Reports / Blog 2013
Scroll down to see the following reports...
Brennan and Steph go to Fort William for the UCI Word Cup NEW
Andy does the Gran Canaria
SSUK 2013 - Lost in Dorset
Owen`s Devon update
Bespoked Bristol 2013
Is Swinley finished?
Berkhamsted Fun Run
Afan Feb trip
Brennans Birthday ride
UCI MOUNTAIN BIKE WORLD CUP - Fort William
I must admit to feeling a little nervous about this trip. It wasn't the fact that a bunch of blokes in skirts would be referring to me as a sassenach, it was the legendary Scottish hospitality that was worrying me. Things didn't start well. Way back in March when planning this trip I booked with a B and B a few miles outside of Fort William. Upon confirming the booking, I thought it would be polite to inform my hosts that we may be arriving a little late. Not 2am late but maybe 830 or 9ish as we had to drive up from Glasgow and might stop for a bit of food. Fair enough, or so I thought. The reply was swift and straight to the point. "No"... And another thing, since it was a World Cup weekend you have to book for three days. "But I don't want to stay three days as we both have to work on Monday", I replied. "No", was the answer. Needless to say, I cancelled and did the typical Berkhamsted reaction...I wrote a strongly worded letter outlining my grievances. No reply. So by the time we left, I didn't know what our alternative hotel would be like.
Friday finally arrived. Due to Steph and I both being incredibly busy at work we both had to go in to work.I left extra early(almost on Thursday...I am not joking) and we arranged to meet at Luton to catch our flight. With minutes to spare(how fast do you have to drive to render the speed cameras useless?) we made our flight. Relief and a bit of weariness set in. Upon doing the Sleazyjet dash and securing our seats(funny nobody ever seems to argue with me about my seat choice, although the captain did ask nicely if he would be able to sit in his seat for takeoff!) I found myself sitting next to a chap that reminded me a lot of my dad. Aside from the fact that he was Scottish. Anyway, he turned out to be an extremely nice and informative bloke and he rode bikes as well. Road bikes. Which I have now decided are good as I have one. Before only losers clad in Lycra rode them. Anyway, I ended up telling him my tale. He laughed and warned me about the "service"
Upon arriving at Glasgow airport, we bade our goodbyes and made for the car hire desk. Half an hour later we were motoring up the M8 motorway bound for...Greenock. Whoops! After a quick detour we were on the right road. To be honest, we were in no great rush and the weather was absolutely stunning as was the scenery. We headed north, skirting the shores of Loch Lomond. What a sight! My heart soared. As the Americans say, this was big sky country. We both questioned why we hadn't taken the time to visit this place.
All too soon the signs for Fort William loomed into view. Unfortunately Fort William was a very ugly town. It seems they got mixed up when they built it and instead of building it facing the beautiful loch, they made it with its back to the water. Strange. But not to worry as we were about 20 minutes out of town and closer to the mountain.
A few minutes later we pulled up to the hotel. It looked like the Bates Hotel. Lights turned off and looking very inhospitable, abandoned even. "Never mind", I mused. "We are on holiday, the sun is shinning and there is a team car in the car park." Still, I had a uneasy feeling. Something wasn't quite right. We rang the doorbell and after an age, a grumpy man emerged."Yes?", he grunted." "My name is Mr World and we have a reservation." With no further words I was issued with a form to fill in with a few details. Name, address,occupation, proof of marriage, political affiliations and blood type. Kind of like the forms the Stasi made you fill out. Our genial host shuffled off to find our reservation. Behind the door his wife was also looking our names up. Cue lots of furious whispering on both sides of the door. By this time the penny had finally dropped with me. Somehow, our new hotels details had been erased and I printed this one(old) one off. I whispered to Steph "Go to the car now!" Poor Steph didn't realise what was happening. "Why?" She replied in a load voice. "Shhhhhhh!!!!, I will explain later." Just then, our lovely host popped out from behind the door with his gloating hatchet faced wife. "You cancelled in March!" Needless to say, we couldn't get out of there fast enough!! Lucky escape.
Half and hour later we were safely settled in our altogether nicer, friendlier hotel, chowing down on some of Scotland's deep fried finery. An early night beckoned as we had a busy day tomorrow.
