Last week, several intrepid journalists, intrepid industry-types, and yours truly, descended on Exmoor at the behest of Paul Newman and Mikey Wilkens, who are aiming to launch a brand new enduro event next year, in association with DMR.
People tend to be under the misapprehension that there aren’t many places in the South West with serious hills. To those who might be under that impression, I say 1750m of climbing. Per day. And, with the uplift luxury we were treated to at the beginning of each day, there was over 2200m of descending too. Oh yes.
First day of our ‘test enduro’, and I rocked up to the Burrowhayes campsite in West Luccombe, near Porlock (the place from whence a stranger came who interrupted Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s laudanum-induced Xanadu fever dream, fact fans), was briefed, faffed around, got changed, and, astride a new DMR Trailstar bike, complete with X-fusion forks and dropper, DMR cranks and 27.5+ wheels and tyres, we set off for the trails.
Actually, we rode to a minibus; the first climb was via uplift. At present this is the idea for the enduro proper, too. Scheduled vaguely for September 2016, the first climb of the day will be an uplift, before the first timed stage. So we unloaded the minibus and span the 50 metres or so to the top of Dunkery Beacon. Here, thanks to a cunning bespoke iphone app, the first timed stage started. Marshals set off first, to point the way at any contentious junctions.
Heading sharply down, through a gently widening grassy trail through the heather and bracken, the trail suddenly dropped pell-mell through a series of increasionly large limestone rocks before skirting the top of a steep sided valley. A short thrutchy climb, and some more plummeting. At the bottom, there were some punctures; there was a lot more giggling.
And so it went on. Gently climbing (or, on at least one occasion so steep many of us were off and pushing) up to the top of another descent, before screaming down some of the best natural trails – some of which had a few double-ish, jumpy features – I’ve ever ridden in this country. Winch, plummet. Winch plummet. And repeat.
Oh, there was a slap up tea stop, too. Followed by?
There was a barbeque at the end of day one, and after a few beers and a night under canvas/whatever they make tents out of these days, day 2 dawned as bright as day one.
I had to leave early, sadly (I had to drive back from Exmoor to Yorkshire – no mean undertaking. Plus, I crashed), but the trails I rode on day 2, if anything, exceeded those on day 1. Fast, grippy, super sketchy, dusty, exposed, wooded, steep, gradual, slowslowslowslowcreepystepdowns, fastfastFASTFASTSLOOOOWDOWN bits; everything. The one issue with a trial like this is that we were riding everything as fast as we could, blind. But it’s a tiny criticism. This was a hoot.
At present (this is all very tentative) this is the idea:
- a target entry fee £250 for three days riding – all food and camping facilities included. (Which seem pretty reasonable, as many places charge up to £20 per night just to camp)
- maximum 80 riders (to keep the numbers manageable)
- uplift every morning for an easier start. (oh, I like the idea of this one)
- 4-6 timed special stages
- course length 35-45km each day (which would equate to some serious altitude – despite the uplift this would be one for the climbers)
- vintage tea stop. (The tea, I imagine, is new, if you’re worried).
- evening entertainment (the exemplary Mike Wilkens Cabaret! no, I made that up. Boo)
- video diary of every day
It was a genuinely excellent couple of days. The weather had blessed us with dusty trails, guide Tim Grant and his crew had found some absolute corkers, and provided the last few organisational obstacles can be overcome I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that it will be a fantastic event: I’ll be one of the first on the start line.
But what of the bike, I hear you ask?
Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it. As the biggest size they do is a L, it was always going to be a little small for 6’4″ me, but with that caveat it was reasonably roomy (for an L). Those huge tyres (WTB Trailblazer 2.8s) enrobing nice wide 40mm WTB scraper rims gave ridiculous amounts of traction, although I did puncture it heavily; it wasn’t running tubeless. It seems to me that a hardtail with a front end like this (150mm X-Fusion fork, reasonably slack head angle) is always going to be prone to rear snakebikes if you’re running tubes; there’s no question in my mind that to get the advantages of traction on offer tubeless is the way to go.
But for all that it felt ‘peppy’; climbing wasn’t unduly affected by the larger tyres, and it didn’t feel particularly slower as a result of the increased rotational mass. So a loosely defined ‘thumbs up’ from me…
But watch this space – we’ve got one (with normal sized wheels) in to review, so we’ll give you a much more comprehensive lowdown in the near future!
Eventually, details of the EX enduro will be found here
And you can get details of DMR kit here