This Is Swinny: Hamsterly Enduro

This Is Swinny: Hamsterly Enduro

A fresh challenge and a new format, my first attempt at an Enduro event and I was pretty excited. Joe Bow had been bangin on about how fun these events are for the past year now so thought it was about time to see what all the fun was about!

We had a healthy group for the trip, Joe, Jolley and My bro traveled up in the @VitoSport and met up with Hanna Swede and her house mate Tom. Plenty of banter and laughing was on the cards for the day as we set off for a leasurly cruise around Hamsterly in the Hot Hot Heat, and it really was hot, with the sun beaming down all day and with minimum wind, we decided to do a full lap out of the gate.

So off we went, cruising up the fire-roads to the start of stage one, taking in the scenery as we passed, all was very pleasant and relaxed. Joe struggled from a few mechanical issues with his chain on the cruise up to the start (he had fixed it himself so there was no real surprise something went wrong, despite what he says about his mechanics skills!) so being the good mates we all are… we left him and set off for our first down of the day.

A tough, flat, rooty, uneven pedal made for an awkward start, once past this a bit of pace was picked up as you skipped over roots and holes and took a left onto the first sprint pedal of the day, a large flat, drifty right turn and back into the woods where there was options for a few different lines to be taken, but we just carried on and rode the main line. Then a slightly uncomfortable flat rolly section, if you got the flow right here it all ran smooth, but a slight error and your speed was sapped, stopping on the uneven spaced holes with not much room for pedal strokes, it was a really tricky section of the track. From there it dropped into a selection of tight switchbacks that spat you out over an off camber ledge and over the line.

I was a little surprised it wasn’t longer, but that was only stage 1.

Onto stage 2 and a bit of a bitch of a climb up a hot fire-road right to the top of the hill. It was a steep sharp climb that dragged on a bit but wasn’t too bad.

Stage 2 started with a flat out sprint on some loose gravely terrain, taking in some fast berms and short jumps. A much faster stage and the previous with more flow, i good chance to turn the pedals for all they were worth as it turned out to be a pretty constant pedally stage for much of it. After the fun of the fast turns and jumps the track spat you out onto a slightly up hill road where, come race runs, the pedals really need to be spinning here! From there on it dropped into and incredibly loamy wooded section, which was rad! Love loam. There were a number of sneaky cut lines in here but we stuck to the main line and road the loam to the end of stage 2.

A road ride climb took us to the top of Stage 3. With 5 of us currently in our group we thought it’d be cool to pretend to be the GB road team and draft on another, with the front man swinging off from time to time to join the back of the pack and keep legs fresh! We passed a couple of other riders who seemed to enjoy what we were doing, with one trying to tag onto us! But our momentum was already at a blistering pace and he had no chance!! That was until the hill suddenly kicked up sharp and we all seemed to just give up and cruise up instead.

Stage 3 was fast hardpack terrain with plenty of quick flat corners mixed with  some bermed turns, plenty of pace throughout until it spat you back out onto the road. We thought it had finished but noticed no FINISH sign.. so looked for some tape, a bit confused we looked down the hill as there was no way the Race would go up that horrible looking steep hill! Oh, it did. Bugger. So off we slugged up the hill before dropping back onto the fast hardpack, a few more rail-able bermed turns and back up to speed, again there was a good selection of cut lines in here but we didnt bother to stop and look, just stuck to main line. We got a little lost before finishing of a wooden drop and a left hander, Jolley got some drift on in here and ragged his rim, putting a man size dent in it and pinch flatting.Rate laugh.

The cruise over to Stage 4 was pleasent, traversing through the woodland before spitting you back out onto that bitch of a climb again, same as for Stage 2. Back to the top for another fun ride down! By this point i was really enjoying the format on Enduro racing, plenty of riding time, a good laugh with your mates and all in all Good fun.

Stage 4 began sat on top of the 4X track, over looking the moorland it was quite pleasant, however watching some people hit the first jump, included Joe, was unnerving! Some very uncomfortable positions. From there, up and into the woods where there were plenty of awkward roots that sapped your speed if you caught them wrong, no where really to pedal so flow was important. Things steepened up a little before dropping into the dense woods, over a little rock garden then a real uncomfortable left hander. I had a couple of goes at this corner, pinging a spoke on the rocks in the mean time before getting the corner half descent. Over a fire-road and back into the woods, instantly lost as I went straight on instead of a sharp right. Try again, and away!! Playing around on the rooty section i enjoyed this part of the day! Traversing the woodland, hitting stuff blind, popping around was a rate laugh! There was plenty of line choice again but i tended to stick to the middle lines, giggling away to myself as riders were scrambling out of the way as i made my way through the woods. A couple of corners later and over the line for the end of Stage 4.

A river crossing which I failed massively on before Back up the hill again! This time a bugger of a long fire-road climb. By this point it was hot, the sun had been beaming all day and the air felt thick as you rode through it. But we continued and soon reached our destination.

Stage 5 was loose and gravely but a pretty constant sprint form start to finish, similar to the start of Stage 2, hard pedal strokes were needed as you railed berms and held it down over the short jumps. A constant sprint indeed as there was pedaling everywhere! Sprinting for all it was worth before dropping into the finish area and complete!

Turns out we did the whole loop much quicker than planned and had time to stop and look at lines if we wanted, but oh well, it was more fun this way anyway!

Quali was on the Saturday afternoon and on Stage 5. I was pretty keen to get my sprint on! However i decked it hard in the first turn! cut my hand a bit but pedaled away and finished. I finished some way down the order and was 2nd slowest Elite, not surprising really given the crash. Fortunately for me there was a bit of a cock up with the timing and the organizers decided not to count the time towards the final standing. So a fresh start for race day.

We stopped over night in a cool Barn conversion that was very comfortable, Loads of Chicken Pasta went down then off to bed. Bunk Beds! Rad. Me, My bro, Jolley and Tom stayed in a room together and had man time..

Sunday morning and the sun was out and warm already. We trundled off, I was struggling all day Saturday and most of Sunday morning deciding weather i needed to take a bag with me.. I took one on the Saturday but all i needed was water, so made the decision to stow some water and food at certain points of the ride and went for the committed bagless run!

I had a laugh, stage 1 i got a bit lost, facing the tape at one point and had to dab to get back on line but trundled on regardless.

