Bikes, Beers and Dust: Northern Grip 2018

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Northern Grip bills itself as a mountain bike festival: a mix of social rides, bike demos and all the fun and distractions you’d expect to find at a decent sized mountain bike race, minus the actual racing. For its third edition the festival returned to Lee Quarry in Bacup, home to some properly challenging but fun trails, and handily just up the road from the Singletrack office.

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Northern Grip’s Jamie giving us an appropriate welcome

Tucked in the South Pennines about 20 miles north of Manchester, and ringed by old quarry workings and wind farms, Bacup has a bit of an otherwordly feel. The town’s rather lovely park hosted the festival and camping, with the trails just a two-minute pedal up a farm track.

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Skillz wiv da kidz

Since it started in 2016 the festival has become more family-friendly, and for the younger riders there were skills sessions, jump ramps and a seemingly never-ending pump track session. Much of this was down to the presence of Darren and Matt from Little Rippers MTB, who arranged the skills coaching and brought along ramp company Sender, whose products were being enthusiastically demoed by adults and kids alike.

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Darren and Matt want to get your kids mountain biking
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Sender’s ramps living up to their name


For the grown-ups, there were screenings of both World Cups, bands, DJs and two bars, as well as an array of shiny bikes and bits to ogle.

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Freeze! Pop!
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Two World Cups in one day

Orange had sent a full fleet of demo bikes, as had Sonder, and Alpkit were also showing off their new clothing range for mountain bikers including shorts and gloves.

Alpkit were repping new ridewear – these gloves will all set you back less than £20

Industry legend Chris Porter was preaching the gospel of radical head angles and lightweight coil shocks with a brace of Geometron bikes, but the biggest draw of the day was probably the e-bikes, with many riders seizing the chance to tackle Lee Quarry’s tough climbs with a bit of assistance.

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Can we interest sir in something longer?
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No excuse for non-matching pedals

Even though attendance was up on previous years, the event still has a small friendly feel, with a noticeable absence of queues: food, beer, loos and demo bikes were all readily available. It also helped that the trails at the Quarry were running incredibly well.

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Taking full advantage of the demo bikes and the dust

Sunday saw the stalls packed away and we headed out for a social ride led by former Singletrack staffer Benji. Taking in yet another pump track, Lee Quarry’s sister trail Cragg Quarry, and some loose and powdery natural trails, it was the perfect cure for Saturday night’s overindulgence.

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The climb up Rooley Moor Road is a guaranteed hangover cure

For more pics and video from this year’s event, and to get the scoop on Nothern Grip 2019, head to


Antony de Heveningham

Singletrack Contributor

Antony was a latecomer to the joys of riding off-road, and he’s continued to be a late adopter of many of his favourite things, including full suspension, dropper posts, 29ers, and adult responsibility. At some point he decided to compensate for his lack of natural riding talent by organising maintenance days on his local trails. This led, inadvertently, to writing for Singletrack, after one of his online rants about lazy, spoilt mountain bikers who never fix trails was spotted and reprinted on this website during a particularly slow news week.

Now based just up the road from the magazine in West Yorkshire, he’s expanded his remit to include reviews and features as well as rants. He’s also moved on from filling holes in the woods to campaigning for changes to the UK’s antiquated land access laws, and probing the relationship between mountain biking and the places we ride.

He’s a firm believer in bringing mountain biking to the people, whether that’s through affordable bikes, accessible trails, enabling technology, or supportive networks. He’s also studied sustainable transport, and will happily explain to anyone who’ll listen why the UK is a terrible place for everyday utility cycling, even though it shouldn’t be.

If that all sounds a bit worthy, he’s also happy to share tales of rides gone awry, or delicate bike parts burst asunder by ham-fisted maintenance. Because ultimately, there are enough talented professionals in mountain bike journalism, and it needs more rank amateurs.

Comments (1)

    This sounds like so much fun, especially the beer part haha! Would love to go there next time!

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