Gearbest’s snappily titled Amkov AMK5000 camera is the latest in the new wave of action cameras coming out of the Far East and despite its low price tag, is pitching itself very much at the performance end of the market. With full 1080P/30FPS and 720P/60FPS recording, GoPro accessory compatibility and control via smartphone app, it’s certainly feature packed.


Very familiar form format and operation – if you know how to operate a GoPro, the AMK5000 will be second nature.

In use, the app is great for ensuring that the camera is positioned well to get the very best footage – but the fact that you can’t control all features directly from the camera can be a pain at times, especially if your phone is already in use for Strava or similar, adding to battery demand.

Both images and video are sharp and crisp – colour isn’t quite as well defined as GoPro’s latest offerings, but given most riders will be using it in muddy UK woodland, that’s not as much of an issue as you might think. A 16Gb SD card will give you approximately 3 hours’ recording time at 720P/30FPS.

Full set of accessories in the box! Can't say fairer than that!

Full set of accessories in the box! Can’t say fairer than that!

Being compatible with GoPro accessories means that as well as the full set of mounts and attachments in the box, you have plenty of options for alternative mounting either on the bike or yourself.

Easy control, edit and upload via the app for Android & iPhone.

Easy control, edit and upload via the app for Android & iPhone.

While the AMK5000 isn’t going to have GoPro quaking in their boots about losing top end enthusiasts to the competition, it’s a great little camera with some really solid features, and definitely worth a look if you don’t want to commit to more expensive options.

Check it out here:


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Dolcenduro – kicking off 2015!

“There’s a cool local race in Dolce Acqua you should do while you’re out here” said the email. All sounds good right? The email had come from good friend and Life Cycle/Ibis team rider Manuel Ducci, a couple of weeks ahead of me heading out to see him and his better half & teammate, Valentina Macheda for some riding, checking their progress on the new Sanremo Trail Center and a nice pre-season hangout. Within minutes of me giving my agreement to entering this “local race”, a second email appeared, containing links to video recces of one of the stages – brutal didn’t do it justice! 8 minutes of utter carnage – a mix of super-fast pedally sections along an exposed ridge, into fierce, steep rock gardens. And this was just stage 1 – what had I let myself in for?!?

The views above Dolce Acqua - incredible!

The views above Dolce Acqua – incredible!

At this point, it’s worth adding some important background information – Dolce Acqua is right in the hot spot where the Italian region of Ligurea (home to Sanremo, Molini, San Romolo and of course the infamous Finale Ligure of EWS and SuperEnduro fame) meets the Maritime Alps, which host the fearsome Trans Provence. There’s elevation and then some, and the trail network is incredible with massive features, seriously long tracks, and crazy features like WW2 military bunkers cut into the hillside, that some tracks actually cross! A ridiculous number of top flight riders live in and around the region – which brings me onto the start list. How does a start list including 10 times DH world champ Nico Vouilloz, European Enduro champion Karim Amour, 2013 & 2014 SuperEnduro series winners Manuel Ducci & Marco Milivinti, 3 times SuperEnduro Masters winner Francesco Fregona, Rocky Mountain rider Florian Nicolai, 2014 Italian national champion Alex Lupato and many, many more sound? All of a sudden this “local race” took on a very different slant – yes it was a local race for prizes of bottles of wine and bragging rights, but this was very much a first chance for all the riders to see what everyone had been up to over the winter and check out new bikes ahead of the first EWS round in a few short weeks’ time. I was in for something pretty major but at the same time very unique, as I’ve never seen this strong a field outside of an EWS round.

Landing in Nice airport on the Thursday night, the enormity of the weekend ahead hit me – my new frameset had arrived with Manuel at Life Cycle HQ and I would have a frantic build session into the night as I hung my parts onto a new frame, fork and shock. By about midnight, the Edison Evo was looking ready for action – I wasn’t quite in the same state of readiness thanks to tiredness from a problematic house move in the 2 weeks up the the trip, a teething daughter, and nowhere near enough training over the winter! It was too late to back out now – I was fully committed, and so it was time to get some sleep ahead of a solid day of practice on the Friday.

