I have a slightly overactive imagination so when I hear endurance event my mind immediately switches to marathons, running through deserts or an afternoon spent shopping. The Oktoberfest in Bristol is the slightly shorter (4 and 8hr) autumn cousin of the Bikefest (6 and 12hr) held in the summer.
The only racing I’ve ever done is downhill so having to actually pedal up the hills was a new experience and having realised that my usual trail bike, an Orange Five with a setup more suited to the Alps than the relatively flat Ashton Court probably wasn’t suitable for the event in stepped Cy Turner at Cotic at the absolute last minute (legend!) to supply probably the ideal bike for this event – a Cotic Solaris. Kitted with 29″ wheels, long and low geometry and a sensible selection of gears I felt at home right away – more about that another day.
If you do a quick google search on what to eat before an endurance event they’ll mention carb loading days beforehand, lots of stretching, a good night’s sleep and absolutely no alcohol. So you definitely wouldn’t have found the Wideopenmag editorial team in the Bag of Nails public house surrounded by kittens, real ale and pork pies the night before. It’s a good thing our race team are professional athletes.
Fast forward to race day and the Oktoberfest employs a Le Mans style start with the riders running back up the hill to their bikes to help break up the torrent bearing down on the first corner. A lap of Ashton Court took the fast boys around 28 minutes, if you haven’t ridden there before its packed full of lovely flowy corners – a mix of berms and flat with lots of pump features built in to carry speed and a couple of rock sections to pique the interest.
With a team of four it meant you had roughly half an hours racing followed by a 90 minute break and then back out for another lap. The Oktoberfest has a great chilled out atmosphere and you’ve got plenty of time to grab some food, fix any mechanicals or just sit back and enjoy the banter.
After Paul (Riders Retreat head honcho) had put in the first lap it was my turn and despite never riding the track before, or even the bike I was on – it went surprisingly well. Swiftly followed by Jamie (Wideopenmag Editor) and Jay (Wideopenmag male model) and repeat until 5pm came around. Thirteen laps in the bag and we were in 20th place out of 44 – not bad at all and all pretty chuffed. I tried to squeeze in a 14th lap but cramped up halfway round and came in seconds off the time, a lesson for next year!
We shared our pits with the guys and gals from Roll For The Soul bike cafe in Bristol who came in 8th (male team) and 2nd (mixed team) – congratulations all! Perhaps we’ll stick to downhill…
If there’s one thing I took home from the Oktoberfest it’s this – just bloody do it! Get a group of mates together, chuck your bike and tent in the car and head down. It’s a great day of racing followed by a party and German beer galore, what’s not to like?