Stage 2 and a bit of a moment in the loam, again forgetting where I was but thats what you get for not looking at where you were meant to be going! I did enjoy that painful sprint on the road though.

Stage 3 i was instantly lost, braking for sections I thought I was on that turned out to be way down the road, but again really enjoyed that monster road sprint! The story pretty much repeated itself all day, forgetting where Iwas as we didn’t bother to pay attention to lines but it was all cool, I was having a good giggle!

Stage 4 and I buggered up the awkward root section a bit, but nothing too major, cleaned the rest of the track and had great fun on the lower part of the track, this was my most fun run of the day!

Stage 5 and on the long ride up I got a spot of cramp in my thigh, got off the bike for a bit of a stretch out. That was a bit of an error as I got instant cramp in my hamstring! So straighten the leg back out, and Cramp in my thigh again! Back up and cramp in the Hamstring!.. Down and Cramp in the thigh.. this went on for a while before settling down a bit and I set off crusing up the hill again.

I remembered that damn first corner this time and didnt go down, Wohoo!! Pedaled hard and cranked where I could. Trying to pump and flow before more hard cranking and into the finishing turns. Jolley, as usual, did me proud. After he had finished he ran up the hill a bit to give me encouragement. That lads amazing, I could hear him corners before I got to him as he shrieked at me to keep on pushing. I could hear him all the way to the line, Cheers mate!!

And that was that. My first Enduro event was done. I was a little surprised I wasn’t as tired as thought I’d be, but was happy with the way I rode.

Turns out I managed to finish 9th overall, something I was more than happy about! 9 seconds off a top 5 place, Damn it! If only we had stopped to look at a couple of lines I may have been able to make 2 seconds on each stage and got myself on the podium! But oh well. I was very pleased with myself.

All finished, podiums done and on our way home, and it was only 4:30, much quicker than being at a DH race. I did struggle to understand what the £60 was for though, an unreliable timing system, no uplifts and not even fully taped out tracks, which led to a fair amount of controversy. I’m in 2 minds over the tape situation. If the whole track wasn’t taped, why not cut, yet at the same time some of the apparent cut lines were a bit OTT.

A big thanks has to go out to the SHIMANO guys, who helped me out after I managed to contaminate my brake pads. They were busy helping people all day long and if they are at an event, get yourself over and say hello, have a chat about products, and if somethings not right with your ride, ask them very kindly to take a look at it!

Cheers All!


This Is Swinny: Scottish Excursion – Fort Bill

Packed up and away we go again.

I’ve been on the road a fair bit these past few weeks, travelling, riding and racing. But this was the one I was perhaps most looking forward to, the infamous Fort William.

Its track I’ve ridden once before, but many years ago and not on a downhill bike, so the excitement to race this legendary track was building weeks before the event.

In the build up to the event bad news was circling that it may be cancelled due to bad weather, this was the case last year because of high winds which actually never really arrived, so I was a little anxious. ‘An 8 hour drive to find out it may be cancelled the next morning?’, wasn’t looking to appealing, but i made light of the situation. ‘I either stare at the wind and rain in Sheffield, or stare at the wind and rain in Scotland, it’s practically the same!’. So off we went.

The drive was instantly hampered by a police road block and diversion, which caused quite a bit of backed up traffic, but never the less we eventually got on our way and cruised up. I slept for pretty much the whole journey (as i do as a passenger) but from what i gather things ran smoothly.

We arrived pretty late on Friday evening, around 8:30, so not quite early enough for a track walk which was what i had intended, never mind! I’ll just blind run it in the morning! Great idea.

And what a track to ride!! Everything was running sweet on the Saturday, the SPS pit was up and looking well, Jamie (our mechanic) was up and doing a banging job of everything and the wind was pretty low, a bit overcast but not cold, just right for riding. So off into the queue I headed for first runs. Taking a Gondola to the top was amazing, no worrying about bikes getting owned by the Tractor & Trailer method, just smooth and pleasant with a nice view looking down to Finish/Pit area.

It was an incredible feeling standing inside that big wooden eye start hut thing waiting to head down this amazing track. Like I said earlier, Blind run, so this really added to the excitement coming over some of the blind crests and into back to back switchbacks. I had an idea of where I was going thanks to watching the World Cup round on’t computer, but it doesn’t really prepare you for the ride ahead.

It’s such a fast flowy track up top mixed with intense rock sections, then back to fast turns and big rock faces. Bouncing around, railing turns and rattling through sections I was having a great time. Dropping into the middle section I was struggling with a couple of the flat, rocky wooded spots, mainly because I didn’t want to slow down and I forgot I had to in order to make the tight turn before the tough rock sections. I managed to cock this section up pretty much every time bar one, but still, I was having a laugh! Then in to the pedal to the finish. Coming over that Jump, sat on top of the fade away and swooping down, building up Speed was incredible. Over the last couple of jumps and over the line. This definitely has to be the best finish area I have ever experienced on a race track. Other tracks just seem to fizzle out a bit coming to the line but this one builds excitement with both racers and the crowd.

I managed to crush in 4 practice runs on the day before seeding which had been moved forward in case Sunday where to be cancelled, which it was, so seeding became race runs which started around 3:00 ish.

Onto race runs then and I was feeling pretty good, I still didn’t exactly know where I was going in places but never mind! I was enjoying myself all the same. Railing the top turns feeling fast and flowy all felt good, then I took a tumble washing out on one of the loose left handers. I tried not to let it bother me too much and carry on having fun but the damage had been done. I instantly went offline for a large part of the track, in-siding corners, not hoping rocks, just generally being off line until the deer gate. Once past that I felt a little more relaxed and began to pick up momentum, then bang! For some reason coming off a rock drop I just rode into the banking on the left hand side of the track and went down again. Bugger. All was over really but I carried on in search of a clean bottom section. This was Not to be. One more off on the left handed wooden wall ride. I just didn’t commit enough to the line and slid out, hitting my head and neck pretty hard on a tree. Possible my worst race run ever?! On returning back up to pace I heard the whistle of someone behind me, I knew fellow SPS rider Donny was the next man in the gate so thought I’d move over, then a brain wave! Team tactics, I’ll tow him in on the motor way section, allowing him to draft me! Genius. Not too sure how much this actually helped him but if it did, then so be it. Over the finish line and that was that.

So, a great day, an awful race run. But it’s forgotten now and on to the next, no point dwelling on the negatives but try to take the positives with me through the season.

