Ride Progression Enduro Skills Camp – Reschenpass

Zürich based coaching company Ride Progression are putting on an Enduro Skills Camp in the awesome Reschenpass area of the Alps in June. Reschenpass boarders Switzerland, Austria and Italy and offers the chance to ride in 3 countries in one day on loamy, fun trails with gondola uplifts.

Enduro Skills Camp - Reschen

Ride Progression’s Enduro Skills Camp will combine mountain bike coaching from Whistler qualified coach Oli, with trail riding, bike set-up and bike repair tips. I’ll be on hand to offer advice and tips for training and preparation for Enduro racing. With a small group (4-6 people) there will be chance to learn lots. The camp is from Friday 16th – Sunday 18th of June, biker friendly accomodation is included and of course there will be chance to chill out and enjoy the mountains with post-ride beers and a bbq.

More information is on Facebook here and Redbull’s description of the area here.

Check out Ride Progression’s website for their other offers for individual and group mountain bike coaching sessions in Zürich and the nearby Alps.

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Tran Savoie

Big Alps, 6 days, 30 timed stages, 25000m descent, 8000m climbing

MickKirkman_day 3

A few weeks ago I did the Trans Savoie, a 6 day enduro race high up in the French Alps with 6000m descent per day as well as lots of pedalling. We began in Val d’Isere, racing in different areas of the Savoie Alps and camping overnight with the finish at Mont Blanc.

It rained over night before day one and clouds swirled around the mountains as we made our way up in a chairlift to over 2000m to the start of the first stage. The day had some good variety including bike park, really technical awkward rocky singletrack, rooty woodland, fast flowy trails and looooong climbs with stunning views. First day nerves and wet greasy trails had me riding like a muppet for much of the day, pinballing down the hills and loosing time with stupid crashes and mistakes. The nightmare situation would be to crash out on the first day so I was happy to get to the end in one piece and hoped to settle in as the week went on.

Team Trans Savoie

Day two was based around Bourg St Mource where there were more clouds and some rain on the cards. Some more time on the gondolas and well as some uphill pedalling and lots of long, technical, intense trails made a tough, tiring day. Having missed a turn and climbed an extra 500m, by the time we got to the top of the last stage I was so exhausted I wondered how I could survive a 900m descent. It’s amazing how a great trail can energise you (combined with eating a load of energy gels), and after 30 seconds I’d forgotten the tiredness and was racing absolutely flat out in pissing rain down an insanely fun bike park track. The unusual black dirt had an unexpected amount of grip so you could com screaming into rock garden and bermed corners flat out, wheels drifting but somehow always stayingng upright. There were riders close by in front and behind so motivation to push hard was even higher and left everyone was bouncing of the walls by the end, buzzing on endorphin’s and excitement. Awesome but didn’t sleep well that night, kept getting flashbacks of loamy corners and smashing berms!

MickKirkman_day 3b

By day 3 I’d lost track of were we were but the first stage started at the top of a huge mountain with massive 360 views of surrounding peaks and glaciers. It a real epic day with two 1000m+ descents starting up above the tree line, crossing open mountains before dropping into woodland trails with more switchbacks, today with dust included as the sun made an appearance. The last trail was on more unusual grippy black dirt along a river with some incredible steep drops, roller coaster whoops, pedally sprints and tight switchbacks. Stoke levels one again high and the day seemed less exhausting than day 2.

Ronan Duggan 3

Day 4. We moved closer to Mont Blanc riding in the Meribel/Courchevel area withthe big snowed capped peak providing a backdrop to much of the days riding. The sun was blazing down, the trails offered another big mix of technical, bike park and flow. This was the kind of day you forgot you were tired, the views on the transitions were stunning so it was impossible to complain about the pedaling between stages. I joined up with a few of the other girls so that we could get a good run on the tracks without worrying about having to let faster guys past. It was one of the most fun days on the bike I’ve ever had, the last two trails left us with a severe case of ‘over stoke’, we rode flat out chasing each other down loamy corners and flat out pine needle woodland but finding extra breath to whoop and holler in excitement as the trails just got better and better. By the end of the day we were literally exploding with endorphins, I can’t imagine how heroin can offer a better hit.

