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Race Report – 2019 National Downhill Championships – Emily Turner

emily_turner_national_champs_2019_race_run

Photo: JWDT Photography

I didn’t get to race national champs last year because I couldn’t get the time off work for another Scotland trip, so when I heard it was going to be at Revolution Bikepark in 2019 I was mega excited and it was my biggest motivation for racing this year.

I absolutely love Revs, the race track was the top of Ffar side which has a couple of fast jumps, then in to the steeper more technical ginger bobcat with its tight switchbacks and drops, then back on to the bottom of mainline, flat out straight through a few stumps and rocks section then back out in to the open to finish off on a few free ride style wide open jumps and in to the finish. Riding the track a few weeks before the race I loved it and I was buzzing for race weekend.

On the journey up on Friday night it looked like the weather might make things pretty interesting. I arrived too late to track walk Friday night, but catching up with teammate Becca when I arrived made me wonder what I’d let myself in for. I got up early Saturday morning and headed up for track walk. It was wet and muddy… really muddy. Let’s just say it was a challenge to stay on your feet and there were a few bits on the track that looked like they were going to get a bit wild after a few hundred riders came down. The drop in to the steep shoot and tight right hander one of the sketchiest looking bits of the track.

We headed up for practice and we weren’t wrong, it was wild. Most riders having to put feet down and red flag after red flag as riders slid their way down. Somehow I made it down without crashing, apparently I wasn’t the only one surprised at that, as me and teammate Becca got on the uplift for our second run, Jack Reading said he was surprised to see us again so soon because he thought we would still be stuck somewhere half way down the track (cheers pal!). I guess you’ve got to take those backhanded compliments when you get them.

I actually really enjoyed practice and felt like I was getting in to the flow of things and managing to stay “relaxed” and let the bike do the work, I normally panic in muddy conditions so this was a big achievement for me. The track dried up over the day but we called it pretty early while we were still injury free.

Saturday night was the 50to01 “bowl jam” at the bike park and a viewing of Veronique Sandler’s Vision Movie. I love a big jump line and a trick or two, so for me this movie ticks a lot of boxes. And sure, the fact it features a tonne of bad ass ladies just makes it even better. Now I’m super pumped to start getting a bit more daring in the air, eeek!

Sunday morning practice, I didn’t get on quite so well as I had on Saturday, I probably got a bit carried away trying to hit pace on the first run and struggled to keep it clean. Second practice run was better so I figured seeding would be good. Unfortunately, seeding was all round a bit of a disaster, I could see the rider in front almost as soon as I dropped in to ginger bobcat, just over a minute into my run. I had been dreading this happening, I had learned from practice that you can’t hit your breaks on that slippy clay mud and you can’t really safely stop, and you definitely can’t over take. What do you do? I figured it was only seeding, so I just held back and waited until the end of gingerbob cat to yell rider, the rider pulled over but I’d lost my flow and a few seconds later I crashed, cleats full of mud, couldn’t clip back in for the whole of main line and finished in 5th after seeding.

The commissionaires assured me that the girls should have been running fastest to slowest and it was a printing error that this wasn’t the case on the sheet and advised me to correct the order at the top for race runs, but an objection from one of the other girls meant that we ran slowest to fastest again on race runs, so I set off in the same place as I had for seeding. I tried to get an extra gap so I wasn’t setting off as close, but that wasn’t allowed.

So I went into my race run in a pretty rubbish mental state, frustrated and worrying about catching up with the rider in front. Luckily the girl in front had a much better run than seeding and I didn’t catch her until I came in to main line and followed her to the finish.

I finished in 3rd, my first podium of the season and super happy to share it with Ami our well-deserved masters national champ! I hope we see some more races at Revolution bike park soon because I love the tracks and it was an all round good weekend!

Emily Turner, Flow MTB rider
emily_turner_national_champs_2019


Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing100% UKGlower ClothingFINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.

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Race Report – 2019 National Downhill Championships – Rebecca Smith

Photo: JWDT Photography

Swampageddon and bog snorkeling at the 2019 National Downhill Championships

As National Champs approached I was feeling increasingly nervous. There were a lot of people wishing me luck and hoping I retained my title which was lovely but also led to a feeling of pressure I was not used to. I roughly knew who had entered and knew that the chances of retaining the title were very slim! Now don’t get me wrong I always go to a race wanting to win but I also set my goals realistically. So if there are 4 people there who are normally faster than me I might set a goal to beat one of them, improve my time from last year by 10% or hit a particular line/feature that I’ve previously not done. Heading in to national champs I wanted to win but my goal was to place 4th or higher. That would mean beating at least 1 person who is normally faster than me so a pretty tall order but a good goal.

The forecast for the weekend was terrible and at the 2 week mark looked like rain for the 4 days beforehand and all day Saturday and Sunday. By the time Thursday came around the forecast had changed; there had been some rain in the week with heavy rain predicted for Friday but Saturday changed to showers and Sunday to dry with sunny spells… in my experience it’s always wet in the Nog! Many others tell me that the tracks can be dry but I’ve yet to see it myself!!

Driving there on Friday I was pleasantly surprised at how dry the weather was until I was about 10 miles away and the rain started. When I got to 3 miles away the road turned into a river and the rain was so hard I couldn’t see out of my windscreen. Pulling over in a layby until I could see again I was worried about getting my car stuck in the camping field and how wet I was going to get as I put up my tent and walked the track. Oh well I had my waterproofs with me and it looked like I was going to get some use out of them.

The rain magically stopped and I put my tent up in the dry, I caught up with friends and then went to sign on. There were 6 girls racing in the category which was double the number of previous years, awesome!!! As I started up the track I was not surprised to see a large number of people coming down covered in mud where they had done sections of the track on the floor! It looked like Revs was running true to form and I expected a sloppy track walk. I wasn’t disappointed and the track was covered in slop or slippery slate but I made a huge effort to stay off the floor and keep myself clean so that I could at least start the weekend without a coating of mud haha!

