Endura’s front line ambassadors
REAL WORLD DESPATCHES
Judge a brand by its associations, and not only by its products.
Endura’s connections run deep. There is a roster of world class athletes, from Nairo Quintana to Danny MacAskill, from Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio to Denise Schindler, who embody the brand’s obsession with performance. Endura is all things to all cycling tribes. The common denominator is quality.
Beyond the record breaking accomplishments of triathlete Tim Don, or the Women’s WorldTour victories of Lotta Lepistö, there is a legion of riders whose passion for cycling, their commitment to the sport and their pride in it, embodies Endura’s own heritage. Our Ground Division Ambassador programme celebrates just this type of rider.
“Our ultimate aim is to create a movement that fans of the Endura brand aspire to join and represent...” - David Pritchard, Sales Director
“By listening to ambassadors who use our products day in, day out, as well as to our world class athletes, we can combine technical insight with the everyday experiences of real world riders,” says Sales Director David Pritchard, architect of the Ground Division programme.
From Scottish ’cross fanatics to English trail hounds, Austrian Enduro riders to French rouleurs, an expat Kiwi single-speeder, now resident in Denmark, to a Spanish DH addict, many of the tribes that make up the Endura clan are represented on the Ground Division roster.
The unifying factor is their status as glorious amateurs. We have been introduced to many of them through our network of independent bike dealers, but they are all cyclists who ride for passion, not pay. To assist them with clothing and to document their adventures is a source of pride in Livingston.
In the pages that follow, we focus on three of our Ground Division Ambassadors: single-speeder Angus Edmond, Enduro racer Anna Riddell, and freerider Rob Webb. We offer a snapshot of their lives, their accomplishments, their passion, and the small sacrifices each of them makes to participate in a sport that means everything to all of us.
COPENHAGEN KIWI IN SCOTLAND
Angus Edmond is far from his usual environment when he visits Endura’s vast headquarters in Livingston, but wears a look of recognition that any cyclist might do in the same circumstances.
Once a native of Christchurch, New Zealand, and for the last 17 years resident in Copenhagen, he is a long way from home, if only in a geographical sense. The scale of Endura’s HQ on Starlaw Park can be overwhelming, even if those who work there quickly grow accustomed to it, but the appeal to anyone who loves cycling is unmistakable.
“When I discovered single-speed racing, I thought: ‘They’re technically good, they race hard, and they have a beer afterwards...’” Angus Edmond, Ground Division Ambassador
Edmond is a cyclist to the core. His working environment is the 29er Bike Shop in the Copenhagen suburb of Ordrup, where he is chief mechanic. He has been twice world champion in single-speed mountain biking. Like most people in Copenhagen, he is a cycle commuter too.
“Even after 17 years in the city, I can go on holiday for a couple of weeks, come back, and I’ll be on my bike in rush hour traffic, and be blown away. You can be sat at a traffic light on red, at a junction, and you won’t make it across before it turns red again. It’s just as it would be in a car, except you’re on a bike, and that doesn’t make sense, because bikes aren’t supposed to get stuck in traffic.”
Bicycle traffic jams? The myth of Copenhagen as cycling nirvana is not a myth at all, it seems. Edmond tempers our enthusiasm. Frustration accompanies congestion of any kind, he warns. Commuters, whether they travel by car or bike, simply want to get to work on time. Fail to follow the rules, written or otherwise, and the Copenhagen cyclist will waste little time in telling you.
It is not until we have spoken for nearly half-an-hour that he mentions his two world titles. Even then, he does so reluctantly, filling in a necessary detail in our discussion on single-speed mountain biking; its appeal and its existence as a competitive discipline.
He won his first title in Italy and the second in Japan, but his recollection is hazy. There is a pause in our Skype conversation when I ask him to confirm the year in which he won each title, followed by a chuckle.
“I can’t remember,” he confesses, “but when you win, you get a tattoo, so all I need to do is check them.”
Then there is a banging sound, of leg lifted onto desk, perhaps, before our discussion resumes.
“2013 in Italy….” Pause. Bang. “…And 2015 in Japan.”
If single-speed mountain bike racing seems niche, this might explain its appeal to Edmond. He had been searching for a sweet spot of lactate, adrenalin and a community with whom he could enjoy a post-race beer since dropping out of the messenger scene.
