo this year after getting myself psyched up for it in the off-season.
Dept. 26 Bude Enduro
I’ll be honest, for some reason, I wasn’t expecting much from the race or the location for the Bude Enduro. I expected plenty of laughs and a good atmosphere but expected effectively a little ‘mates race’ on some average trails. What I found was a slickly run event, some really great trails, food and some ‘bangin’ tunes’…and even the truly shitty weather wasn’t enough to put a downer on the event. Much respect to Dept. 26 and I’ll be back next year for a dry, dusty race this time yeah?! (Race report)
So first up…yeah I know the term ‘gravel’ riding is basically bollocks here in the UK as we pretty much don’t have 1000s of miles of unpaved dirt tracks but equally, it’s not riding around a muddy field for an hour, so it ain’t cyclocross! I’ve dabbled a little riding local off-road trails mixed with some road on my CX bike over the last few years, especially in the winter when the bridleways are churned to shite by horses, just to get a decent ride in, but since getting my Whyte Friston with 40c tubeless tyres, hydraulic discs and lightweight frame, this type of riding as become a lot more attractive when I need to get out for some miles and fancy some more challenging off-road riding locally.
WTF Andy?! That’s chuffing roadie talk there!
Ok, here me out on this. Since forever, the thought of wearing overshoes was one of those things that made me shudder a little. I did buy some once for an MTB weekend in the Lake District when the forecast was for -15°C (the last time I trusted Metcheck) but ever since, they’ve languished somewhere in my…well, somewhere…). Anyway, I grabbed some Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier WxB overshoes purely for keeping my feet dry and warmer for the commute and you know what?…overshoes for winter riding, whether road, gravel or MTB is where it’s at. If you want warm and dry feet then they are 100 times better than Sealskinz. You wouldn’t wear a waterproof jacket under your jersey to stay dry, so why wear waterproof socks under your shoes?! The Pearl Izumi’s are great but with the likes of Endura bringing out a pair for flat shoe riders, there’s no excuse for MTBers having cold and wet feet anymore. Yep, style points = 0. Drier, warmer feet = 8.
I’m going to go with Gravel riding here. At the start of the year, the desire to ride a drop bar bike off-road was fairly minimal…it was all about ‘enduro bro’. Maybe it’s been more limited time available to get a decent MTB ride in that’s pushed me that way, but it’s cool for a different ride experience and I might….might, give a gravel-type race a go next year. Probably a ‘gravelduro’ one though, obvs.
Some good rides this year although nothing particularly epic but the best ride probably has to be from my birthday Wales Weekender in September. A blast around The Wall at Afan and then a couple of runs up and down Masts in torrential rain with thunder booming around us. Why was it the best ride?…no stress, no rush, no Strava f#*!s given, just good times with some of my best riding mates. Can’t beat those rides.
Back in April, after the awesomeness that was the Southern Enduro Champs, there was more stoke going on than a pottery town in Staffordshire, so when I got a message from a couple of old Cornwall Freeriders mates to come and ride some secret short DH tracks in their backyard, I was on it like car bonnet. On my second or third run however, I cranked off from the start, into the first slight corner and mother nature decided to grab my inside pedal with one of her creaky woody hands and pull me down to Earth before I could say “droppin’ in” When I eventually stopped skidding across granite rocks on my unprotected back and picked myself up, my left shoulder was not feeling right and I had that queasy feeling I had when I broke my collar bone a few years back. Even worse, I’d torn a slight hole in my new Southwest Syndicate jersey. Rubbish! I definitely couldn’t ride the rest of that evening, though did get some video to make a #lameedit of Toby and Paul shredding (results below).
Before I go, I would just like to say a massive thanks to the following for their support this year:
With the British National Enduro Champs and Ard Rock Enduro already entered, I’ll be looking to continue racing select races and events in 2018 rather than trying to commit to any full race series. Racing is expensive lark, especially when every race is hundreds of miles and hours of travelling from Cornwall: simply put, it’s financial strain to commit to a series! I’m going in with zero expectations placed upon myself and more of a ’50:1′ mentality of a combo of a bit of racing when I can and having fun on the bike (just with much less talent and video editing skills). Also, continuing to write up blog articles that hopefully help other riders get a taste of races and products to help them decide whether to get involved or not and a general taste of the great riding we have in the south west!