Trailblazers: The distinctive abilities of Joe Barnes

Joe Barnes – AKA Prime Chief – the Fort William rider with ability and creativity galore who has carved out his personal distinctive area within the mountain biking world

There are specific characters on this planet of mountain biking that simply appear to outline a geographical space. To me, Fort William will all the time be a spot the place the driving is hard, the paths are gnarly and the mountains are excessive, however the riders don’t take themselves severely.

They’re grassroots lads and lasses that all the time appear to have smiles on their faces and mattocks of their arms, or a motorbike beneath their backsides. They trip for the sheer pleasure of throwing a motorbike down a path, and in the event that they occur to win a race alongside the way in which, then nice. However that fun-first angle hasn’t stopped the realm producing a few of the greatest riders on this planet.

Flying the flag for Fort William

Joe Barnes has been on the coronary heart of this motion and flying the flag for Fort William since he was a nipper, starting his racing profession on the tender age of 14 astride an Orange Patriot provided by the native bike store.

A number of years of Orange-sponsored downhill and mass-start racing adopted with very respectable outcomes as much as World Cup degree, years that noticed his shabby-chic Transit van – nicknamed The Landship – following the race circuit round Europe with a gaggle of fine pals in tow.

Joe was by no means a straight downhiller although – hacking by way of these janky mountains across the Mamores and Ben Nevis produced a bullet-proof path driving background that meant the EWS, when it appeared in 2013, was virtually tailored for his skills.

At this level all the things went up a gear; Canyon stepped up and signed him for its Manufacturing unit Racing Enduro squad and he continued to compete for the model for the subsequent six years, with EWS outcomes topping out at third place total on a couple of events. An enormous success by anyone’s requirements.

You’ll be able to take the lad out of Fort William, you possibly can’t take Fort William out the lad

However whilst you can take the lad out of Fort William, you possibly can’t take Fort William out the lad, and even whereas he was taking each race severely, giving it his all, he continued to remain true to these fun-loving roots.

When he received the contract with Canyon, he managed to increase a aspect deal to cowl a few of his native driving mates so they might be part of him on the journey. When he was allowed a mechanic, he employed an area good friend to come back with him. And all through these adventures internationally, he all the time had a video digital camera close by.

The Dudes of Hazzard

His filming profession began as a little bit of enjoyable, a film self-shot across the native space when he was at highschool that showcased a few of the superb surroundings of Fort William whereas his pals variously leapt and cycled off it. Whereas the motion was clearly loopy, what shone by way of was the enjoyable, the liberty and the camaraderie that all of them felt whereas taking advantage of Scotland’s nice outdoor.

“After taking pictures all these stunts with my good friend Richard Finlayson, we received assist modifying from Richard’s dad’s good friend Gordy. He was one of many founders of Grand Theft Auto, and an modifying genius.” Joe smiles, “We simply sat there watching, studying all the things off him. It was a superb apprenticeship!”

Gordy additionally got here up with a reputation for the group of lads that has caught until today – the Dudes of Hazzard. The lads might have come and gone, the faces altering, however Joe has all the time been the ‘Prime Chief’ of the model, as his Instagram deal with suggests.

“That was my first dabble in movie making, however I didn’t come again to it till about three years later after I shot the Dudes of Hazzard Episode One. Stu Thomson was in it, Ben Cathro, all kinds of individuals.”

On this, the lads ski, powerwalk, backflip off cliffs into rivers and trip the native trails to a background of tacky pop tunes. Sheer pleasure simply radiates out the display screen from begin to end, and it has set a template for all of the Dudes movies that comply with. Riders scurry down unlikely rutted singletrack, coming off to the good celebration of the others.

No person is treasured about making an attempt to look excellent, so though their driving abilities are stratospheric, all of them come throughout as common guys who simply love being out on the path. It’s an awesome ethos to champion.

These movies have been a relentless background presence as Joe raced his method around the globe with basic episodes reminiscent of ‘The Dudeumentary – Highway journey within the Landship‘. As a substitute of documenting an expert racer in his predictably cosseted crew setup, this was a bunch of lads in a selfmade camper dossing their method across the continent for 2 months, tenting wild and consuming beans out the again door of their van, having the time of their lives as they navigated from race to race.

The temper modified on the occasions as every of them – Liam Moynihan, Fergus Lamb and Joe – all pulled their helmets on and gave it full beans at every begin line, solely to stay it up at a lakeside fireplace later that day. If you would like inspiration to your driving, there are few higher movies to observe.

“My movies have all the time had a couple of morals I like to stay to – friendships are essential, not taking your self too severely, and I all the time make them kid-friendly, so adults don’t have to fret about them watching. That’s my components I suppose.”

Getting inventive

Whereas his racing began the ball rolling for sponsorship and recognition, it’s the video work that’s pulling strongly nowadays.

“I loved being on the [Canyon] manufacturing unit crew, however I felt like there was a missed alternative for what I wished to do on the branding aspect of issues. I had the Dudes of Hazzard the place I might channel all my concepts and creativity whereas driving for them, however I wished to do extra of that. Even all the way down to deciding my very own race calendar and jersey designs or bike paintwork.”


So he determined to exit on his personal in 2019, securing a take care of Orange and Endura.

“I didn’t know anybody at Endura on the time, so I believe I simply mailed the ‘information@ e mail handle and fortunately somebody requested me to come back in and see them! They’ve been good, and it labored out properly as a result of they custom-print jerseys and I believe it’s so essential to do your individual designs. Give them a little bit of persona.”