Mick Kirkman 3

Day 5. The pervious day’s madness where tiredness was masked by adrenaline, meant I woke up feeling exhausted and realising that I could be in for a tough one. We had a couple of chairlifts but a lot of climbing between stages meaning a long day in the saddle. My forearms were like solid lumps of concrete from all the arm-pump and it was becoming difficult to pull the brakes and stay focused for the full length of a descent. There were some rad trails, mostly technical and steep but fun. The last one, just as everyone was feeling really exhausted, was probably the hardest of the race. In a damp forest, the whole thing was litttered with greasy rocks and steep grippless corners that required full commitment to ride. Having felt good on the bike all week this reduced me (and a lot of others!) to feeling like a beginner. I was too tired to focus and didn’t have the strength to get myself out of mistakes so ended up running down sections. Not the best end to a day but that’s all part of the challenge!

Mick Kirkman 7

I woke up to day 6 after a bad night sleep in the tent somewhat saddened that the adventure would be soon over but also looking forward to not riding a bike! We were now in the Les Contamines / Mont Blanc area and I was blown away by the scenery. We spent the day riding in the shadow of Mont Blanc with closeup views of stunning glaciers. Once again the trails were awesome but tiredness was taking over. I was in survival mode having to slow down as my fried brain was unable to process the trail fast enough to make the quick decisions needed to ride at speed, strength to hold the bars and pull the brakes was also lacking and a 1000m climb to the 2nd stage didn’t help. The last stage was pretty special, we took a furnicular normally not allowed for bikes, up to the bottom of the glacier on Mont Blanc and then raced down 1200m to the bottom of the valley. Once again we got girls train going and somehow extra energy reserves (and the thought of a cold beer at the bottom) kicked in as we raced flat out through dusty corners and fast rock gardens to the finish line.

Overall an absolutely awesome week. Every day had you pushing your comfort zone, be it through the long transition climbs or surviving racing blind down long and technically challenging trails. In the end it was more the mental fatigue that I struggled with than the physical, staying 100% focused for 10-15 minutes, 6 times a day is utterly exhausting. Camping out in the mountains for a week, doing nothing but eat, sleep and ride was a brilliant escape from normal life and it was hard to burst the bubble and come back to reality. Going with my brother Eóin and a bunch of friends from Zürich made it great fun but it was also brilliant to meet and ride with similarly minded, fast people from all over the world. Surviving the challenge and the buzz it brought made dragging ourselves out riding in sub-zero temperatures on dark winter evenings all worthwhile, it’s not an event to be underestimated and the fitter and stronger you are the more you can enjoy it.

I race on my Banshee Rune and couldn’t have been happier with the bike. I didn’t have a single issue with the bike the whole week, it got me out of multiple sketchy situations, gobbled up rocks and roots, got me a reputation for nailing switchbacks (its the bike not me!) and generally took any abuse I could throw at it. Thanks to Magma Bike for getting it running perfectly before the race.

Already considering next year and planning the next adventure as an antidote to coming back to earth with a bump…

Thanks to Mick Kirkman and Ronan Duggan for the photos.










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La Trentàl Enduro, Mervelier CH

La Trental 4Holy sh**t that’s steep, not sure I can go…stop thinking do it, off the brakes let go, yeow, twist the hips into the corner, ok I’m alive, compose yourself ready for the next bit, braap loamy corner, and another… This was hands down the steepest and most technical enduro race I’ve ever done, EWS and Trans Savoie included. La Trental 3

Deep in the French speaking Swiss Jura there is a tiny village called Mervelier surrounded by innocent looking little limestone hills. The place is the unexpected home to Magma Bike the Swiss Banshee distributors, and JUride a bunch of incrediley passionate trail builders. In the woods behind the village this small group of passionate guys have been busy constructing a network of mountain bike trails, the easiest of which would challenge most good riders. The skill and knowledge put into these trails has to be seen to be believed, steep sections drop into perfectly formed catch berms, incredibly technical lines have been picked out through the rocky outcrops of limestone, off-camber traverses built up to hold your bike. People building most of the rubbish motorway style goober friendly shite you find in the Swiss Alpine resorts could learn a thing or two by coming here.

La Trentäl

The race itself was mental. I didn’t have time to practice most of the trails so rode a lot of it blind, and quickly realised neither my body or mind were recovered enough from the Trans Savoie to go full gas into a race. Too late! Never the less I found myself riding things that if I had have had chance to stop at the top and look, there is no way I’d have gone down. Sometimes it was the sheer length and steepness that was the challenge, other times the sharp rugged limestone rocks littering the trail provided a huge technical challenge.  I had a massive stack on one near vertical long chute where i didn’t turn in time and went hurtling down the hill ending up with a massive dead leg, which left has me hobbling around like an idiot ever since.

