It’s time for the annual pre-Bikefest spruce-up of the trails. Come along and banish blown-out corners, buff up berms, and barbecue burger!
Meet at 11.00 am at the Golf Course car park (let the golf kiosk know you’re there for the trail day to receive free parking) or wander along later in the day. We’ll be concentrating on the Beggar Bush Lane section of the trail, although we may branch out later in the day – give me a ring on 0771 265 0857 if you need directions. As usual, tools, materials and work gloves will be supplied, and there will also be a barbecue for anyone who sticks around until the end (at 4 pm-ish).
View Ashton Court maintenance in a larger map
Those of us who like exploring the countryside beyond purpose-built mountain bike trails have known for a long time about the UK’s bridleway and byway network, and how fun it can be to ride. Areas like the Brecon Beacons, the Long Mynd, the Peaks and the Lake District are legendary destinations for mountain bikers because of their bridleway networks, and while the riding around Bristol and Bath might not be quite as well-known, we have our own gems within riding distance of both cities.
This could all be under threat, thanks to the worrying trend for local authorities to carry out quick repairs to paths which rob them of all their character and riding interest. The latest casualty is the top section of Blue Pig, near Hebden Bridge, the track that gave its name to the popular Ragley bikes model. The rocky delights of Pipehouse Lane near Bath (pictured below) were buried in type 1 aggregate last year, prompting outrage from local riders, and the legendary Gap Route in the Brecon Beacons has also received the smoothing treatment, covering over the trademark rock steps which used to draw mountain bikers from across the UK. There are plenty more examples of heavy-handed repairs here, if you’re inclined.
Update: date changed to Sunday 7 April
Last month we were over in Ashton Court, this month it’s the turn of its muddier, rootier little brother. If you’ve ridden in 50 Acre Wood lately you’ll know that it’s holding up surprisingly well, thanks largely to the sterling efforts of the volunteers.
But there’s one truly awful section left, over by the top layby on Weir Lane, and that’s where we’ll be focusing our efforts on Sunday 7 April. The plan is to armour up a solid line and possibly build some sort of optional technical climb for people to practice their wheel lifts and power-gurns.
We’ll be meeting at the start of the trail (by the squeeze stile) at the slightly more civilised time of 11.00 am but you’re welcome to turn up later. The clocks going forward means we’ll have an extra hour of daylight to play with, so we should be out until around 4.00 pm. As ever, we’ll supply the tools and the woods will supply the stone. Just wear some clothes you don’t mind getting muddy, some sturdy footwear and bring some food and water if you’re planning to stay all day.
Also after being resurfaced the car park at Abbots Pool is open again. Please park here or on Weir Lane, to avoid annoying the residents near the entrance of the rugby club.
View Fifty Acre Wood trail in a larger map
It’s not often we get excited about something as mundane as cleaning a bike, but this is an exception. The long-awaited bike wash at Ashton Court is finally installed. It’s located at the golf and cycle centre, with tokens available from the golf hire shop, next door to the café. Tokens cost £1 and can be purchased until shortly before the estate closes; apparently they can also be used out of hours. So no more excuses for a dirty bike; just go easy on your bearings!
The last couple of years have seen an explosion of official tracks where you can get your pump and jump on. Find your nearest one and hone your trail techniques, style it up with your mates, or just watch the locals show you how it’s done.
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For an idea of what to expect, here’s a video of one of the bigger ones, at Stockwood.
Our brothers in trail maintenance at MB Swindon have put out a call for help at this Sunday’s trail day. Sling your bike in the car (or book it onto the train), take a short trip up the M4, help to undo some of the ravages of winter, and stick around for a quick circuit of the super-fun little trail they’ve built. They’ll even ply you with beer (Presumably a take-out option is available).
You know the old expression “A trail day in time saves nine”? Nope, me neither. But after a wet summer and a positively incontinent winter, the Nova trail is due a spot of preventative maintenance, so please come out and lend a hand.
We’re meeting at 10.00 am at the “roundabout” (the place with the benches where the Quarry and New Barn Wood trails meet) and should be out until early afternoon. Tools and materials supplied – just bring your digging muscles, some grippy shoes and some food and water if you’re planning to stay all day. Parking is available inside the Longwood Lane entrance to the Estate (don’t park on the road unless you want a ticket – a couple of people will have keys to the gate). It should be easy to find us but if you’re having trouble ring my mobile on 0771 265 0857.
And don’t forget to tell all your friends. As the old saying goes, “Many hands make trail fun”. Maybe.
