Monthly Archives: March 2016

PMBA Enduro Round One, Gisburn

IMG_20160321_161256Last Sunday was the first race of the year, round one of the PMBA Enduro series at Gisburn. As ever I entered as a bit of fun, with the aim being to get round without breaking myself, and ideally not coming dead last as a bonus to aim for. I’m not a natural racer really, I can’t be bothered training properly, and I definitely don’t have the skills to make up for lack of form, but I do enjoy getting out onto closed trails with crowds of people who love riding mountain bikes. Someone has to pad out the bottom of the results sheet, and it might as well be me, right?

The day dawned gloriously bright and calm and followed a week or two of dry weather, so Gisburn was in about as good condition as you could care to ask for. The van kicked up dust along the access road, and the queue basked in the warmth of the sun as we waited to register and collect race numbers. Riding out for practice the trails proved to be dusty even under the trees and everything was shaping up nicely for a cracking day out.

Unfortunately, in spite of the lovely weather and previous dry days the first race stage was pretty grim. Slimy rooty ruts lurked in dark, grotty pine woodland, punctuated only by bits of woodwork, unrideable swamps, all finishing into a greasy bombhole. Practice was unpleasant enough, but I had such a bad race run I’ve actually asked for advice from the internet on how to ride the rooty, muddy horrors of surface-cut woodland trails. I’m sure it basically boils down to practice, and I don’t usually ride that sort of thing so it completely caught me out. I shall have to hunt out some muddy forest lines near to home and spend some time working on controlling a bike when you have zero traction, and lots of trees to crash into.

Stage one was fortunately just a brief dark spot on an otherwise unblemished day of splendid riding. Stage two, three and four were all enjoyable, comprising the Home Baked, Whelpstone Crag and Hully Gully trail sections respectively, all of which are ace, rocky, swoopy, grippy fun. I didn’t place particularly well here either, naturally, but I had a much more enjoyable time riding than on stage one, and felt I did pretty much my best on each of them.

Stage five was the big finale, based on one of the easier downhill runs, with four big drops, a decent sized tabletop, and then a final flourish through rooty, muddy trees. One poor sod properly nailed himself on the tabletop in practice, and the course was closed for a good hour while paramedics stretchered him off for a trip in the air ambulance. Fortunately he turned out to be fine, but seeing him being carried back up the course strapped into a neck brace added significantly to the sense of trepidation I felt queuing up to try my luck. After enjoying the nice little introductory roll-in section, I skipped the first drop (the chicken line was faster, honest, even the quick boys took it) but hit the next three and surprised myself by managing to get down in one piece without securing myself a free helicopter ride. For all the roots and mud and ruts I actually found  the lower woodland section much easier than stage one, due to it being a bit steeper, allowing you to keep your wheels rolling even if you got a bit out of shape. I even managed a grin when one of the Cotic team riders yelled “nice bike” at me as I slithered past (unfortunately just being on the same bike as them isn’t all that you need to be properly fast). On my race run I was pretty tired, made a mess of the top section, then got caught in a bit of traffic at the bottom, and thereby lost a fair bit of time. I didn’t mind, I was already more than happy with myself just for clearing the drops – these were bigger than anything I’ve ever ridden before and I actually felt pretty good going over them.

The roll back to the finish over, we grabbed a burger, packed up and headed home. I was pretty happy with my efforts in the most part, the swampy slipperiness of stage one being the only thing I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. I just need to get some serious practice in on wet, muddy roots before the next time – yes, there will be a next time.DSC_0224

Showbiz On Wheels

DSC_0183I spent last Thursday afternoon filming and riding with Rob Warner. No, really.

Blue Hippo Media, the people behind the enjoyable Bicycle documentary, have teamed up with Singletrack to make a film about the history of mountain biking in the UK. As with their previous effort the money to start production was raised through crowdfunding. I was a tiny part of the first real MTB boom in the UK, more years ago than I care to count, so I definitely wanted to see this film made. One of the perks on offer was a ride around an unspecified bit of Wales with Rob Warner (and a film crew). For a thirteen-year-old me Rob was one of the British mountain bike elite, along with Steve Peat, Jason McRoy and a handful of others who showed up in MBUK regularly, and in recent years his commentary on downhill world cups has been a thoroughly entertaining accompaniment to the race season. A ride in his company sounded like a recipe for a good day out in itself, and with the added feel-good factor of helping finance a film I wanted to watch I didn’t have to think for long before deciding to cough up for a place.

The unspecified bit of Wales turned out to be Coed Y Brenin, a fair drive away but by all accounts well worth the visit. In spite of its great reputation and history as the first proper trail centre in the UK I had never ridden at there before, so quite apart from riding with a genuine Legendary Name (© Singletrack), I was looking forward to seeing what the place has to offer. Our guide for the day was Daffyd Davis, one of the original movers and shakers behind the first trails built here back in the 1990s, so we had the benefit of his encyclopaedic local knowledge.  He shepherded us around a variation of the MBR route, with a few long stops to facilitate filming by the crew at various points en route.DSC_0184The film crew were mostly unobtrusive apart from the long pauses at the top of a couple of descents whilst we waited for them to set up, and occasional friendly encounters with them at the bottom of the valleys. We were incredibly lucky to fit our ride perfectly into a little weather window between Atlantic winter storms, despite a wet, grey drive out and the threat of snow in the evening. We spent four hours or so on the hills and it only started to rain once we returned to the visitor centre; we rode the whole way round in sunglasses. The trails were excellent, a nice mix of relatively natural feeling rocky singletrack with a few groomed trail-centre berms and jumps thrown in here and there, as well as the inevitable fire-road climbs linking everything up. I will definitely be back for a visit, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Riding with Rob was highly entertaining, we were regaled with anecdotes and jokes the whole way round, and it was fascinating to follow (or try to follow) him down the trails – he’s still got an amazing facility on a bike, years after doing any serious racing. He was friendly and personable and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the ride himself, all whilst keeping a professional eye on the film crew and ensuring that there was no dead air or awkward silences whilst the cameras were rolling. He was even happy to pose for the obligatory selfies we asked for.DSC_0187

Once we got back to the visitor centre there was a bit of an informal interview in the drizzle, a cup of coffee, and I set off for home having had a thoroughly brilliant time. I can’t wait to see the finished film; all being well it will première in Hebden Bridge on July 16th this summer, and I think is due to be released on DVD shortly afterwards.