There were a few sections of track that I was pretty sure I couldn’t ride. I had only ridden the track once before on a last minute visit a few weeks ago and it had been wet but not this wet. That one run saw me hit a tree and fall off twice and I was fairly certain that in the current conditions it was going to be much worse than that! Team mate Emily arrived and was also feeling a bit wary of the track but after doing her track walk Saturday morning she assured me the track wasn’t as bad as she expected and it looked pretty good. We figured the rain all night had washed some of the mud away…

We had agreed on a late start to let the track dry off a little and let other riders wear some of the mud away so we set off at about 10.45 feeling like we were running a little too late. As we got to the bottom of the track I started to realise we were perhaps a little too early still! Riders were looking very brown and we bumped into one of our friends who exclaimed she couldn’t stay on the bike or even upright off it and was done for the day! I had already accepted that I’d fall off but sitting in the uplift my sense of trepidation increased as more riders discussed how awful the track was. People were changing tyres for mud spikes but although I could see the advantage for the muddy sections the rocky sections would be a nightmare on spikes so I figured my Magic Marys were staying on.

We pulled on to the track for run number 1 expecting carnage. I got to the end of the first section of Ffar side and dreaded dropping into Ginger Bobcat where the mud started. A red flag meant we had to wait and then just as the first 2 riders set off the track got red flagged again leaving me on my own. I finally dropped in and it was every bit as slippery as I expected! I was almost immediately out of control, unable to brake or steer just holding on hoping for the best. I’d sneak the brakes on to slow down and fish tail out of control before letting them off hoping I’d slowed down just enough to make the next corner. One silly off line followed by attempting to brake saw me go down for my first coating of mud.

I came into the section I was most worried about, a very wet, very steep chute made of clay with a drop at the top (on a 90 degree bend) and a sharp right hander at the bottom that my previous experience had taught me fired you off another drop and up into a tree shortly afterwards. Emily was stopped at the top watching but I knew I wouldn’t ride it if I looked so I donned my brave/stupid pants and just went for it. I rolled the drop at zero speed hoping for a slow entry to keep the speed down for the corner at the bottom and hurtled off towards the trees. I made the corner, landed the next drop, fishtailed into the tree and somehow rolled out still upright. Messy but effective!

A few corners later a marshal waved his red flag on a slop filled section that I was sliding through and a look of terror crossed my face accompanied by me shaking my head saying no no no no no… he made it clear I needed to stop so I dutifully applied my brakes and hit the deck. Braking was just not an option in those conditions but at least I avoided the pile up round the corner and the landing was soft.

Run 2 was fairly similar but slightly more tacky in places and run 3 was almost unrecognisable! People were exclaiming how dry the track was but a close up encounter showed me that really the volume of riders had just dragged the slop off the top leaving behind more solid mud. They were right though it was less slippery and the pace on track increased. As the pace increased the crashes decreased but were harder when they did come. Sniper roots crept up out of nowhere and the mud wore away to reveal slate with a nice top coating of clay which was especially terrifying when it appeared the length of that steep tricky chute! Grip came and went, huge holes appeared as did new lines and the track became a whole lot more fun as I got those lines dialled in. I was still out of control for big chunks of the track but there were now more sections where I at least knew the lines well enough to know that I would slide into them most of the time!

As the day drew to a close I had a nice collection of bruises and was feeling a bit battered but overall I had had a great day. The track was tough but I could ride it as long as I didn’t mind the odd crash. I hadn’t managed a single clean run and oddly my best runs were earlier in the day when conditions were the worst but I was feeling happy going into day 2. After a quick track walk we headed for the quarry for the 50:01 jump jam with a bar, food stalls and showing of the new Vision movie. It was packed and the atmosphere was great.

Sunday dawned damp and overcast but we got on track early so we could get 2 practise runs in before racing started. I had a great morning with 1 clean run and 1 less clean run where I misjudged my speed at the bottom and shot off through the tape scattering spectators for the second weekend in a row! Overall I was feeling good going into qualifying. The dreaded beeps signalled the start of qualifying and I set off. I was feeling fast, I cleared the jumps at the start and came flying into a rocky corner out of the woods then bang! Out of nowhere I flew over the bars, commando rolled and bounced before rattling face first down the rocks, owwww. I picked myself up, ran back up for my bike then pedalled round the corner whilst trying to put my googles back in place and pull my sleeve down from where it was currently tucked under my armpit! The crowd all gasped as they realised I had already been on the floor a mere 200m out of the start gate!

I sucked it up and entered ginger bobcat wondering if I’d stay on. I had a wild run but despite a few out of control slides I had a really clean run down the rest of the track. I couldn’t believe how many spectators there were lining the entire track, it was really amazing! I crossed the line shaking my head, sporting beautiful two tone kit where I had remodelled one side with mud. I looked at the screen and was surprised to find I had qualified in 4th and was only 10 seconds off 3rd which I could easily recover if I could stay on my bike! The same was true for lots of other riders and it was going to be a game of risk; push it hard and risk a crash for a fast time or slow it down and potentially go faster without a crash, hmmmmm.

The nerves really kicked in for my race run. I had taped my wrist up after my crash but could feel it and had no idea if I could hold on for my race run. The top 2 riders were well clear of the pack and the battle was on for the other places. I set off into my race run feeling confident about the track but scared of the corner I crashed in. I didn’t know what I had done wrong so other than taking it more slowly I didn’t have a game plan for avoiding the floor. I braked hard into the corner and made it round in one piece. The spectators had largely vanished and the woods were eerily quiet as I made my way down. I reigned in the wildness from qualifying for a smoother and more controlled ride. I had no idea if I had done enough but I had done all I could.

