Eastridge Woods in Shropshire has been used for mountain bike racing for as long as there’s been mountain biking the UK. It’s hosted national cross country and downhill events in years past and the area is well known for quality riding both downhill and cross country – which neatly brings us on to why web-boy Jon headed over there the other weekend.
The fourth round of the UK’s newest race series, SixSixOne UK Gravity Enduro, is going to be held on the technical, tight and flowing trails in the woods there. The race series aims to bring the best parts of downhill and cross country racing together in a format that rewards bike handling skill just as much as fitness.
The format is simple, much like car rallying – in each race you are timed on the five downhill stages, all of which are linked with non-competitive riding sections where you’ll be able to recover as well as enjoy the vibe.
The riding will be more fun and challenging than any cross country race and you’ll do more riding and less waiting than at a downhill event. It’s for this reason that the Gravity Enduro format is massively popular in Europe, with many British riders travelling thousands of miles to take part in this kind of event. One-off event along these lines have been run in the UK before with varying degrees of success, but now UK riders will finally have a proper series with five events spread across the whole of the country.
The timed downhill sections will involve some flat out pedalling as well as technically challenging parts and the linking stages, although mostly uphill, will have a minimum of fireroad slogging and use singletrack wherever possible. They only have to be completed within a generous set time rather than raced, so there’s no need to kill yourself getting to the next stage.
At the trails that the event will be held on at Eastridge there was an excellent mix of challenging, rocky, rooty downhill
trails including the famous Topography run. Steve Parr and his team have also built some beautifully flowing singletrack linking stages too. At the Eastridge course, of the 20km of riding that the event will take in, only around 200m will be fireroad climbing.
What bike do you need to take part? Think lightweight but strong 5-6″ travel machines but basically any bike will do. Bear in mind you’ll need to pick the best compromise between flat out downhill speed and all-day endurance, so if you take a long travel bike then you’ll need to take it back up the hill under you own power.
I was riding my 120mm travel Ghost AMR and it was more than enough to cope with the downs. I was being shown around by a group that included some very fast riders, including Elite racers Alex and James from the Leisure Lakes/Yeti team (follow them on the Twitterbox at @YetiUkGravity) who also helped build the trails around here – definitely ones to watch come race day.
The riding was great fun – a full day out combined with some really fun sections of downhill that were enough to be challenging on a trail bike without intimidating. It’s a course and format that should allow all kinds of riders to put themselves to the test, whether they want a podium place or if they just want to beat their mates. It should be a full weekend of riding for your money too, with practise and seeding runs on the Saturday before race day on Sunday.
The organisers promise accurate timing, a well supported arena and there’s a whole host of sponsors offering plenty of prizes to be won at each round. I’m really looking forward to the event – it should prove to be a proper race for riders who lack enthusiasm for hurting themselves round a field or don’t fancy buying a bike just for .
Head to the 661 UK Gravity Enduro site for more info, plus a quick look at each of the rounds. Entries are filling up fast, so if you fancy a bit of racing with a difference you should probably get moving while there are still places…