Saturday 4th March 2017 eMTB Race
Round one of the Haibike mini enduro at Bike Park Wales. I’d managed to get over to Bike Park Wales a couple of times in February to have a practice and scout out the new lines. The boys there are always re-building and developing the trails as well as adding more! 1st practice day hadn’t gone so well after landing quite hard and using up all 180mm the fox 36’s had to offer, I’d twisted my bars and sprained my wrist. A couple of orange volume spacers soon had this rectified for practice number 2 however. A half dozen runs in some of Wales’s finest rain!
The plan was to meet up with Nathan at 08:15 at BPW in order to get a parking space. Due to Nathan’s Sat-Nav (ok, that’s the excuse he’s sticking to) he ended up arriving closer to 09:00 which gave me time to start the practice runs on the 4 chosen trails.
Run 1 Hot Stepper- Graded red
Run 2 Dai Hard- Graded black
Run 3 Wibbly wobbly in to Rim dinger- Graded red
Run 4 E-bike challenge on a section of the XC Climb
Bike Park Wales is most enjoyable when the up-lift service is taken advantage of as the climb can be quite steep in places and is a fair old ride. However with the power set to sport my Haibike sailed up the hill. Spotting the start to the E-bike challenge I ducked in and blasted along the XC climb. A stretch of single track that snakes its way through the forest, round tight bends and over plenty of roots. To ride the trail on a conventional bike would be slow and hard work but on the E-bike it’s a flat out ride but it’s true that you will only get the bike to the end through concentration and skill.
The end of the E-bike challenge spits you out just by the start of stage 1- “Hot stepper” This trail takes in parts of “Terry’s Belle” and at 1.6k long is a good test of stamina. It has a variety of surfaces from hard pack with rock drops and tight berms to thick mud and wet roots. A gentle(ish) ride down through the morning mist soon blew out the cobwebs. There was a little confusion on where to push/ride back up as the trail finished at the bottom of “Hot stepper where you would normally ride the last leg of “Terry’s Belle” back to the uplift bus stop and this found me heading in to a small crowd of riders trying to get push back up the trail.
At long last Nathan appeared on the most unlikely of bikes for an enduro event at Riese & Muller Delite Mountain. With its twin batteries and 100mm of front and rear travel with some plus size Nobby Nic’s. Fantastic for day long trekking adventures but not flat out racing! We casually chat as we make our way back up the hill passing wave after wave of people pushing their bikes up to the start lines! The rain decides to make an appearance now making what was once a damp hill a rather wet one. We head over to the starting point of Dai Hard. There is a little run in to a gap jump at the start of this trail that is often found intimidating, however today the start line had been placed 20 meters past this so we made our way to the start Nathan was out in front and was very impressive considering the bike he was on. The 1st section of the trail is narrow single track weaving between the trees with nothing very challenging except for the speed you’re prepared to ride at. Just as you burst out of the trees into a left turn and down a good sized drop with plenty of roots and mud on it we hit traffic. It appears this is a little too much for some and there is now a crowd stood around. With no possible run in we are forced to dismount and climb down the drop. Once we have a bit of room we climb aboard and continue. The rain and a few hundred riders have churned up the mud in this exposed section of trail and it’s become quite challenging on some corners where the tyres have to submerge through several inches of mud to find purchase. A few more corners and a fair jump (if taken at speed) later and we are done.
It’s more of the same as we make our way back up to the start of Wibbly wobbly. With the rain coming down I struggle to decide if it’s better to ride without goggles or risk them steaming up. I put them on and within 100 or so metres I can’t see my handle bars let alone any of the trail. I pull over and let Nathan pass as I remove my goggles. With the rain and dirt hitting my eyes I ride on the side of caution as I know this trail quite well. It’s of similar fashion to most bike park trails, hard pack surface so it runs fast and the water clears well, a number of jumps and a few table tops all joined together by some lovely berms and proper rollercoaster single track. Once down the 1st section you are spat out and cross the fire road and head in to Rim Dinger. As the name suggests it’s a rather rocky affair with plenty of rocks and slabs to navigate your way round or more often over. My wrists are screaming and I can only imagine how Nathan and his 100mm are getting on with the never-ending onslaught of square edge hits. We coast to the end realizing that the racing is going to be challenging but an awful lot of fun. I head to the centre to get some lunch as Nathan heads off to do some more practice runs. It’s only 11:30 and my 1st run time isn’t until 15:40 so I try and stay warm and not over-eat.
One of the best things about E-bikes is the community spirit and I’m soon chatting to Dan. I first met him at the FoD mini enduro back in 2016 and we get chatting about our bikes and what we have done to them (ok, what I have done to mine as I can’t leave anything standard). A quick change in to some fresh clothes and it’s time so make our way to the start. Spirits are high despite the weather and we are all keen to put in some good race runs. As we make our way up I notice that my front wheel keeps “popping up” and my legs are rubbing on the gear and brake lines. A quick look at the shock and I see that it’s sitting about 60% into its travel. A few choice words to no one in particular and I head back down to grab a shock pump. No, it’s still showing 210 psi (my normal is 214psi). Bugger it! My first thought is that the seal between the positive and negative air chamber has blown. The staff in the shop are flat out trying to help fellow racers and get them back on the side of the hill. A few twists of the dials and its confirmed, the seals have gone and my day is over! I head back up the hill to tell the guys what’s happened and that I’m out. As I approach the E-bike challenge I decide sod it, I’ll give it a go. With my pedals and crank arms grounding out over every bump, rock and root I know it’ll be a poor time but that’s not the point now I just want to place a time on one stage.
At the start to stage 1 I give them the bad news, I have to get back down the hill so I arrange to be the last rider of the day and try and clock a time. Mike from Haibike offers to lend me a spare bike but I decide to decline as I’m rather peculiar about my bike setup. After everyone has set off I get called up and make a start of what I’m sure is the slowest ever run of Hot Stepper. The bike is grinding out on almost every rock or jump and my crank arms bounce of the floor on any miss timed stroke. I’m just glad that Haibike made these bikes to last. I come to a 3ft rock drop and am forced to get off and pull the bike down for fear of breaking the bike any more. I eventually cross the line in 6min 22 seconds. Over 2 minutes slower than the person ahead of me. I return to the trail centre and hand in my timing chip. There is only one thing left to do, go and cheer on my fellow E-bikers. Nathan takes a couple of falls on Dai Hard but still puts in respectable times considering he is on 100mm, everyone else is on a minimum of 140mm of travel.
We get changed and pack up. It may not have been the day we were hoping for but that’s racing. We set off on our separate ways and my thoughts drift onto the next round, Sunday 30th at the Forest of Dean.
See you there.