“When I discovered single-speed racing, I thought: ‘They’re technically good, they race hard, and they stand around afterwards drinking beer and talking about it.’”
Single-speed mountain biking is a discipline that demands its own skillset. Edmond warns against fitting the bike with a gear too light. The single-speeder’s mentality is captured accurately by the time-honoured phrase: “Dig in!”.
Edmond’s success as a single-speeder represents only one chapter of his cycling life. A career as a cyclo-cross racer saw him represent New Zealand in the biggest races in the sport, courtesy of a 1,200-mile round-trip to Belgium, twice every month, for three years.
Like his world titles, this is a detail that initially slips Edmond’s attention. He emails me later the same day, and we speak for a second time that evening, where he describes his experiences in UCI World Cups and World Championships; in the BPost and Super Prestige series. Like his messenger racing, Edmond’s ‘cross career is a story we’ll tell another day.
A VALID OPINION
The chief mechanic in any bike shop is required to be an authority on matters mechanical, but in Copenhagen, especially so. This is a city with roadies (Cervélo Bigla’s Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Marie Vilmann, to name just two), mountain bikers, triathletes and thousands of commuters.
Edmond’s profession and experience has also given him a keen eye for cycle clothing: what works, and what doesn’t. His opinion is worth hearing, so when he reports on the MT500 Jacket, it’s worth paying attention.
“It’s one of the best combinations of form and function I’ve seen in a riding jacket. Waterproof gear for riding is different to hiking gear. Invariably, a lot of cycling rain jackets are quite small and tight fitting, so the hood doesn’t get in the way when you turn your head.
"There are so many bicycles in Copenhagen, you can be at a red light and not make it across before it turns red again..." Angus Edmond, Ground Division Ambassador
“The MT500 Jacket has a little bit more room so you can get extra kit underneath it if you want to, but at the same time, it sits tight at the wrists and the hood sits really nicely on your head, so it doesn’t impair your vision if you’re riding in traffic. It also keeps out the rain, which is important!”.
Rain becomes a theme of our conversation. Copenhagen may offer many advantages to the cyclist, but dry conditions are rarely among them. For this reason, Edmond is especially impressed by the MT500 Spray Baggy Short, a garment he now packs as routinely as his rain jacket.
Edmond is the archetypal Kiwi: laid back, and blessed with an all-consuming passion for the great outdoors. He has left what many consider to be an earthly paradise, but has found something close to a cycling nirvana in the unrelenting rain of Copenhagen.
Along the way, he has fallen hook, line and sinker for the bicycle, enjoying its pleasures in many forms, carving through the city as a messenger, wining world titles as a single-speeder, and competing in the biggest races in cyclo-cross, in a country where the sport is a national obsession.
Edmond could scarcely be more fitting for the role of Ground Division Ambassador. When he is not fixing bikes, he is riding them with his son, or racing in whichever discipline captures his imagination.
Copenhagen is closer to Livingston than New Zealand, but still a fair distance. There is no gap, however, that separates the Kiwi in Denmark from the cycling enthusiast in Livingston. Sean Hardy’s photographs record a meeting of minds as Endura’s Martin Steele, a single-speeder and ‘cross fanatic, tours Edmond around the Livingston facility. All Tribes, One Clan, as they say in these parts.
“I’m a very competitive person,” says Anna Riddell. “I’m not going to deny it.”
Denial would be useless. Sean Hardy’s images provide documentary evidence of her competitive instincts.
Riddell’s eyes are locked in concentration on the trail ahead. Her knees and elbows bend in the style of one accustomed to moving with the bike, rather than fighting it for control. She swings her machine over sharply and lays it low as she scythes through the various corners that litter the trails near her home in Moray.
“I’ve got so much from sport, especially since becoming a mother-of-two. Mountain biking has been my salvation...” Anna Riddell, Ground Division Ambassador
“I absolutely love racing,” she says of her regular appearances in the Scottish Enduro Series and elsewhere. “I’d do it every weekend, if had the time and money. You never go as fast as where you’re racing.”
Last year, she cracked the top 10 in a ‘fox and hounds’ race against world champion Rachel Atherton and more than 200 women, and is targeting a coveted podium finish in the Scottish Enduro Series. The thrill of competition inspires her.