The times flashed up and despite some people moving around I had managed to finish in 4th. I was sad to lose the stripes but really chuffed for Amy who put in an incredible run to take the championship. 4th in the country didn’t sound as good as first but actually it was another really good top 5 result and it’s difficult to not be pleased with it. I had hoped to finish in 4th or higher and managed to do so. I handled the pressure of going into a race as reigning champ knowing I was unlikely to win, I hit all my lines and rode confidently despite the tricky conditions. There were a lot of positives to take from the weekend and sitting nursing my battered body I am really happy with how the weekend went and my result. I’m closing the gap on some of the others and after another rough off season I’m chuffed to be back on pace again.

Women’s racing is going from strength to strength. My times over the last few years have come down at almost every venue and when I look at the field as a whole the pace is so much faster now than it was 4 years ago. The times from half way down the current field would have been winning times a few years ago and the hard work people are putting in is really starting to show. The sport is becoming more professional with almost every rider training, working hard in the gym and working hard to improve. It is still friendly and hasn’t lost the supportive vibe that I’ve always loved, everyone wants to win but everyone is always chuffed for those that do take the win when they don’t manage it themselves. As the competition increases more women are joining in, I can’t wait to see what the field looks like over the next few years!

Rebecca Smith, Flow MTB rider


Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing100% UKGlower ClothingFINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.

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Race Report – Pearce Downhill Series, Round 3, Hopton – Rebecca Smith

The bike flies when you’re having fun!

Hopton has always been one of my favourite venues, it’s great fun come rain or shine and there’s always a good crowd. Round 3 at Hopton looked like it would be no exception; there was a whopping 13 ladies entered in the 19+ category and I didn’t know half of them. As the weekend approached I was looking forward to meeting new people, making new friends and racing bikes in the sun.

The forecast was excellent, the track was going to be drier than I had ever seen it and I was feeling excited. I set up my tent, track walked with friends and left my phone in a portaloo… thankfully Pearce races are like a big family and some kind soul handed it in and we were reunited.
After a lazy start chilling in the sun in my pjs we went up to get that first run done. I had forgotten that the woods were full of huge wood ant nests and spent a few minutes admiring their hard work at the uplift drop off point. They were all marching around with purpose and several riders got warned after putting their helmets down next to the nest haha! No one wants ants in their hair! The downside was watching them carry the bodies of their comrades back to the nest as they got trampled by riders and uplift trucks. The organisers had cordoned off the immediate area but the ants roamed quite far and it was impossible to protect them all.

The dust was incredible and it was running so fast that we were soon drifting and hollering through corners despite this being the chilled first roll down. The race wasn’t on my favourite right hand track and was on the smooth jumpy middle line which I always had fun on but never went very fast on. I have always found it hard to commit to the jumps on this line so I had set myself a target of hitting a couple that I previously avoided. I planned on building up to them over the Saturday… I ended up hitting the triple near the end on my first run when I came round the berm too fast and couldn’t avoid it. Wahoo I had already won as far as I was concerned so the weekend could only get better from there.

The corners turned out to be a huge challenge; the normally tacky and grippy corners were full of a lovely fine dust that billowed up as I slid through. The grip was unpredictable and sometimes there was the perfect amount of slide and other times the whole bike cut loose sending up a cloud of dust revealing me lying down shuffling through it like a blackbird in the garden.

The second run down saw me hit the step down I had decided to try so that was both of my objectives ticked off before lunch on day 1. Then on run 3 I got a little full of myself and decided to really send the step down. I got my wheels on the floor just before the tight left hander but after landing a little heavily I bounced up and out of the corner straight at the spectators lining the edge. As they scattered and threw themselves out of my way I squealed loudly and somehow kept my back wheel in the rut. With my front wheel on the bank and back wheel in the rut I slid sideways in a perfect grind which would have looked cool if not for the absolute terror on my face! I held it and with my heart in my mouth slid perfectly into the hairpin to ride off. One spectator shouted “get in lad” to which I replied “I’m a girl”! Obviously correcting my sex was the most important thing my adrenaline flooded brain came up with which was shortly followed by lots of OMGs and sweary disbelief that I didn’t crash. That continued through the rest of the run and for several minutes after until I got my pulse back under control and calmed down.

The rest of the day was awesome and the challenge was trying not to do too many runs and get too tired whilst the track was so good it was difficult to stop. There was one tree in particular that I kept hitting even when I knew I was looking past it and there were a couple of corners I kept stalling in. I needed to slow down into two corners but could never remember which ones they were! The evening was spent discussing lines with the help of a go pro and several people who are much faster than me and Amanda. It saved us another track walk but also provided a couple of new options that we could actually see not just discuss. We also watched the world cup wahoo, technology at its finest.

Sunday morning was another warm one lounging around in pjs before finally getting on track for practice. I did a couple of practice runs trying to hit the new lines I’d seen on the video and keep it smooth through the corners. I was way off the pace of the others and still stalled in a couple of the corners but having hit the jumps I wanted to and sorted my lines I was feeling happy regardless of speed.

I lined up for my first race run and set off for what turned out to be a good cruisy run. I hit my lines, missed the tree for the first time all weekend and was surprised to find myself sitting in 5th place not that far off the pace after all. It was a rowdy run and I knew that if I cleaned it up a little I could go faster so I got back on track for run 2 with that aim. I had also spotted that my speed through the speed trap was not very fast and given it was on a flat pedally section I vowed to pedal harder on my next run.

Run 2 was smoother, I again hit my lines and missed the tree but I also made the corners more smoothly. I went 3 seconds faster to hang on to 5th place. Despite pedaling as hard as I could I only increased my speed through the speed trap by 0.64km/h which was barely worth the effort!

Another great race organised by Pearce with a smooth uplift, good marshals and great track. I surprised myself by performing better on the track than I expected and being bold with the jumps I normally shy away from. It was great to race in the dust and the slippery conditions were great practice for the race the following weekend which was forecast to be a wet swampfest that would be even more slippery!

Rebecca Smith, Flow MTB rider

Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing100% UKGlower ClothingFINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.