Cheers to all!

(Sorry for the lack of photos, Duncan had exams so was unable to make the trip)

This Is Swinny: On The Hunt For UCI Points

Bulgaria was the destination, Shambhala Open was the event, so off i went.

Heading out Wednesday morning after a midnight finish at work, with the flight landing us in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. The Passport control were not convinced i was me.. so came looking for more ID. To be fair my passport looks nothing like me, and i possibly made this worse by handing them my driving license, which again looks nothing like me nor looks anything similar to my passport photo.. So i got asked a few questions about my visit and with my charm convinced the authorities I was actually me. So, onto baggage claim.. all good. Then onto the task of finding our driver,  i had no idea who he was. But all was good. A few more Brits were on the same flight; fellow SPS rider Dale Russel, along with Adam Brayton and Reece Langhorn so surely they knew who we were looking for… Turns out they didn’t have a clue either! So we all sort of wandered around whilst constantly being asked if we needed a taxi! “i do you good deal for all of you”, “no tar mate” was said a lot!. I then get an arm wrapped around my shoulder, first thought was ‘oh crap, more police and authorities to take me away because they still don’t believe i’m me’, but fortunately no, it was a Bulganeez (made that up) chap by the name of Kamen (probably spelt very wrong) who whisked us away to meet up with Nikolay and his big Sprinter van.
Nikolay runs RAM bikes and did an amazing job of looking after us Brits, with out him and his team the whole experience would not have been what it was.

Off we drove, and how we drove. The Bulganeez are nuts when it comes to driving, ragged, flat out and weaving through traffic like nothing i’ve seen before! An amazing experience in its self.
We made a short Pit stop at RAM bike HQ while we waited for another plane of Brits to land, then once all together we headed off to Sopot, approx. 2+ hours of interesting driving. At one point the road literally ended and were on a rough dirt track that seemed to waltz through some farmers field. We arrived safely however and once we found our rooms in the hotel, prepped for dinner, which was a very reasonable price for what we got!

Anyway, onto the track, and what a track! Long, dusty, drifty, fast, flowing. Just a good laugh. It was a track where not too much pedalling was needed, speed was picked up by how much you dare let off the brakes. The chairlift was pretty sketchy. With no slow down mechanism the chair seemed to come flying at you while you were trying to hold onto your bike and guide it off the launch pad while hooking the pedal onto the seat. That was about all that held the bike on!

I went up with 4X and BMX legend Martin Ogden, who was kind enough to look after me and show me how to mount the chairlift as well as give me a riding partner for the day. Oggy had been here a fair few times so was accustomed to the whole situation.

Onto the riding. Things started well, with the idea to slowly build up the speed over the next 3 days i was feeling good, riding bikes in the sun on a track i didn’t need to pedal on, what could be better. All was going well, I was enjoying the place, having a laugh and enjoying being on my bike. Then I tried an inside line and ended on my back in some awful pain! I must of hit a rock or something, but either way I didn’t see it coming and I went down hard, folding my front wheel pretty bad in the process! Only the 3rd run in as well! So that put an end to day 1.

Team Ram were good to me and sourced me a new rim from the local shop, which got built up for me that evening. With being in a lot of pain in the lower back region i asked Kamen to sort me out with some Bulganeez painkillers. I got a box of pills where i could only have 2 a day, sounds good!!

They seemed to do the job too and the next day I was back up riding again. A couple more runs and into Quali.
With an idea! Ill roll the whole track, no pedaling, that way, I’m guaranteed to make up loads of time in finals. Genius I thought! However, It turns out that everyone else had the same idea. But still, i rolled over the line and ended 5th. With a strong British contingent, we soundly rounded out the top 5 with a few more in the top 10 and more a little further down the field.

All was going well. I was happy and ready for finals. Off we went, a couple more runs under my belt and I was ready for finals. Then the rain came, and the wind and the thunder storms. It was pretty intense for a while and the organizers had to call off the finals. Fortunately, due to past experiences, they had scheduled a spare day just in case of bad weather, so finals were rolled over to Sunday.

Quali results

And onto Sunday.

Again, a couple more runs, and ready!!
All was going swimmingly, I felt good on the bike and was cranking out of turns, letting off the brakes and flowing. A small error up top caused me to slip my pedals but not too much drama. Then a small wash out in a slow section again resulted in not too much drama, and on into the final section. I was enjoying myself and was carrying speed well. I cranked into the final section and pumped the ground for more speed, coming into the final turn and getting ready for the sprint to the line. Suddenly, disaster struck! My rear wheel seemed to kick up, maybe off a root, and pointed me straight towards a tree. I tried for all it was worth to wiggle around but no luck, I ploughed the tree with my shoulder and got taken off the bike and ended up in a tangle. I bounced back up and tried to get to the line as quick as possible, but the damage was done. 5th place was the aim but 10th the result.
So not what i was looking for but not a complete loss. 10 points picked up and an experience well worth taking away.

Finals results

A huge thanks to Nikolay, Kamen and the rest of the RAM bikes team, they put on a cracking event and took care of us Brits well, without them, it wouldn’t have been the same.

Only one more ‘experience’, the drive back to Sofia.. I don’t really need to go into to much detail about that ;)


This is Swinny: Combe Syd Race Report

This is Swinny: Combe Syd Race Report

The first round of the BDS and my first race of the season took us down south to Combe Sydenham..

It was the first time the team had met up all together and as a bit of a bonding session with Steve, Tristan and the rest of the boys, we headed over to the UK bike park for a couple of days before the race weekend. Joe Bow and Duncan were in tow to take snaps and document our activities over the long weekend.

The drive down was long.. very long and boring as i had just myself to keep me occupied, and i assure you, i do not hold a good conversation with myself! i was fortunately guided in for the last hour by Joe (cheers mate!) as i didn’t really know where i was going! Phone signal was very low down there so i had to guess a lot of what Joe was actually saying, but hey ho! made it. Joe and Dunc traveled down together as team media, with Dunc doing what he does best! No no, not getting lairy with uni girls! but taking photos!

We had a good couple of days riding down at UK-BP, with the weather threatening at times it held off for a couple of pleasant days.

Joe managed to take a bit of time out of his hectic filming schedule (lol) to have a bit of a razz with the boys.

And then got back to work after gompering around a bit..