“You really push yourself. It gets quite emotional. I’m getting quite a reputation, with my crazy red hair! I’m jumping for joy and overly-excited one minute, and then lying in a heap on the ground, almost crying, the next. I find it hard to hide my emotions.”
There is nothing emotional about her riding when Hardy arrives in Moray, only textbook demonstrations of technique. Riddell shifts her weight far over the back wheel as she dives fearlessly into drop-offs, and points her knee directly at the apex as she banks hard through corners.
All of this is to be expected. Riddell is a coach, as well as a racer. Demonstrations of good technique are her bread and butter, and who better to inspire a clientele comprised in large part of local women?
“The coaching came about through having kids.”
Coaching has formed a natural extension of Riddell’s renewed love of riding. She worked for 10 years as an Active Schools Coordinator; a period in which learning new skills and, critically, helping others to learn them, was her stock-in-trade. Sharing knowledge and passion for a subject is hugely rewarding, she says.
"I absolutely love racing. I'd do it every weekend, if had the time and money. You never go as fast as where you're racing..." Anna Riddell, ground division Ambassador
“I’ve got so much from sport, especially in recent years, where I’ve transferred from being a comparatively free person, without the responsibilities of a parent, to being a mother-of-two. Mountain biking has been my salvation in recent years.”
Coaching has added a further dimension to her enjoyment of life on two wheels. The ability to transform non-cyclists, especially women, into serious mountain bikers, some even racers, is one she cherishes almost as much as her passion for racing.
“It’s surprised me that I’ve taken women who were compete beginners, and now we go riding together and compete in Enduros together. I’ve taught them how to brake and pedal standing out of the saddle. Three years on, they’ve got a £3,000 bike and all the gear and their lives revolve around mountain biking.”
Riddell and her husband moved to Moray to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, especially surfing. But as any surfer will tell you, the sea isn’t always prepared to deliver the longed-for waves. To allocate time is to approach the task from the wrong direction; the sea decides when surfing takes place, not the surfer.
“When we decided to settle in Moray, it was because of a love of the outdoors and surfing. Living by the sea, it’s easy to hop in when there are waves. But when you have kids, you can’t be spontaneous any more.”
“I’ve taken women who were compete beginners, and now we go riding together and compete in Enduros together...” Anna Riddell, Ground Division Ambassador
She admits that the sense of escape and connecting with nature also exists with surfing, but for the reasons described, it is an escape made infrequently. That said, pleasure is often heightened by scarcity (as with the Sunday lie-in, for example), and, besides, with every passing year, the children become older.
“My youngest kid is three, so it’s getting much easier to surf. This summer, in particular, I’ve got out a few times, with my husband being a school teacher and at home with the kids during the holidays. Surfing is still really special, particularly when there are fewer chances to do it.”
Mountain biking has given back to Riddell a small part of the freedom and spontaneity she thrived upon before her children Flynn, aged seven, and three-year-old Rosa Mae were born. Racing provides a temporary escape from the responsibilities of parenthood; besides, birthday parties are more appealing to a child than watching mum race.
An average day in Riddell’s life is certainly full on. Mornings are spent with “firecracker” Rosa Mae, at swimming or mums-and-tots groups, or enjoying activities at home. At midday, she delivers her daughter to nursery and heads out on a two-hour ride or coaching session. From there, she rides directly to Flynn’s school to collect her son.
“I’ve taught women how to brake and pedal standing out of the saddle.Three years on, they’ve got a £3,000 bike and all the gear...” Anna Riddell, Ground Division Ambassador
“He finishes at 2.30pm, so I arrive at the school gate in all my biking gear; I’m quite famous for that, always covered in mud. All the other mums joke about it, but it’s quite fun. I’m in my biking gear then until bedtime.
“When I’ve picked up my son, we’ll go and get my daughter. Then it’s home and snacks, and off to their activities: swimming lessons, and gymnastics clubs, and beavers and dancing and stuff, so I spend the rest of the day to-ing and fro-ing between that.
“Some evenings, I coach, so I scoot away early when Al comes back from work. Other nights, depending on what’s happening, I’ll go for a ride or a circuit class or something. All the housework and the chores fit in around that.”