Friday morning came about all too early – after loading up on coffee, pastries and Nutella, we headed up into the hills in the Life Cycle pickup – comedy moments and hilarious “lost in translation” phrases helped silence the nerves for me a little bit. After driving up insanely steep & rocky old tracks (many dating back hundreds of years and then repurposed in WW2), we were at the top, above the clouds and level with the snow across the valley. It was cold, windy, wild but stunning – and stages 1 & 2 would run us right back down to sea level!

Rolling into town with a truck full of pimp bikes!

Rolling into town with a truck full of pimp bikes!

Practicing all the stages through the day was an amazing experience – following Manuel through rock sections that I’d not normally even walk was confidence inspiring, but also a stark reminder of just how capable you have to be to be a national champion and top flight world series racer. Towards the end of the day, we bumped into Nico Vouilloz and I managed to have my first crash of the trip trying to follow a super tight line through a series of switchbacks that ran through a rock garden. Suffice to say, Nico’s skill level far outclassed mine and I had a neat little over the bars moment!

The weapon of choice - my new Bionicon Edison Evo!

The weapon of choice – my new Bionicon Edison Evo!

Saturday was spent resting, tweaking the bike and making full use of the incredible Italian hospitality – believe me, loading up on awesome pizza and pasta a couple of times a day is no chore! I switched tyres to a set of Super Gravity casing Schwalbes to give a bit more protection on the rocks and that was me all set.

Race day came round and we arrived in Dolce Acqua bright and early to a pretty amazing welcome – in true Italian style, the whole village was involved in the event, so a packed piazza was full of riders and their bikes, picking up last minute coffee fixes and preparing bikes ahead of registration. It’s worth talking about the incredible organisation of the event too – the guys at Supernatural really did pull out all the stops. Bikes (almost 200 of them!) were loaded into vans and trailers, riders got into coaches, and we were driven to the highest accessible point, leaving us a 30 minute ride up to the summit. Absolutely amazing organisation and something that would be amazing here in the UK!

The pro men start leaving PS1

The pro men start leaving PS1

I got to the top in time to see the first pros fly off at 1 minute intervals – these guys were on fire, and the lack of big prizes or series points clearly couldn’t dampen their fierce competitive instincts. By the time my start came round, I was pretty ramped up and feeling good. I got off to a strong start on the first third of the stage, maintaining a good rhythm and flowing the high speed sections nicely, especially the series of jumps and drops that were lined with spectators and photographers. Unfortunately, that good form didn’t stay with me as I binned it on the rock garden in exactly the same spot as in practice and lost 3 places – damn!

Onto stage 2 and I was recomposed – this was a fast, flat out stage, under 2 minutes long and was a real test of nerve and staying off the brakes. I had a great run on this, catching sight of the rider in front (from the Monaco national team no less!) and flying full gas into a packed finish arena, full of locals, riders and spectators all cheering us on as we hit the final few metres of the stage. A quick food stop and then it was time to deal with the 90 minute transfer stage – a hard 11km road climb back to the top of the mountain again. An hour and a half in your bottom few gears on a big bike, in a full face helmet is quite a lonely experience, despite bits of multilingual banter as the ebb & flow of riders shifts. It gave me good time to have a solid think about the new Evo and how pleased I was with it – the new X-Fusion Metric fork absolutely demolishes rocks and once I had taken the time to get damping, air pressure and spring curve sorted, gave tons of support mid-stroke, neutralised trail chatter & delivered awesome traction, and ate up bigger hits. The Magura rear shock’s tune was much better than the previous year’s version – nicely sensitive but not blowing it’s travel – in fact, so well damped that I could get away running the bike in “open” setting all the time rather than needing the platform at any stage. I was definitely falling in love with this seriously bright beast!

Back at the top, I had 15 minutes or so to compose myself ahead of stage 3 – which was seriously hard, a proper pedal fest that favoured riders with an XC background. Less technical but more physically demanding, it forced you to push hard all the way, with some nasty little inclines that emptied legs and lungs – and I managed to cramp badly here. Not enough training, a new baby, a house move and 37 advancing years all caught up with me out there and I had to really fight the pain all the way down – turning the pedals was agony and landing the big drop part way down the stage left my quads feeling like I’d been tasered!

Getting a drift on out on stage 2!

Getting a drift on out on stage 2!

A quick recovery ahead of stage 4 and I was off again – the stiffness from the cramp was making it increasingly hard to turn with my hips, so I was riding like an old man, frustrating to say the least! By this point, I was in survival mode and focused on getting down safe as there was nothing left at all. Somehow, I finished without crashing on any of the drops and jumps, and I was done!

