Surrey Hills MTB


Bike Pron

Seeing Double (Well, I think Phil did)

The bike fairy has struck again, a pair of 2019 Stumpy’s was hastily set up to demo around the Surrey Hill’s, and as it turned out a little further afield too. Certini Cycles had once agin supplied Andy T and myself with a 29er in Large and a 27.5 in medium to give our feedback on. A quick attachment of our relevant pedals and some shock and Fork fettling soon saw us on our way. These were the basic carbon comp versions so the Fox 34 Rythmn fork and simple Fox Float DPS evol can didn’t fill us with huge expectations, in fact the entire list of parts was quite underwhelming, but to be honest they do do the job, even the single pot SLX brakes, quickly brought down any excessive speed when required.

Almost immediately it felt comfortable, I was able to get plenty of pop, lean it over, get some air and all on a very efficient pedalling platform. In short it wants to go fast – but doesn’t dumb the trail down. The wide 2.6 in tyres initially felt odd, but they do seem to work. Also quite forgiving in my poor body positioning during some over eagerness through a little rocky section near Hascombe – I’m sure I’d of been off on some other bikes. So this bike fits very nicely into the trail side of things, the next day we were off to Wind Hill for some park action.

The plan for today was for us to ride both bikes and see quite how much difference they offered. Andy started on the 27.5 again, we both slowed the rebound down a tad (nobody wants to get bucked on some of the bigger jumps here). We gave the Bluetopia line a right good workout, and Phil who had also joined us got things a little pear shaped on an early run, but did the very blokey type thing of ‘nah I’ll be ok’ and as we couldn’t see any bones sticking out, we took him at his word. After a cup of tea and a sandwich we swapped the bikes over.

Now Andy has not normally been very complimentary about our ‘wagon wheelers’ but after his very first run down, he stated the bigger bike was simply ‘better’, so nuff said, although I have to add, the smaller bike was fun and possibly a smidge more agile when airborne. The bigger bike though is super stable, manoeuvrable and with a level of stiffness that even Stormy Daniels might appreciate.

With the better bits on of the ‘expert’ build, you know what, this could be the one.

Lots of footage below, including Phil’s OTB (courtesy of Phil).




Hope you like it

MTB brakes. Important? Yes. Something else that I was able to obsess about? You know it!

As with tyre choice (and indeed any other primary component choice I guess), getting it right is important at any point of the year but the warmer the days get and the drier the trails, the more getting your choice right can impact on your summer.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been been let down by my brake choice in the past but I also confess – I do like Shimano brakes.

I’ve had SLX and two different sets of XTs and these have always performed flawlessly in the Surrey Hills BUT have tended to put their tail between their legs and ran to mum when they saw their first Alp. This has now happened to me on my last three Alps visits.

I’ve dabbled with increased rotor sizes, swapped pad compound for the appropriate conditions and have become a dab hand at bleeding Shimano bakes.

I even tried braking less. That sort of worked but may have aged me by about a decade…!

And although all of these things have made small performance gains, not one Shimano set has ever made a full Alps trip or indeed, as happened recently, a full day at Bike Park Wales.

So this year I’ve vowed to do all I can to address this and have fitted, what the TFITers regard, as the de facto brake for all occasions.

Hope V4s.

These have been beautifully fitted by the guys down at MB Cycles in Haslemere and I’m pleased to report a brief test ride yesterday was as drama-less as it’s possible to be. I’m VERY pleased to report that the brakes did not throw me into the nearest tree when I looked at the levers and the response from squeezing the lever is not wooden, or harsh (two complaints I’ve heard previously).

Indeed if I had to pick a phrase to describe the Hope brakes, it would be “smooth, assured and insistent”. So take that internet – in your face.

Clearly with the trails being 89.7 pure Surrey slop with the rest made up of snow and dog bombs, this is not the time of year to gauge just how effective an upgrade this will be or indeed to try to understand what the advantages of floating rotors are versus standard ones.

However, so far I can say I am very happy with the Hopes. The proof will indeed be in the riding and we’ll see how these puppies handle La Plagne, Les Arcs and Tigne in the summer.

Ruthless German efficiency, I think not

The YT circus had rolled into Swinley for the next three days, obviously to let prospective punters the chance to swing a leg over the internet only brand Capra, Jeffsy and Tues models. I must admit that during a black period when I was waiting for replacement chainstays, I very nearly brought one in a moment of weakness. Nevertheless I was there and ready for the advertised start time of 9am, but Hans, Claus and Heidi were clearly not. Being on a tight deadline I cheekily asked if I could just sit on a couple of the Jeffsy 29ers to gauge the size. This was agreed, and a couple of prospective bounces on the large and extra large had me veering to the grander size.

Suddenly it was announced they would be commencing the sign in very soon so being about 6th in line I hung around. A mere 30 minutes laters I was astride the AL One Jeffsy in XL.