It was my first real ride on the new bike and boy it felt good!.. so i did this cool skid for dunc to capture, gold.

and then posed a bit while trying to act cool.

and then rode some more with the champ.

After a couple days riding we met up with Ben Deakin in the local and had a bit of a sesh.. things happened, we had a laugh, that’s all that needs to be said on the matter..

So that pretty much wraps up the first 2012 SPS meet up, i think it went rather well, apart from Irv that is.. Hope that hand is better for Fort William buddy!

So onto Combe Syd..

We arrived Friday afternoon feeling a little sorry for ourselves and trundled off up for a track walk.. It went as you would assume, we looked at stuff to ride on..

Saturday practice and i was lucky enough to tag onto the back of Peaty and Bryc for a couple of runs, which was interesting! As i tried to get up to speed with the big boys.

The track itself wasn’t exactly difficult but i thought was a good one to start the season with.. you were straight into a couple of bermed turns followed by a bit of a jump and into the man made rock garden, which soon filtered out as riders rattled through and moved the majority of the rocks out of the way. Then it was into a series of fire road sprints split up by a few bus stops, the off into the woods for a tight-ish section of turns. Out into the open via a large step down and a sprint through the field into the jump section, think Pietermaritzburg but a bit smaller.. ok, a lot smaller. Then back into the woods for the final tech rock roller section and a sprint for the line.

Sunday race day and i wasn’t feeling to hot.. maybe a combination of a few factors, booze, expectation, nerves, first race of the season. But i cracked on and got 2 practice runs in.

Onto seeding and their i sat at the top with the rest of the Elite field. This was a pretty new experience for me and i felt a little out of place to be honest, but i got on with it as one of the first riders down. I felt good through the first few turns but then seemed to hit a barrier and my whole body felt heavy.. i was unable to pedal as i wanted on the sprint sections and soon ran out of breath.. i chilled out then and cleaned the rest of the track and crossed the line. Finishing 20th out of 40 elites i was relatively happy giving how shit i felt.

Onto race run and i was a little apprehensive i wouldn’t be up for cracking out a solid run.. Mum laid into my legs ninja stylee and a got a good warm up massage.

So, of i went and instantly made a mistake.. dropping low out of the third turn and off line, ok tho, not too much time lost. Then into the rock section i blew a foot off the pedal and dabbed all the way through, not comfortable.

Into the pedal section and i wasn’t sure how much i could give, given my seeding performance, so chilled out a bit and didn’t pedal as hard as i could, this i later regretted.

I went for a clean, not over the top middle section and pedaled pretty hard through the open section. Dropping into the final woods again, a clean run was on my mind, so a little steady but clean did me fine, then the sprint to the line.

Crossing the line i feel i backed off too much in the upper section as i didn’t feel too out of energy, unlike seeding, but never mind eh. 22nd out of 40 was the end result, not a bad start to my Elite campaign but definitely a lot of room for improvement! ill have to tag on to Steve more often!

So all in all a good experience, a lot was learned and a lot can be carried over to the next event..

See ya’ll soon!

(Pictures thanks to the womanizer, Duncan Philpott)

This is Swinny: My Mega Month March

This is Swinny: My Mega Month March

March is when it all started to come together, a month when things happened.

For starters we had that incredible weather throughout, that mixed with the clocks changing meant for plenty more riding than usual! But a few personal touches were added to the memory bank.

It all started off with an SPS team gathering round at Peaty’s place.. not your usual meet however as this was a van sticker peeling day.. maybe not the most enthralling of activities but a job that needed doing non the less. It was good to see so many of the team turn up to one of Tristans less than great ideas.. He was loving it tho!

We then got to take a quick spin around Greno woods and have a little look at this years Steel City track. All involved have put in some solid work and the track is looking in great shape, an improvement on last years for sure. It’s going to be another banging event!

Next up was my birthday, I met up with Rob Jolley and Race dad made it out for a spin so we headed over to Wyming Brook. A cool spot that nestles on the edge of Sheffield. We had a laugh, got loose in some switchbacks, pulled some wheelies, Jolley fell in the river trying to ride across it, I hit this weird step up, and we found a spot positioned nicely on a rock to look down through the valley to Sheffield where we sipped a few tinnies if Stella and ate muffins.. Then one more run, slightly drunk, and back off home and straight out to town. A night of Corp until eventually bed at 5:30 the next morning.. A pretty cool Birthday really.

We then had the excitement of the DH Wold Cup season kicking off all over again, our boy Joe Bow headed out to PMB to work with Peaty on his web series, ‘This Is Peaty’, with the big man hitting a huge 100 world cup finals starts, a pretty significant figure. Congratulations boss man!

After returning from his travels, I met up with a very jet-lagged Joe to have a bit of a catch up, and we had a lovely dinner cooked for us by Marian, Thanks Mari! and Joe handed me a Birthday present in the shape of a set of Burgtec Penthouse pedals! A damn good pedal! Spot on pin placement and perfect dimensions make this pedal feel like no other under foot, and with a titanium axel to boot.. what more could you ask for?!

A week or so later and the conclusion of Dual racing in Endcliffe park took place in less than familiar conditions. With dry dust as opposed to greasy mud, as well as day light! Well, for practice that is. It actually made it quite difficult practicing in day light then having to race in the bike-light lit dark. Trying to go as fast as practice yet not being able to see too far past the post you were cornering made for some comical on board errors. The final round was a good sign off for the series. I took the win on the night followed by the overall, then off to the Greedy Greek for a sample of their food and a bit of prize giving. In true Hamilton fashion, Rum was the prize. A nice warm feeling in the stomach, closely followed by hard work to keep it all down! I also picked up a pretty cool trophy to go with it, a little pot filled with Endcliffe loam attached to a chog of wood.. 80+ racers throughout the 9 round series is pretty cool. Cheers all!!

And finally, to cap off ‘My Mega Month March’, I got my hands on this beauty.

My race bike for the year. Not much needs to be said about the most winning-est DH bike out there, apart from I daren’t ride it in case i get it dirty! This bike feels incredible and I cant wait for the season ahead. A huge thanks goes to Ricky Bobby over at North West MTB for having the time and facilities to put such a huge project together, Steve Peat, Tristan Tunstal and all else involved in the big bike build.. I would have come over to help had it not been for Steve and Joe playing a little joke on me..

So, Thanks everyone involved for an awesome March, Here’s to the rest of 2012!


Race Report: Going out with a Bang!

