By Ambassador Ben Gerrish
The Wheelbase Demo is famously one of the first events of the year and has, in years gone by, boasted the best and the worst of weather. From gale-force winds, sideways rain, and temperatures that could freeze the bits off a Sasquatch through to sunny afternoons that have you reaching for the BBQ and a cold one.
A brilliant opportunity to catch up with riders and industry bods alike and obviously, the prime objective, to get the latest and greatest bikes into the hands of excited customers.
Fresh bikes, a new demo set up and all the stokens made for a grand old weekend.
Kona UK’s man with a plan.
How was it being back at Wheelbase Demo and back on the road?
It was great to see everyone from the trade again, this industry is so small it’s like one big family. Awesome to be back working with consumers, getting them out on bike, it’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job seeing the big smiles as they come back from a demo ride.
How is the demo fleet looking this year?
The demo fleet has been decided by what we can get over what we would like, so there are some sizes that are more catered for than others but on the whole I’m happy to have a broad (Ish) selection of bikes for people to ride.
Tell us about the new rig set up?
The new rig is Awesome! It took a bit of getting together in time for the season but it’s a pro setup and was worth the effort. Big thanks to the Awning company .co.uk for sorting.
Did sasquatch make an appearance?
Sasquatch … who’s he? I personally have never seen him but there was a rumour that the hairy guy turned up, caused some chaos, then magically disappeared again. I wonder if he will follow the demo tour?
Kona UK’s Yes Man.
How did you find your first Wheelbase Demo?
I love chatting to customers, so inviting people to the stand to show off such a great bunch of high-end Kona bikes was always going to appeal – plus we were warm and dry in our amazing new event stand! It’s a long way from home for me, I think jumping out of the van after 5h and straight into a shakedown on a Process X with Ben Gerrish was a brutal awakening to what the Lakes had in store. But in short – tiring, social and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
What did you get up to while you were there?
Aside from showing off the bikes, I got some riding in – jumping on some of the guided Lake District demo tours on bikes such as the Process 134 CR DL and the Process X. Riding and filming with people trying our bikes for what was sometimes their first experience with the brand was very rewarding. The rest of the time was spent maintaining the fleet, talking to customers and setting up riders so they were comfortable and ready to ride on their demo bike.
What was the feedback on the bikes like over the weekend? Any crowd favourites?
Our Process 134 CR DL was the real star of the show, with the ideal combination of suspension travel, weight, and high-end groupset. It was commented that it was the perfect balance of travel and ride performance for Lake District riding – where one minute you are on a grueling rocky hill climb, another a fast swooping descent, all whilst splashing through rivers! These conditions require a bike that is sprightly pedalling under load, while needing to feel comfortable and absorbent – which is what the 134 is all about in all of its guises.
There were also the hardcore hardtail fans absolutely raving about the Honzo ESD which is a wild, slack, long forked demon of a bike which returned with riders plastered in mud with beaming smiles after going as hard as they could over the toughest terrain in the area. These were very hard to get back out of the riders’ hands!
The Unit is always a bike of many purposes, with a few of them going out on tests too. Singlespeed in the Lakes will always be a challenge, but again returned with smiles from the super tough riders that took them out – and a few conversations about how simple they are to swap over to a relatively cheap 1×11 setup and the inevitable chatter about frame bags and bikepacking applications. These bikes were discussed as being Kona’s “Swiss Army Knife” of bikes.
Kona UK’s master of the mystery magical tour.
What was your role at the demo?
As a Guide, you lead rides up the Kentmere Valley, just a stone’s throw from the Wheelbase store. Your primary aim is to keep the riders safe so they can enjoy their bikes. But also help with any queries and minor adjustments. There are multiple rides Throughout the weekend with varying Difficulty levels.
How long have you been guiding the WB Demo?
I have been helping Guide The Wheelbase Demo weekend on and off since I was 18, That is almost 20 years! Over the years I have gotten to know the valley rather well.
What bikes did you choose to guide on?
I spent the weekend Guiding on my Kona Process 134 CR/DL, it’s the perfect balance between efficiency and capability, so you don’t have to think too much when you’re out.
What was your highlight/positive take away from the weekend?
I love going along to the demos, but wheelbase is one of my favourites as it’s early in the season and the perfect chance to catch up with your buddies!