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Race Report – Round 2 South West Kenda Enduro, Minehead- Amy Jones

amy jones flow mtb round 2 South West Kenda Enduro

Birthday Guilt and Badass Trails

It’s been a pretty full on week leading up to the second round of the South West Kenda Enduro series at Minehead. I’d been feeling guilty ever since I entered as the 7th July is Ruan, my son’s birthday, and this year he was three (old enough to know exactly what’s going on!). In an attempt to alleviate said guilt we’d had five days of cakes and parties and a day trip to Butlins on the Saturday.

Despite the guilt, I was still very much excited to be riding these trails again. They were absolutely epic at the Southern Enduro Champs held here last month and despite a torrential downpour the night before, were still going to be loose, loamy and fast!

As with every event, they were struggling to get marshalls and rumours were rife that only three of the four intended stages were to be raced. Thanks then to all of the marshalls who enabled the race to not only go ahead, but allow us to have four great stages.

As per usual, practice was spent with Rob and Rhys, with a guest appearance from Russell. Richard and Paul started riding with us but I think their climbing ability outshone ours and we lost them after the second climb. I’d tried to channel my inner “Mollie” and put all my positive energy into riding and not stressing about who I was riding against.

Having said that, I’d made a serious error. Usually I follow Rob and Rhys in practice; a loose term as I usually only see them for the first three corners at best. However, due to traffic and a few excursions off track, I was with them the whole way down stage one in both of our practice runs. It meant that going into my race run I had absolutely no idea where I was going!

The top section was a series of very tight flat corners and I felt myself snatching brake all the way through here.

The mid section featured a gap jump that I’d cased many times last year when it was in stage 4 of the Champs. It was probably not the faster line but as there was a jump, it was agreed that we had to jump it! Last year, the marshall present had begged me not to try it again but I was determined not to avoid it. Run one of practice saw us in traffic and too slow to attempt it. On the climb up to stage 2 we witnessed a young Pilgrim Flyer lose his front end and smack the tree next to it with his head. Slightly off putting . (I hope you’re feeling ok mate, it was a hell of a thud!) A second practice run saw me fly over it comfortably but in my race run I cased it. This could only mean one thing (in my head at the time), I was going to slow. I tried to make up for it on the fun bottom section of the track but I couldn’t help but feel I could’ve ridden better.

Stage two was my least favourite (stage 4 of this year’s Champs). There are a lot of tight corners between the trees and a horrible tree stump that I couldn’t work out how to ride around or over comfortably. It seemed to stop me dead every time I attempted it and I just couldn’t find any flow. I knew that there were a few high line options to open out the corners but at one point I was pedalling uphill into the forest and spotted the corner way below me! Not what you want when you’re racing Katie Wakely!

Stage three was my absolute favourite! Lots of loamy, bermed corners, a hip jump (that I actually cleared in my race run) and a road gap! It was stage 5 of the Champs and did not fail to disappoint in either race!

Stage 4 was the last stage and yet again, I didn’t want the race to end. Following much the same path as stage 7 of Champs, and featuring the trademark tight corners through trees, it had a lot of flow, exiting eventually into the start field with a long, bendy descent through the grass. Luckily the finish line was a little way from the finish box as I managed to skid both left and right as I approached the tape at the bottom of the hill, not making the corner at all!

Yet again, this was another brilliant event put on by both the South West Enduro and Southern Enduro teams! Everything seemed to run very smoothly and even the weather obliged! I was absolutely over the moon to come in second between Katie Wakely and Ellie Dewdney and surprised myself entirely with how quick my times were as it felt wrong all day!

Rob excelled himself, coming in third in hardtail (although he was in second for a very long time before the final results came through). It’s a long deserved podium but you’d think he’d look a bit happier about it!

Ruan seemed to very much enjoy his birthday. He got to shout “pedal” at me on three out of the four finishes, and stand with me on the podium (it was his sister that fell of, not him -eek). So thanks to Whip for trailing them up that big hill and keeping them entertained all day. It turned out that he could’ve raced Vets as I was back before their class had set off; swapping the kids over would’ve been easy but he didn’t fancy swapping my sweaty kit!

I must also say thanks to the afore mentioned group of blokes that swallowed their pride, sang Happy Birthday to Ruan and valiantly dived into a bright yellow cake shaped like a dog! Now that’s friendship!!!

Amy Jones


Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing, 100% UK, Glower Clothing, FINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.

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Race Report – National Downhill Series, Round 3, Bala – Emily Beckett

Emily Beckett - round 3 National Downhill Series, Bala

First race of the season!

It only took until the 23rd June but I have finally managed to complete my first race of the season, round 3 of the National downhill series at Rhyd Y Felin!

I had felt so strong at the start of the year, I was in a good place, I was physically strong, I had a new bike and I’d decided to focus on national races to reduce the number of races over the year after last year. Then it all went very wrong very quickly on my last practice run at the first round of nationals at Rheola. I had been so happy with how I was riding, hitting all my lines, hitting the features I hadn’t done last year and I was feeling fast. Maybe I just pushed my limit a bit too much, but out of nowhere I lost my front wheel and scorpioned, my feet didn’t unclip, and I ended up with a few broken ribs and a lacerated kidney. I’ve never spent a night in hospital before, I’ve never taken a day of work with a MTB injury before and I’ve definitely never injured an internal organ before. I was devastated. And physically felt a bit ruined.

A lot of people told me I was crazy to be thinking about racing another National 10 weeks after that injury and 5 days before my wedding. But I had missed enough races and having not raced since October last year and I just needed to get it out the way, I didn’t really care what the result was, I just wanted to get between the tape, analyse a track and practice lines with my friends. So I promised I would chill, not push my limits, no risky line choices and I would stay safe and not injured for the wedding. I don’t think my fiance believed I would do that but I made a promise and I stuck to it.

I love Bala, it’s one of my favourite downhill tracks, a great variety of steeper techy wild corners, some flat out sections and the open stump section with so many line choices then in to the bottom field, which was a complete wash out at last year’s national. Other than an extended finish in the field the track hadn’t changed much since last year and it was as fun as I remembered. The track isn’t open for general uplifts so it’s great to get the opportunity to ride there.

