September 21 2017
Sean McFarlane and Ted Äs took a pair of RX9 Pros to the outer Hebrides for a gruelling Challenge. Here's the story, watch the video to see how they got on...
The Heb Challenge is a two-day adventure race in the magnificent Outer Hebridean islands of Uist and Benbecula situated off the north-west coast of Scotland. Landscapes don’t get much more adventure inspiring than this. Add the weather – forget two seasons in one day, try four in an hour – and this is where the very word “epic” was surely born.
Pairing up with my old Swedish mate, Ted As tells me he’s now over the hill. Yet the three times Swedish ironman champion and former pro triathlete will never properly slow down. And I know that. Our camera crew ask the obvious question – “is he really older than you Sean?” “Yup” I reluctantly answer, wondering whether is too late to start a moisturising regime. One things for sure, I’ll need to keep up.
The race involves off road and lumpy running, a bit of kayaking and the main component; biking. Lots of pushing the pedals over all manner of terrain. Plenty tarmac but lots of sand, mud and gravel with a good dose of salt water just to test everything even more. Bike choice was much discussed by others but was never in doubt for us with the RX9 written all over this. Versatile, quick and durable, the RX9 exudes qualities that I’ve long aspired to myself.
Day 1 starts with a “Le Mans” style short run to our bikes. As we pick them up, I can feel the admiration of spectators. Several “nice bike” comments set us perfectly on our way. With Ted as expected pushing the pace, the tarmac fades to grass then sand and sea water, and the RX9s rip through the lot. A shortened kayak stage due to rough seas is followed by some serious and challenging hill running – they don’t seem to do walking paths here. The day then finishes with more biking this time ending on stony muddy trails, which after such a long day is usually a pre-cursor to a sore back for me. But not here. The RX9 geometry is spot on, striking that perfect but very elusive balance of aggression and comfort. A big overnight lead is ours and day 1 was done.
The weather now properly snaps, and the campervan provides a welcome albeit all too temporary refuge. Day 2 begins with a rolling start and we opt to start last. Ted duly punctures the enormous headwind and rips through the entire field as I manage to just about hang on. A great start to any day. More hill running ensues, with the highest checkpoints binned by the race organiser due to the winds. Eventually back to my two best friends, Ted and my RX9, we continue our battle with the fierce Atlantic weather southwards, over gravel, a lot of sand and a golf course. It’s tough but others are hardly moving. With the final kayak stage abandoned due to the sea state, we finish the short final hill run and cross the finish line with an hour’s lead. Job well done. How on earth Ted’s skin remains so good after the two day battering it took I’ll never know, but both it and the RX9s have coped admirably with one of the planet’s most exhilarating adventure races.