Skills coach, beard aficionado, adventurer, video hero – Britain's Ed Oxley is all of these, but first and foremost he's an all-round good guy who loves to ride bicycles off-road. We caught up with him earlier this year to find out more about his bike – here's the full, unexpurgated version for your reading pleasure.
MBUK: Tell us about your bike...
Ed: "Just look at the paintjob – this bike oozes style! The Heckler is the working man’s Santa Cruz – it’s cheaper than the other bikes in the range and you can service it with a hammer and a couple of Allen keys! It’s got a lot more going for it than just being cheaper though. The working man is entitled to style, high performance and quality construction, and he can be proud that all those qualities are in this bike.
"The ride is really fun and lively, the great geometry is the same as on the acclaimed Santa Cruz Bronson and the single-pivot design works a treat. Everyone asks me how it climbs, because they think single-pivot bikes suffer from bob. It climbs great, with loads of grip, and any bob that's there when you climb standing up can be cancelled out using the lever on the Fox Float CTD shock. Downhill, the bike is a blast – planted and very stable at speed, with no flex.
"How you build a bike, where the weight is distributed and the quality of the components really affect the ride of a bike. I’m really happy with this build and the way it seems to make the most of the individual parts."
What size frame are you running?
"I’m 5ft 8in and I ride a medium. Lots of people said I’d need a large but after having demo rides on both sizes it was clear that medium was right. There's a myth that you need to size up with Santa Cruz frames, but times have changed since they used to make bikes with too little reach. If you’re unsure, get out to a demo day and make sure you get the proper fit."
Tell us about some of the kit on your bike
"My KS Lev dropper seatpost has 125mm of drop. They do a 150mm version but with my stumpy legs I’ve got the post nearly all the way in the frame so I can’t fit one of those! My bar is cut to 747mm wide, like the jumbo jet, and I’ve got a 50mm Chromag Ranger stem. I’m happy with everything the way it is and don’t have any plans to change stuff that ain’t broke."
Chromag are big in Canada but still an unknown quantity here in Blighty. What do you think of the parts you're running?
"I’ve always liked the vibe of the company and I’ve ridden and liked their stuff in the past. I can really relate to a company who have all their staff going for a ride as a part of the scheduled working week! All their products work, they have style and are strong enough to last being ridden a lot with confidence.
"The Scarab flat pedals are amazing, with a big old platform beautifully machined into a concave. There are loads of drillings to put your pins wherever you like and the pins are designed to snap off under a heavy strike rather than bending and stripping the threads that they screw into. They're seriously grippy pedals that are holding up well.
"I love the Moon titanium-railed saddle. I had one a few years ago that just refused to die, even when it fell off an uplift trailer into a ravine! It’s light and skinny with a broad nose for getting on to for the steep climbs and a nicely rounded back for sliding off and around on the descents. It’s also leather which makes it good for sniffing!
"The OSX bar has just the right angles and comes in kinky colours. The Ranger stem gives people stem-envy with its industrial minimalism and cool laser-etched bears on the side. The Basis grips are skinny, firm and seem hardwearing as well as having a really neat rounded end-cap system that doesn’t dig into your hands."
With experience across the wheel size spectrum, what are your thoughts on 650b?
"I wanted to hate 650b like I wanted to hate 29ers! In the end I learned to appreciate both wheel sizes because I got the chance to ride a good few bikes in lots of places. I was annoyed that the industry seemed so flaky in saying one thing was the best one month and then the other was best the next. I think it’s still hard for bike buyers to know what's right for them, without having the chance to ride lots of different bikes. The reality is that all the sizes are great and we can have fun on anything. Each wheel size has its pros and cons and you have to work out which one is right for you.
"To each their own, and 650b is the size for me and where I like to ride. They turn fast enough, have a lively feel and roll better than 26in through the rough stuff. I loved riding 29ers most of the time, but when things got properly steep and tight I ended up getting bummed by the back wheel because my legs just aren’t long enough! 650b doesn't take much getting used to after 26in, but you can definitely feel the improvement as you roll through the rock gardens. It’s great that we’ve got good tyres coming in now with strong sidewalls and a variety of grippy/fast compounds and good tread patterns."