In between the sketchy bits it was incredible fun. Deep loam, incredible tacky grip, switchback and catch berm gallore. The way the trails are built means you are able to get down things which on first look are super steep and scary. There was very little pedaling in the stages but with 1900m climbing over 26 km it was a big day out. The stages got progressively harder, culminating in Delerium, a track which scared even some former world cup downhill riders and left me so physically and mentally fried that I was taking breaks along the way to compose myself before the next technical onslaught!. Overall I was happy to survive and finish 2nd to the incredibly fast top 10 EWS rider Melanie Pugin. I wouldn’t like every race to be this tough but its great to push your comfort zone from time to time! women's podium - photo Anthony Brown

The race was part of Juride Days, a bike festival which brought people from miles around. Also behind the village is a bike park with some huge dirt jumps and north shore which was at the centre of the race village. Back-flips and 360s were the order of the day for a best trick contest, there was a DJ, live music, food and a party late into the night. The contrast between people and lifestyle here and that in Zürich is amazing and its worth a visit for that alone. The guys involved are some of the most friendly, open, passionate (and crazy) people you can ever meet and they for sure know how to ride bikes. 

Best Tricks Contest at La Trentàl

The race was the first of the Helveti’ Cup, a mini 4 race series in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Great to finally see some racing here, looking forward to the rest!

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Spring Alpine Adventures

Since the EWS in Ireland I took a break from racing to make the most of the mountains and have some more chilled out adventures with friends.

There is always the danger of early season over enthusiasm and we got caught out here with a hour of hiking through knee deep snow with bikes on our backs in Davos. The descent was worth it though!

It was even nice to get out on the road and do some big mountain rides in the sun. A day on Furka and Grimsel passes have to be some of the most dramatically stunning rides around (just be prepared to share the road with millions of motorbikes, it makes you appreciate the peace and quiet of trails!). Hairpin after hairpin surrounded by huge cliff faces, waterfalls, glaciers and lakes. Getting wild sprinting back down the hill at 80 kmph is of course awesome too!

This one was a big adventure ride near Flumserberg, a small ski resort an hour from Zürich. With no lift access for bikes there was a 2.5 hour climb up steep ski pistes and technical rocky singetrack up to an isolated pass at 2300m. A super steep, technical, rocky descent made it worth while before some more climbing to some of the best loamy trails ever hidden in the woods lower down.

Next up racing in the European Enduro Series at Reschenpass in Austria at the weekend…


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Emerald Enduro, EWS

What a weekend! Despite living in and riding in all these fancy Alpine locations, riding in Ireland is still hard to beat but it can be hard to convince anyone who hasn’t been there that a country with such little mountains can be so great for biking. No more convincing will be needed after the Emerald Enduro.

Fergal Kilkenny

Firstly the trails were awesome. Carrick offered so much variety within the 7 stages, there were dusty sections where you could have been in Spain, steep gnarly rocky sections to challenge the best of riders, some good auld Irish schlomp, loamy corners, xc pedalling, pumptrack style whoops, jumps, dh tracks, everything was there. There was enough of a challenge there but above all the kind of riding that brings a smile to your face at the end of each stage. The effort and passion put into building the trails was evident and is what made all the difference.

Come race day the crowds  took the experience to another level. It was insane, I’ve never experienced anything like it! How ever many thousand people were out on the, the noise levels and rowdyness had the effect of doubling the numbers. The atmosphere was electric, the feeling of burning legs, screaming lungs or an apprehensive brain were all numbed by the cheers and encouragement (Huge thanks to anyone shouting my name, tunnel vision mean I probably didn’t recognise you but it still helped!). To see mountain biking becoming more mainstream in Ireland is amazing, to show the trails and the passion to all the foreigners and to see them all so shocked and impressed was even better and Greg crossing the line to take the win and the explosive atmosphere that followed was the icing on the cake.

Huge congratulations to all the organisers for pulling off bringing such a big event to Ireland and doing such an amazing job of it. Fingers crossed it’ll be back next year!

Adrian McLeavey

My race went ok, I rode everything fairly well, pushed hard when I could, coped with the distance fine, had no major issues or crashes. Overall though too steady and safe, the level in the EWS is too high for riding averagely, more risks need to be taken and limits have to be pushed. Lesson learnt, time to get more wild on the bike!

