Maddie Horton: Getting her new Fate and training for the season

Based in Plymouth Maddie Horton is an elite level mountain biker cross-country racer and will be contributing to Bikemagic throughout the season. Here’s her first post:

For the last four months I have been like a kid waiting for Santa. I was contacted in October by Specialized, and asked if I would like to be an Ambassador for Women’s mountain biking (one of only five women worldwide who have been asked).

I was told this would involve them giving me a Specialized Fate Expert to ride for the season, plus three Fate Comp demo bikes.  Needless to say, this offer did not take much mulling over. Since then I have been irritating the hell out of Jay (my other half), repeating the sentence “I can’t wait for my Fates to arrive’ over and over.”

It is the first time that I have had a chance to ride a women’s mountain bike that is race worthy (and not a heavy trail bike).  I have been extremely lucky through my racing life to have been sponsored by the Certini Bicycle Company, and as a consequence have been given an awesome team deal with Specialized for the last five years.  I have raced an S-Works Stumpjumper, a Marathon Epic, an S-Works Epic and a Comp Epic 29er. All have been beautiful bikes, and all have been designed with a man’s body shape in mind. I’ve never really had a problem riding men’s bikes – I do some tinkering with stem length, bars, grips, saddle, crank length etc, but essentially I have loved every one of these bikes.

In the back of my mind, knowing a women’s specific bike was coming my way, was a niggling worry that the geometry might not feel racy enough, or that the bike would come with a basket on the front and streamers!  Racy it is, and there is not a streamer in sight – not even a glimmer of pink on it.  The paint job is stealth black – awesome!

I have just completed ride number four on my Fate.  I could go into huge detail about the science behind its design, but instead I will say what a treat it was to hop straight on and not have to adjust or change a single component.

Straight away I have noticed differences between the Fate and any of my other bikes:

- Because the carbon can be lighter and less strong on a women’s bike, combined with the dinky frame size, it is seriously stiff, and takes off like a rocket

- It climbs over rocky terrain incredibly smoothly – I pranced up what is normally a git of a climb on Exmoor today, and on my hill session on Monday I was getting about 50m further up the hill than usual on a 2 min effort.  I know for a fact that I am not as fit as I was this time last year, so I can’t take any credit for this climbing prowess.

- I made several tight uphill switchbacks on it today that I have always messed up in the past,- The front is much easier to lift – because it is closer to my body.

One difference I was struggling to manage today is how quickly it rolls (even compared to my Epic 29er).  Today I failed to make it around a couple of downhill corners as I had picked up so much speed, and couldn’t scrub it off enough to make it around the corner.  Instead I skidded to an out of control stop, and had to point myself the right way and get going again – good skills – I must remember to build that technique into the curriculum of our skills days.

Riding a 29er requires a different riding style, and I need to either brake earlier, carry my normal amount of speed around the corner, then power off, or take a couple of ‘man up pills’, grit my teeth and just hang on round the bend at the pace the bike wants to go.

Jay has also just started riding a hardtail 29er (the Stumpy Expert 29), and he’s gone straight for the ‘man up pills’.  Trying to keep up with him is pretty scary at the moment, and I keep expecting to come around a corner and find him in a crumpled mess needing some medical attention – but so far, he’s stayed rubber side down.

I now have five weeks to train and get used to the bike before my first big race of the season – 12 Hours of Exposure.  This will be my first 12-hour solo, and a daunting prospect for someone who’s used to a 2-hour cross country blast.  My training has been hit and miss so far, but I’m putting in some top notch last minute cramming, and am in no doubt that the Fate will be the bike of choice for the event.

As for the three demo bikes, they are all going on a trip to Afan this weekend with the Filthy Foxes (Plymouth’s female only mtb group), where they will have their first test ride.  After that the bikes will be coming with me to every event I race at, every Fully Sussed race.  I will also be taking them to the Specialized demo tour.  When they are not on a road trip with me, they will live at Certini in Saltash, and can be booked out from there.  The only thing I ask for in return is some feedback on the bike.

My mission for the year is to get as many female bums on the Fates as I can, and my challenge to every woman who tries them is to honestly say they don’t like them.

For details of all the events the Fates and I will be at, visit www.fullysussed.co.uk.

Maddie Horton

2010 British Elite MTB Series silver medallist Maddie Horton is a mountain bike racer based in the South West and has been picked to be one of five women worldwide to be a part of Specialized’s new Fate 29er seed programme. Maddie’s advocacy of women’s cycling, her involvement in the community and passion for promoting women in cycling led Specialized to sponsoring her, and will supply a brand new Fate 29er for the year.

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