My much belated race report form the final National round of the year here for your reading pleasure!

Its been a long hard year that has finally drawn to a close with the final National round over at Caersws.

BDS Rd.4 – Caersws

With the Cancellation of Fort William, the venue for the final round of the National series was to be held at Caersws. I was disappointed Fort William had been cancelled, having never raced  there it was the venue I was most looking forward to all year, however, I had just won my first Expert race only a month and a half earlier at Caersws so was keen to push for another top result.
Fellow team members Joe Bow and Duncan had made the trip over to do some “work”, which was great as its always nice to have some mates around at these events.

Saturday – Waking up in my new chilled out approach to racing, I steadily got myself ready to hit the hill for about half 11 ish.. nice and lazy seems to suit me at these races, puts a less serious side to it i think. I quickly got into the track as it was the same track we rode barely a year earlier when Rob was unfortunate enough to brake his collar bone. Only a few slight changes were made this time around with a new corner slipped into the bottom wooded section making for about the only sketchy bit of the track.

I got into things quick and soon felt up to speed, the uplifts were flying and the ability to put runs in so close to one another really helped me with confidence in different sections of the track. I had a good day to say the least, the sun was out and I got to do a few runs with some fellow Expert riders, Ryan West and Tom Kelly. Which was a nice fun change.
By the end of the day I had managed 8 runs and was feeling it a bit, my last two runs were race speed and clean so i was happy to leave it at that, even with 45 minutes of uplifts still remaining.

Saturday evening I did my usual track walk with my dad, who has helped me loads this season asking question like, ‘why do you go over it and not round it?’ and, ‘you jump over to there?! alright then’.. These questions really help me to take a look at other lines and confirm in my mind im happy where im going, until Peaty popped up and tells me to go a different way! Cheers, Steve.

Sunday – Race day

Woke up a bit earlier today and boshed out a few runs, instantly felt up to speed and tried Peatys line out.. turns out it felt way faster, cool.

The track was running quick thanks to a bit of morning moisture but i was sure it was going to turn dusty just like Saturday.. Turns out Mother Nature had something completely different in mind.

As myself and the rest of the Expert field reached the top of the track for qualifying all was pleasant, the sun was out and we were all laughing away.. At the moment just before Experts were due to descend the hill.. a few of had noticed the hill across the valley had disappeared.. Moments later, we were covered by a horrendous rain storm which soaked us all to the bone. Iv never witnessed weather change quite like this before. As my name was called I left it as late as possible to sit on the start mound, you couldn’t lift your head to see the timer as your goggles just got soaked and visibility was a minimum.. so it was head down.. quick look up, count it in your head, one more look and go..

I set off in what felt like hurricane weather as trying to pedal into the wind was a real challenge! Myself, like the rest of the field were not prepared for rain, no waterproofs, shorts and dry weather tires, so i decided to judge the grip of the first 2 corners and go from there.. turns out there was as much as practice.. so thats how I. On some of the chutes there was a small river running down the line, this was great as I had left on my Bender Fender, Every rider should own one of these! discreate, light and does the job better than anything else out there! I was attacking the track and felt great, riding as i had been all weekend. Coming in to the bottom woods was slippery, but i rode it exactly the same, plus i bit more sketchyness, but wasnt fazed and laughed my way through it. Into the field and backed off enough to clean the super slippy grassy corners.

I have always wanted to cross the finish line and be 5 seconds clear, watching videos and seeing the pros do it and seeing how excited everyone gets is something iv always wanted to be apart of.. this was one of those moments. As I watched the rest of field come over the finish line I was starting to get that giggling feeling, and as the last Expert crossed the line I realized I was just shy of 7 seconds clear! What a feeling it was too when I saw the Elite field come down and only 2 riders top my time, Al Bond by .05 and Matt Simmonds by .10 of a second. I was buzzing!

Race Run.

Back at camp i was excited by my quali run, who wouldn’t be. so took another walk to see how the track was. The rain had stopped by this point and things were starting to get slippy. I saw plenty a rider go down and despite there not being any deep mud, opted to run a set of full spikes. As we sat on the uplift ready to head up, a marshal told us to all inspect the rooty corner up top, so we did and it looked slippy as hell, clay and roots with no real purchase for tires to dig in. I spotted my line and settled on it..
I had a plan, to gap some roots and nail inside of this big slippy looking root. As i approached said section, I felt all lined up.. that was until the back end stepped out, i dabbed a foot to stay upright but the moment to hit the line was gone. So i bundled into the nasty root and went down. DAMN! didn’t want that. i picked myself up and tried not to be too aggressive, just ride how i did in quali and see what happens, I soon settled and attacked as I had all weekend and crossed the line.. Very disappointed with myself for going down but somehow was placed first! excitment was short lived as I should have been last man down, only to find out a couple guys had missed there start time and there were still 5 or 6 more to come.. I was really nervous and sure i had thrown it away.. Turns out all went well! no one bettered my time and I had just taken my first National Win! BUZZIN!!! Plus, Ended up with 9th fastest time of the day, which again was nice considering the floor had me again.

On to the podium and there I was, grinning away in the middle holding up the first place trophy.
Amazing feeling and thanks to every one who was there to cheer me on, felt amazing hearing the noise.

Cheers to everyone who has been behind me this year! You know who you are and have all been amazing!

Photos courtesy of Callum Biggin and Duncan Philllpot.

Thanks to my sponsors. GOOD JOB WELL DONE!

Peace out x

Race Report: A Change of Luck?

With a recent, extended run of bad form and bad luck, you tend to start doubting your own abilities. Confidence levels drop, things aren’t quite as exciting as they were and you find yourself looking at the next obstacle to hit rather than the next line to nail. I think its pretty fair to say i have massively under performed this year.. But are things starting to finally go my way??!

Ramsgil – Yorkshire Champs.

After arriving back home on a Friday from a 2 week holiday, i found myself re-packing the race wagon and preparing to head off to Ramsgil, North Yorkshire to race the Yorkshire Champs. Instead of heading off that night i decided to get a proper nights sleep and we would head off first thing Saturday morning. as i had been doing nothing but relaxing and enjoying life the last two weeks i thought id try to head into this race with less serious-ness, i just wanted to ride my bike and have fun, forget about racing and times and just go out and enjoy myself.