Photo credit - Fergal Kilkenny

P1010891 P1010896

In the few days after I enjoyed some great riding in the Dublin mountains with friends, a lovely freezing cold sea swim, plenty of recovery pints of Guinness, lots of coffee. Any jobs going for architects in Dublin yet…?!

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Spring Hardtailing & Cannondale Enduro Tour Race

Belfort Enduro_Benoît Grébaux

My first race of the season was the Cannondale Enduro Tour in Belfort, France. Unfortunately my new bike was delayed arriving so I raced on my hardtail with a 140mm fork, no dropper post and 10 gears! It was actually great fun just slightly slower than normal, but it was the lack of a dropper post nearly killed me. The trails weren’t particularly technical but really physical race with each stage having at least one 30-40 second fireroad sprint, I managed to stand up for all of them but it left my legs exploding with lactic dropping into the next section of trail and my quads were burning for a few days afterwards!

The last stage involved descending from the top of an old castle, down through the brick vaults with tunnels, narrow passages and flights of steps before hitting a steep sketchy shoot into the town centre. Awesome! I finished 7th, happy enough given the bike.

In fact I’ve been honing my skills on the hardtail all winter since my enduro bike is cleaned up and ready to sell.  Since March the weather has been at times amazing and we’ve done a good job of avoiding snow by developing a knack of hunting out south facing slopes for some awesome riding in places you would expect to be only able to ride in summer. I’ve had some full body batterings riding rocky trails chasing the lads on proper bikes and a full-sus will feel like the ultimate luxury when the new one arrives!

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Surviving Winter

Winter turned out to be fairly short but pretty hardcore. For two months all the trails around Zürich were covered in snow with sub zero temperatures. Having survived a couple of winters here I’ve learnt its better to embrace the weather rather than fight it. No more long freezing roadie rides or mind numbing roller sessions. This year I did a big mixture of things – xc skiing (fitness), dh skiing (adrenaline), bouldering, weight training, trail running, and of course lots of sliding around in the snow on mountain bikes.

After a while darkness, grey skies, millions of layers of clothing, rides where meter deep snow meant more time spent going over the bars than going forward, and the novelty of variety began to wear off and all I wanted to do was ride a bike properly. So at the end of February we drove 5 hours south to Finale Ligure for a weekend to ride in the dust, swim in the sea and eat icecream. A solution that solves all problems. Since then the benefit of a few years Swiss riding experience has paid off and learning to hunt out the south facing slopes has meant getting a good bit of riding done on real trails, sometimes even up in the Alps.

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For Sale: Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29er

I’m selling my Enduro Expert 29er – crazy fast pimp enduro bike. Bought 9 months ago and regularly serviced / in good condition. Drop me an email for more info. It’s in Zürich but transport elsewhere could be arranged.

Frame: Carbon, Medium.

Rear Shock: Custom FOX Float

Fork: RockShox Pike 29, Solo Air , 160mm travel

Drivetrain: Sram 1 x 11

Wheels: Specialized Roval 29, tubeless ready

Tyres: Maxxis High Roller, Specialized Butcher (plus a few used spares and several spare tubes)

Brakes: Avid Trail 7 , new brake pads

Seatpost: Specialized Commandpost

Specialized Enduro Expert 29er Specialized Enduro Expert 29er Specialized Enduro Expert 29er

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Christmas skids on the islands

My ribs finally healed in time for some hardtail action in Ireland and Scotland over Christmas. So so good. The weather was perfect, the people fun and the trails every bit as good as I remember.

Not so stoked to be back in snowy wet cold Zürich :-(


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Autumn insanity and a snapped rib

The most amazing autumn ever has been going on for longer than expected. I spent October in full panic mode expecting snow to arrive at any second and desperate to make the most of any last opportunity for big mountain adventures. Sunny days, incredible colours, and even dry trails meant it impossible to take an off-season break, and I had some of the best road and mountain bike rides of the year. I kept thinking I’ll have a few weeks off as soon as the weather changes.

Then I fell off my bike and snapped a rib. Doh! Broken ribs are painful things that prevent anything that remotely involves fun. It’s been nice to chill out for a week or two, get wired on coffee and do other things but I’m starting to crave movement and adrenaline and its not raining as much as I would like. 2-4 more weeks to go, heal dammit!

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