The next morning I woke to a clear sunny sky. I was excited. It was 530 am. Steph wasn't. Begrudgingly I had to wait for a few hours whilst the rest of the world woke up. I passed the time watching videos of all my favourite downhill stars. Once up and fed and watered we headed for the next village where the shuttle bus would take us to the mountain. We stocked up on provisions in the local shop(lots of whinging locals actually having to queue for five minutes for their Benson and Hedges and Iron Bru due to the hordes of marauding tourists). Being the good antipodean and used to that burning thing in the sky, Steph suggested that we get some sun cream. "Don't be silly", I sneered. "This is Scotland, it will be raining within the hour". Cue one sunburnt head ten hours later.
We jumped on the very efficient bus which delivered us almost to the front of the queue for the gondola. Paying our entry fee, we headed into the village. This consisted of all the race teams having a marquee set up. How big the team determined the size of the marquee. GT for instance, had one the size of your average semi. On the other side of the village was loads of places selling pretty much everything associated with biking. Some very hard to resist deals. Further in to the site near the finish area was a huge grandstand and a gigantic video screen showing all the action. To top it off, there was a DJ pumping out all the latest death metal tunes.
As we wondered around the team areas I spotted within five minutes in no particular order: Gee and Rachel Atherton, Josh Bryceland, Steve Peat and Cedric Gracia. And they were just the ones I recognised! It was a really good atmosphere as you could stop and chat and watch the mechanics setting the bikes up. We spent quite a bit of time throughout the day wondering through this area and it was interesting to watch the mood change as the riders started getting ready for the qualifying heats.
Steph and I decided to catch the gondola to the top and do the course walk. Luckily, the queue wasn't too long and we quickly boarded the gondola. We shared it with a female photographer and one of the competitors. As he got on I noticed the Trek factory sponsors kit. This is one place that you don't turn up in shop bought stuff so I just assumed that he was a junior racer as I didn't quite recognise him. Steph started chatting to him and asked how long it would take for him to get down. "About five minutes" was the reply. Not knowing the track or times I didn't think about it too much. It was only when we got to the bottom that I realised five minutes was within qualifying for the elite men! As we discovered later, our new friend was the one and only Greg Williamson a local(Inverness) rider who ended up finishing tenth overall. Greg was a taste of what the downhill racing was all about. Everyone was so friendly and approachable and enthusiastic about cycling. Lucky buggers getting paid to do what they love!
We spent the next two hours wandering down the course, stopping every now and then to watch the riders and take photos. We followed the boys from the Santa Cruz pits and I must admit to ear wigging on their conversations! As we walked towards the bottom of the run, Steph asked me if I would ride this course. Yes, was my reply. Although I would be going at a tenth of the speed the pros would. It was at this point we arrived at the tight technical section through the woods. Parked up on the fire road was an ambulance with a thirty foot gap jump beyond. Maybe not that bit!!!
We eventually arrived at the bottom of the hill in time for a drink and a bit of food(I think my burger was more equestrian than bovine...). Just as we finished eating the Elite women's qualifying was starting. Steph and I rushed up to the stands and started to watch the ladies throw themselves down the mountain. It all went past in a blur. Rachel was in a different class and absolutely destroyed the rest of the field.
The sun was starting to get to me now. Yes, I too couldn't believe this was Scotland! We climbed down from the grandstand and searched for a bit of shade. There was none. It was all taken up by pasty faced Scottish. Oh well, they need it more than I do. The only place left to stand was against the hoardings at the bottom of the finish area. Best place in the house. Just as we got comfortable then men started to come down.
I must admit to getting caught up in the whole atmosphere. We cheered and banged on the hoardings until my fist hurt and my voice was hoarse. It was absolutely great to have such a close up view. Riders that came down and got a good time rode their bikes around the finish area high fiving the adoring crowd. I found myself getting in on the act and putting my hand out for the slap. I was behaving like a fourteen year old. Then Peaty came down. I went absolutely ape! I could hear Steph screaming. Unfortunately it didn't help and he finished well down but still managed to qualify. The man is nearly 40 and still tearing it up. What an absolute legend! I have nothing but respect for him. A man who clearly enjoys his work.
The course was incredibly tough on man and machine. There were loads of punctures and a few wheels completely broken. One rider was seen to be carrying his bike over the last few jumps with a completely trashed rear wheel. Mental!