THE ENDURA CONNECTION
Riddell’s riding and coaching is done in Endura clothing. Her feedback is proving valuable. Who better to report back on the qualities of a Scottish manufacturer’s offering for female mountain bikers?
“I’m just absolutely blown away by how good the kit is, actually,” Riddell says. “When the jackets came out earlier in the year, I thought, ‘Oh, I like them’, and in February my husband bought me an Endura jacket for my birthday.”
“With racing, you really push yourself. It gets quite emotional. I’m getting quite a reputation, with my crazy red hair!” - Anna Riddell, Ground Division Ambassador
Riddell has much to say about the Women’s SingleTrack short, and her words come tumbling out at a speed similar to that at which she approaches the downhill sections of an Enduro course.
“There are so many benefits with the SingleTrack shorts. It feels like you’re wearing lycra, they’re so comfy and stretchy, but you’re wearing baggies. As a woman, when you have lumps and bumps in all different places…” she runs of out of words, momentarily. “I’m just blown away by them.”
When the MT500 Helmet with Koroyd insert comes up in conversation, we are not expecting negative feedback (it has been showered in praise from every quarter, reviewer and customer alike), and Riddell is of similar good opinion. Her feedback, born from the experience of coaching and competition, is worth hearing, however.
“The helmet is fantastic; really, really comfy. I used to dot between a full-face and regular helmet, but now I’ve not been using my full-face as much. I’m just using the MT500 Helmet.”
“Yes, but can he ride?” I asked a mutual friend, prior to an interview with Rob Webb, mechanic, freerider, dirt jumper, trail hound, skate park graduate and Ground Division Ambassador.
“Well, he can flip,” the friend replied. Conversation closed. I emailed Webb to ask if we could meet.
Flips are the most eye-catching trick in his repertoire, even if he dismisses them as tame. Riders even flip DH bikes now, he shrugs, but he does not deny the crowd-pleasing appeal of the on-bike somersault.
“You have to put everything together - jumping, cornering, drops - in one fluid motion. You’re trying to be as smooth as possible...” Rob Webb, Ground Division Ambassador
How does he work up the courage? Surely the brain and body’s warning mechanisms are on red alert as he rides towards the ramp? How does he override them?
“By pulling back on the bars and shutting my eyes!” Webb answers, laughing. Point made.
“There’s footage on YouTube somewhere of my first flip. It’s pretty funny. I’m this spotty faced, clean shaven youth, riding around with eyes like saucers.”
Has Endura’s MT500 Helmet with Koroyd insert given him more confidence? The strap line after all is that it has made risk taking safer.
“The helmet is amazing. It’s the first trail lid that I’ve been completely comfortable wearing. The others have pressure points. Also, I have a couple of friends who’ve crashed while wearing an MT500 Helmet, and they’ve come out unscathed, so it does its job.”
He smirks, then continues.
“I always said I wouldn’t flip unless I was wearing a full-face lid. My face, I’m not really worried about, but my brain should probably be kept in working order.”
Webb’s conversion to mountain biking came from an unlikely source: a basic machine he describes as a “£100 special”, bought from a giant and anonymous wholesaler of everything from pet food to deck chairs. He was a skateboarder until the age of 16, but the gift of a cheap bike changed his life.
“I just got a taste for it,” he says of mountain biking, conceding that the only link between the two disciplines is the mantra ‘practice makes perfect’. Repetition is the modus operandi of the skater and freerider. There is no better way to perfect a trick. Crashes, he adds, are more painful on a bike.
“The MT500 Helmet is amazing. It’s the first trail lid I’ve been completely comfortable wearing...” - Rob Webb, Ground Division Ambassador
Webb rides two different types of machine: a jump bike and a trail bike. The latter is now his ‘go to’ machine. Tricks are a harder on a bigger bike: the suspension is softer and the geometry is designed for stability at speed, rather than nimbleness. The rider is forced to ‘exaggerate’ the trick, Webb says.
Environment demands a fundamental difference in approach, too. Webb talks about “sessioning” a trick in a skate park: the constant repetition demanded to perfect a single move. In the woods, the trail rider’s motives are fluency and accuracy. He also admits to becoming bored with skate parks and dirt jumps. Trails offer a greater opportunity for creativity. Oh, and corners.