I chatted lines with teammate Becca and Flow MTB Ambassador Amanda and we all agreed there were a few sketchy moments and difficult lines on the track but we were all happy. I told myself to hold back and ride at my own pace in practice, it’s so easy to try and keep pace with a rider in front but I didn’t want to push myself too much. I was really nervous being back on a difficult track, I rode flat pedals, because mentally I could tell myself that would minimise injury if I did crash. It didn’t take too many runs to get in to the flow of things and feel like I could ride a bike again. It was actually nice to take some of the pressure off myself for once and I felt much more relaxed and I really enjoyed every bit of riding I did all weekend.

Emily Beckett - round 3 National Downhill Series

The event organisers MIJ made a good call to try and get racing started earlier on Sunday to get as many riders down before the rain arrived and the event wrapped up earlier. I feel very sorry for all the expert and elite men who had to race in the rain and I’ve seen some impressive crash footage, but I was so glad we got dry runs!

I had a clean seeding run, despite the annoyance of my feet feeling like they were all over the place on flat pedals, then decided to up pace a little bit on my race run to take 7 seconds off my seeding time. The women’s category this year has some seriously quick riders, the winner beat all the elite ladies, so I was pleased with a 7th place, mid pack finish and feeling like I have got more to give. Ready to finally get stuck in to racing again.

Massive thanks as always to team sponsor Flow MTB for sticking by me even when my season isn’t going quite to plan! And thank you to DHaRCO for providing the race kit I finally got to wear!

Emily Beckett, Flow MTB rider

Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing100% UKGlower ClothingFINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.

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Race Report – National Downhill Series, Round 3, Bala – Rebecca Smith

Racing, friendship and the usual Welsh helping of mud (shhhh don’t tell everyone about the dust!)

As Round 3 of the National Downhill series approached I watched the rain hammering against the windows feeling resigned to a wet slippery race. Rhyd Y Felin, or Bala as it’s known, is one of my absolute favourite tracks; in the dry it’s balls out fast weaving through stumps and in the wet it’s face down sliding through slop but when you get the lines weaving through muddy stumps it’s the best feeling.

A day later the weather lifted and apparently the sun shone in Wales. Locals were saying the ground was drier than expected but having been there before after heavy rain I couldn’t see how it was going to be dry? I packed for all eventualities, loading wet tyres, dry tyres, water proofs, hero lenses and sunscreen.

Driving over I felt a sense of nervous apprehension. My last race here ended with me in a cast and off my bike most of the winter after trying to snap my thumb off. I was keen to go fast but also to stay injury free.

Friday evening track walk split the track into 2 halves. The bottom was dry and dusty while the top had a stream running down it and was wet. However the top holds up well in the wet compared to the bottom so I figured we were super lucky and could run dry tyres all weekend! The midges were out in force, way worse than Fort William and as we sweated our way up the steep track they were in our ears, eyes, noses and we were feeling generally murderous towards them!

Saturday dawned to a clear blue sky stretching as far as the eye could see and promised to be a scorcher of a day. We had decided to have a lazy start as we were all feeling the effects of a busy week at work. We sat in the sunshine drinking tea, eating breakfast and chatting. This is why I love races; the friendship and people, the banter and laughter and the support and camaraderie all combine to make a big race family. Oh, and we get to ride bikes together too, what more could I need?

We got on track and I remembered immediately why I love this track. As I battered down rocky gullies, weaved through stumps pulling crazy shapes, slid out on sniper roots and realised I couldn’t see in the woods with hero lenses on I was having the time of my life. We got down to the bottom laughing and ready to get straight back up to the top. We spent a pleasant morning hammering down the track in the sun, getting spattered with mud at the top of the track before picking up a fine coating of dust through the bottom, it was awesome! I had a couple of wild moments and by lunchtime I’d been down on the floor after sliding out on a corner but it was good dusty fun.

Paul got me to draw the track from memory on his fancy new chalk boards. After a faff where he wanted it to start from the top but that meant I was facing the wrong way so I demanded to draw it from the bottom so it faced as if I was riding it I had a lovely picture of the track! Emily joined in and drew her version of the track without seeing mine, she also had the same issue about starting at the bottom vs top! Once we had 2 lovely pictures we chatted through them and they were incredibly similar, except for the straight section in the middle of mine that Paul couldn’t understand. Obviously it wasn’t actually straight but since I just followed the main line and there were no big features to remember I drew it as straight haha. Knowing there were some gaps on our map where we were sure we’d forgotten a corner or 2 we set off for more practise.

We were struggling to get a clean run in, catching up with other riders (I know that pretty much never happens!!) and getting red flagged for the uplift or crashes but we’d managed a run through most sections and were picking up the pace. A rumor of a changing weather forecast for Sunday saw practise extended so racing could start early on Sunday hopefully avoiding the predicted thunderstorm. On the final run I was having a ball, pushing it hard and perfecting lines. As I came in to the last corner in the woods I drifted out which might have been fine but I clothes lined a tree and it predictably won! I hit the deck head first furrowing the track with my helmet before looking up to see my bike fast approaching my face, typical! I brushed myself off and figured that I was done for the day. I wouldn’t normally stop on a crash but the rest of the track had been perfect and I knew another run was pushing my tired and now sore body a step too far and would just mean more crashes! I think this means I’m growing up or something?!

A shower in the sun (where the wind blew my shower curtain up flashing my bare ass to the world), barbeque, beer with friends and even more laughter finished off a fab day on the bikes perfectly.

Sunday morning was overcast but warm and the midges made themselves known from the start. We were out on track early due to the new timings and waiting for the track to open in the shady forest we were all quickly swearing and smacking at the nasty biters as they plagued us in a swarm. The track had dried out overnight but the morning dew made the rocks greasy and unpredictable whilst the dusty lower section had slightly more grip. 2 practise runs warmed up my tired legs and I was eager to get on with racing.

