New Blonde on the Block: They Couldnt Go Fast So They Decided To Go Anywhere! - 11/06/2015
It's a common misconception that off-road dirt bikes are for your average thrill seeking teenager wanting a fast, loud and impressive looking sport to sink their teeth into. But these days that just isn't the case. Road biking is becoming increasingly more dangerous and the risk of being pulled over and losing your licence is a constant thought in the riders of big super-bikes commuting everyday.
Not wanting to lose that thrill they are turning more and more to the excitement of off-road bikes. The main reason being that they can get as much of an adrenalin rush from 15 miles per hour over rough, off-road terrain than they do at 100+ mph on the road.
I see them all the time returning from a guided trail ride from one of our branches covered from head to foot in mud, walking with that typical biker gait, the only thing visible through the dirt being a massive grin.
-“Did you see me hit that bump??”
-“Yeah great save! I wasn't so lucky..went straight in the puddle but I got through those trees!”
The out of breath conversations of successes and failures are thrown from one end of the coffee shop to the other during lunch breaks from our trail rides. All stories are just as enthusiastic whether they are of a little tip over, an obstacle getting the better of someone or of someone's impressive result in a recent Hare & Hound's event.
Some are competitive, wanting the challenge of racing against other riders, the big jumps and the fast paced course, dodging trees and taking on ruts. Others enjoy the scenery and adventure that comes with green laning and trail riding. Exploring the countryside and discovering places you never knew you could reach on a bike.
No matter where they want to go, its a certain fact that they want the best. They want the top spec riding gear that will keep them warm and dry in all weathers and the perfect bike to be their companion in their adventures. Many choose a BMW adventure bike, but often they come to us for a proper off-road bike so they can really go anywhere and do anything. With a real enduro bike they can go trail riding and travel the world but they can also take it to the track and have a go with the motocross boys. They can enter events such as Hare & Hounds and have a good 3 hours riding around an intricate course through wooded areas, twists and turns through fields, up and down motocross sections and experience the exhilarating line up start!
If that's not for you enduro bikes are completely road legal, as they need to be for trail riding anyway, so you really can go anywhere!
Many of our customers want the lifestyle of being able to go on holidays with their mates around the world on their bikes. They then discover the community of off-road motorcycling and all the excitement they can have. The sleek super-bike sat in their garage which can go from 0-100 in no seconds and then from 100 to a steady 70 on the motorway because Mr Copper is on his back, is slowly forgotten and only brought out on sunny days for a ride to the coast. But the hardcore enduro bike with knobbly tyres and race décor graphics goes out to play most weekends and in all weathers.
Nice weather becomes boring. Wind, rain and mud become the new thrill ride. You wake up on a snow day and instead of thinking “Great, today's commute is going to be nightmare!”, you leap out of bed and scream with the kids because it means your ride today will have to done on the enduro bike and man it will be fun!
The 125 or 250cc which, to the 600 on your road bike seems meagre, is really all you need when the slightest bump and change in conditions can have you gripping the handlebars and shifting your weight to adjust the balance. And falling off certainly doesn't hurt as much when it is into a muddy puddle or onto soft grass. The bike doesn't weight a tonne and need 2 helpers to push off yourself and then pull back upright. This also all pales to the harsh but true reality that it only takes one person to not see you on the roads and it could be game over.
It would be a lie to say off-road bikes don't have their own danger as my own father has plenty of stories to disprove this, but what I can guarantee it is something you can learn and improve on in your own time and at your own pace without the scores of speeding motorist around you.
So when you're considering a hobby to take up and don't want to give up your love of 2 wheels have another think. Get yourself an off-road bike, because at the end of the day a journey of any kind can become an adventure. Even one which starts out with no original destination except “Lets go down that track there and see where we get too..”
The Maxxis at Hawkstone by Mitch Lewis - 09/06/2015
"We pulled up at Hawkstone for the Maxxis on Saturday afternoon, and found we had a fantastic spot for the days racing. The Freestyle team support crew came along with the race truck and awning set up looking as professional as ever and we were looking forward to a good day.
For qualifying the track was a little wet in some places but on the whole it was in good condition, however I didn't manage to pull together a great lap which left me with 27th gate pick.
Race one came and I had a really bad start which left me 5th from last. I managed to pull through to 19th by the end of the race but knew I had a tough day of racing on my hands.
Race two, and I had another shocking start. I made some passes but it was not enough which left me outside the points by the time the flag fell.
The last race of the day came and I had a top 15 start which set me up well. I ended up coming together with another rider which put me back to about 20th but then found it had caused a puncture in my rear wheel so after all that my last race result was DNF!