Catching up with everyone at the end, it was apparent there were a huge amount of riders who’d crashed on stage 1, so I felt less bad, and everyone was looking pretty beaten up – even the top guys were talking about how hard it was, and how much stage 3 had taken out of them. Before long, timings started to come through – Nico had decimated the field, winning by over 30 seconds – a ridiculous margin, but I’d seen just how on form he was in practice.

...and after! What a shakedown for the bike - X-Fusion Metric fork absolutely monster trucked everything!

…and after! What a shakedown for the bike – X-Fusion Metric fork absolutely monster trucked everything!

Presentations came round – Nico took the overall ahead of Alex Lupato and Marco Milivinti – Manuel’s crash on stage 1 meant he finished 10th overall but won the Masters’ age category, but very sportingly declined the category win as a top pro, so that second placed Master, Hotlines’ Martin Astley could take the age category win. In the Women’s Laura Rossin took the overall ahead of Valentina Macheda in second and Chiara Pastore in third. Prizes were bottles of wine and local produce – but more importantly bragging rights and a sneaky preview of rivals’ readiness for the EWS.

IMG_20150222_162827726 IMG_20150222_162512669

What did I take away from the trip? Firstly, just how dedicated and hard working the top guys and girls are – we’re talking 5+ hours of training every single day; to compete at global level, you really do need to be super-dedicated. At 37 with a young family and an admittedly pretty awesome full time job, my best racing days are well over, but my hunger for competing is far from abating. And lastly, the new Edison Evo definitely suited me better than anything I’ve ridden and raced on before, and with a few setup tweaks, it feels faster and more stable than my capabilities will need!

Back in the UK, fully recovered, I’m feeling sharp and ready to kick off my season – and as usual, racing out in Europe has highlighted all my weak spots to work on, so it’s easy to train smart now.

This little monster decided she likes the Evoc bag as a very expensive playhouse!

This little monster decided she likes the Evoc bag as a very expensive playhouse!

Big thanks to everyone who made the amazing trip possible – Roger and the team at Bionicon for getting the bike ready in super-short timescales, Manuel & Valentina for great hosting, the crew at Supernatural for a mental event and of course everyone I met out there! Can’t wait to get back out to this crazy race again next year!

See you at Enduro 1 at the Forest of Dean this weekend!


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Kicking 2015 back off!!

Well it’s been a bit of a quiet time on the blog side of things – new baby girl took over life but I’m now back training for the Enduro 1 series, putting finishing touches to my new bike spec (so excited!!) and starting to find my race head again.

Just seen this amazing website, by none other than Charlie Kelly – one of the original Repack riders and pioneer of Mountain Biking.


It’s full of incredible stories, insights, pictures and anecdotes – but what really struck me was the crazy concept of things going full circle!


Back in 1977 (the year I was born!), they did their first “Enduro” event – riding a big loop, then being timed on descents. Sound familiar? How about when you look at the bikes they were building around and just after this time – slack geometry, finding the sweet spot between low weight an durability, single ring and single shifter, wide bars and droppable seatposts. Amazing.

Have a full read here:




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A tough day at the office – Enduro World Series #2, Tweedlove, Scotland

Sometimes Enduro racing can be a cruel sport – laughing in the face of all your planning, preparation and training. This weekend saw my number come up after 2 very successful and incident free seasons – it’s one of those inevitable facts that we don’t like to talk too loudly about, but when you repeatedly spend weekends plummeting down steep, rocky, rooty tracks at insane speed, the laws of physics and probability guarantee that at some stage, you’ll end up wrong way up. This time it was my turn!


As we packed the van to make the pilgrimage to Tweedlove for the first ever EWS round in the UK, I was feeling sharp and ready for action – this was to be my second Enduro World Series race and I knew that I had to expect savage stages, physically demanding transitions and some very, very fast competition – this was after all the top 300 Enduro racers in the world! As my phone pinged Facebook, Twitter and Instagram updates from Peebles, one update stood out and shook me – Italian SuperEnduro series champion and friend Manuel Ducci had crashed in practice on stage 2 and broken his ankle! In between laughing at his brilliant “waiting room” pictures with a skeleton he had found in the hospital, it dawned on me that this was a supremely gifted athlete with outrageous technical skills – and just practicing the course had ruined him. Clearly I was in for something pretty gnarly!