Lining up for my qualifying run the pre-race banter was in full flow and thankfully the track was running almost to time so we didn’t have the lengthy delay we’ve had at other rounds. I set out of the gate and had a great run down the track. A moment of panic near the top after I thought I popped a tyre had me trying to check my front wheel at the same time as avoid trees, it wasn’t pretty but I realised it was fine and carried on. After that my run was clean and smooth, not perfect but it felt good. I crossed the line sitting in 7th, just 100th of a second off 6th place and pretty happy with the result. There weren’t any major surprises in peoples rankings at qualifying. Over the season you get used to not only how fast you are relative to everyone else but also which tracks each rider performs better on. I knew getting a place higher than 7th was a tall order for race runs.

I felt calm and ready at the start of my race run. I pedalled off the line and into the first bus stop where I slid out coming to a stop sideways across the track, feet on the floor with the seat of my bike caught on my shorts and in all kinds of trouble. Somehow I stayed upright and scrabbled to get back on and get going. I pushed it harder to make up for my early mistake and things went from calm to ragged and I seemed to hit every stump, root, verge and tree, bouncing from one line to the next. Despite my ragged run I managed to regain some of the time I lost in the first section and finished a second up from my qualifying time. Everyone had gone faster and it looked like I’d finish in 7th but one of the girls got a puncture moving us all up a place and I finished in 6th.

As we packed up the rain started and it absolutely hammered it down. The field and track quickly turned into a waterslide and we watched (from the safety of the van with a glass of prosecco!) as the senior, expert and elite men crashed and slid out on their way to the finish line showing anger and frustration at their times. I was glad the race had started early and we got our run in before the weather turned, it also made clean up a lot easier.

So another great weekend all in all. My training meant that despite a big crash I got up and kept going with only minor injuries. I am super grateful for all the shoulder work I’ve been doing in the gym! It was great to have Emily back and Amanda join us but sad that other friends weren’t able to be there. The race family is a great thing to be part of and a big part of why I love racing. I can’t wait to get to the next race and have more fun with more friends. Oh and more bike fun obviously!

Rebecca Smith, Flow MTB rider

Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing100% UKGlower ClothingFINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.

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Women’s mountain bike shorts

SHREDLY MTB now available in the UK at Flow MTB

Mountain bike shorts are designed for different styles of riding and with the choices now available to women it may feel a little overwhelming

It’s great to see the range and quality of mountain bike shorts that are being made specifically for female cyclists, with thoughtful attention to detail and fit that can make your ride that much more comfortable and fun. And whilst we love having so much to choose from, we also get that it can be overwhelming if you are new to mountain biking or just don’t know where to start.

Mountain bike shorts are designed to be a loose fitting outer short that are usually worn over a chamois and are typically made from some combination of polyester, nylon, and spandex with the goal of protecting your skin against vegetation , abrasions and crashes. They vary in detail, such as the number of pockets for storage, inseam length, fabric weight, stretch, and overall fit. With so many options, you’ll want to determine the right combination of features to suit your riding style and just as trails range from green to black, from bridleways to steep technical descents, mountain bike shorts are designed for different styles of riding.

Cross Country

Typically, the terrain is fast and rolling, and the distances covered are greater. As a rider, you’re working hard in the saddle, and not too worried about technical terrain in front of you. Cross country mountain bikers want shorts made of lightweight, breathable fabric that has stretch to maximize mobility while pedaling in and out of the seat.

Look for lightweight quick-drying material to help you out on long, warm days on the bike.

Trail

Most of the time we’re all riding trails. However, you might consider yourself a “trail” rider if you ride the same trails as a cross country rider but have a little more suspension on your bike. You might take the alternate route and hit some small jumps along the way, stop and session a tricky technical section… you love riding, but with the emphasize on fun over speed and hard work.

Enduro/All Mountain

You really love the descent but have a great appreciation of the effort it takes to reach the top, and can’t get enough of the views along the way. If you love long days in the saddle and are prepared to climb and descend multiple times in a ride, then you might consider yourself an all mountain or enduro rider. You’re going to need shorts that can do both: lightweight, breathable, and stretchy for the uphills, but protective and durable for the downhill.

These shorts tend to have a longer inseam to work well with pads, lightweight fabric for ventilation and wind resistance, zippered vents, and zippered pockets to keep your personal items.

Downhill

If you’re riding downhill trails, you’re most likely moving at high speeds through rocks, roots and technical features. Whether it’s lift-access bike park or laps at your favorite downhill trail, you’re not doing much uphill pedaling. Downhill riders are not usually as concerned with how lightweight or breathable the shorts are, as they need to be tough, first and foremost, with a longer inseam. Downhill mountain bike shorts should be all about protecting the rider. The fabric should feel substantial and have rip stop construction. You’re already wearing as much protective gear as necessary, a full face helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads, so don’t go lightweight on the shorts .

Inseam is also an important consideration for downhill riding. Longer is better. The leg opening should be wide enough to slip over knee pads without a gap or bunching at the knee. You’re looking for optimal protection.

Other features to consider

Pockets or no pockets? Since mountain bikers almost always have a hydration pack with them, some people think pockets on shorts are redundant. Other riders prefer to have a minimal pack (or no pack) and pop trail necessities (snacks!) into available pockets. Look for shorts with at least one zippered pocket, big enough to hold what you need to carry.

Waist adjusters. Women come in all shapes and sizes so it’s not always easy to find the perfect fit on the first try especially with the inconsistency between brands. If they’re too snug in the hips, they might be too big in the waist. Fortunately all shorts offer some way to customize the waistline to best fit different body types. Velcro, button tabs, and toggles are just some of the types of adjusters.

Stretch: It is rare to find mountain bike shorts that don’t stretch and all, and some have four-way stretch which provides a comfortable, all around relaxed fit.

Weather: Fortunately, fabric technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with significant advancements both in the effectiveness of waterproof kit and its breath-ability. A good pair of waterproof shorts is an essential investment for UK riding!