After I began, you needed to race to be an expert rider, however now you could be a videographer or social media particular person and be a professional that method

Chatting to Joe on his distant trails, constructed on the decrease slopes of the Ben Nevis vary, it happens to me he has helped pioneer a brand new model {of professional} rider. One which doesn’t should race to get the eye of massive manufacturers.

“After I began, you needed to race to be an expert rider,” he agrees, “however now you could be a videographer or social media particular person and be a professional that method. I’m form of midway between the 2, racing and producing content material. Quite a lot of youngsters now can minimize straight to the supply, they get pleasure from driving and making movies, however can minimize out the competitors. The Dudes of Hazzard period pioneered a lo-fi model of content material being acceptable and simply produced by anybody, versus utilizing a manufacturing firm. But it surely has gone well past that now.”

Bo and Joe

Deciding his personal race calendar has labored out properly since his son Bo appeared on the scene in March 2019 too. A mix of Covid wrecking the 2020 EWS calendar and his new addition to the household led him to decelerate on the international racing and focus on the UK scene and his content material creation.

This yr Hope is the headline bike sponsor, with Endura persevering with to be amongst many different firms contributing to the Hazzard Racing crew.

“I’m a fairly distinctive setup however they’re proud of a steadiness between racing and filming. They’re very versatile; I might make a half hour movie that might take 4 months, or I might make 4 shorter ones in that point, it’s okay. They offer me that possibility with out trying over my shoulder.”

Additionally they appear to have the boldness to simply let Joe do his factor, with out ever being too heavy on their merchandise. The movies by no means dwell on any specific bike or product, they aren’t in any method polished gear-punting ads. As a substitute they promote a life-style and the merchandise simply trip on his coattails. It really works properly, and who wouldn’t wish to be related to that?

“The model has simply developed naturally, however on the finish of the day it’s nonetheless simply documenting my life. Now it isn’t racing the World Sequence, however doing extra at house.”

His newest movies characteristic Bo studying to pedal, or some excessive driving hung round an evening time story learn to the wee lad who’s already now star of the present. One other follows Joe and very long time Dude, Ferg, gravel biking the size of the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland.

“The gravel trip up the Hebrides was one thing I actually wished to do, to show to myself I might make a movie about one thing aside from thrashing ruts that might nonetheless be fascinating. We’re actually proud of it.”

It’s one other signature Barnes basic, with rough-and-ready self-shot materials coming along with some properly chosen tunes to make an atmosphere-rich story you simply have to observe from begin to end. Two lads, two bikes and a complete lot of freedom to journey – predictably on a ‘camp by the roadside in a £20 tent and consuming porridge in bus shelters’ vibe. I confess I don’t have a whole lot of persistence for big-brand product launches or ‘story telling’ movies, however I’m glued to the display screen on this one, reliving my very own previous journeys that every one went the identical method.

“I do all of the modifying and simply adore it,’ Joe continues, ‘I like how one can have 100 video clips however there’s an infinite option to make them into a movie. There is no such thing as a proper or fallacious method. However I do suppose that by doing it masses it would all the time come out the identical method – that could be a reflection of me. It is a wonderful artwork kind, modifying.”

What the longer term holds

So the place from right here?

“I wish to do extra with the designing of issues. I already promote my very own jerseys however I’m not excellent at operating a store, so I get batches in and promote out, then get extra in and promote out once more. So I’m going to do it by way of Endura, allow them to run the store entrance.”

He appears enthusiastic about this potential transition from bike racing persona to graphic designer.

“The jerseys don’t should be tied to me, the designs ought to stand by themselves, and that method I all of a sudden turn into a graphic designer somewhat than somebody who rides bikes. It’s good doing each now although, I’m having fun with the steadiness.”

After the picture session we plod again by way of a cold Fort William twilight. Rolling alongside, Joe casually mentions how he had received fed up inserting prime ten within the Enduro World Sequence, by no means higher than third, so it was time to maneuver on to new issues. He had reached a ceiling he simply couldn’t appear to interrupt by way of, it doesn’t matter what he threw at it.

Wanting on the pale blue sky above I had a second to myself, considering on how it could really feel inserting prime ten in world-class enduro races. It took me to a cheerful, however wildly unlikely multiverse the place I might have been fairly rattling happy with myself. It wasn’t a case that Joe gave up, he merely felt a bit burned out with it and determined his power could be higher spent elsewhere.

I by no means received the impression Joe seeks race-winning recognition, however simply races and rides as a result of it’s what he does, who he’s. He’s Joe Barnes, and the Scottish driving scene could be an immeasurably poorer place with out him.

Joe’s Ideas for Using Ruts

There’s no query that Joe can trip a rut with unimaginable model, so if you wish to seize a few of his steeze and method for your self, right here’s his recommendation:

Let the bike do its factor. Should you attempt to use power to combat in opposition to the bike’s actions then it would make issues worse. It’s all about refined small reactions and letting the bike transfer about beneath you.

Use your rear brake to steadiness. As a result of you possibly can’t countersteer to regulate your lean angle in a rut or rutted nook like in a berm, the simplest option to steadiness is to regulate your pace.

Usually, in all turns, the quicker you go, the extra leaned over it is advisable to be, and this stays a relentless, so in case your pace and lean angle don’t match, then use your brake to steadiness these two components. Too quick and never leant sufficient; then brake to fall extra into the flip. Leant over and going slowly; then get off the brake to straighten up! That is the simplest option to constantly trip ruts and rutted turns.

Utilizing an excessive amount of entrance brake will trigger the entrance tyre to dig into the aspect of the rut and pull you over. It’s usually horrible recommendation to make use of much less entrance brake, however in a rut new guidelines apply. Use proportionally extra rear brake in ruts.