Tweedlove was not only a big one for me as a racer but also for Bionicon – the event had been tagged as the ideal place to pre-launch the forthcoming new bike, the awesome Edison Evo! Having seen behind the scenes as the bike was developed over many months, I couldn’t wait for us to pick up Basti Schub from the airport with a pre-production version, in all it’s 650B, variable geometry & travel Enduro tastiness!


Trade stand set up and some catch ups with various friends & contacts done, it was time to get out and practice – I joined my friend and former team mate Russ Turner (now riding on his new team Yeti SB66 from Rockets & Rascals) to hit stages 3 & 4 for the morning – there was no messing with the Innerleithen stages for day 1, seriously steep and gnarly chutes, full of mud, drops, switchbacks and roots to catch you out! In fact I was caught up by Life Cycle/Ibis rider Valentina Macheda while I hugged a tree on 3 – certainly the strangest “ciao” I’ve ever said to her! It was obvious that the aim of the game for day 1 would be survival – the stages were steep, rooty and slippery, and would definitely be taking no prisoners come race day!


Race day came round and I woke up feeling good & strong, having got a good sleep, plenty of food (sorry to the hotel for that!) – it was time to go! A nice little on stage interview from my old friend, SuperEnduro and EWS co-founder Enrico Guala (looking good in his kilt!) and it was time to get my race started. A long transition to stage 1 in surprising heat had us all suffering – in fact the only highlight of a long slog was seeing a certain Gary Forrest’s 12 year old graffiti on an old reservoir wall. Seeing the top guys coming back round to go to stage 2, with broken bikes, obvious crashes and all suffering didn’t help with the realisation we were in for something serious.

I got to the top, padded up and changed into my full face, got in the zone and revved myself up nicely – the rider in front of me had dropped out, so I had no 20 second man, just a 40s gap to try and close. The eternal wait for the starting countdown was hard as ever to bear – but finally it came. 5-4-3-2-1-GO!!!!!!! Straight on the gas, pedalling hard across a seriously fast moorland track! Ruts made it lethal so I stuck to the left out of them so I didn’t risk catching a wheel and flipping out (which I later heard Martin Maes had done!) before even hitting the woods.

As the flat out approach stage dropped into the mega-dark woods, I caught sight of my 40 second man – I must have been tanking it to close that gap! That was it – time to hunt. This section was seriously steep with turns, roots, drops and hollows everywhere, with the roots polished and slippery mud everywhere. I was making nice progress when around a third of the way into the stage, I slid on a root, clipped my wheel on a stump and highsided – what happened next is a bit of a blur. I remember wrapping myself round a tree really hard, and feeling the instant deceleration forces rip through my head, neck and shoulders. Instantly I knew it had been a big stack, but instincts took over and I jumped back on. The second I got back on the bike though, I knew I was out – the best way to describe my feeling is a mix between sea sickness and 10 pints of wife beater – I was wobbling all over the place and could hardly stay upright! A very nice marshall helped me down to the fireroad and that was it – my race was done. As I waited to check myself out properly and let them know I was out of the race, I saw the rescue truck coming down with Cube Action Team rider Scotty Laughland with his arm in a sling – I’d already heard that stage 1 had taken out Graves, Maes and now Scott – how many more had it scalped?!?!


Rolling back one handed through Innerleithen I bumped into Manuel Ducci and Jerome Clementz at a café – Manuel’s description of the live timing as a “war bulletin” reinforced just how wild it was out there – and seeing the grace and acceptance which these two top riders viewed crashing and injury made me realise that you can either get upset & angry or accept is as something that’s going to happen when you do hundreds of high speed runs in a year.

Back at the team tent it was time to tell the guys about my crash and get sent to the medical tent for a check over – luckily my collarbone was ok, it was just whiplash type strains on my neck & shoulders with a bit of bruising as well. Some serious mansize painkillers and doctor’s orders to “relax and have a few beers tonight” eased my mind & put paid to fears of any serious season affecting damage!