View our full range of women’s mountain bike shorts

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Race Report – Conquer the Cliff – Heather Kay

heather-kay-flow-mtb-conquer-the-cliff-2019

For me it’s one of the highlights of the year, set in my hometown, at the same time as my birthday, running as part of a week-long cycling festival, what more could you want? The atmosphere is always incredible, the views across the town are stunning, and this year I also had Mark from MTB Instruction and Flow MTB coming to visit. He turned up the evening before, so we made the most of the local facilities and enjoyed a quick drink and evening meal catch up. The next day I grabbed my bike, rolled out my front door, met Mark at a café for a quick coffee and pedalled across town to the event registration.

There were plenty of familiar faces and we were soon nattering to people left, right and centre. We were with a couple of the Aberystwyth Uni MTB club crew for our first practice run and as the track was fairly similar to previous years I lead everyone out to show them the best lines. It was loose as a goose and dusty as heck, we all knew it’d be about finding that limit between grip and speed.

I did a few more practice runs and then decided to have a break before racing. I was feeling good on track and I wanted to save my legs for racing (it’s always tough on a hardtail), I also managed to puncture on my last practice run… With Mark we headed off to the local bike shop – Summit cycles in search of a new inner tube to replace the spare I’d used and to grab some lunch at a local café. We were soon headed back to the prom ready for racing.

From the old days of DH racing a knew to get a safe run in for the first run and then to push the limits on run 2. But once in the gate my enduro brain took over and it was all guns blazing for my first run, obviously assisted by mates heckling me all over the track on my way down… I was buzzing as I came through the gate to hear the whoops of Mark and also Coops on commentary giving me kudos on the time I’d just set. Usually I’m embarrassed to tell people my time (the guys are so rapid in comparison) but this time I was in breathing distance, I was stoked! I also took the lead by a whopping 5 seconds!!! I couldn’t believe it!
I’ve been trying to win Conquer the Cliff since I moved to Aber 4 years ago so I knew not to get too excited until the 2nd runs were done.

We went back up top and I treated myself to cake whilst we waited for the 2 nd runs. It was soon time to get back in the gate, I knew I had to go faster, I knew the other ladies would be pushing to find those seconds, I knew it was a fine line between grip and speed… Off I went, trying to push the boundary to go faster, my mech slipped and I ended up dropping into an easier gear, every time I cranked I knew I was loosing a little bit of power but I just kept pushing. I pulled through the finish line and had taken off almost a second, now to wait for the other ladies…

The finish area was a blur, mates from Uni chatting to me, listening to the times of the other ladies, realising I’d beaten Mark by a whisker, my mate George coming in 2nd place in Senior, drinking a cool bottle of cider, grinning ear to ear. I’d done it!

Heather Kay

Main photo: ALC Photography

Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing, 100% UK, Glower Clothing, FINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.

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WIN! MTB Skills Session with MTB Instruction

Win an MTB skills session with our race team sponsors MTB Instruction

Win an MTB skills session with our race team sponsors MTB Instruction

We’re giving you the chance to WIN a 1-2-1 skill session with our race team sponsor MTB Instruction and their new coach Suzanne Lacey

Are you new to mountain biking and want to learn the core skills to get you riding off road with confidence? Have you been riding for a while but feel your skills have plateaued? Do you stall when you come across a drop on the trails? Have you been eyeing up a jump at your local bike park that you’d love to nail? Are you a racer who wants help with line choice, speed and flow? This competition is for all of you!

For your chance to WIN simply enter your email address below.


  • Competition closes Friday 28th June, 2019.
  • Winner will be contacted on Monday 1st July, 2019.
  • Prize is for a half day 1-2-1 MTB skills session with Suzanne Lacey of MTB Instruction
  • Course to be taken in August 2019, a selection of dates will be offered.
  • Course to be taken within a 30 mile radius of Milton Keynes and will be chosen based on the type of course you require.
  • Prize does not include your travel to or from the course.
  • Winner will be chosen at random.
  • Winner must be over 12 years of age.
  • Entrants email addresses will be added to our database and shared with MTB Instruction.
  • You can unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time.
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Race Report – Ladies Do Downhill – Amy Jones

The Cornish Mafia at Ladies Do Downhill

Where to start with this??! I really don’t know how to put this weekend at the Ladies Do Downhill race at the Forest of Dean into words.
I’d heard good things about this after last years premier but nothing could prepare me for the giggles and camaraderie that came with 80 odd women of every ability gathering together to race Sheepskull. Until Easter I had never ridden the downhill tracks at FOD and even then I only did maybe two runs of Sheepskull before tackling “that drop” on GBU!

Since entering in March, I had planned a family camping weekend, forcing the little mites into coming to support Mummy whilst I sessioned the track on Saturday and raced on Sunday. Alongside the Flow team, my friend, Andrea was heading up to race, as was Evie but I knew of no-one else from this neck of the woods that would be going. That all changed mid week when Hannah and Mollie started showing an interest on our ladies Messenger group.

Torrential downpours at home on Friday and a poor forecast for the weekend saw my husband decide that staying home with the kids was preferable to a wet camping weekend! It also saw Hannah’s work on Saturday being cancelled last minute. And so, at 8pm on Friday night it was decided that we were gonna pack all our stuff into Hannah’s dad’s camper van, Glen, and ROADTRIP!!

Now I’ve done a couple of these with the lads but I’m not sure they quite compare! The giggles started from the minute Hannah and Mollie collected me from Trailmunki in Bodmin. The lash up of bungees, calving ropes and a shoe lace to hold my bike onto the rack was something to be believed.
With a coffee stop in Sedgemoor, we made good time and got to FOD at lunchtime. Already, there were women here, there and everywhere! It was great to catch up with Tara the mad Vet Nurse after meeting her at Southern Enduro two weekends ago, and great to see Ella, who we’ve met at Gawton a number of times, absolutely smashing it down the hill (right up my bum).