The track was perfect for this mindset, it was possibly the simplest of tracks i have ever raced on, think a very slimmed down version of Moelfre, Grassy fields with one short tech(ish) section, the rest was just about holding speed and not over cooking the flat/off camber corners.

Saturday was fun, i was enjoying the simplicity of the track and had a good laugh hooking up with old friends i used to ride with back in the day. I put in a fair few runs and had a giggle trying to get the biggest drift i could get whilst still clearing the sketchy man made kicker to river gap. Things were going well, all the practice from the Dual races over the winter helped with the lower part of the track as the tape simply snaked its way down a grassy field to the finish.

Sunday, race day.

It had pissed it down Saturday night so the uplift tractors were unable to to navigate there way up the sodden fields.. which meant we all had to push our bikes up the hill.. Fortunately the hill was that big and steep so it wasnt too much hard work to get up top. Plus is was actually quite a nice warm up.

I had spied i few different lines Saturday evening (honestly, there were lines) and decided to hit them. They were pretty cool so i was happy to mix things up, keeping off the main/one line that there was on offer. Most noticeably my line was to gap a big flat rock that sat on the inside of the first of a 3 corner off camber fest to sketchy booter. this line allowed me to land earlier than hitting the rock itself like everyone else was and generally got pushed wide. I was able to hold a tighter line to the tape and therefor set up cleaner for the next two corners, then on the gas early to clear the gap and away.

My first race run was clean, i hit ever line i wanted to, nailed the lower corners and crossed the line. I didnt think too much of it until Tom Kelly (Superstar SPS rider) wobbled over to let me know i was up by 2 seconds, and had the fastest run of the day.. I was a little speechless as i hadn’t gone out to do that well today, i just wanted to clean both race runs and have a fun weekend.

My 2nd Race run started similar to my first, i hit my line up top nice but carried plenty more speed.. this however back fired on me as with carrying more speed i got pushed wide coming out of a turn and had to take evasive action and missed my rock gap line, instead plowing into the flat inside line rock, this then pushed me wide which then cocked up the next two flat corners. I lost the back end on the final left hander before the sketchy booter and was unable to get on the pedals. I had to pull up hard to clear the gap and decided i would no break the next section.. this again back fired as i once again got pushed wide and had to inside another corner i really didnt want to.. so 2 mistakes, so i pushed extra hard on the final turns and crossed the line.. I was pretty sure i had thrown the win away but just how far i had slipped down the results sheet i didnt know.

Turns out i only went a little over .100 of a second slower than my first run but ultimately did throw away the win With Liam Little putting in a stormer to put 1.610 secs into my first run, and also took the fastest run of the day. Fortunately i held on to 2nd place, but only just ahead of Tom Kelly who rounded off the top 3. If only I hadn’t pushed that hard I perhaps could have took the win, but then the track was of that nature where at a comfortable speed you went quick, but when tried to push was easy to make a mistake.. Lessons learned..

Dont get me wrong, im stoked to finish 2nd and be back on the podium again, its been a while! I was also happy to learn i had took the Yorkshire Champs win, with Liam not being from Yorkshire, the award went to the next highest finished Yorkshirman, which was me! Happy Days.

(photos bit pixily as it was taken on one of those telephone thingies)

Caersws – Welsh Champs

With the previous weekend landing me back on the podium, i was keen to go out and enjoy myself once more and try and let loose that little bit more.

Caersws is a venue i have visited numerous times before and have had mixed results. It offers tracks that soon get you rolling at high speeds and if you have the confidence on the day, can bring you a good result.

Saturday – Practice

Another lazy start, I couldn’t be arsed to rush around again and get on the early uplifts, instead took my time, enjoyed my breakfast, checked the bike over and off it went.

First run was perhaps the funniest first run i have ever done! I met SPS riders Josh Lewis and Tom Kelly in the uplift queue and decided to stick with them instead of having a walk of the track. his turned out to be a good and bad idea. As we dropped in Tom set off first with Josh close behind then me, he really is called loosegod for a reason! I  was a little in over my head as this was there 3rd run of the morning and only my first, nevertheless, i stuck with them and giggle my way down. Towards the bottom Tom and Josh switched leaders and off we went again. This again was very entertaining watching Tom this time getting loose, great fun!

The track was dusty and dry so for the rest of the day I just made sure went straight back into the uplift queue after every run and boshed out another while the track was fresh in my mind. Within 4 hours i managed 6 runs, this place has uplift speeds dialed.

Saturday night came around and I did my standard track walk with my dad. There were rumors going around that rain was coming during the night so i wanted to check the off camber sections to see how they were going to hold up in the rain. But only time would tell how they would ride.

Sunday – Race day

Yes it had rained and as a wandered to the uplift, saw riders and bikes coated in mud. The sun was out and i was running dry tyres from the previous day so decided the track would dry up soon, as it tends to here, so joined the queue and off i went.

First run of thee morning was funny, slippy slidey but a giggle. I must have time things perfect as i didn’t end up that muddy after my first run and didn’t struggle too much for grip on the track.

I plodded on things as they started to dry up and steadily rebuilt my speed and churned out another 3 runs. There was one corner however that was causing some havoc and had me off 3 out of attempts, damn corner, but i was sure it would dry up by race run time to be ride-able again. So off I headed back to camp. There was rumor of rain to come around the same time as my first run.. I looked over the hill and noticed the big nasty looking cloud heading our way but was unsure how quickly it would arrive.. I headed off to the uplift queue and as soon as i stood there the wind picked up and a few spits of rain were felt.. so i made the decision to rush back to camp and swap tires for something with a little more bite. This was a good idea as whilst i was changing rubber it began to piss it down real bad.

So off i went with the intentions of a clean run. The rain was enough to turn the track greasy but didn’t really soak into the ground so the spikes were just floating around on top, needless to say I cleaned the majority of my run but fell off trying an inside line that just resulted in me running wide with no control over turning. I picked myself up and finished things off, crossing the line in 2nd place, and there I stayed, which was nice.

2nd race run

In all honesty I wanted more rain, I would have been more than happy to take another second place and wanted to ride with no pressure, but thing really dried up and the track was almost dusty again. So that meant first runs counted for nothing. I left my cut spikes on.. not sure why.. but that’s what I chose to do.

