Joe Barnes is quite possibly one of the biggest characters on the enduro circuit. When he's not between the race tapes he can probably be found somewhere deep in the boggy woods of Fort William slithering down handlebar deep ruts with surgical precision. Many will have followed Joe's antics in the old “Dudes of Hazzard” videos aboard the brightly emblazoned Orange bikes, now after a 6-year hiatus, he has returned home to where it all began with a bike to match his unique personality and approach to riding and racing.
2019 marked a fresh start for Joe, leaving the Canyon Factory Enduro Team and starting up his own program with Hazzard Racing where he was joined by Lachlan Blair and Fergus Lamb with a raft of races and video projects in the pipeline. At the heart of his new race rig is a large Orange Alpine 6 with a 180mm Formula Selva R fork which is paired to an Extreme EXT coil shock, the build is completed by a smattering of Hope, OneUp, Schwalbe, Fabric, and Odi components.
We went to visit Joe in Fort William to get a closer look at his new Orange Alpine 6 and discover how he's set it up after a winter of trying various prototypes:
Height 5’7” (173 cm)
Weight 69 kg
Hometown Fort William, Scotland
Frame Size Large
Wheel Size 27.5"
Suspension 180mm Formula Selva R fork & Extreme EXT Storia LOK Coil Shock
Drivetrain & Brakes Hope / Shimano XT/XTR and Hope Tech 3 V4
Cockpit OneUp Components
Wheels & Rubber Hope Tech Enduro / Schwalbe Magic Mary & Hans Dampf
Did jumping back on an Orange after 6 years feel similar in any way?
Yeah, definitely. It rides how an Orange rides. I don't really like bikes that are really planted with almost a wallow in the link, which some people like. Whereas an Orange, I suppose for me, it's the predictability of it I like, it doesn't have that wallow or that spot, or the ramp up after that spot which catches me out. Just going back to that, I was instantly riding through my feet which I like, feeling the ground and using my heels. I kinda stopped doing that before because the bike had that wallow and I didn't need to, or it didn't benefit me to. Now I can feel what I'm doing again, I feel instantly confident so that was going back 6 years but instantly just knowing and feeling, oh yes that's how it goes.
Setting up your own program you've been able to pick your components to a certain extent?
Yeah, luckily enough what I was offering there were quite a lot of people that were keen to get involved in it. From there, I was able to choose components that all complemented each other in what we were trying to do. Hope was a big one, Hope was also who I'd rode for in the past, another British company, the brakes are amazing. Since I last rode for them they've started doing drivetrain parts so we just committed to the full Hope package which was an excellent start.
Have you been playing around with frame sizes?
It's a large which is quite big for me, but I thought it was a really balanced bike. I've tried a medium, medium with different sized wheels, and the large. I just thought at the moment the large felt the most comfortable for me just getting straight onto it. I'm really happy with the 27.5, Canyon never had a 29er till I left so I just thought I've got no wants, or I'm not saying I need something to make me go quicker there. I know what I need to do with myself or my setup, and the wheelsize is not relevant to me at the moment. 27.5 was perfect so I jumped on that.
Joe has stuck with Formula's recommended setting for his weight of 70 PSI in the positive chamber and 90 PSI in the negative chamber. He runs two of Formula's Neopos volume spacers along with a light compression stack and fast rebound, he says he runs both of them nearly open.
Can you run us through the suspension setup now you're running Formula and the Extreme shock?
Formula was the perfect fit for us. There's a lot of tunability and I can do it all at home which is quite good as I've got less mechanical support this year with it being our first year as we find our feet. Yeah, so you can change the compression stack in the fork with a 1.5mm Allen key and a little grub screw so that's quite cool. The EXT Storia shock, that's kind of worked out quite flukily in the way that it happened. Chris Porter imports both of them through his company, I've worked with Chris a lot in the past and I'm a big fan of what he does and his passion basically. So I've been to-and-fro with Chris 3 times a week basically, talking about changing the setup and trying different things here and there, and getting all my timing on it and making it quicker and quicker.
Could you give us a few more specifics and numbers on clicks with pressures, rebound, etc...?
On the rear shock I've got a custom stack in it at the moment but it's got an extra light compression and rebound, I've always run a really open shock for both compression and rebound. I just prefer the shock to be active under me so that's something I've been working with Chris on and we've just been building it up from there, I'm really comfortable on the bike and building speed. So basically an extra light tune on the rear shock and a 300 lbs spring. On the fork I just run exactly what they recommend, I went to that from the start and went higher and lower and just stuck with 70 in the positive and 90 in the negative and the light compression stack in it as well. I'm running two of the Formula Neopos but it's a 180mm fork, so I run more Neopos and run a faster rebound and lighter compression because of that, I run them almost fully open.