Later in the day as we saw results coming in, tales of crashes, smashes, DNFs and injuries filled the arena – day 1 was described as the hardest and most technically challenging EWS round so far and believe me, they weren’t wrong! Over the last few days, lots have people have asked “are you angry at crashing?”, “you must be so annoyed” etc etc – while it’s always a shame not to finish, it’s inevitable when racing at this level that you’ll crash at some point – and when there are tracks like this, it’s a matter of when not if. So I’m cool with it – it goes with the territory, and the key thing is not to get angry but to refocus, learn from it and carry that forward to the next race!

This week’s goal is to rest, recuperate and try to loosen off the soreness in my shoulders so I can compete next weekend at Bristol Bikefest where I’m hoping to shake up the XC crew on my Alva in the 3 hour race – and luckily there’s nothing like the steep madness of Innerleithen to contend with!

Big thanks to everyone for their support – Bionicon for an awesome bike, Onza & Silverfish UK for my supremely grippy Ibex tyres, Carbonal for pimp rims, One Industries for the helmet and pads that saved my bacon this weekend, Vizion Goggles for keeping my eyes safe and Trail Head for skills and race coaching – here’s to a great season coming up!

Andy :-)

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2014 season kick off and pre-EWS Tweedlove bike check!

Well it’s countdown time!!!Just a few days ahead of the Enduro World Series round at Tweedlove in Scotland and I thought it would be cool to do a really quick bike check.

Lots of change from my 2013 spec – but shock horror(!!) I have stuck with 26” for this season as I am really loving the Alva Air 180 and with the changes done over winter, it’s faster than ever.

So many changes and upgrades have been done – tons of weight off but performance increases and no compromise on strength, there simply was no way I would take risks.

Several key new parts that differentiate from the 2103 season – all helping make the bike more ready than ever for racing and shredding this year!


First up – the all new suspension system. At the end of last year, I was running a pre-production Bionicon G2S fork cartridge with the new compression damping cartridge and dual air chamber. I’m now on the full production version – it’s super-smooth, awesome small bump compliance but doesn’t blow travel at all. I run it pretty firm at around 18% sag so it sites high in the travel.

The rear shock has also been upgraded from the X-Fusion O2 RCX to the all new custom specced Magura TS215 – big thing I noticed is how much more compliant it is, how much slicker the initial stroke is and how it definitely seems less sensitive to getting hot over a long rough run. I’ve just about got the tuning bang on now – seriously impressed!

As you’ll see from the photos, I’m rocking some pretty pimp rims this year from new sponsor Carbonality – these are a 33mm wide, 30mm deep carbon rim, with a 27mm internal width and hookless bead. Weighing in at just 440g a piece (same as a Stans Flow), they are super stiff, really strong and have made a big difference to handling. The bike feels a lot more direct, and on tight switchbacks and rock gardens where wheel deflection/flex can cause wander, they really can be noticed!

As with last year, I’m running Onza tyres after being super-impressed with them last year, not only in terms of grip but also bulletproof construction – the lovely guys at Onza and UK distributor Silverfish UK sorted me out a massive box full at the start of the season, so I’ll be running a mix of Ibex 2.4, Ibex 2.25 and Canis 2.25 dependent on conditions.

Drivetrain is the ever lovely SRAM X01 with 10-42 cassette and 34t chainring. NarrowWide and clutch goodness means it just works perfectly and doesn’t drop the chain, ably supported by the new Bionicon C-Guide Eco for a little extra chain wrap. For particularly rocky courses I have the option to add a taco and/or top guide from Brightline Components.

Bars also come from Brightline Components – 780mm carbon badboys with a 32mm rise. I’m absolutely loving these so far!

Brakes are the trusty Shimano Zee with sintered pads – I may test out the new Magura MT7 later this season but right now, these 4 pot monsters (on 203mm rotors) deliver all the power and modulation you could possibly want – especially when tired and with arm pump setting in……

Watch out for lots more updates now the season gets started!

Big thanks in advance to all the brands supporting me and the Bionicon team this season – Bionicon, Onza, Silverfish UK, One Industries Europe, Vizion Goggles and Carbonality – hope to do you proud in 2014!

Andy :-)

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Long term reviews – Bionicon Alva 180 Air/Superstar Sentinel Wheelset/Shimano Zee brakes

Evening all,

As promised earlier this week – here’s the long term reviews I’ve been threatening for a while!

Now that 2013 is over, it’s time for me to reflect on kit from last season, and look to 2014 and what I’ll be running……..