On the whole it was an ok weekend, a few disappointments but I have learnt lessons and will be back on the bike practicing my starts! Thanks to the Freestyle team and Joe the mechanic for keeping the bike mint all weekend, everyone who is a part of the team and all who helped. I look forward to more race weekends very soon!"
By Mitch Lewis
New Blonde on the Block: We Sponsored a Drizzly Day - 02/06/2015
So Sunday was our Freestyle sponsored Hare & Hounds Enduro at Canada Heights, massive entry list, great course set out but no one thought to organise a good day weather wise.
The forecast admittedly was very pessimistic and it didn't live up to the torrential rain we were promised but the drizzle which met us as we drove up the track into Sidcup & Districts grounds did not put smiles on our faces.
Arriving early to set up, we dotted beech wing flags, banners and pop-ups around the track in good photo-op places and then settled in to watch the crowds roll in. Just after signing in time there was a long queue of bikes lining up to be scrutinised and put in line just in front of the motocross start.
It was a sea of orange, blue and white as KTM and Husqvarna dominated the paddock. From the impression I got, the majority of riders were there for the ride. They had geared themselves up, polished their bikes to perfection and prepared their pit stop area in true Enduro style, to simply enjoy a good day on their bikes.
There were the professional set ups among them, riders such as Richard Ely, who was our rider, Ben Wibberleys, main competition. They had their pit crew ready for a speedy refuel half way through the race and helpers holding up boards with inspiring messages on them, such as “1 +20 Focus” (hopefully it meant more to them than it did to me)
The start was an interesting one, a dead engine start. After an opportunity to warm up the bikes, involving a lot of revving of engines and practise jumps forward, looking like a line up of hungry hippos in my opinion, all engines where ordered to be switched off and a wait for the signal ensued.
With slight confusion of whether flag up or flag down meant go, they all gave an almighty kick/button push, engines burst into life and they were off. Ben got a great start despite the unsure signal and set off in second.
By the time we saw him again he was in the lead and from then he was the one to be chased.
The other classes to start a minute a piece after, were also good to watch. Some took a number of good kicks to fire into life and a few just weren't wanting to play ball today.
It reminded me distinctly of the Pony Club events where you would always find that poor child whose steed had their feet firmly planted to the ground no matter how much flapping, kicking and growling went on. It just wasn't their day.
But eventually most riders managed to burst their machine into life and set off up the track for a good days riding and a pit stop every few laps.
It was a 3 hour race, my kind of day with all the action happening in one go and then when you're done, you're done.
A quick pit stop after 1.5 hours where the bike and Ben were refuelled with petrol and banana (make your choice) saw him continue out onto the course still in the lead. Thumbs up all round for pit crew and banana duty.
He held the lead, naturally, and after the 3 hours were up all riders where called in at their next time check. It was a slightly anticlimactic finish in my opinion, you couldn't even tell if he was the winner. I was waiting for a chequered flag, cheering crowds and confetti. We were all ready in our water proofs for the champagne shower...
But no, it was all very civilised. A few pats on the back and some good gossip about how the track rode. Everyone was in high spirits, it seemed it rode well. The conditions where slippery, even I could see that. I would have had some fat studs in my horses shoes with the slick grass out in some of the fields they were riding through and apparently there were a few bruised bums out there.
With no prize giving to be done, as final results would not be up for 12-24 hours or so, the bikes were wheeled back to vans, washed off in some cases and some very hot, and puffed out riders peeled off their muddy kit between bites of a well deserved burger. And that was that.
A Hare & Hounds event has to be my favourite so far, there was very little drama, no panicked change overs of kit, bike prep in between races or standing around waiting for the action to continue. Everyone was there to have fun, it was plain to see. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. And although it was a long race, there was always something to see. The course was long and intricate which I can image kept the riders attention all the way round, and if you weren't aiming for perfect lap times and chasing down the leader, it would be the perfect event for someone wanting to improve their skills, and get more time on the bike.
Another win for Freestyle but also a win for all those who finished in my opinion. A win for the resident ducks too.
MX Nationals Rnd 4; 4 out of 4! by Mitch Lewis - 01/06/2015
"It was a great way to start the weekend when we parked on the beach with a great view out of the camper window. The track was smooth and really deep, so it was hard to get going out of the corners, but I managed to get second in qualifying. This gave me a good gate pick for the weekend which I was pleased with.