Grassy corners

Things started well, i took my mind off the beeps whilst looking for the eagle (private joke) and pedaled my way out of the start. I felt i got into my run pretty quickly but took things steady in a couple of spots as I really didn’t want to crash this time around. I cleaned the whole track and felt quick, especially when sending the gap into the field a tad too far and landing just before the catch berm, strolled into the field, cleaned the last too grassy corners and cranked to the line.

I crossed the line and went into 1st with one rider to go.. I was more than happy with that run and was happy to get back to back podium finishes but which spot would it be?! I eagerly awaited Liam Little (the guy who had beaten me at Ramsgil) to cross the line, and as he did i realized i had just won my first race of the season, by 0.199 of a second, and my first win as an Expert rider!

Top Step! Boom

So there I stood, back on the top step of the podium with the biggest smile on my face. Glad to be back up there and being consistent again, hopefully things can carry over to the next race, BDS at Fort William.. We shall wait and see.

Turns out I also finished 2nd in the overall series after only competing in 2 out of 3 events. SPS rider Tom Kelly taking 1st.

(Sorry for the lack of photos in this post, looks like Duncan might have to teach the girlfriend how a camera works?!)

Big thanks to all my Sponsors and www.tyler138.com/ for the photos.

Cheers all, Swinny

Race Report; National Champs

1 month has passed since I massively bitched out of the last round of the BDS series at Llangollen. Now its time to go back to that venue and try and put something together for the National Champs.

Since my BDS disaster I have taken some time out, rested well and not been on the bike too much. I took a trip to Sweden to see good friends Joe Bow and Hanna which was amazing, it gave me a good chance to catch up on some zzz’s. It was the usual chilled holiday, we slept, we laughed, we played in the lake, we tinkered with bikes, we rode Jarvso, which turned out to be an amazing days riding, very wet but the tracks were top quality, and then came home.

The flights didn’t exactly run smoothly however, on the way to Sweden we got delayed and missed our transfer in Amsterdam (all due to bad weather apparently) after waiting in the transfer queue for 5 hours we were told all flights that day were cancelled and instead got put up in a swanky hotel with a flight first thing in the morning, and free food! Much was eaten..

On the way back things were a little worse, my bike missed the transfer and never turned up in Manchester (we landed Thursday morning and expected to leave for Llangollen Friday midday)

We waited and waited and a few phone calls later found it was in Manchester airport, it was Friday afternoon by now and the bike was still not shipped out! Anyway, bike arrived 10:30pm Friday night, then a frantic hour and a half was spent building it back up and then to bed for 5 hours. So, tired from little sleep and stressed at the thought I may not have got my bike back in time meant for a bad start to the weekend. Not really in the mood to race now!

We eventually arrived at the venue and I decided I didnt have time for a track walk, instead I would go to the top and slowly blind run it down.. ..this would have been a very very bad decision. Fortunately for me the track was that steep and tight at the top riders were falling all the time and red flagging the track. This made for a hefty queue at the top and gave me chance to walk the top half. Wow, this place was seriously steep, good job I didn’t drop in blind. I took my time looking at lines, deciding where to go and had a steady first run and went back into the uplift queue to head back up. UPLIFTS WERE BEYOND AWFUL!! Out of every race I have ever been to, never had the uplifts been such a failure. Many riders were grumbling and unhappy about the state of the uplifts, it really was rubbish. But never mind, no point getting wound up by something else I cant change.

Top steep wooded section

The new sections of the track were good, a bit tight in places in the woods, and not too sure about the uphill bit, but coming out into the open and cranking across that traverse was great fun, dropping into meet the BDS tracks lower section seemed simple after riding that steep top section, then off the 3 drops to end.

I got 3 runs in Saturday and spent the day enjoying riding, slowly getting up to speed. Did a track walk to see some lines but I was happy to stick with what I already knew, all the track walk told me was that the track was getting dragged down the hillside wih the amount of breaking that was happening! An early nights sleep was on the cards as the early start meant I was out cold by 10:00pm.

Sunday, Up real early, 6:30, to prep the bike, eat and get ready for the day ahead. I got on the first uplift and trundled up top. Had a solid full run and jumped straight back in the queue for run 2, this time picking up some speed and pedaling a bit harder in places. Now, ready for Quali.

Qualification – went shit, crashed in the first left hander and rode straight over a berm up top. Nailed my favourite part of the track, the traverse, then buggered up the lower track, crashed in the last switchback, then rode into the mega tree beside the second drop down at the bottom.. somehow I managed to jump sideways off the bike as it hit the tree, down the drop and landed to flat on my feet backwards looking back up the track as I saw my bike tumble towards me.. ..a good landing to say the the least and a cheer from the crowed was nice after such an awful run. Crossed the line and ended 89th but with the 8th fastest speed trap recording! Boom! That gave me a bit of confidence for the finals.

Open traverse/Speed trap

Back to camp to gather my thoughts and get ready for the finals.

Race Run – Started better than quali! cleaned the first few turns and focused on cleaning the rest, didn’t exactly let loose but that wasnt what I wanted to do here after my rubbish seeding run. I cleaned the top! happy days. Cranked my arse off along the traverse as surely I lost some time up top, caught someone up just before the split/speed trap, got slowed a little but not too much, attacked the lower switchbacks and let off the brakes coming into the final corners! All had gone so so well up until this point. I hit the corner and seemed to bottom the bike out of one hole that was in the corner, got unweighted, hit the second hole and just felt the tyres give underneath me.. I was down :( ….I didn’t loose too much time as I got tangled in bike but seemed to bounce back upright. Saddle was turned 90 degrees and I had to straighten that with my knees as I headed towards the 3 drops. Landed them and went to pedal for the line, feet straight off, snapped chain, damn, had to coast to the line and that was that.
What a shame it all ended like that. On reflection, I was 23rd at split 1 (expected after my steady sop section) and finished 31st with that crash, So not a bad result considering but hey, that’s racing, these things happen and all I can do is look forward to the next event!
Cheers, to everyone for there support
Photos courtesy of www.duncanphilpott.com/
Race Report: BDS Catch up

Race Report: BDS Catch up

Its been a confusing season so far to say the least. Things couldn’t have started better way back in February when i finished 7th in my first Expert race at Nant Gwrtheyrn on my Pitch, only a few seconds from a podium on a course which far from suited a short travel bike. Then things continued to roll forward when in March, i finished 2nd to Peaty at the incredible Steel City race.

Since that confidence inspiring start, things haven’t exactly gone to plan.