After what seemed an age, Gee was in the start gate. He was so focused and set off down the course like a man possessed. Absolutely flying. Coming into the last few jumps, the noise in the finishing area was deafening. I needn't have worried, as Gee absolutely smashed it.
And then a strange thing happened. I was paying so much attention to Gee that I didn't really notice that Danny Hart was on course. And flying! He flew into the finish area and it took a few minutes to realise that he had bettered Gee's time! Brilliant, a British one, two.
What a day! We stayed a bit longer and watched some of the 4x, but to be honest, we were spent.
We caught the bus back to our car and headed into Fort William for some food. Not wanting to brave the restaurants again, we ended getting some food from the supermarket and headed back to our hotel.
Unfortunately, we had to catch our flights back the next afternoon so we couldn't witness Gee and Rachel getting their first win of the season. But a great weekend was had nonetheless.
I would highly recommend watching a World Cup downhill even if gravity riding is not your thing. In the words of the great Rob Warner, "These riders have balls like weather balloons!!!"
Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma stinky hobo mtb xc,dh island hop
A plan hatched together based on previous trips to Gran Canaria and studying Island maps, YouTube clips and 'it'll b'grand' navigation. Hitting ferries and flights to a tight schedule added drama and we frequently got lost but always ended up in new, stunning locations with killer descents.
Everything needed for the week had to be carried as each ride was unsupported and a one-way trip to the next destination, so we went commando and only carried one of everything. Tools, clothes and emergency food had to fit in a micro daypack. Luxuries beyond one pair of shorts and a tee shirt were left and everything weighed to trim grams and travel higher, further, faster.
Some big ups and big downs: Riding mostly all off-road mixing sections of xc and loads of technical rock strewn climbs and DH, plus free ride descents, cliff ledges, volcano lips and lava flows matched with mountaineering tracks.
Stats for you Strava lovin types
1) Gran Canaria Sea to Sea: 80km, climb 2855m, descend 2855m
2) Tenerife sea to summit: 83km, climb 3257m, descend 1096m
3) Tenerife volcano freeride: 44km, climb 984m, descend 3050m
4) La Palma peaks: 37km, climb 3039m descend 2992.
5) Rim of Caldera De Taburiente the world's deepest crater. Freeride day: 39km climb 2609m, descend 2586m So good we went back the next day
6) DH routes: 25km, climb 366m, descend 2144m
7) Overnight ferry to Gran Canaria: 85km, climb 1751m, descend 1697m, GC
Amazingly NO punctures (gotta love tubless)
Day by day:
1) Gran Canaria Sea to Sea: Up over and across mountain ridges to sea - An 80km sufferfest with 2790 up and down. Tough start climbing new routes in 40 degrees, fighting for traction and any bits of shade on steep rough climbs and dry river beds. Lizards scuttled in the dry scrub as I got dehydrated and body blew up said 'NO'.
Riding old favorites of ridge and cliff sections with steep boulder descents, hairpin turns accompanied with bamboo and aloe vera bushes. Final descent was endless tight switch backs on rocky singletrack dropping into a Red Bull Favela style finish of tiny farms, shacks and barking dogs over drainage pipes and screaming in to catch the Tenerife boat. Just enough time to jump in the harbor, wash body and shorts and sprint onto the ferry.
2) Climbing day: Tenerife cross-island to summit 83km climb 3257m, descend 1096m. Everyone else is suffering today, glad my blow up is history. Tenerife forestry offered shade and endless flowing singletrack trails on beds of silky pine needles. Gradually the landscape transitioned from living to dead as we climbed higher into the lava rock landscape. Opening out into stunningly beautiful national park with massive spaghetti western vistas. Kilometers of rocky ridges untouched by roads, building or human pollution.
3) Tenerife volcano ultimate free ride, 44km, climb 984m, descent 3050m
Hard climb followed by hike/climb a bike up to ride the rocky ridge
Razor sharp rocks and cliff riding, into mountain tracks and long foliage coverage DH shoots of lava rock and tight rock cobbles. Rock and drops from 3050 to the last at sea level
Pick a line
4) La Palma peaks 37km climb 3039m Descend 2992. Same again to yesterday but stopped talking photos the terrain was too immense to stop
37km climb 2570m
Climb, descend, repeat, repeat…
5) Rim of Caldera De Taburiente the world's deepest crater. Freeride uplift 39km climb 2609m, descend 2586m. Tried to climb another volcano but were stopped with threats of 20,000 euro fines for using the mountain trekking trails. Copies of our full ID and photos taken, bummer but carried on down.