I was really glad that we’d taken the time to walk and session each section of the track. Despite a slip out on the root section in what should’ve been my last run of the day, leading to an aggravation of my hamstring injury (sorry for whinging!!!), the day was really productive and saw us heading off to the campsite buzzing, still giggling and ready for the next day.

After a comfortable (if flatulent – Mollie, not me) night in Glen, some fortifying fruit laden porridge and numerous trips to the toilet (common pre-race problem) we ambled over to Pedal-a-bike-away to sign on. Poor Andrea had left home at 5.30am and ended up waiting ages for the three of us to sort our bikes, numbers and fit in another toilet trip!

Practice saw a bit of a wait at the top resulting in most of us training the track with pretty much everyone else there. It was a good sighter, and the roots seemed to ride fine even without speed and so, a very worthwhile run and a great chance to catch up with faces old and new on the climb back up.

We managed two more full runs and a sneaky session of the bottom few berms into the final tabletops before a quick lunch stop. Rumor had got around that we all needed to be at the top of the hill to start at 12 and we hadn’t left much time to eat. I was concerned that as number 7, I’d be one of the first off but it turned out that the Pro-am category was running last, giving me plenty of time to heckle/shout encouragement to my fellow competitors. (Yay!!)

Amanda, Andrea, Mollie, Hannah, Ella, Amy
Andrea, Mollie, Amy, Mel (the Stalker), Sarah

My first run left many an area for improvement. The top section is a series of corners with one quite nasty root that will stop you dead if you run into it. As much as I’d visualised the run in previously, I still managed to hit it on my race run. That and some ragged cornering in the lead up made me a bit unsettled at the start. However, finding the straight line prior to the root garden and surviving the roots themselves, my confidence improved for the second section.

A steep drop in from the fireroad saw me always over braking on the lead in, but using the right hand edge, you could then pump through the roots before pedaling a smooth traverse to the drop. On my first run, I missed the high line off it and sent myself through the braking bumps. I’m not sure how much time I would have lost here but this is why downhill can be so frustrating. All the practice you do, you aim to hit every chosen line. Any deviation from that can cost you time and it can get in your head. However, my favorite section awaited!

Two bermed corners led you out of the pedally traverse and into the “bum holes” as Andrea called them. A straight line through here was the chosen way although two steep S berms were also available. Pedaling out of this, a comfortable double led you into a kicker if you so wish (I didn’t) or a quick flick of the hips to use each side of the bermed “s” and above a root to take the highest line of the right hand berm. The next double was impossible for me to clear and held a patch of slick sludge on landing and so pumping them to the far right was preferable to send you into the high side of the left hand berm and down over two small drops to a rock garden. Keeping left here smoothed out the drops and the rocks.

A small pop over a ditch and a mental note not to brake into the next two berms before “PEDAL” ing out of the last and into the two tabletops for the finish. The first jump had a nasty habit of bucking your back end up and your nose down. It was my intention to manual this but I never quite managed it. I think my attempt to keep the bike low to the ground did make me faster into the second one and subsequently over the finish line.

To my surprise, I was in the lead after my first run, but only by a second in front of Evie. Becca, my Flow teammate was in third and Caroline in fourth. None of my friends were particularly happy with their runs, especially Hannah who had caught the rider in front.

A quick break and a coffee outside the cafe before meeting at the top for 2pm. For some reason, I didn’t feel that nervous. Usually, whether I need to hold off competitors or gain a few seconds on my second run, I go into the race run still bricking it. I think the atmosphere of all those girls together helped assuage some of that nervous energy and dare I say it, turn it positive! Perhaps because we were all having so much fun it didn’t matter so much?

My second race run felt good. I hit every line I intended to and felt it couldn’t have gone much better. We were seeded within our categories for the second run and as a result, I was first in our group to get to the bottom. A running commentary was given and so as I passed over the line to be greeted by Tara and my other friends, I heard that I’d gone a second quicker. Evie passed over next and I heard that she was still in second. Becca came through, still in third and finally Caroline still in fourth. I’d kept it!! I was over the moon! And all my mates were there to hug me!

Mollie had made up time and put herself into 2nd in Vets, just 0.4s behind the leader… should’ve straight lines the roots! Andrea had found twelve seconds (!!) to put her in third in Grand Vets, and although Hannah hadn’t been held up this time, her run felt like her first and she was wishing she’d asked for another. Poor Ella had been leading seniors after run one but, after a crash on her second run, having thought she was in third, she was knocked off of the podium by someone who had been racing in the wrong category. To do that well in your first race though is absolutely epic and I honestly believe she’s one to watch in the very near future!

Evie, Amy, Becca
Thanks to Kali Protectives

Thank you so much to Kali protectives for my brand new, extremely pretty, full face helmet! What an amazing prize! Although it did cause many an argument on the way home as it spot on matches Mollie. But I’m sorry Mols, it’s all mine!! Big thanks to Muc Off for the cleaning products too. They gave a prize for every podium which is pretty generous!

As I said, no words can describe the atmosphere at this race. Everyone is looking out for each other and egging each other on! The support from the spectators is amazing! Whether you were a seasoned racer or it was your first time, you were all in this together. I’m not sure I’ve had that feeling at a race before!

Amanda Tanfield has created something amazing here and it would be great to get as many women as we can to Pippingford for the 10th August to repeat the buzz! So thanks Amanda for dreaming this up and making it a reality, hopefully there are many more to come!

Thanks as well to all the marshals and timing guys, particularly the commentator. It really added something to have your results called out over the microphone instead of searching for your name on a scrolling screen. It definitely added to the atmosphere at the bottom of the run for me!

If you’re a lady and you’re tempted by racing, give this a go! Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s downhill. You’d be amazed what you can achieve with a look first and the incentive of someone doing it with you and cheering you on. We all start somewhere and this is definitely the place to start!

Amy Jones

Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing, 100% UK, Glower Clothing, FINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.