A quick tweaking of the shock and fork, and it was into the Blue run that elevates you up to the more interesting parts of the forest. The voluminous 2.5 in Onza Ibex tyres looked odd to my eyes, but they provided a massive level of grip on the man made trail surface and this proved to be the case on the later natural tracks too, so tyre choice seemed good. There was noticeable lack of pedal bob, even when out of the saddle, and spinnng the bike up the hill all seemed efficient and comfortable, so another tick there, and not once did I feel any kick back through the pedals under braking.

The first few mini-downhill sections came and went with no real drama, it does carry speed very well and with good grip can be quite forcibly corrected when necessary. As I started to get away from the start point and heading towards the more interesting sections on the red route I was looking forward to see how it coped. Short answer is extremely well, it does give you confidence to attack and know that, the brakes and suspension are all well up to the task if you overdo it.

At the top of (Labryinth) I was joined by a younger like minded soul who was on the 27.5 version, we were both grinning and exchanged positive vibes about the bikes before we ran down Babymaker where it was an opportunity to try some tight berms and get some air under the wheels. Another tick, exiting here we bumped into a couple more locals, also on demo Jeffsy’s, who invited us to join them on more off piste areas (some of which I hadn’t ridden in about 6 years) so riding kind of blind but following someone who knows the line and speed makes a massive difference and I had the confidence that it would only be my own shortcomings and not the Jeffsy’s when navigating drops and jumps.

Reluctantly it was time to head back to reality and a client meeting so dropped the bike off (passing the still sizeable queue) and retired home.

So, conclusions?

There are so many monetary reasons why this bike makes sense. You get a do anything bike, with all the ‘right’ bits, it pedals well, it descends well, it makes you smile, but… I still have misgivings with what happens when things go wrong.

I can barely stand not having my bike for a week when technical disasters strike, so when you consider you will have to ship it back to Germany and wait for it to come back I just don’t think I could handle it.

Sorry YT, but I think I’ll be looking elsewhere for my next ride.

Trail Days

Now I’ve got to be honest – nothing quite beats that ‘new bike’ feel.

The joy. The utter pleasure. The all encompassing frisson of slinging your leg over what is always a substantial outlay of cash. It’s awesome. Of course there is always the n+1 rule and a lot of us are blessed with experiencing that joy more than once. Those with n+1 bikes are many.

And then there is Matt W.

Matt is what you could refer to as a ‘frequent renewer of bikes’. Since I’ve known him he’s had 5 (I think) and he’s now moving onto his sixth. Yep, Matt has acquired a new bike and I believe if I have interpreted the ‘bad poetry hints’ on Whatsapp correctly, his new Transition Smuggler will be getting it’s first outing this evening.

It’ll be bling. It’ll be custom. It’ll be a thing of unfeasible beauty. It will without a doubt be 100% Matt. As with all prototypes, details are a little thin on the ground at the moment (I’ve seen the frame but not the finished product) but I will post something here as soon as I can so we can all revel in the creation.

And speaking of new bikes – a few of the TFITers have signed up to the excellent sounding “Trail Days” run by Specialized. It’s a free demo day of the latest and greatest that the chaps from the US have to offer from the Turbo Levo, all-new Enduro, Stumpjumper and Rhyme models.

I am very interested in having a crack at the Stumpjumper – which has always been a personal favourite (until I discovered my Bandit) and riding it on vaguely familiar trails will be awesome. We’re heading to the session at Peaslake on 21st May.

I highly approve of manufacturers showing off their hard work this way – and let’s be honest, it’s always gonna makes that n+1 decision that bit easier to make!

Transition Smuggler – The big orange

Ever played racing games on a console? I had a PS4, and spent a significant amount of time playing F1 racing games. I loved the fact that the tracks were based on the real thing. Even to this day, I can identify an F1 track just by seeing a few corners. Thing is, those games required a degree of dedication, you race the same track a hundred times before realising that if you just braked a little later in that corner, and hit the gas exactly on the apex of the next one, you could go flat out through the 3rd, and suddenly things were getting quick. I think this sums up my riding experience so far on the Smuggler. It’s capable of so much more than you expect. Yes, you can point and shoot, but the options open up with the increased ability to get a wagon wheeler to change direction on a dime.

Significant Geometry changes

A quick shout out to the thieving scum that stole my Bandit 29 – May the fleas of a thousand camels invest your nutsacks. But comparisons must be drawn. A long wheelbase on a 29er grants you instant stability by default. Especially at speed. Downside is you need to fight it through the corners – that thing wants to go straight – steam-train straight. The Bandit (and we are talking the original Bandit Two9) was light and fast in a straight line, but from that point on, you are mostly just a  passenger. The first thing you notice on the Smuggler is the front feels light. New skool geo sees the rear wheel tucked right up close to the bb. With an offset downtube to make space for the front ring, discarding a front derailleur option all together. Shorter wheelbase means more maneuverability. Combine that with a light front end, and new options open up on the trail – because you go look for things to pop off – over or around. But it does take some getting used to – mainly because in my case – the bike is far more competent than the rider. Worth noting that even with a light front end, I have never had too much of an issue with the front lifting on the steep stuff.



