The 2019 Boltby Bash Was How All Bike Races Should Be

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The Fourth, modern-era Boltby Bash event took place this weekend in the tiny North Yorkshire village of Boltby, somewhere near Thirsk and Sutton Bank, in the middle of some stunning green Yorkshire hills. The main event is a modern-style enduro, but it has proved so popular, selling out in two hours back in November, that there is now a ‘sportive’ addition, where riders do the same course, but starting en-masse at 8am and without individual stage timing. Race directors Pete Wilkin and Chip Rafferty and their very cheerful crew made sure that the event kept the balance between ‘just serious enough’ and ‘far too fun’ and were seen between organising duties manning the litter picking, sorting the car parking and all of the other glam event organiser roles.

Stage Five, with the race village glittering in the distance.

Between those ‘here for the craic’ riders and the racers speedy enough to have entered on time, there were around a thousand riders over the weekend. And it was a proper, old school, weekend event, with camping from the Friday night, a beer tent, food, a band on Saturday night and a very relaxed vibe. There were booths from the likes of Bird, Pace, Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Hope and Wheelbase to keep shiny-hunters happy and to keep bikes working.

There were some lovely, lovely trails to ride.

There were five stages to the event, with stage 5 being off limits until race day. After a chilly night, Saturday dawned grey and a little drizzly as keen racers set off for a recce of the other four stages. Those who lingered a little over breakfast, or who arrived at midday found brightening weather and eventually, a beautiful afternoon.

You turn your back for five minutes…

The courses themselves were a mix of moors-style close-cropped grass, off cambers and grassy drops along with fresh-feeling loamy trails in the woods that relied on some decent bike handling and corner-slapping prowess. There were smiles all round at the end of each stage (even on practice day) as racers swapped near-miss and ‘coulda woulda’ stories with each other.

The well-ordered race village, complete with fire pits!
There were even pre-made packed lunches available to buy

Saturday evening treated the crowd to a glorious sunset as everyone got together to chat about the day and sink a beer or three. There was a great classic rock covers band (well liked, but a little too loud to be in the same tent as, so everyone listened from outside…). Chat was about the courses (all great, apparently, we didn’t hear a bad word said… the same couldn’t be said for the 1000m of climbing). More chat was had about the presence of Madison/Saracen pro downhiller Danny Hart, whose giant motorhome glided into the car park at dusk. Apparently  just out for a bit of a fun pedal, he’d made the short trip down from the north east to take on some trails. Apparently sight unseen too.

Sunset put on a great show

The Sunday dawned mild and pleasant, with the weather improving as the day went on. The 200 or so riders of the Sportive event left en masse at 8am, but soon spread out after the first couple of stiff climbs up to Stage 1. The ‘proper’ enduro riders left in waves from 8.30am, with the last not going out until 1.30pm, by which time many of the sportive riders (ahem) were already back and tucking into their ice creams and first portion of cheesy chips.

The bottom of Stage 2, trickier than it looked, after an even trickier start…

In all, it was a great weekend of very casual racing which called to mind the original Boltby Bash of the nineties, or the NEMBA series of races from back then, and even tones of the early ‘Ard Rock Enduros, before everyone in the world started entering. Boltby Bash still retains that grass roots/village fete feel to it, so get entering for next year (in about November) if you want to join in the fun next summer.

The ‘fork compressor’ on Stage Four
Most of the day, though, was about riding around with your mates. As it should be…

Results can be found here: Boltby Bash Results

Stage 1… I’m sure it looked steeper from the top of that roll-in…

And the event Facebook page is here: Boltby Bash

Chipps

Singletrack Editor

Chipps wasn’t around for the dawn of mountain biking in the UK, but he likes to claim that he arrived in time for second breakfast (about the time he shows up for work, then…) starting in the bike trade in 1990 and becoming a full time mountain bike journalist at the start of 1994. Over the subsequent quarter century, he has seen mountain bike culture flourish and diversify and bike technology go from rigid steel frames to fully suspended carbon fibre (and sometimes back to rigid steel as well.)

His riding style is best described as ‘medium, wheels on the ground, trail riding’ though he’s been spotted doing everything from endurance downhill racing to 24 hour cross country racing. He favours mid-travel trail bikes and claims to be wheel-size, gear, brake and tyre agnostic. In fact, his garage spans most bicycle flavours, taking in steel hardtails, carbon trail bikes, even a mountain bike tandem, along with road, touring and gravel/cyclocross bikes.

While he’s happy to chat about bikes all day, his real interest is in the people and places that bikes can introduce you to and he talks as fondly about the trails he’s ridden and riders he’s met as the bikes that took him there.

Comments (4)

    Smashing event, loved it in fact! Hopefully the entry system won’t end up the same as Ard Rock and we will be back again next year.

    Looks brilliant! One for the list

    It’s a totally rubbish event and no one should try and enter next year….

    ….think that worked.

    Still recovering now (from the beer)

    Na it was rubbish. Stay away, Definitely do not all enter next year.

    Seriously, it was my favourite weekend on the bike last year and quite possibly will be this year too.

    Just the right level of tech to be challenging but not terrifying, and wonderful dry, spongey, grippy loamy berms the likes of which I never get to ride anywhere else, ever.

    Burped my front tyre twice and dinged a rim, along with a bit of a crash and not being able to beat my times from last year makes me think maybe its time to go up form a 4″ travel bike!

    No Air (or land!) Ambulance this year either as far as I can tell, so well done everyone!

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