Talk to anyone about any cycling course that they’ve ridden in an event and ask them ‘what it was like?’ and they’ll say things like; it was really slippery, it was really stoney, it was really technical, it was really hilly, it was really flat, the toilet facilities were crap, the weather was great, the weather was crap, the post-event piss-up was massive, a burger from a food van gave them the shits and slowed them down, etc etc. The answer will focus on the usual observations that we humans make. However, let me move the event observations to a new level with the questions ‘why did you choose that event and what did the course make you feel?’.
Last weekend, I rode the 65km route of the 2022 Yorkshire Mountain Bike Marathon (YMBM, and link below). I’m not going to write about the actual ride, so don’t worry. Reading about other people’s rides doesn’t float everyone’s ‘interest boat’ just like publishing Strava data doesn’t. However, what I have written about is ‘why’ this particular ride met my own criteria for entering an event like this.
Anyway, I entered this event based on the following criteria and interest levels:
1. A chance to use a special bike: I did this cross-country style ride on a bike made in 1998. Yes, really! In addition to it being 24 years old, it has 26” wheels, which are small in comparison to today’s 27” and 29” wheels, the suspension travel amounted to a measly 80mm at the front and 100mm at the rear, and the V-brakes don’t stop the bike and rider like a modern day disc brake does. My chosen bike for the ride was the carbon-fibre Cannondale Super V Raven 2000, to give it its full name. It is actually, a very capable bike and running on a pair of Terra One Rider T1 tyres (see sidebar for more info’ on these tyres), it is a pleasure to ride and it attracted a lot of attention. So, entering on the right bike that gives you a high level of confidence and excitement is a key criteria.
2. The weather: let’s face it, the weather is always a gamble for me, other riders and organisers, and in this case, it was great!
3. Interesting people: There were 550 other riders of all levels of capability, fitness, diversity and seriousness doing either a 25, 40, 65 or 80km route, and I rode alongside and chatted to quite a few people. One interesting character I met is Roy Cass. We met at the bottom of a climb and cycled up together, just chatting inbetween breathing. Roy was on his ebike. He is 66, very tall, has had two knee replacements and has arthritis in both hands. Oh yeah, he’s also had a spot of cancer in his 50’s, although he’s fine now. I have an ebike, which a lot of our non-cycling friends call ‘the cheating bike’ (FFS!), and I love it as much as the old Cannondale. In Roy’s case, his ebike is a huge enabler and is part of his own event criteria. This event also embraced ebikes. Roy was recently featured in a post by Singletrack Magazine (link below) about how he’s on a mission to get government financial support for older, less capable people who want to get out on a bike, but have physical limitations. This would be just like the U.K. Government’s ‘ride to work scheme’. Anyway, we parted ways at the top of the climb and cracked on with the course.
4. Event organisation: The whole website, application process and entrant communication on this event was perfect. This is a good sign. There was a great halfway food and drink station. The important entrant map, which included the ‘burger and tea voucher’ to have at the end, was really well put together. Even final rankings, milestone timings and photos are available to download post-event as well.
5. The route needs to have some sort of interest: I’ll stop and take photos on the ride as any potential winnings (fat chance) from any event I enter definitely won’t fill the van with diesel, so I like interest. This event started in the grounds of a country house, so that’s the architecture interest box ticked off. The course is on land that is not accessible to the public under normal circumstances, so you get to ride in somebody else’s (big) garden. This part of East Yorkshire is called The Wolds and has a wealth of ancient history. The route even takes riders past a medieval, abandoned village. The landscape is really chalky and the ploughed fields shine really brightly with small, very white chalk stones in the soil. This gives good grip as well😉. There is a disused railway that cuts across and through this area. The route took us on a part of the old track bed and we went past the sealed up (sadly) entrance to one of the long tunnels, so that ticks the engineering interest. What I didn’t expect was for the trail to disappear into a stream for a section and then back onto dry land again. Top fun! There’s even more stuff of interest to list, but I don’t want to spoil the event if you choose to do it next year.
6. The type of pre-event preparation required: Whilst my fitness preparation wasn’t anything special like a phased training programme, I did ensure that my body was exceptionally fuelled by advanced nutrition, taken the night before in a North Yorkshire pub and dinner with friends. This advanced nutrition dinner included a starter of battered mushrooms and salad, followed by a main coarse of slow cooked belly pork, mashed potato with black pudding in it, and of course, vegetables. Hydration was a pint of beer. I didn’t have a desert, but I did have a pre-bedtime piece of toast when we had got back home. Breakfast a few hours later and pre-race was a cappuccino and two more pieces of toast.
7. The final criteria is: Would I recommend this event? Absolutely! All of my criteria above were met and I’ll do this event in the future, even though I was tired and achy at the end of it. I would also recommend it, because it doesn’t matter if you’re just out for a fun ride, need to use an ebike to keep having cycling adventures, or you’re a racing mountain goat, the YMBM is well worth doing. And, you get to ride in Yorkshire too!
Link to the Yorkshire Mountain Bike Marathon site https://www.yorkshiremountainbikemarathon.co.uk
Link to the Singletrack magazine post with Roy Cass https://singletrackworld.com/2022/05/a-grand-day-out-and-a-call-to-action/
All photos courtesy of the Author