Thank you and good night – For the love of dirt.

Ooosha bugga. Probably not a phase you hear a lot, but a phrase that perfectly sums 2018 for the Descent-World Team. We won a Scottish Championship, smashed the Naughty Northumbrian to bits, made friends, crashed, saw insane progression levels and even managed to smile in between lying flat out on Invernesshire jump lines.  It was an experiment that took sail with the help of some wonderful sponsors, amazing friends and very talented riders. 

 

 

What it’s all about. Dicking about in the woods until the suns goes down.

 

Where to start?

Running a team is a monumental pain in the arse, I’m gonna be honest. Conversely,  it’s also amazing craic – never did I think I’d end up seeing so many heinous photos in WhatsApp in one year, but what a way to savour memories, eh. My retinas will be scarred for ever. 

Naturally, being a racer head and having formerly consulted for a high profile world cup team , when I wanted a team I had to do it better than what I’d been involved in before , in a way that valued riders more than as a commodity but also had the chance to grow into a little syndicate style team over a longer term time frame. I mean, how rad are the syndicate? They are incredible riders, amazing manager, brand, incredible craic and just generally sick.  It just looks like such a good vibe and is something I’ve admired for a long time.  

Life on the hill at Skinny Mick’s bike repairs. Kettle’s always on, shortbread in the tin and mind boggling craic on offer.
We were missing Jamesy on this trip up North, but it just about sums up the whole year. Louise wondering what the hell is going on while Mick gives Wor Jackie a fettle. I’m not sure that Highlanders have quite been exposed to North East craic that much.

 


The dream.

I wanted to invest in riders – not in terms of kit particularly (though this was very important as well) , leaving them as ambassadors to figure it all out by themselves, but drawing down on too many years spent walking tracks all over the world, recovering from injuries, setting of on “3” instead of 1 every time, and use that knowledge to help them on the riding side of things. There were also other areas, that as a rider you probably can’t be arsed with, so I wanted to help them with that stuff too so they could focus on getting bat shit good and being genuinely rad cats. 

Might be old school but my belief is skills first, following second. I’d rather see riders who want to be good rather than famous. But don’t neglect either angle, and be nice. 

You know what though , the most important thing on top of all of this, is fun. If you aren’t hyped to go ride a bike, then something’s not quite right.  Everything else – media, social media etc…is all just fluff that surrounds what should be a completely immersive experience of you + bike + insane smiles. 

Taking a break from Instagram stories on the Glencoe Chairlift.

Video – Racing the British Enduro Champs

 


Now that word fun means so many different things to so many people. I think pressure is fun. In fact I love high pressure that comes with racing – it’s fully absorbing and meditative to me – but I understand that most people don’t. Some like to smoke a joint. Some like to shag, get pissed, others to read books. It’s whatever floats yer boat really and this is why I love the team.

We’re all totally different – in fact massively different – but we get on like a wee family. I’m not sure the riders liked all the name tags I sewed into their tops  before their first race though (didn’t stop them losing things though….) and the 9 pm curfew imposed on them (sarcasm….)

Hardtail love. This makes me happy. Riding and digging dirt jump trails is the thing I miss the most about biking and the new generation are bringing it back.
Raylor is a dude. He is so connected to his local riding community in a real, physical sense that I want to move to Inverness primarily because of him and what the entire scene up there has going on. What a bloke.
Racing is life. 12 am prep in a hotel booked by myself. I took the rap for that one.
I love this photo. LAF leading out SM at the Mast. The jumps aren’t particularly big, but this was the first exposure that this group had to jumps like this. I got a bit of hip when we first arrived as they thought they wouldn’t be able to do them, but I knew they would. And they did. Stoked.

Old school values.

Picking the riders was not easy. I’ve been around a long time now, and competed at every level, so I’m not easily impressed by much. Bit too candid? I have to be honest though and a team shouldn’t be for average riders or average people.   

The riders had to have potential to be world class. There’s enough mid pack riders out there clogging up the internet, and it reminds of the early 00’s when you’d have MBUK favourites who were superstars for 2 years, then gone, as they never really had any talent, just a penchant for a schmoooze. We’re kinda there again at the minute, just the medium has changed.  For me it was just kinda stale, and there’s so much talent out there  not getting rewarded because we base everything we think we know around 1 app and algorithm, instead of getting out there and learning more.  Possibly a bit cynical but what I’m saying is that skill is hard earnt, crashes, progression and more that often isn’t seen, and deserves to be rewarded with support. It means taking a risk in developing talent but I think it offers big rewards.


Video – Progression sessions. 

 


We’ve uncovered and nurtured that talent, riders that brands wouldn’t have considered, or in some cases they hadn’t even heard of the riders before hand,  and now those same brands are fighting over some of them. Pretty cool. 


So why did we end up with who we had? 

James Purvis. He was young and a liability if left alone near any vegan cake, but I liked him a lot. I could see that with  a push to Enduro he certainly could be world class. We bickered a canny bit, like a married couple from everything from carbon sequestration to what makes a good ale,  but that’s kinda cool too as without that he’d just be a pushover, lose his hunger (for winning, not cake) and we always made up over an ale and a giggle.

