JOE BARNES & HAZZARD RACING
Not Conforming to the Norm
Ben Nevis is shrouded in grey as I peel off the main road and pull up beside a rather sorry looking Reliant Robin and a motorhome emblazoned with yellow stickers that read “The Landship”. In true Fort William fashion, the rain is lashing down. The door of a neighbouring static caravan is flung open to reveal Joe stood with the latest generation of Barnes in one arm and what can only be a mug of BarleyCup grasped in the other hand.
Now out of the rain and into the warmth the conversation quickly drifts to Joe’s departure from German giants Canyon after six years racing on their enduro squad. “The 8 weekends a year of Enduro World Series were the only focus and that was very much what the team was there for…It seemed very difficult to have a race program that allowed you the flexibility to make videos” Joe explains.
On one hand, Joe is a massively accomplished racer having stood on the illustrious podium steps of the Enduro World Series, but that’s only half the story. The other half is one of hectic pan and zoom videos with plenty of rut slashing and bog bashing, weird and wacky storylines which only their minds could conjure up, and general two-wheeled hysterics that’ll have you both crying with laughter and have your eyes popping from your skull in disbelief at the riding. It’s far from a clean cut, slow-mo saturated, high budget production, but that’s the beauty of it. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Joe admits he isn’t too bothered by chasing the mainstream numbers. “you might get more views in the long term doing disposable social media but no one remembers it.” It’s a welcome breath of fresh air in an ever-increasing commercially monotone cycling World, a bit of personality and originality certainly goes a long way.
“It was a bit of a love/hate, bittersweet kind of thing with Canyon. They wanted the dudes’ vibes and style of what we were doing, but also wanted me to just be a factory rider…”
Free from the shackles of a full racing season and with the lust for more video freedom, Joe felt 2019 was the time for a fresh approach to riding and racing which would see the birth of Hazzard Racing. “I got caught up over 6 years of just doing the World Series and that was it, loads of people do and miss out on everything else” he adds. Joining him on the new venture is his “original racing friend” Fergus Lamb, alongside the injection of some youthful exuberance with Lachlan Blair. “I’ve been racing with Ferg since the start, we travelled to all the World Cups in the van together, he’s been my natural racing buddy since we started.”
He’s far from nostalgic or looking back through rose-tinted glasses, however, it’s clear to see Joe has had his heart set on returning to his own way of racing for a while. “It was a bit of a love/hate, bittersweet kind of thing with Canyon. They wanted the dudes’ vibes and style of what we were doing, but also wanted me to just be a factory rider… as the years went on I became more and more on the factory side and gave away a little more of the van with the boys set up. For years and years, I raced to a pretty high level by not being on a factory team so I was quite surprised when I did get on one… I’m quite looking forward to the style of it going back that way, it just opens it back up again.”
With a chuckle, he turns his attention to Lachlan. “He’s quite a bit younger than me... I always just thought he was some loose kid that did too many no handers on his race runs and that he should smarten up” he laughs. “Now he’s going to start beating me so that’s fine… I may as well sign him!” The trio certainly looks in good stead as they carve their own unique approach to riding and racing their bikes.
“We went away sailing and lived on a boat, I didn’t have a bike for a year and I think that just made me want to ride a bike even more...”
The formation of Hazzard Racing marks a “returning home” to Orange Bicycles where it all started for a fresh-faced Barnes, including a spell on the infamous MTB Cut team - their unmistakable neon pink colour scheme burnt the retinas of anyone who found themselves watching trackside. “It was just a genuine love for bikes for no real reason. My parents didn’t have bikes or have much to do with it” he chimes in when I quiz him on how it all started. It’s ironic then that Joe’s obsession with bikes would later spread through his family, his mother Gill even managing to take home a gold medal at the Masters World Championships in Andorra a few years ago.
Expanding on his childhood Joe adds, “We went away sailing and lived on a boat, I didn’t have a bike for a year and I think that just made me want to ride a bike even more. When I got home from that, and even before, I was just on bikes from the skip that’d been pieced together… I suppose having the downhill World Cup here made me think that downhill was a valid sport to do so I went to try and do that.” With his feet back firmly on dry land Joe was hooked for life and hasn’t looked back.
Whilst the mountain bike World might descend on Fort William and Nevis Range for one weekend each June, the reality of Fort William riding is far from the high-speed granite slabs of Aonach Mòr. “The terrain around here has shaped my riding style. It’s very muddy and quite slow speed so you have to be really aggressive to ride it well… if there’s ever a muddy or technical race with slightly slower speeds then I think my home skills come through.” As we sit here it’s barely above freezing and the rain hasn’t retreated since I’ve arrived, I ponder how they stay motivated all year round. As the words leave his mouth they do so with a grin as he knows it’s a cliched sentiment. “If you’ve got good equipment then you’ll be fine. It is actually true though, plenty of base layers and a thermal gilet then there’s nothing stopping you! Just get used to washing kit... When you’re out riding it’s fine!” His eyes are already adrift out the window, plotting his afternoon escape into the depths of the rolling hills blanketed by pine.
"If you've got good equipment then you'll be fine. It is actually true though, plenty of base layers and a thermal gilet then there's nothing stopping you! Just get used to washing kit... When you're out riding it's fine!"
Hazzard Racing isn’t bothered about conforming to the usual expectations on how the majority of top-level athletes and race teams tend to go about their business, including in their aesthetics. “On the list of things that Hazzard racing needed was our own look” Joe explains whilst sat in a team Norway ski jacket, picked up on a road trip many moons ago. “Working on a custom jersey range was top of the list... and that is one of the key features of Endura” he adds. Free of the constraints of a factory race outfit, Joe and Hazzard Racing can exercise their creatively whacky ideas on a blank canvas provided to them by Endura. Their jerseys are sure to encapsulate the quirky world of Hazzard Racing and allow their personalities to shine through, whilst also helping them to well and truly stand out from the rest of the racing crowd.
You have to be made of stern stuff to live and ride in Fort William year round which makes Hazzard Racing a perfect match to the DNA of Endura. The roots of which are still firmly grounded in Scotland where they have been designing and testing their kit for over twenty years in some of the harshest conditions imaginable, this is one of the reasons why Endura has become so trusted when it comes to offering hardcore kit that’ll take whatever you can throw at it. Hazzard Racing ride and race in the all-new lightweight MT500 Full Face Helmet and MT500 Hard Shell Knee Pads, putting them through the rigours both between the race tape and in their hardcore day to day riding.
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