Bike of the Year: The BOTY Wipes

This blog isn’t about winners and losers, it’s the fly on the wall documentary of the story behind the process, of Lakes, smokin’ brakes and rare steaks...

(Left to right) Guy, Justin, Matt, Jenn)

So, you’ve got the Bike of the Year issue of What Mountain Bike in your hands…and if you haven’t check it out asap.


It’s the product of months and months of hard real-world testing, of 127 bikes whittled down to 12 finalists, of a 5 day shoot out in the Lake District on some of the best natural and man-made trails in the UK.

All the way through this we were in deep discussions and final test rides to ensure the right bike won before wax-sealing the result, consigning those who could be trusted to a vow of silence and drowning those who couldn’t in the deep end of Ullswater.

But this blog isn’t about winners and losers, it’s the fly on the wall documentary of the story behind the process, of Lakes, smokin’ brakes and rare steaks…

The Lakes offer an unbeatable blend of hardcore trail and utterly stunning scenery it simply couldn’t be beaten and (forgive me Brums) if it wasn’t the other side of the midlands it would be paradise on earth.

Ideas are easy, anyone can have one. Practicalities are hard, not many can manage them without the snafu switch getting flicked to the on mode. It takes several minor miracles to get the bikes, people, photographer, vehicles and weather to the same place at the same time, but we did it.

Even though the first day dawned gray and a bit drizzly, we were hopeful that we’d get to see some sunshine so we could ride everything in dry conditions and also get some really cracking photography in the bag.

Armed with Goretex (you can’t ever be too sure in the Lakes) we headed out to begin the shoot in WhinlatterForest with a loop of their great trail. We sampled a ton of very varied riding from long exposed fire road climbs to laser guided downhill singletrack, the icy rock of death in Whinlatter, big hike-a-bikes.

The bike of the year deserved to be tested by the toughest trails we could find and we think we did a good job in seeking out some proper tough nuts.

At the end of each day during our week based in Penrith we’d settle down to some beers (white wine spritzers for the ladies) and cow based protein served as rare as the vet would let us have it.

We ‘d chew over the bikes we’d ridden and spend the evening thrashing out the details, spitting out the losers as we made of pile of good bikes and whittling down the pile of great ones. We kept on and on and on relentlessly until only one was left.

But which one…?

All is revealed in the Bike of the Year issue of What Mountain Bike, on-sale now!

The BOTY wipes – The bits you didn’t see

Justin Loretz can drive a long way, but not right up to the lakes. After no sleep and a 2am start from Bath start he got a bit sleepy and resorted to the rumble strips. Big thanks to Matt ‘Skins’ Skinner for not freaking out and co piloting the last leg.

Seb Rogers can take a lot of picture and manage a lot of riders, but he can have his moments. Like when you try to stand twenty mountain bikes up in a shallow lake for the ‘perfect shot’ and the wind blows your flash tripod into the water…. For those moments we carry large bag of bassets Jelly babies which we force feed him until he settles down. 1-2-3 and you’re back on the shoot…

Skins. The lack of sleep had also taken its toll on our Ed as it took more than mile of Cumbrian downhill singletrack for him to realise the brakes on the Niner were back to front. I’ll allow Miss Kylie Minogue to finish this sentence. “I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky.” Note to anyone who jumps on an unfamiliar bike – always check the brakes.

Guy Kesteven can bend the laws of physics. When one of the bikes needed to be unexpectedly picked up from fifty miles away Guy offered to do the trip in his rental van. Fifty miles each way plus minor pleasantries to the man at the far end, taking into consideration small Cumbrian roads, traffic etc it should have taken him 2.5 hours quire how he arrived back in 1.5 hours still puzzles us. Puzzlement turns to amazement when he also appeared to have time to stop at a cake shop and buy individual fancies for each of us….

Jenn needs to stop copying boys. More specifically she needs to stop copying the way Guy rides. Jenn, guy is a freak of nature, not a role model. The fact he can bend physics (see above) and ride the unridable makes him a danger. Hope your ‘freeride’ wrist gets better soon.

It ain’t nuthin’ but a team thang


We couldn’t, and indeed can’t, test the number of bikes required to even begin contemplating something as comprehensive as a bike of the year award without a trusty, dependable test team. There are names you’d know well Kesteven, Worland, Loretz, Skinner etc but behind these are the names you don’t know, our private squad of utterly trusted co riders who we use to confirm suspicions and build a wider picture of every detail of every bike.