8th at British Champs for Purvis in a case of “what could have been” . With a terrible seeding he overtook on average of 3 riders a stage. James is a racer through and through, and while racing now plays second fiddle to social media in terms of perceived value, the connections you can make through racing are so tangible, lasting and real that it’ll never go away. Keep at it Jamesy boi.
Tinder profile photo.

His pace is raw speed – always has been –  his diet clean and he is a top bloke who, if he wants to, still has plenty of time to make a career out of this sport. He’s now in Whistler getting up to whatever the heck he likes and it’s exciting to see where he’ll be at when , or if, he returns. 


Another Lewis Gregory banger of LAF and the Straitline in action.

Louise Ferguson  Progression personified. I’d seen her riding a few times through the year in 2017 , spoke to her at some events, but took my time before approaching her and figuring out what she was about. I’m a bit old school and quite dry.  In June no one had heard of her outside of Scotland. But she soaks up mentoring like a sponge and once she figured things out, she was off. She learns stuff so quickly, and it’s been incredible to see her start getting into the flow now.

She can win races, jump, ride most disciplines well and has a secret fire within her that I like. She keeps it hidden very well but don’t be fooled. There’s a steely determination to go somewhere, and she’s onto that path now.


Video – Introducing Louise 


Skinny Man Ft Stylee C . If I make it till tomorrow. Check it out.

Skinny is a better rider than his race times suggest. He’s just not arsed about racing, but if he was and had the time to do it more, he’d be a flyer. Ian Linton photo

Video – Fastest mechanic in the West


As for Mick Easton, well we inherited Mick from Bergamont actually. I’ll be honest, at 32 years old, and more of a local legend than national or world class rider he probably didn’t fit my idea or vision to begin with. But I’m so glad we did inherit him. The man who gets chilled most nights on his sofa watching Earthed videos then fixes bikes to precision (he’s a solid and brilliant mechanic) on Westgate Hill all day can certainly handle a bike in a old school, run what you brung kinda way with a flowy style.

In fact, skills wise he’s much better than most but he doesn’t really give a flying a bacon bap about media or anything like that and as for racing, well let’s just say I wasn’t even going to attempt anything other than leaving him be . He is legit and refreshing, though I’ve never seen anyone consume as much sugar as he does. I always said he needed sweetening up.

With all that sorted, Phil from Bergamont taking a total gamble on an unproven concept, with Vittoria giving us enough tyres to build a serious viking pyre of rubber, we weren’t badly armed for a season ahead. Funn came up trumps with killer components, Royal helped us with clothing and Scott gave us goggles. Kingud kept the bikes running as sweet as Mick’s tea  and Alfred and the Hand Invested some serious morale boosting love as well.


Video – an artist at work. 

 


Lewis Gregory was a bit of a dude through the year. We commissioned him on a few occasions to supply race photos and he cane up trumps. Remember kids, respect the photographers and pay them with cash.

 

 

Somethings never change. Linton photo.
More champs action from Purvis. Linton Photo.
The most potent German vehicle since a Panzer.
Check out DWCrew on Spotify. Skinny and Wilko tune selection for riding duties.

I knew the team was going to take up an obnoxious amount of my time, but when you have a vision and a passion it’s hard to let it go. In fact, I’ve slept so badly this year, constantly waking up at 3.48 AM (weird how habits get formed eh) thinking about how I could improve the team, that I’ve been off since December to try and get some RandR. But that’s what passion is and it’s what drives us forward. 

Each time we went filming, riding or shooting photos we had such a craic that I stopped thinking about it as work and more as just hanging out with a bunch of slightly odd, mildly eccentric mates with an eclectic mix of accents and assorted volume controls.  And you have to remember my situation – every time, like every time this year I’d rather be riding than filming.


Team logistics (Not through choice) . Cheers for the help in organising accommodation, entries, travel plans and other bits when I was too busy to do it.

 

100% every time. No holding back.
Mark Clark from Alba mtb was a regular mate of ours through the year. He talks funny, spells funny and even occasionally tells funny jokes. Hit him up if you’re looking for a guide in the Highlands – he is exceptionally good.

It’s different if you’re filming something you could never do, but my brain is still in a place it was five years ago before my injury and it can be frustrating filming things you could easily do yourself. So to enjoy it was liberating and seeing the riders progress, go for things, push themselves and more  reignited my stoke for biking and made me fucking proud of them.  


Louise came in second behind Ella Connelly , who had a supported season of EWS behind her at the final SES round. In my eyes in was probably Louise’s best ride of the year. Lewis Gregory image.
Loves a huck!

And really we are mates all in all – though I’m still not down with my falafel being claimed as someone else’s or being called Vincent Van Gogh. 