View Ashton Court maintenance in a larger map
If you’re anything like me, the combination of grey skies, post-Christmas apathy and countryside that resembles a mud-flavoured Slush Puppy may have your enthusiasm for riding waning. But fear not, for this is also the season when event organisers start announcing the treats that they’ve got lined up for us. Here’s a quick round-up of the good stuff that’s headed our way in 2013.
It’d be rude not to start with our local events Bikefest and Oktoberfest. Yep, entry is open already for 12 (and 8) hours of fast and furious relay racing round Ashton Court. If you’re wondering what the point of paying to ride your local trails is, bear in mind that racing head-to-head against a few thousand other people for 12 hours is a completely different beast to doing a lap or two with friends.
Another (fairly) local endurance race is the Bontrager 24/12 (July 27/28). As the name suggests it’s a choice of 24 or 12 hours, in a team of up to 5. What sets this one apart from the other English endurance races I’ve done is the amazing course, which takes in everything from windswept moorland to woodland bombholes. If it was your local trail you’d be ragging it every week. It’s quieter and more friendly than some of the big events too.
The daddy of UK 24 hour races is Mountain Mayhem (15/16 June) which this year gets a new venue and supposedly a more weatherproof course. Some people love the sloppy conditions that seem to be part and parcel of UK endurance racing, but if you’re sick of them, head abroad. The 24h Finale Ligure (1/2 July) on the Italian Riviera comes highly recommended, with espressos on tap and a dusty cliff-top course, and the local riding isn’t too shabby either.
Like pisspot and goggles-clad mushrooms, Enduro events are popping up all over the South West. A new one last year was the Mondraker Gravity Rally (6/7 July) on Exmoor. The people I know who took part in the first edition have already put their entries in for this year’s, which tells you something. It also looks like MTB events will be returning to the singletrack goldmine of the Quantocks, via a round of the XFusion Enduro 1 series (17 March).
They might be slightly less trendy, but “big day out” events are more popular than ever, with both the HONC (14 April) and the Heaven of the South (17-19 May) already sold out. If you were thinking of doing either, you can sign up to the reserve lists, or there are usually spare tickets going on the Singletrackworld forum a week or two beforehand. The venerable MTB Marathon series features loads of Welsh venues again, kicking off with Builith Wells on 13 April.
The Hell of the West (6 October) was another new event for last year, which features around 60 miles of super-tough road and dirt in the Dartmoor National Park. You can read my review of last year’s event here. Slightly less murderous and a bit closer to home, MB Swindon are running their Prospect Hospice ride (28 April). The riding’s not exactly a tech-fest but the views from the Ridgway are awesome.
If you’re suffering from withdrawal symptoms after the end of the cyclocross season, Morvelo Citycross (3 March) looks reet (as they say locally), with 30-minute motos held in the rubble-strewn grounds of a derelict mill. Just make sure your tetanus jabs are up to date.
And finally, if you do one event you’ve never done before in 2013, try and make it coming to a trail day. Hint hint.
It’s a tad sloppy up in 50 Acre Wood at the moment, particularly in the top section of the trail, which was last worked on well over a year ago. So on the first Saturday in February we’re going to head out, do a bit of armouring, rebuild some of the worn-away trail features and generally restore some of the flow. Tools and materials provided, cake requests taken.
We’re meeting at 10.00 am by the squeeze stile at the start of the trail, or you can join in later if you prefer. Grippy footwear strongly recommended as it’s going to be a muddy one!
Not been on a trail day before? Got questions? Have a look here.
View Fifty Acre Wood trail in a larger map
This week was one year since the official opening of the revamped mountain bike trails in Bristol. By way of a celebration, project creators 1 South West invited a few key players along. We were there, so were trail designers Architrail, XC legend Oli Beckingsale and Devon trials chap Andrei Burton, who entertained everyone with some moves on the new waymarking signs.
The big story though was the presence of Bristol Mayor George Ferguson. He didn’t stop for long, but had some glowing things to say about the new trail, and even wants to ride the whole thing when time permits.
The other reason for the event was to officially confirm the sponsorship of the trails by Avanti Bikes. Aptly, Avanti’s UK distributor Paligap have been a long-time supporter of Bristol Bikefest and have also showered us with dig day prizes in the past too, so it’s great to see them stepping up with a much-needed offer of support.
After a few years of uncertainty and comparative neglect, it’s great to see the importance of the trails to Bristol being recognised at the highest level of officialdom. Not to mention the hard work of the people who brought them into being.