I’ve always had respect for competitors who race both disciplines but always thought it would be cool to give Eduro racing a go. It looks awesome, the racing is so intense and it can be down to a split seconds which can win or loose you the race.
As a Mountain XC racer I only rode hardtails meaning I didn’t really have the bike to compete at the Enduro racing but it was only coming into this season that I had the opportunity to get a bike which would be suitable to race on. I took a jump last year setting my own coaching business up ‘No Limits Cycling’, it’s been the best decision I have made. Opening so many doors and creating lots of amazing opportunities. I started off coaching on my hardtail 29er training bike as that was the only bike I had at the time. As I could be out in the saddle up to 5 hours on some courses I decided it would be best to start looking for a full suspension bike to make life a little bit easier. It was only just before Christmas when I was out on a ride with a group of riders leading a ride at Dalby Forest, when I got talking to Dickon who is the owner of Jungle Products, bringing some of the best Mountain bikes into the Country. Dickon was super supportive and said he would be pleased to support me on the trails by sorting me out with a full suspension MTB. In the end after looking at both Santa Cruz and Niners, I decided to go for a Niner Jet 9 RDO, and what a decision I have made! The bike is an absolute dream and I am over the moon with it. The perfect bike for everything I need it for! A huge thanks once again to the guys at Jungle. Check them out at
So, there you go .. opening my own business lead to another opportunity! After looking on British Cycling and upcoming events I found a event at Hamsterley Forest that fitted in perfect to my diary. It was organised by Northern Downhill and was their first round which was on the 12th February. I entered the event and starting getting out on the NIner as much as I could, the training going into the event was completely different to XC racing, instead of attacking on the climbs and recovering on the descents, it was the opposite.. Attacking on the descents and recovering on the climbs (it was weird).
I was really excited going into the event and it soon came round, we decided to make a weekend of it and go away in the motorhome. We stayed not far from the event at this really nice camp site. The morning soon came round and it was time to head to the race, not knowing what to expect. We arrived at the race venue in good time and the car park was already chocker block with spectators and competitors. There was snow on the ground and big puddles dotting around the car park (we were in for a muddy one). I went and signed on and had a look what people were riding, I was surprised to see so many downhill bikes! At the sign on tent we were told we were only going to ride 2 stages as the snow was too bad to include the graded trails. We had 2 runs on each stage, ‘4X’ and ‘The Edge’. I had to choose a start time and decide which run I wanted to do first.. I went for ‘The Edge’, I liked the sound of it! Back to the motorhome, kit on and bike out. Time to hit practice.
I made my way up the climb to the first stage, I was on my own and as I didn’t really know what I was doing I decided to ask around, I got chatting to two local lads who were really helpful and I got on with them really well so we ending up riding most of practice together and also the majority of the race (from the bottom to the top). After having one run down both of the stage I was really excited to put some times in and start racing. Both runs were tricky and made even more technical with the harsh conditions. The local lads were saying ‘it’s more like a downhill race than an enduro’, that got me even more excited … I like a challenge.
Race time! For anyone who knows what XC racing involves it means.. On the rollers, headphone on, zone out, down talk to anyone, hit the start line, full gas from the gun until the end. Not Enduro, have a chat .. to everyone, make your way up to the start of the stage, have a laugh and a chat at the top of the stage, hit the start line and let it all go! I put too much pressure on myself on my first run meaning I made more mistakes than I should. The top section was exposed to the routes and was super slippery, after only doing one practice run and not studying lines, I know I could of made up time on that top section. Mid way down the section there was a board walk, I’ve never been to keen for board walks, always had a fear of slipping out. So didn’t push as hard as I could of on that section meaning I came into the rock garden leading off the boards with less momentum than I should of. The feeling getting to the bottom of the fun was something else, everyone was buzzing and so stoked getting kicked out of the last shoot! I could ride that all day!
1 run down, 3 to go. When I got to the bottom of my first run I had to go through the car park and it was surreal stopping during a race to stroke my dog and ride along side my girlfriend … Actually talking in a race! I headed back up the climb with one of the lads I got friendly with during practice. We were discussing our runs and how they had gone. Said goodbye and heading to our next stage. I was on the ‘4X’ stage now, this started on the 4X track including a double before heading into the woodland. I was pedalling hard but once again didn’t feel as fast as I know I could of gone. Although I didn’t make as many mistake on that one as I did on my first run I was eager to better it on my second attempt. At the bottom of the run there was a stream crossing you could do to get back the car park (It was cold and snowing) Bike on my bag and I decided to hike back up onto the main climb with my bike on my shoulder (as did a lot of people).
It was my last and final run on ‘The Edge’ so I wanted to give it my all. I hit the first corners hard but still couldn’t get the top section as dialled as I knew I could.. Not to worry I was having fun and knew the rock garden leading into the shoot was coming up and I was excited for that! ‘WOOOOOOO’, as I ended the stage with a massive smile on my first. Time to head back up that climb for the last time to ride the ‘4X’ stage … I put the pace on up the last climb as I was excited to get to the top to race my last stage. Only to get there and be queuing in the snow for around 10 minutes.
The snow was laying at the top, leaving a good covered (the photos looked awesome). I was kicking myself that there were no photographers on the double jump as I got that perfect and even added in a cheeky whip. The conditions were brutal, starting in the snow and the further down the course you got the more standing water and mud you were faced with. I got the bottom where I was greeted by my girlfriend and her dad, but no Alfie – dog (he had gone from white to black and was back at the motorhome .. but just like me, he had a great day!!)
I really enjoyed my insight to Enduro racing, and recommend if you haven’t already .. give it a go! The Northern Downhill events are well organised and a great first event for anyone looking to give Enduro racing a go. For me the result wasn’t really important, I just wanted to give on a go and see how it went. However as a competitor and racing XC at a high level, results are always important. So I hung around and waiting for my result to show on screen, my category was 19-29 which was one of the toughest categories and with a strong field and a lot of riders I was happy to finish just outside the top 20 with not a lot of time difference from the top 10. Not knowing the course and only having my 120mm Niner a couple of weeks meant I was at a slight disadvantage but I will be back and I will be racing more Enduro’s this season and am most certainly are looking forward to it! If you fancy giving Enduro a go and need more information click here.