It’s still dark, the rain is the heavy wet kind, its a Saturday morning in late October and I find myself loading the bike onto the car for a drive to Perth. It can only mean the Muckmedden Fair City Enduro.
The Fair City Enduro is a little bit different to your usual one day enduro, with its proximity to Halloween, those participating are encouraged to don fancy dress and race in costume. This instantly lightens the mood, with untimed transitions and no stage start times its a very laid back affair. Last years outing was not really a clean run for me, so I was out to improve on on that performance whilst just having a really good day on the bike.
Time to remind myself how to ride in the wet!
Like last year, the heavens where fully open with heavy showers interspersed with smearing drizzle. Unlike the previous year however, the rain never really broke and was a constant feature of the day. With six downhill stages taking in some new and some old, it was going to be a loose, greasy, back wheel drifting sort of day. Time to remind myself how to ride in the wet!
The long slow burner of a climb brought us up to stage one. A new addition for this year, it started dark, slick and rooted, before breaking cover and diving nose first down a steep loamy turn. It was a complete sea change to the trail so far and caught a few people out (myself included). Then it was an of camber thigh burning sprint over wet grass before sliding sideways on grassy flat turns to the dibber.
It was a run to wake you up, riders had been warned that it was probably the stage you were most likely to crash on. My over the bars done, it was back up the hill to stage two.
Stage two was a subtle variant of the same stage the year before, the top section was an exercise in keeping momentum as you searched for grip in the super slick, super muddy ruts and berms. Once the trail dropped back into the trees you soon joined the bike park for a fast blast through the berms and jumps.
I made possibly the best dib in the history of dibbing
As I popped off the last drop of the stage, I made possibly the best dib in the history of dibbing. Coming in hot I managed to clock the dibber perfectly into the timer whilst still skidding the rear wheel. No dibber dance, perfect first time, I could not of done it twice if I tried.
Stage three was the same as last year, It was a fun trail and my best stage of the previous year. A nasty wee drop at the gate led to a fast sprint with plenty of scope to pop off logs and small drops, before a sudden short climb robbed you of all momentum. Any attempt of mine to regain some pace was moderated by the flat turns and pedal heavy nature of the last stretch of trail.
The transition of the final three stages brought us closer to Perth and to the cliffs overlooking the river and valley below. The low cloud cover refused to lift and a misty haze clung to the hillside that made you question if it was the scotch mist or your steamed up googles obscuring your view.
Stage four was probably my favorite of the day, fast, flowing and with many high “enduro lines” to keep things interesting. The whole trail was carpeted in a colourful display of freshly fallen autumn leaves. Pretty it may be, but the slick leaves led to plenty of moments when your rear wheel tried to overtake your front.
The climbs were sociable affairs, with no stage start times you could catch up with friends and share stories of the near misses and perfect lines from your past stages.
The fifth stage was the shortest of the day. A short run in gave you just enough time to get both feet clipped in before an all to short rock garden spat you out onto a fast grassy trail. Blind turns and drops were followed by wide flat greasy corners where keeping on the wet grass was for a change, your best hope for finding grip!
The sixth and final stage of the day is a local classic, the cliff run mixed techy chutes, fast open single track and stiff thigh destroying climbs. being the last stage of the day, I was absolutely emptying the tank whilst trying to ignore the fire in my legs. The last hundred yards was rudely interrupted by some freshly cut flat turns that robbed you of all momentum as you fought to keep within the tape without staling out completely.
I was by no means bother the podium (or even the top 50% of my category) but that isn’t the point of racing for me. I was there to do better than myself, to push hard and have a great day riding bikes with friends, mission accomplished.
It was also the last ride on my faithful stead, Kaspir the Santa Cruz Heckler. He moved on to new adventures near Bike Park Wales the day after, and what a parting rip round the woods it was.