First race came and the track was shaping up nicely, I was really looking forward to it. The gate dropped and I was second out the gate. It took me a couple of laps to find a rhythm and then I started to chip away and found myself in a good race for the lead. I made a strong pass and then settled down to bring the home the win.
Race two came and the track looked good and there were so many lines to use. I got out the start in second and had to find some good lines but I then put in a charge for the lead. I had a good battle on my hands, but came out on top and brought the second race home in first place. The first day was a great one.
Sunday was up and it was a drizzly start to the day, but it soon cleared and racing started as planned. They had us on the other track for the second day which was quite tight but we were all in the same boat. Race three all went to plan and I came across the line in 1st place again. This meant going in to race 4, I was aiming for a full house. My main competitor fell at the start which cleared the way for me and I brought home an easy win in the final race of the day.
It was an amazing feeling to get a 4 wins out of 4 races and now I just cant wait for the next round.
It feels like I have really found my feet with the Husky now. I have been practicing at Dunkirk a lot lately and any spare time I have, is spent at the gym. It all feels like it is coming together and things are fitting into place now. Working on my fitness has also helped mentally, giving me more confidence to push myself. As ever I can't thank everyone enough for all the help this weekend and running up to the event.
Onwards and upwards to the next round!"
By Mitch Lewis
European Enduro Championships in Croatia by Wyn Hughes and Rhian George - 01/06/2015
"Wednesday we headed for the 2nd round of the UEM Championship in Croatia. Rhian having already left. Waking fresh and ready to go Thursday, we spent the day walking tests, testing the bikes and making a few final adjustments. Friday morning we returned to the practice track and both riders were much happier with the alterations we had done. They were both struggling with the heat, something we don't see much of in this country, and this made it a tough competition for them. We spent the afternoon sorting out check boxes and tools to go to the out checks. Both riders signed on at 3pm and the bike went into Parc Ferme at 4pm. Joe then went walking the 2 hour long enduro test one final time.
Saturday morning again was beautiful blue skies. The first rider was away at 9am, three laps of 56k with 2 check points and 2 tests per lap. After test 1 the three main contenders were within 1 second of each other, with Joe lying in 2nd. The battle continued throughout the day, Joe 6 seconds off first at the start of the last test managing to clinch the win a mere second ahead.
Rhian battled with the heat and dropped 3 minutes throughout the day placing her a solid 9th on day one despite a crash which crushed her finger between the lever and handlebar. Breaking the lever but hopefully not her finger too.
Saturday evening involved more walking of the tests. We found some better lines to take hoping to find a few seconds to shave off for the mornings battle. Sunday began at 8:30 and half a lap less. Joe led the first lap by 2 seconds and Rhian had a good first test placing her 8th. Lap 2 Joe dropped it which meant he was going into the final lap a mere second or less in the lead. He finished his day with a 15 second lead. Rhian stayed clean on time and finished a solid 10th on day 2, but her blackened throbbing finger, and possible heat stroke make it a tough weekend for her. Well done both Joe and Rhian, a solid result for both. Thanks as always to our sponsors your support is much appreciated."
By Wyn Hughes
New Blonde on the Block: My First MXGP - 29/05/2015
So last Sunday Matterley Basin had the pleasure of not only hosting the MXGP but having me there to witness it. It was a great day for all involved from what I could tell, unless I suppose you were riding in behind Tony Cairoli...
Arrival could have been smoother, given the enormous queue on the main roads to get into the venue. I'm sure the organisers did everything they could to make sure we all had a lovely start to the day however nothing could have helped the swarms of cars trying to enter.
Having made my own way there, I arrived a short while after the rest of our “party”. Walking along through the top entrance to the track gave you the most spectacular view down onto the racing, which was in, what could only be described as, a Basin as it is so aptly named.
Standing at the top of the hill, I made a quick scout around to see if I could find the Freestyle crew who, I had an inkling, would stand out a little. I was not wrong. All the way over the other side of the track, roughly half a mile across the huge crater, were 3 bright red figures standing amongst the crowds.
Having joined them I was caught up on the news that I was currently watching the Europeans. They started just as I walked up to the fence next to the second corner, where there was promptly a crashing fall by one unfortunate rider who got back to his feet and rode away looking slightly worse for wear. Needless to say it was an exciting first few minutes.
A tour of the paddock later displayed the extreme skill and attention to detail expressed by the extensive team of mechanics and crew who keep these bikes and their riders on top. It becomes apparent by watching them just how much work goes into keeping a race bike in perfect condition through the tough riding they endure.