Can you give us a round-up of the components on the bike?
"X-Fusion have been building up a great reputation as an alternative to the main suspension brands and I was keen to try out their forks. Like the Heckler they're cheaper than some of the alternatives and have a great reputation for reliability. I’ve got the Vengeance HLR fork set to 160mm of travel. It has separate high- and low-speed compression as well as rebound adjustability. It’s a burly looking fork with 36mm stanchions and it feels great wherever I’ve taken it. It’s plush, stiff and doesn’t dive – a proper fork for proper riding.
"I’m running classic Hope Hoops with Stan’s Flow rims, which I'd imagine will be high on the list for most Heckler owners. They manage to be light and strong, with a good rim width and reliable and easy-to-service hubs. They're tubeless when you fit the yellow rim tape and tubeless valves. I’ve been smashing them around at home, on Scottish granite and over in the Basque Country in Spain and they're still nice and round. I’m running WTB Vigilante tyres and I’m really happy with them. They’ve got good volume, strong sidewalls, a nice square shoulder and are easy-peasy to fit tubeless.
"I ride a lot and I’ve always chosen Shimano where possible for its reliability and good performance, so fitting an XT drivetrain and brakes to this bike was an easy choice. The brakes have such good feel and power, and when they need bleeding it’s easy to do. I’m a dedicated single-ring rider and love the quietness and simplicity of this set-up. XT cranks are fine with a single ring, and their bottom brackets last well. The short cage, wide range Zee rear mech is ace. I do sometimes find that I could do with just one easier gear and I’ll probably fit a Hope 40T-Rex big cassette ring at some point."
Is everything stock or have you made any interesting modifications?
"It’s all stock here. Everything works so why dick about with it?"
Between coaching and disappearing on adventures, are you quite particular about your set-up and servicing?
"Everything needs to be strong and reliable with good service intervals. I try to keep on top of maintenance without being too fussy. I really like my brakes to have good bite and my drivetrain to be slick. Riding often means you always know what state your bike is in so it’s easy to be ready with spares when the time is right.
"Tyres have to be tough. I’m happy to carry a little extra weight there if it means they don’t get shredded by rocks. I don’t understand why some tyres come with such thin sidewalls. I want to be able to keep riding and make the most of the benefits of tubeless.
"Dropper posts can be a weak link on a trip and I’ve had them break in the past, so I make sure to have a spare traditional post in my spares kit. Having said that, the KS post has a neatly tucked away remote and it’s been working very well. Dropper posts are the best thing ever since the last best thing ever and I hate riding without them now."
You’ve gone for a 1x10 transmission with a narrow-wide chainring. What have you noticed since dropping the front mech from the equation?
"I’m using a North Shore Billet 32t narrow-wide chainring paired with a Shimano Zee clutch mech and I’ve not dropped the chain once. Getting rid of the front mech is great and is one more step away from road bikes adapted for off-road. It’s one less thing to rattle and go wrong. I’ve been mostly running single-ring set-ups for a few years now and I was at first sceptical about getting rid of the chain device until I tried it. Now it’s all I want."
Tell us about your films...
"I love making and showing the videos, and really enjoy reading the comments, which aren't always positive but are always entertaining! Really the videos are meant to entertain and be fun and give me the chance to collaborate with interesting people, do some cool stuff and call it work. Pretty much like my job really!"
Check out Ed's videos on Vimeo:
And lastly… where was the photo taken?
"At the North West Barber Company in Accrington, where we filmed the ending of The Chop. It’s where I go to get my hair and beard trimmed, and is always a great craic. You can walk through the barber’s shop into the craziest shop you could imagine, called, appropriately, The Weird and the Wonderful, which displays and sells an array of taxidermy, human remains and old-school freakiness. I took our pug puppy along for the photoshoot and he liked sniffing all the bones and licking some antlers! If ever you're in Lancashire, do yourself a favour and pay this place a visit. Since The Chop they’ve been seeing lots of mountain bikers!"