Bionicon Alva 180 Air

First up, let’s take an overall look at the bike I ran for the whole of the 2013 season, seeing action in the Enduro 1 Southern UK Enduro series (15th overall in the series in 30+ category, with 3 out of 4 rounds raced), 2 SuperEnduro rounds and the Enduro World Series final among many others – the awesome Bionicon Alva 180 Air. Lots of people have questioned “why a bike so big?” – well when you can build a 180mm bike with adjustable travel & geometry that weighs in between 30 & 32 lbs dependent on kit spec and it climbs as well as the 160mm version, why not?


The Alva has seen some hard use this season – from horrific muddy, steep UK courses to the rocky, twisty, dusty and punishing tracks of Italy and it still runs like a dream. In fully slacked out mode, it has a 65 degree head angle so really hits it, but with a 31lb build in my current setup, it can get back up nicely too. Early in the season we broke just under 30lb with a very light build, but that was a bit of a compromise with very light tyres. It was a good challenge though and saw lots of people picking it up in disbelief!


Suspension action has been great, especially once I added the new G2S damper cartridge to the fork, giving lots more mid-stroke support. I found the best balance was 25% rear sag and 15% front, with around 60% compression damping wound in on the fork for good support. The rear shock, an X-Fusion O2-RL, has been great and has needed just a quick service after SuperEnduro Monti Della Tolfa. With a big season, I’ve killed a pair of shock eyelet bushes, but that’s to be expected. Pivot bearings have been easy to service and grease though so are still running super sweet. Overall, it’s been a fantastic bike and a big step up from the Edison I rode in 2012.

Superstar Sentinel Wheelset

I’ve been running the Superstar Sentinel wheelset all season too – this wheelset is built around Superstar’s new Tesla hubs with 72 points of engagement and their Sentinel tubeless ready rims which are 26mm wide external and 21mm internal. They’re laced up with Sapim double butted spokes and have stayed good and tight all season with just the odd retrue on the rear being needed.

The overall weight of the wheels came in at under 1700g for the pair, so really light. I’m quite a lightweight rider at 74kg, but bear in mind the rim profile is the same as a Mavic Crossmax SX so they’re still a decent size – and a whole season’s Enduro racing suggests they are more than up to the job. The rims are still true, with just a couple of little dents from rock strikes, and the hubs run smoothly on SKF stainless steel bearings. Now the freehub is bedded in nicely, it makes a great “angry wasp” sound too!

Highly recommended – and if you are heavier or ride with less finesse, it’s worth looking at the Sentinel’s tougher brother, the Tactic rim at just 30g more weight.

Shimano Zee brakes

If you look carefully at various pictures, you’ll spot that I switched brakes towards the end of the season – I ran Zee all through 2012 and LOVED them! My 2013 bike came with SRAM/Avid X0 brakes and to be honest, they were really good, with a nice lever shape, good power and good modulation. The problem was that the power was only “good”, not “great”. I finally overcooked them in Italy and realised that despite their light weight, beautiful polished finish and lovely feel, they lacked the real big power output of the Zee so I took the plunge and went back to the Shimanos.

Zee Brakes

Straight away, it’s so apparent Shimano have nailed these brakes – trimming the hoses and bleeding the brakes with the new funnel system is ridiculously easy and something anyone can do, unlike so many hydraulic brake systems.

The lever shape is great, perfect for serious one finger braking.

Power is phenomenal, especially when coupled with big rotors for heat dissipation – asides from being able to brake later and harder, the big benefit for an Enduro rider is the fact that as you get tired towards the end of a long race or ride and the dreaded arm pump is kicking in, you don’t need to use any forearm strength to get the anchors dropped. This is probably the biggest benefit of the Zee asides from the pure power and ease of maintenance!

I’ll be running Zee on all my bikes from now on – the small weight penalty is well worth it as they are by far the best brakes I’ve ever used.

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BAD NEWS!! Cedric Gracia injured in a big crash at Mega Reunion

Just seen this update on the Enduro MTB Magazine website – looks like Cedric Gracia has had a nasty crash at the Mega event on Reunion Island – click the pic below for full story, but needless to say, Cedric is a much loved, highly regarded member of the Enduro elite and it’s safe to say everyone will be rooting for him to make a swift and full recovery:

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