We travelled to Rheola in the Valleys to Inverness in the North and Colorado in the West, tasted dirt in all four corners of Britain and managed to somehow share a tent on multiple occasions with no one snoring all night long and letting of any coma inducing smells. The hand was a near permanent fixture, gaining a cult notoriety from Westgate Hill to being recognised while digging trails in the Cheviots.  Not that he was happy about that mind you. 


Turbo D from North Shore Coffee is another local business that benefitted from the whole thing we’ve been trying to do, and conversely he helped us out so much. That’s a big part of the “strategy” behind the team and events – help local business’s, get more people riding through an organic spread of physical experiences , create icons within the scene, lobby for more land access for harder trails due to the cumulative effect of a higher profile for the sport and get a slightly more hardcore scene moving . We’ll get there. The North East has too much to offer to be left out in the dark.

 

“A vast array of wooly jumpers for riding in”. Coming to shops in 2020.

 

It wasn’t all jumps and flow. Big mountain rides are just too good not to put the effort in for. Scotland, ya beauty.

There were lots of laughs through whole season; Finding Purvis, at 4 am in the morning, hiding behind the coffee stall at the Naughty Northumbrian, with both hands full of cake, stuffing it into his mouth and then spitting it out in a snowstorm fluster when asked what he was doing. Or maybe Wor Jackie’s introduction came close, despite his penchant for new monkey music and going mad any time I took him somewhere he thought the jumps looked too big.  Mick’s list of excuses at the DH races were worth a chuckle too. 

On the flip side to all that old school infantile drunken moments, there isn’t much better than summating a mountain for sunrise either, riding new trails and meeting new and old faces after a long sojourn – and those are the memories that never fade and make us keep coming back for more on the bike.

You can do both you know.


Richie Schley pictured at Alnwick Pump Track.
All about the whips.
Mumfords.

Video – British Champs and Road Tripping

 


All in all, what started as a humble project quickly turned into something much bigger and I think the team became more like a family and we’ll probably be mates for a long time as long as they don’t bore me to death with endless selfies of them stood next to their bikes. 

But, and there is a but, I’ve chosen not to run it again next year. 

I’ve had loads of messages saying that people are a bit gutted, and to all the riders (and mechanics!) who approached me and asked to be a part of the team , I really appreciated that and it was very humbling to see the Elite riders and WC team riders placed a value in what they saw us doing. It was a team that was meant for riders, educate the less experienced ones  on how to create a value for themselves, give them guidance and a pressure free environment to develop as riders and ultimately be something that brought a big toothy, cheesy grin to all their cherub like faces. 

Ultimately we all have to look at what’s right for us in our own life, and running the team, my business and with the Naughty Northumbrian going up to 1500 riders – although all were intrinsically linked into my vision for building up the North East scene – was simply too much to do under the circumstances and without the budget to bring anyone else in to help it’s just too much.  I kinda want to ride my own bike too and I hate half arsed jobs – You have to feel good about what you’re doing.  

But 2018 was such a good time, it kinda got me stoked on biking again after feeling the scene had become too “nice” and a bit soft and engaged in a race to the bottom,  part of which I myself was guilty of at times.  This was more than just an Instagram team. This bunch were RAD and the journey was sick. 

We might do it again in 2020, but who knows, eh. 

I’d like to thank all the sponsors and people who helped support the team – From the brilliant people at Bergamont who became like a family and Vittoria as title partners , through to Funn and then Royal, 7 Protection and Kingud – some of the best cleaning product on the market and Eco Friendly . 

It was one heck of a year, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of the riders we helped uncover as time goes on, and hopefully you’ll be seeing some of them on a global stage…. 

Churrr. 

 

Tommy

Thank you and good night.

B Roll Goodness

“The hand” took a while to get the idea behind focussing when taking photos, which is kind of a shame but even though he doesn’t ride, he loves the scene and the craic. Cheeers for the help mate.
NFG.
Conner, Alnwick Pump track. This is why I loved the pump track opening. He’d never heard of the team riders online, but he met them and instantly got on with them and us with him. He’s total dude. Churrr.
We even went to Nepal. *Could be Kintail.
It’s a Highlander thing.
4X Euan. Helped us out with some medical stuff through the year and was there to lean on if I wasn’t sure about pulling riders from races due to concussion even if the riders went mad, their health came first and an independent opinion is required. . Thank you bro.
Mumford bros. Along with Ginge, James Eliot and a few others they can be the future of the North East scene with some collaboration.
Ducat. A rider to look out for, super nice and style for miles.
Cheesing in minus 9º temps. February and first ride on the bike.
Final photos of the year at Dunkeld. I forgot my helmet and rode my CX bike one armed down pink panther. A day to forget!
I asked Louise to roost this corner a few times. The light was hellish and trying to focus a nightmare, but it looked so good. Nailed it every time.
The guys at Funn are RAD. So supportive and totally bought into our entire concept that is about so much more than a team and just “creating content” . It’s about the culture of the sport and connecting on a real, physical level with other riders.
ColoRADo.
Mini guns.
More of this in 2019. Tom Skilly photo.

Tommy Wilkinson

"I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve" - But I do love bikes.

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