Rd.1 Nant G – March 20th

Only a month had passed since i rode my Pitch to 7th on exactly the same track, i was feeling quietly confident yet reserved about the weekend ahead. It was a wet one to say the least and the track was changing yet holding up, with mud parting way for more of the rock that lay under it.

Saturday – went as standard, clean with the odd crash but nothing major, just getting into the swing of things and dialing in my lines before race day.

Sunday rolled around and the weather was bleak, a couple of practice runs in the morning and i was feeling good. Quali then came around and as i sat in the van keeping warm and waiting for my time to ride, an incident occurred to one of the riders on course causing Quali to be red flagged for a while, not to worry i thought, keep warm and things will be under way again soon. This was not to be the case as the rider had hurt himself more than we at the top were told and he was trapped on track.

The organizers then had to make a big decision to cancel Quali and go straight into race runs. With the weather being so bad the light was already fading so this surely was the best option. Unfortunately i let this affect me too much, i snoozed a bit to much and got comfortable in my warm environment. Once my race run came around i had to try and wake myself up and get back into the mood. i struggled to do this and as a consequence i failed in hitting my high line in the devil rock section, causing me to tumble over the bars and rip my mech into my spokes. End of. I pushed to the bottom as there was no other way to get off the track. 47th was the end result, last place.

Rd.2 Moelfre – 10th April.

A track that has treat me kind in the past, my first UK win came at this venue and i was feeling confident to banish Rd.1 from my mind.

It was a scorching weekend with the sun out both days. I had Joe Bow and Duncan in support taking snaps and cheering me on so that was a nice plus.

Saturday – Went well, a flat rear tyre but that was all. Just out enjoying ridding in the sunshine.

Sunday – A couple more practice runs to dial in my line and ready for Quali. Which went well, 12th place after not pedaling the whole top/mid part of the track. On a track which is pretty basic flat out riding/pedaling. I have been working hard on my fitness over the winter and felt good on the pedals after a whole bunch of xc ragging.

Race run started great, hit all my lines and pedaled hard. I cleaned the top part of the track and carried good speed through the tight switchbacks, shot over the crossing and headed along the traverse pedaling hard all the way. It felt like i was carrying good speed and i shot off the last drop only to find myself land a lot further out than i had planned, front wheel landed right on a pointy rock and that was that, a flat front tyre. I was devastated as it was the last harsh place i could have had such a problem. DNF end result.

Rd.3 Glencoe – 29th May

What a venue! a track i hadnt previously done and on arrival i was instantly excited. From the bottom you could see nearly the whole track on the steep hillside facing you. It looked incredible, steep and rocky and very, very wet.

Saturday – Managed 2 runs due to some bad timing! i arrived in time for some one to fall and hurt themselves, this delayed things, did a run, someone else got hurt, did another run, wind caused havoc, went to to do another and noticed a cascade of yellow florescent jackets coming down the hill. was practice over? yes it was. oh well. i Enjoyed the track and looked forward to Sunday.

Sunday – One more practice run and i was buzzing. the track was very technical and difficult  to clean top to bottom without a scary moment but i felt good and happy on the bike. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas, the wind picked up and the chairlift looked to be struggling. riders getting blown harshly from side to side, some heard to have come in contact with the Pillars. A meeting was held and the decision to cancel the event was confirmed. A real shame but probably the right thing to do.

Rd.4 LLangollen – 26th June

Not a track i have enjoyed in the past for some reason i have no idea why.. its a brilliant venue and you can see riders from top to bottom as the tumble down the steep hillside. there isn’t a whole lot to the track, no real tree roots, no big rocks, pretty smooth compared to other tracks, just very steep. why i haven’t enjoyed this in the past is beyond me.. this time however i was having great fun! loving the steeps and trying to flow as best as possible from top to bottom.

Saturday – things started wet and muddy but so much fun, sliding down the hillside pretty uncontrollably was a real challenge but a laugh non the less. i had one big crash on the fast traverse, things were roughing up down there and before i knew it my hand was off the bars and in front of me, then i hit the ground pretty hard. fortunately for me iv had some good practice when it comes to crashing so was able to comfortably tuck and roll out of it before i got too hurt.. for the speed of the crash damage was very minimal.

Sunday – The sun had been out since late on Saturday and continued to shine all Sunday. The track went from slightly moist slippy dirt to dust in places! A real contrast from Saturday morning but again as loose but this time even faster! I had felt good During practice, Put 6 runs in Saturday and was 2nd an down the hill on Sunday and went on to do 2 more practice runs, i had my lines comfortable, no big risks, just wanted to clean this track. Quali came around and things were really hot by this time. i was keeping cool hiding out in the wagon waiting for my time to come. Quali went well, i made one or two minor errors, one being scrubbing the banking on the top pedal traverse causing me to loose my momentum. This wasn’t too bad as i qualified 6th, only 1.8 seconds back. was my luck starting to change? I went back to the wagon happy with my time and thought about my race tun ahead. i was confident of a top 5 podium finish.

Race run started good, i didn’t pedal as hard as quali as i wanted to avoid scrubbing the banking again, top went smooth, dropped into the first steep, went pretty good, nailed the traverse pretty fast, cleaned the bottom steep, sent the drops and pedaled hard to line. 3.6 seconds back?! what?! that was a clean run and i went slower than quali! i ended up 4 seconds down on first place. Pretty disappointed with myself as i felt i should really have done much better than that. Thinking back i just didnt attack enough on the steeps, i comfortably rode them with no major force being put through myself or bike. 21st end result.

And thats that for now, looking forward to a short break from the bike and going to aim to come back strong for Fort William.

Thanks to all those who have supported me this season, sorry for the lack of top results!

Special thanks to:

Duncan Philpot for all his amazing pictures www.duncanphilpott.com

and especially Ma and Pa Swinden and Marian (for putting up with my moaning all season)

Cheers, Swinny


Stolen Specialized S-Works!

(click image for larger view)

This bike was Stolen from the Dore area over the weekend. If anyone has any information or sees this bike around please dont hesitate to contact one of us.

Key features:

Lay back Thompson seatpost,

Hope 4 Pot brakes,

Easton Carbon Bars,

Size small frame,

Flat pedals,

Maxxis High Roller tyres,

Fox float Fork,

Peaty lock on grips,

Creaky BB.

Lets all keep a look out for each others pride and joy, unfortunately these things happen and it could happen at any time.

Cheers, Swinny

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