6) DH routes 25km: climb 366m, descend 2144m
Squeezing out every last spin discovering new trails, natural DH runs and a redrock playbike area
Flow between the drop
7) Overnight ferry to Gran Canaria 85km climb 1751m descend1697m GC
One last fling on a new side of the island, bit of a risk in new terrain and flights to hit.
Pack, wash, flight, stop moving, sleep.
Still getting flashbacks!
SSUK 2013 - Lost in Dorset
It is only 25 miles they said...
With easier gearing in place and handlebars tightened back up we got our first taste of the Isle of Purbeck gravity assistance and it induces a big grin, in one direction at least!.... Swanage has a One way system which we got slightly the wrong way round initially, but with the sea to have a nosey at and a couple of pubs to investigate we were soon enjoying fish and chips overlooking the pier. So back up the hill then...
The group ride started out gentle enough and feeling confident we followed the crowd up to a bloody great big hill !... at which point we stopped and a mass Le Mans style start occurred followed by a non Le Mans sprint up said bloomin hill, although Lloydy and Karl gave it their best shot. It was worth it though with some big wind at the top and the winner won a Mong T shirt and some Cherry Brandy to swig on. Once everyone had made it it was a fun descent for those of us who had forks, down and on towards the golf course... After a few of us had fallen off in the sand and muddy rutty stuff we headed over towards Studland and a pub!!! where we practised our drinking again, with the beer garden full of bikers it was quite a sight. First puncture of the weekend went to Doc......... The next biggie took us onto the headland at Studland and some amazing views out across Poole harbour and to the Needles.
Free wheeling back into Swanage after a sketchy descent it was time to take over a pub again and practise our drinking, so the Red Lion was swamped and we got on it. After the BBQ and some entertaining intellectual conversation, we made our excuses you know the usual ones like I am struggling to see and stand up properly and aimed for the camp site. With Simon deciding that the floor looked a better place to ride his bike we bumped our way back up the hill again.
Tired , sunburnt and a bit squiffy we made our way back into Swanage for a chippy tea and that damn climb back up to the camp site.
Greetings MTB Berko
Just in case anyone is wondering, I am not hiding in the cellar of the Riser....I am alive and well in Devon. No, there was no canoe accident, I did not claim my life assurance, no right minded assurance company would except the risk after I disclosed, I ride with MTB Berkhamsted and drink at the Riser…
After our fantastic trip to Afan, I did this:
The MTB'ing and views are most enjoyable here, by the sea side.
I have attached a few photographs and a short movie film for your enjoyment.
There is a little something here for everyone, if any of you MTB Berko ladies, gents or families fancy taking in some fresh sea air, please have a committee meeting and send me a telegram.
PS: Anyone know where I can get a cheap GoPro?
All the best,
The Bespoke Bristol show 2013
The UK Handmade Bicycle show, now that sounds expensive.
All in all a superb eye opening event with as much bling as you can take...love it
So a gang of us headed off to Swinley this weekend to check out the new trail building and answer the question is biking as we know it there finished?
Case for the prosecution would be that homogenising the trails with the now default 'new school' built trail style of smooth all-weather surfacing and flowy, speed managed berms will make Swinley indistinguishable from all the other trail centres, be they in Wales, Cannock, Forest Of Dean, Bedgebury or wherever. It's McMTBing - identikit tracks bulldozed through the forest with no sense of character or flavour according to the surroundings.
Furthermore by closing off much of the rest of the trail network that's evolved over the years and herding bikers onto this one trail - give with one hand take with the other and all that - could be seen as buying us off and sets a dangerous precedent for other areas like Surrey Hills or even Ashridge.
Do we want to be forced onto managed, man-made trails or free to ride where we want?
Well, anyone who's tried riding locally in the last … year will know full well how rubbish 'natural' trails can be in the off-season. Borderline unrideable in some cases, hence the rush to go roadie among many of us. Guilty as charged.