“You have to put everything together - jumping, cornering, drops - in one fluid motion, rather than hitting one jump again and again and again. You’re trying to be as smooth as possible. When people say, ‘You make it look easy,’ that’s what you’re aiming for. It’s hitting the right lines, not fighting the bike, and just generally being relaxed.”
Talent is a word he is too modest to use, but surely this is the differentiating factor between a rider who can learn a trick by constant repetition and one who can simply ride? Watching Webb on the trail is watching a man in his element.
Webb is fast becoming a social media phenomenon. He has nearly 10,000 followers on Instagram, and many of his posts receive tens of thousands of views. Social media is a significant evolution in the world of the shop dawg, who previously had relied on the generosity of visiting sales reps for free gear. Now, a rider with the necessary riding skills and digital savvy can prove his value to a brand.
It is his riding that gains the most engagement: clips of whips and flips and jumps where Webb removes his hands from the bars, straightens up, flies right and somehow regains control before landing. Much of it is jaw dropping. The lingo is amusing too. Webb is “chucking down flatties” and “slapping down turns”; embracing #manualmondays and #whipitwednesdays.
“There’s footage on YouTube of my first flip. It’s pretty funny. I’m this spotty-faced youth, riding around with eyes like saucers...” Rob Webb, Ground Division Ambassador
“I talk bikes all day at work, I ride bikes after work. I sleep bikes. I breathe bikes.”
The bike is the factor that rules his musical taste (“anything I can ride to”) and indeed every other aspect of his life. His look is that of the archetypal mountain biker: cap, shades, baggy shorts, canvas trainers. He drives a pick up truck (“I won’t buy a vehicle unless I can get a bike in it.”) and greets everyone as “Dude” - customers, friends, and fellow riders.
“You can generally spot a mountain biker from a mile away,” he says, laughing. “Just look at the back of their legs. I’ve got scars from chainrings and pedals. We’re quite easy folk to recognise.
“You rarely meet a ‘bad’ mountain biker. You can pretty much go anywhere in the world and chat bikes to a mountain biker. You can have fun with them, joke with them, ride with them. There isn’t too much negativity, which is what I love.”
BOX OF DELIGHTS
Webb’s box of clothing from Endura contained many desirables, and he has wasted little time in putting them to use. He even rides in t-shirts intended for casual wear (“perfect for my style of riding”). He saves the MT500 and SingleTrack jerseys for events.
“The SingleTrack short is perfect: super light, super tough, flexible enough to do tricks without getting caught up. The helmet and kneepads and gloves are obviously a massive bonus; keeping skin on my hands and my brains in my head!”.
“You want riding trails to look easy. It’s hitting the right lines, not fighting the bike, and generally being relaxed...” Rob Webb, Ground Division Ambassador
If crashes are an inevitable part of the freerider’s calling, then Webb’s skill keeps them to a minimum. Whether whipping, flipping, manualing, or “chucking shapes”, he is rarely anything other than totally committed. A glance at his Instagram account confirms as much. “Fun” is the phrase used frequently in the text that accompanies the pics and clips. Pleasure, it seems, is the force that drives Webb’s riding.
Eighteen riders from across Europe, most handpicked by Endura’s account managers, make up the first intake on the Ground Division programme.
Each has received a kit bag containing the latest Endura clothing for road or mountain biking, including jackets and jerseys, base layers and gloves, legwear and eyewear, helmets, and off-the-bike items, such as the Roller Flight Deck case.
“By listening to Ground Division ambassadors, as well as to our world class athletes, we combine technical insight with everyday experiences...” - David Pritchard, Sales Director
Riddell, Edmond and Webb embody the spirit of the Ground Division initiative: real world riders putting Endura products to good use on a daily basis.There is a broader achievement here too: recognition from one of cycling’s biggest players of the vital part played by those on the industry’s front line.
The ability to inspire is not limited to those who compete for the biggest prizes in the sport, though given the talent among the Ground Division ranks, it is not impossible that one could vault to stardom.
“Our ultimate aim is to create a movement that fans of the Endura brand aspire to join and to represent,” Pritchard concludes.
“If we discover the next Danny MacAskill or Lotta Lepistö along the way, so much the better!”.
FOOTNOTES Words by Timothy John. Images by Sean Hardy
© 2021 ENDURA