Pete headed north to sit down with The Dudes of Hazzard’s Top Chief Mr. Joe Barnes to catch up after a hectic season of rut hoofing.
Photos by Pete Scullion.
Joe Barnes is one of a kind. After yet another mad season of racing at the sharp end of enduro, Pete spent the day with him to find more about the man.
Who is Joe Barnes?
A mischievous chappy from Fort William, keen on racing bikes.
What was your first mountain bike?
I was sooo keen on getting a full expunsion bike so I just went all out and got a Giant Warp fairly budget huck machine. I was only 13 and it took a lot of grass cutting to get it bought but that thing got taken off a lot of sweet booters.
What’s your background in cycling?
I watched the World Cup in my home town and loved it every year. Team Global racing then came to my school and I thought it was the best thing ever. I knew all I wanted to do was ride my bike so got into racing DH, worked in a bike shop for 5 years before receiving more support for racing and made it my full time passion. From then it’s been good times racing bikes, making videos and trying to progress what I am doing.
What’s your background in racing?
I started with DH racing in Scotland when I was 14, then qualified to race world cups when I was 16 year old Junior racer. My first world cup I placed 66th (senior, no junior category then) in Germany and then went on to race World Cups for a good few years. A couple of top 30’s and a load of mid-pack results later and I fell in love with my trail bike and my focus soon shifted to mass start enduro racing.
I switched over properly a year before the EWS started and raced the full Irish Enduro Series along with the Maxi and Megavalanches.
I think it put me in a good place coming into the Enduro World Series and since then I have raced every EWS.
Have you had any jobs that weren’t riding or racing?
I was a gardener throughout school days. I had a rigorous schedule cutting the grass on the estate I grew up on. My dad was the estate handyman and I cut the castle grounds, lawns and the lodge house gardens and my neighbour’s house also. It was pretty fun because I used to drive between all the places on the sit-on mower at 5mph for about 6 miles between each one.
What makes Fort William home for you?
I like the place for its casual nature. People seem to just get on with things, there is plenty of industry, the mountains are right there and a good crew of friends enjoying it all.
What’s your favourite route to ride and why?
I don’t really ride routes so much as just go to my local woods and lap a few trails. We have got a few different areas around Fort William so we tend to pick and spot and ride the 3 or 4 trails in that valley.
Best trail you’ve ever ridden, and why?
Slop Mountain is a particular highlight. It’s one of Fort Williams best trails and has taken a few years to mature. I have re-dug the initial line a few times now and its down to a good base and rides incredible.
Can you describe your riding style and where it came from?
I am not too sure but people say I ride a bit like skiing?
Slide the bike about a lot and square turns off mostly. If you ride in the wet a lot then you learn to use grip points and go straight to each one. I think I grew up with this and so it has stuck in my style from then.
When will we see more of the Dudes?
There is one good to go just now so I am looking forward to putting that one out. We took my camper up to the Isle of Harris and loved it. Some place for 2 places, really barren, great beaches and some mucky single track. I think the film worked out good so hopefully it goes down well online.
You must have seen some crazy things over the years, is there something that stands out? A favourite moment or when you wanted the ground to swallow you up?
We used to be into jumping into rivers in the most dangerous ways possible. A bit of a thrill and one day we went to the biggest local spot and built the biggest rope-swing we could. There was a rope spanning the gorge and then one going down from that to swing from. You launched from the waterfall out onto this suspended swing and into the plunge pool. It had horrendous amounts of spring in it and you got launched pretty good.
As this was going on Ferg sidled up to the top jump (90ft) that I had previously done my knee on and he had done a couple of times before. It wasn’t meant to be and as soon as Ferg hit the water he new his back was broken. We called mountain rescue and the whole squad turned up as they all had similar stories in this place. We got the swing down straight away to avoid suspicions and got Ferg out safe and sound.
The police even questioned me to see if I had pushed Ferg off the cliff. A surreal day for all. We took river jumping pretty far but after that decided the big stuff needed left alone for now.
How did your 2017 season go? Any highs and lows?
I had a really consistent season finishing off in 14th in the EWS ranking. I rode strong for the most part and loved every round. Madeira for me didn’t go to plan so I was sad about that. Some of my best stages but I paced one of the key stages badly and was throwing time away on that one. On the flip side the rest of the rounds went Smooth FM and the trails on offer and the tight racing was joyous.
I went into the final round really tight in the points and thought ‘fook, it lets be having this’. I was on for my top ten series spot after the first 2 stages when I slid out, hit a wall and dislocated a bone in my hand. It was survival from there and I finished the weekend in 22nd and 14th for the season.
I don’t regret it at all though. I wanted it and rode hard, sometimes it doesn’t pay off but after a full season of all out racing it needed to be done.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to career in racing?
Commitment is key. If you commit to something fully then you can make it happen. I think this is relevant for everything in life but no more than racing bikes. From training, practising corners for days, eating right, working hard to get the cash together to start out. It all comes easy if that’s what you really want and its not a half-hearted thing.
What did you have to sacrifice to get to this stage?
Very little I think. Maybe university, being sociable, other sports like skiing. Luckily I was more than happy to ride my bike, work in the bike shop and race at the weekends. Now I am on a team I just want to make the most of things and see where I can take it.
Did you have day jobs that you had to give up?
Still got to put the bins out and do the dishes baeys. Its not all fairy cakes.
Where next for you?
I am getting set for a solid few months training before the 2018 season kicks off. It’s always a early start to the year and back to back rounds so no time to relax this winter. I am putting a wood burner into my shed and a few home improvements to tick off first but apart from that just keeping the focus on the 2018 season.
Anybody to thank at this point in the journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?
So far there has been a few people who have really seen the potential and I can’t thank them enough. Stu Thomson from Cut Media and Michael Bonney at the start pushed me on a long way.
And since then Flo Goral from Canyon Bikes really took me on and helped my racing. Flo died earlier this year with a blood clot so a huge sad loss for everyone there.
At home my girlfriend Fiona keeps me in check and understands the commitment I put in.
Dougman and now Craig have been the best mechanics and support crew out there.
You can keep up to speed with all Joe’s antics throughout the winter by following him on Facebook and Instagram.
New Dudes of Hazzard video dropping soon!