And Swinley is a slightly different proposition from many of the other places where trail networks have evolved and grown of their own accord, like Surrey Hills. Read the interesting piece for more on the comparisons there. Read more
Swinley is no natural paradise remember. It's a commercial forest, close to London with a Go Ape, a pay and display car park and a huge number of visitors on foot, on bike and on hoof. Difficult to manage and, yes, to an extent a theme park for outdoorsy types. A few ambulance chasers haven't helped either, by all accounts. Read more
The six-mile blue trail that's the first of the new network to open at Swinley *is* good fun to ride and makes fantastic use of the limited gradients available. There are some properly flat out and open sections that both look hugely impressive given the terrain available and have been brilliantly built to keep your speed and make the most of what's there. The surface looks like it'll hold up even when the weather is crap and it's accommodating of a huge range of ability and fitness - you could happily take someone very new to MTBing round it and it wouldn't wear them out physically or scare them senseless. Similarly if you're on your game and ready to rip you'll enjoy it too. So long as you don't meet too many of the former along the way.
It is contrived. It is smooth under wheel. And it is, to an extent, following the familiar blueprint. But when you do end up on some of the scraps of pre-existing trail that you can still access you realise it was far from perfect as-was.
It is what it is - convenience food mountain biking. But given how bad the local trails are currently and the context of Swinley itself it's not the end of the world. It's nearby. It's a good test of technique. It's accommodating of all types of bike, rider and fitness level. It's a laugh to blast around.
Bigger picture there are some concerns about the spread of these manufactured trails and what they mean for access. I can see Woburn taking a great deal of interest in what's been done and wouldn't be surprised if something similar happens there in the not too distant. No need to despair yet though - just get out and ride!
Berkhamsted Fun Run
There were also some of my raiders football mates running it as well, this is us at the start...
The run was very hard but great fun and I am already looking forward to doing it next year
We finished in good time I got an ice cream and we cheered all the other runners who came in after us… Dave C and the Wags also took part and we saw them running..
Alex ran the half marathon which I guess would be really hard so well done to her , me and my dad and connor are going to do the Gaddason gallop next month which is 10k
AFAN Feb 2013
Tim's version of this is times it by 2.... (he's back, bless him)
So the temperature is in minus figures, there is lots of snow and it isn't melting everyone is wrapped up to their eyeballs in thermal super wicking hyper technology apart from Lloydy who is still in shorts!!! It must be Brennan's birthday or something?.
I am still staggered not only by the turn out of keen riders of which there was a dozen or 15 so of us, but also how much Ashridge looks like South Wales in the snow!... must of been an optical illusion and we hadn't even been to the pub at this point or I slept the whole way down the M4!
The plan was to ride via Ashridge to the Kings Arms in Tring for some lunch and maybe a pint then back to Berkhamsted for maybe another pint all in celebration of Brennan making 50 again, the plan started well until we hit trails that were under the snow somewhere and felt nothing like they did the Wednesday night ride before. It was slow and tough going until we caught the monument path up towards Kite Hill and found ourselves in some thigh deep snow drifts. Managing to keep out of the way of the kids sledging down the hill we made our excuses and got off the high ground pretty quickly. Up to now the tumble and spill count had been reasonably low with some minor mishaps from Pierre and Rich 3rd until Tom christened his new 29er and fancied a roll in the snow with quite an impressive flip and forward roll.. Thankfully he was fine and brushed off the snow and got straight back on his steed.
The Kings Arms was open, serving blondes in pint glasses and was doing food... with us in position and a pile of outdoor clothing steaming by the fire including Lloydys thermal G string, the chat turned to Go pros and the usual lovely drivel of Prince Alberts, bikes and Tony Powers stunt antics at the pub on Friday.
Tring Park wasn't any easier in the snow but as with all of our surroundings the snow made it all look stunning if not a little chilly and testing to navigate, with the climb up feeling very heavy with lunch on board we were soon scooting down the road back towards Champneys and the relative safety of Berko. Realising that the group had split up it became clear that Brenn had had a double puncture and was feeling a little deflated so we thought we would wait for him in the Lamb, then the Riser where he caught up with us after going home for the bumps of Steph first.
The Riser was packed with some cheese sniffing event going on and after 18 odd miles , 18 odd pints and 18 odd Tesco horse burger jokes it was time to saddle up and wobble off home.
All in all a great day in the snow with your mates and nobody had to wear Brennans gag!
Check out the fantastic video below of the day`s events from Rich3rd....