Ok, I got some abuse for my pressure setting scribbles. Thing is, this bike could be considered as short travel by today’s standard. There 115mm of rear travel – and you want to make use of all of it. The revised Geo is so dependent on the suspension settings, I think it’s easy  for the bike to feel lifeless without some attention. A few psi and rebound clicks can make a big difference. The 140 Pike RTC3 upfront does what it says on the tin. It has a tendency to dive through the travel, but tweaking the rebound seems to have solved that. I think I’m pretty close to the sweet spot on the shock. Its getting to the point where I can stop worrying about it and get on and pedal it.

Other stuff

I love internal cable routing. Its made me realise I have a stupid irritating creak in my helmet. Its so very gratifying to just hear rubber on dirt. I love wider rims. Tire profile looks better, its so much easier to get the tires on and seated, even with a hand pump on the trialside. I love 115mm seat drop. Getting the saddle really out of the way keeps me up and out of the saddle far more than before. I’m still thinking about the lack of an extender cog, but for now I’ll need to MTFU with the 1×10. It’s not a light bike, and requires graft up the hills, but boy – the return on investment is huge.

The Smuggler is a an Audi quattro rally. It’s a Labrador with a tennis ball. It’s Philip Glenister as Gene Hunt. Heck – its Emily Blunt. And I like Emily Blunt. A lot.

Matt Damon & Emily Blunt On Set Of "Adjustment Bureau"
Gratuitous picture of Emily Blunt. Just because.






Malcolm, you kept that quiet

Excellent news from the weekend. Aside from a fantastic weekend down at the Isle of Purbeck at NNF (that’s “Not Ness Fest” for the uninitiated – it’s a long story) in the company of one or more TFITers it transpires Malcolm W has purchased his new steed.

Yes, finally, after what was a high class procrastination even by my standards, Malc has wisely settled on the Whyte T-129 RS.

Whyte’s 650b T-130 was a candidate for me for a while (but my Bandit won by “love at first ride”) so I look forward to hearing Malc’s opinions. It’s quite a transition for him, from a short travel hardtail 26er (but enough about his Boardman already) to the nice long looking big-wheeled beauty.

The Whyte has a wealth of XT stop and go kit, Fox Float 34 120mm and Fox Float DPS as well as a 125mm Reverb handling the bounce and (for me the unknown) WTB Asym i23 rims providing the rolling. It also has some excellent Whyte finishing kit, comes in just over 29 lbs and looks just frankly awesome to boot. Well done Mr W – you’ve bought a cracking Surrey Hills trail-slayer there and just in time for Morzine 2016.

We look forward to hearing the pub post-ride breakdown this TFIT.

Naughty, naughty On-One Codeine

On-One bikes. They hold a special place in the mythos of TFITers. Dave D rode one for a chunk of time before he was seduced by Transition bikes and Andy C, well, Andy C is not made of the same stuff as normal human beings, so the fact that he rode his Inbred for such a long time – complete with rigid carbon fork, single-speed setup and immovable seatpost – has impressed more than one of us.

In fact, I seem to remember on one of my first TFIT outings my jaw dropped open when I spotted the that Andy’s ride had no travel after we had clattered down Hydons (nearly breaking both me and my trusty Giant XTC!)

I also remember the total amusement, nay hysterical laughter, exhibited by the French lift station guys as they loaded Andy’s minimalist machine onto the back of the chair lift. I’m not sure exactly what they said but I’m pretty sure it was “Crétin fini…”.

However, Andy’s not like us normal mortals (his bones are made of carbon rods and his knees are a custom job by Shimano) and he laughed his way through three Alps trips on it. So, it’s appropriate Andy pinged me a link to this afternoon to the On-One Codeine 650b SRAM GX1 … which… is… just… sex.. on… wheels.

Pike RCT3 160s up front, 150mm Marzocchi 053 S3C2R shock (that rolls off the tongue…), Reverb Stealth dropper 125mm or 150mm, SRAM stoppers, SRAM’s GX1 go-gear finished off with a smattering of WTB and On-One’s finishing kit.  And all that for less than £1,800. Andy pointed out that’s got to be £1500 worth of fork / shock / dropper combo alone. Like I said, that’s just naughty.

So Malcolm, you said you were looking for a bike…?

Pass the eye bleach – and on to the burns unit.


Ok, this is an Ellsworth moment (sorry, Moment). My only knowledge of Ellsworth was they made expensive bikes. That was about it. The revised line up of EW came under some criticism on the bike forums, but none so much as this review, which is probably one of the most scathing I have seen in a while!

Bike pron

Tasty Smuggler build.


Shred the Gnar


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