We were privileged enough to be invited into the Husqvarna team awning to meet the riders and examine the bikes. Our bike mechanic who came along for the day was in awe of the shiny tools and other bits and pieces I was clueless about. We even caught a glimpse of the new 2016 Husqvarna Motocross model!
With Motocross and Enduro legends from this era and my dads milling around and recognising us in our jackets, we were caught in conversation with Dave Thorpe (4 times World Motocross Champion) and Jamie McCanney who came to say hi and was instantly interrupted by a small boy wanting his autograph. He did oblige I will add. There were of course the super fans wearing the team t-shirts of 222 Cairoli among the Honda, KTM, Husqvarna and Kawasaki gear and a few Enduro shirts I saw around too.
Throughout the rest of the day, I got progressively colder as the sun went in, however this did not diminish the quality of the racing to watch. There were constant squabbles for the top spot, we naturally cheered on the Brits, despite the Husqvarna logos on our jackets.
Max Anstie had the toughest job in the MX2 of fighting off Herlings for the full 30 minutes of racing but unfortunately just couldn't keep it up and was over taken in the last 2 laps by both Herlings and Guillod.
In almost every race there were battles going on left, right and centre, the win was usually taken in the last lap or 2 which made for a great watch for everyone.
The catering facilities kept us all happy with hot food in our belly's, not being a stranger to a port-a-loo I was not surprised by the toilet facilities however I don't think camping for the weekend would have been for me.
All in all it was a fantastic day for spectators and I would highly recommend it as a day out. If you are deep into your supporting and know all the riders and teams obviously this will be the first date in your diary but for someone who is new to the scene it was definitely a memorable day. For one thing my car is still buried under a thick layer of dust from the car park!
MX Nationals round 3 by Mitch Lewis - 18/05/2015
It was a lovely start to Saturday with great weather and a beautiful spot parked up next to the Thames, with wildlife in abundance!
Qualifying was good as I set the best lap which set me up with number one gate pick for the weekend, which I was very happy with.
First race was up and I had an average start which put me in 10th. By the end of lap two I was in 3rd and had my eye set on the number one spot. I found some good lines and made them work, I got into second, then took the lead and stayed there.
The second race I had a bad start due to trying something new with the gate pick (experimental idea from my Dad!), the start had been watered but the end two gates where still dry, the dry line did not work and I was last! But I worked my way through and managed to salvage 3rd.
First race on Sunday I got a top 3 start and was just feeling it! I went from 3rd to first on lap three and then brought home the win! Last race of the weekend I had another ok start and was 3rd. Made it to 2nd which is where I finished the race, all adding up to a 2nd overall for the weekend!
On the whole an ok weekend we can build on, nice to finally get on the box. Thanks to Freestyle, my sponsors, the chef (my nan) and everyone who makes it happen. Looking forward to going down the beach in a couple of weeks!
By Mitch Lewis
New Blonde on the Block: The Muddy Catwalk - 07/05/2015
So this is now my second blog post. Might as well go full steam ahead.
Last time I touched on the matter of lady riders and how I am all for women doing men's sports. We should be showing them how its done frankly! I shall make a smooth transition now, onto the matter of style.
As with many sports, fashion is a key point in the participation of said sport. If the uniform appeals, the activity appeals.
In the disciplines of off-road motorcycling, I have learnt that there are vast differences in what is stylish and what isn't. This being something I have learned from day 1 in horse riding. The show-jumpers would never been seen dead in dressage type kit and god forbid you wear anything with a little show-jumping bling around the eventing circuit!
But as I discovered on my very first outing to an Enduro paddock the very same concept applies.
All around me where the muted, subtle blue, black and grey Klim kits associated with function over vibrancy. The well worn but cared for Sidi boots which are as comfortable as they are hard wearing were pacing around, watching other riders take different lines at a corner, while the Shoei crash helmets sat ready on the side lines, in anticipation of the long hours of riding ahead.
There were bladder hydration packs being filled and spokes being tightened. The variation of the pro's having a last minute pep talk with the coach, to the “not quite so pro” doing a last minute flap about because he has the wrong number on!
All of these paled slightly in comparison to the bright colours surrounding you at your local motocross meeting! Bling is the word of the day for these folks, from their intricate graffiti style graphics to the latest in fluorescent motocross shirts and pants.
Neither is the lesser in style or function. Both display the best quality in kit that their finances will allow given they intend to spend the majority that they can on their bike!
