The first Swinley Forest Enduro
Words by Ian Sutton, images by Elegant and Wild.
The dust has settled, the tape is down and Swinley Forest has returned to normality as the finest trail centre in the South East. For one day in September however, the trails welcomed the inaugural Swinley Forest Enduro, and what an event it was!
Consisting of 7 timed stages from 1-7 minutes in length and a circuit of around 20km including transitions, this was going to be a leg burning, lung busting affair, sure to be full of laughs, sketchy moments and flat out speed. The stages would showcase both the marked trails from the blue and red trails and a mix of off-piste, naturally technical trails, making great use of the forest and all it has to offer.
Basecamp was nestled in an open space between the trees and the vibe was fantastic. 5000 watts of chilled reggae music was provided courtesy of Pig&Rig, who also offered up a delicious hog roast or veggie curry for both pre and post-race fuelling. This was my kind of event!
Having caught up with familiar faces including the event organiser Tristan Taylor, the Masters category was called and I set off towards stage 1, which consisted of huge, flowing berms, cascading down the side of a hill, then a sharp right into a brutal switchback climb, before another set of gravity assisted berms into the finish.
Stage 2 was a short sprint through an off piste section of tight, rooted corners, followed by a burst to the finish line and back onto the transition, which allowed for recovery before tackling the beast that was stage 3. Off-piste once more, this stage flowed beautifully through off camber roots, flat corners and twisting singletrack, before a set of drops into the final pedal mashing push to the end of the stage. By this point, my face was aching from the massive smile I had. The encouragement of the marshals and spectators on all stages was insane, really helping motivate riders.
Stage 4 was one many riders were looking forward to; Red 15. A super-fast trail with huge berms to boost your speed, tricky jumps and a section swamped with roots, you couldn’t help but enjoy this run, with whoops and cheers coming from riders and spectators alike.
Finding your flow was key for Stage 5; high sided berms and jumps for a solid minute and a half ensured this stage was one to remember. The transition climbed up the affectionately named K2, which was a quick reminder that we were in the steepest area of the forest. Sensible riders pushed up, knowing what was coming next. I’m not particularly sensible. Oops.
Stage 6 was a true test of endurance, being the longest of the 7. Beginning with a quick descent through high sided chutes laced with loose earth and rocks, then straight into the ‘Labyrinth’ area; it was tough to find an effective flow on this stage, with tight trees, exposed roots just wide enough to catch an unsuspecting tyre, short climbs and bursts of downhill sprints. Approaching the finish around 6 minutes after starting off, I was more sweat than human, but I loved every second.
Coming to the final stage, it was time to give it my all. Blue 14 began with a sprint through a flat section into a fast downhill with a great tabletop, then a short climb. Cursing my legs at this point, I smashed into an epic downhill section; 2 hips to either scrub or send, then ultra-fast berms all the way to the finish. Race over, riders headed back to basecamp to find out their times. I placed 16th from 60 in the Masters category, so was stoked with my result, a home advantage certainly helped!
The end of the race was the chance for riders to grab some well-deserved food and a pint and check out the sponsors, all whilst chilling out in what can only be described as a festival style atmosphere. The likes of DMR, Pivot, Whyte, Muc Off, Kaiser Baas and Marin (Who had a competition to win a brand new Hawk Hill bike) were all in attendance, as well as Stans No Tubes, who were offering free tubeless conversions, which was incredible to see. The whole setup, stages, course and attention to detail really helped make the event one to remember. I’m already looking forward to a 2017 event and seeing what Swinley Forest has in store for the future.
Swinley Forest Enduro – thanks for having me, it was an absolute blast!
Want to ride Swinley Forest’s Mountain Bike Trails?
There are blue and red trails and the mix of man-made trails and mellow gradient means it’s great for all levels of riders and all weathers. Despite the not-exactly-massive hills there’s actually loads of descending and a bit of local knowledge will show you tonnes of very fun, natural trails.
Give Swinley Bike Hub a look for local knowledge and a well stocked bike shop and demo fleet – including opportunities for Marin Demo Bikes and Whyte Demo Bikes.
The address and postcode for Swinley Bike Hub and Swinley Forest Mountain Bike Trails is Swinley Forest, Bracknell RG12 7QW