And is the Alpine stocked with a 180mm fork or is that something you just have a preference for?
It's stocked with a 170mm but I've just put a 180mm on it. It sits about right there and I think it's pretty good for me, I like monster-trucking.
Something else that Joe is particular about is a 50mm stem. He likes to run plenty of back sweep on his bars and prefers the less lively steering of the slightly longer stem, compared to say a 35mm or 40mm which he feels is too "direct" and "twitchy".
What does your cockpit setup look like?
I'm running the OneUp bars with a 20mm rise and a 50mm stem. I've always loved a 50mm stem as I run quite a bit of back sweep on the bars and I don't want my hands behind the steerer tube. People who run 40mm or 35mm and give it all the chat and then they've got loads of forward sweep on the bars... It's just the same. That's what I've always run there.
The 50mm stem is way less twitchy but I think that's down to the sweep as well, if I was to run my sweep and a shorter stem then it'd be way too direct and I really hate that feeling of really direct steering. Bar width is just 750mm, I've been 750mm for like 8 years, I'd just always been 750mm, it fits me quite well. Stack height, I got the theory that the longer your bike the higher your bars, just for the reach I suppose... The bars have gone up a bit over the years as my bikes have got longer, but not wildly high. I find it really specific so I play around with it at the start of the year and once I'm really happy I just leave it. I think the races are so varied that there's a bit of everything in them all, so just be comfortable on it.
I run my brakes really close in, I got the front one nearly touching the grip... With the Hope brakes, it's 4mm off the grips and I want it nearly touching so I filed down a little part in the lever assembly to get that even closer... Then the back brake I like further out. I definitely think that if you're in a rut and you've got grabby brakes then that makes your life pretty hard, so non-grabby brakes in ruts is much easier to ride and it's very rutted terrain around here, having a very severe bite point is quite hard to control so I run brakes really close in with a bit more travel, using the middle bit of my finger for sensitivity. I'm running a 200mm rotor on the front and a 180mm rotor but I'll up the 180mm for the Alps as soon as summer comes in, but just saving a bit of weight for the winter.
So you are just setting the bike up to be fast, this is your race setup?
Yeah, exactly. I'll just get this bike set up as my race bike and get comfortable on it. I really want to set up an Orange 5 for a sort of second bike where it's not built for all-out speed particularly, but just as an amazing trail bike. This bike I've just set up for my race bike.
Hope Tech 3 V4s take care of stopping duties, they are paired with a 200mm rotor on the front and 180mm on the rear for now, as soon as Joe heads to the longer Alpine stages this summer he'll up both to 200mm. Hope, like Orange, are another brand Joe has returned to after his 6-year stint on Canyon.
A 150mm OneUp dropper is complimented by a Fabric saddle and Odi grips.
What about tire setup?
I've got the ultrasoft Magic Mary on the front which I think is pretty much the go-to tire year round I think, then on the back, I switch up between a Hans Dampf or a cut Dirty Dan, they both offer really good rolling, but the Dirty Dan clears slightly better. They're both soft in compound, but when you cut the Dirty Dan you sort of lose that dual compound so you're riding more on the hard bit of it.
The Hope Enduro rims are reasonably narrow I guess compared to what you were running last year?
Yeah, I was running Mavic last year with a wider front rim, I don't really mind. I think they fit these tire profiles as they are quite small tires, maybe if you had a bigger tire it'd be nicer but this is a good set up. Hope do have new wheels so I'll be upgrading to those at some point.
An ultrasoft Magic Mary up front is Joe's all year all weather choice whilst he'll change his rear between a Hans Dampf or cut Dirty Dan.
A mix of Shimano and Hope components take care of the drivetrain duties. Joe is more than happy to be back on 11 speed after snapping two 12 speed chains in EWS races last season.
You've been on carbon bikes for years, how did you find switching back to an alloy frame?
Nah I think the whole bike is quite a bit different so to point it down to alloy or carbon is quite difficult, but I've done various things in the past where I've had an alloy version of the prototype and I've gone to the carbon version and I just don't see it. I guess you've got to get the flex right on the carbon frame to make it work, I don't know if it's really too much of a benefit to anyone.
Do you know the weight?
Yeah, it's around 15 kilos, I'm not too fussy about weight, but I'll do everything I can. I haven't ti bolted it yet but I'll do that. From doing timing and being on the really, really light Spectral I had and then the Torque, it was like now I'm faster on my Torque, now I'm faster on this... I think if it rides well that's the most important thing, this bike is actually way lighter than my Torque which for an alloy bike is good, it's built out of aluminium for a good reason, not just cause it's cheaper or whatever.