The next bunch of riders I visited at a meeting where the trials riders. Here are your dressage riders of the bike world. They focus on the slow and steady power along with skill to achieve their feats. These include massive hill climbs, logs, steps and nasty jagged rocks to negotiate. And to do this they wear, for want of a better word, lycra. Is it the manoeuvrability, is it less wind resistance, or is it purely comfort? Either way they must have a decent amount of confidence in themselves to straddle a bike wearing it. Let alone face the sheer rock face that a pro tackles on a daily basis.
Even though it is not a fast moving sport to watch it isn't without its danger by any means!
The dramatic crashes you see in the fail videos online these days are a standard example of the smash ups that happen on the motocross track.
Take away the mass of other riders and add trees in their place and you can recreate the obstacles experienced in an enduro lap. And believe me, many a rider has hit an unsuspecting tree in their day!
Then add on top of that a few sharp rocks, streams, waterfalls, vertical climbs, logs and maybe a metre high step or 2 and you have trials. Also apparently its not only the riders which face the danger, spectators should stay on their guard too because you never know when Sam Connors is going to throw his bike up a hill, let go and have it bounce straight in your face and knock you to the ground! No I did not appreciate it, I will be standing well back next time I see you in the vicinity!
I may well be describing here just the one type of enduro/motocross/trials rider and of course there are always exceptions. We all have our own taste and as ever there is always the “All the Gear, No Idea” chaps who wish to go out and have fun and look damn good while they do it.
Frankly if you are comfortable wearing something and it fits its function, why the hell not!
So slap on your diamonte studded helmets and add tassels to your handle bars. Flames down the side and “Go Faster” stripes always help too!
With sponsored riders in all of these disciplines, we cater for all obviously and the wide variety of clothing, parts and spares and all the little fiddly bits baffle me. Thankfully we have our highly trained and experienced sales staff on hand to answer any question a customer (or I) has.
As you can probably tell the garden machinery customers are an entirely different ball game altogether. At least one thing can be for sure though...they wont be wearing lycra!
My BEC at Helmsley by Rhian George - 06/05/2015
"Day one after the first test I had a good lead. Then disaster struck when I missed a marker and ended up getting to the check a different way than I was supposed to. I was sent back to ride what I'd missed only to find myself riding what I'd already done again. I'm pleased to say I was not the only rider to make this mistake. So the 6 min lead I had was lost and put me in way behind. I carried on and one by one I caught all the girls in my class to take the win for day 1.
Day two spelled bike problems. It kept stalling and being on the camber meant that when the bike stalled I would fall off so I was picking the bike up a lot on Sunday. I got to the Enduro test but again the bike stalled before the first corner. So with the clock ticking I pushed the bike back to the start of the test to get my bag and decided to change the spark plug. I got back into the test dropping another 10 minutes on my test time and 8 minutes on the check. So I was at the back, again. I carried on for points and caught the girls up again. I saw Glesni at the bottom of the camber and knew she wasn't getting back up so I had the lead again. I think I won the second day by over 25 minutes in the end. So it wasn't a smooth running weekend but I got the result. Also got a very good extreme test time which would put me up with the top clubman riders! So the bike is now fixed it was full of water but all sorted now ready for the MX this weekend.
Big thanks to Freestyle for their support and all my sponsors. Cant wait to get back out there again asap!
By Rhian George
British Enduro Championship round 3 & 4 by Wyn Hughes - 05/05/2015
"Friday morning and Wyn Hughes was headed for Helmsley in Yorkshire,for the British Enduro Championship round 3 and 4. The weather was looking glorious. Having walked the track we were feeling confident. The lap was approx 25 miles long with 2 special tests, one 5.5 minutes and one 3 minutes long.These included all sorts of logs, stumps and roots just to make it that much more challenging.
We had two Freestyle riders competing this weekend, Joe Wotton and Rhian George. They spent most of the day walking the special tests to get their heads in the game and stay focused. Late afternoon they both got their bikes through scrutineering and signed on.
Saturday we again awoke to nice blue skies and a 10am start. The day had 4 laps and 8 special tests in store for Joe in the championship class and 3 laps for Rhian.
Joe posted a class win on the first test and 7th overall. He then continued his day as he started with a class win and 5th overall. Rhian also posted fastest lady and went on to finish the day with a class win, even after making a wrong turn out on course!
Sunday was a wash out with a 9am start. The championship riders were doing just 2 laps today and Rhian had just 1.
Joe was second in his class after test 1 but managed to find his momentum and finish the day with a win and 6th place overall, behind 3 World champion winners and 2 European champions. Rhian added to the success by posting some fantastic times to bring home the win again in the Ladies."
By Wyn Hughes
Many thanks as ever to all our sponsors and supporters and always a thank you to everyone who helped organise and run the events.