It’s really too cold to be racing bikes in the Pennines this late in the year, however this hasn’t deterred the good people at PMBA from running their Day/Night Enduro at Gisburn this weekend.
The organisers Borderline Events had clearly consulted the weather spirits and ordered a crisp, sunny day with frost and cloud inversions to cheer the hearts of even the most ill prepared racer.
Gisburn Forest hides miles of woodland singletrack to cater for all varieties of bike enthusiast. This weekend’s race took in some of the fun descents on the red route and was a gentler affair than some of the series’ earlier events, meaning the race was a great first race for lots of the people I chatted to on the way round.
Despite the man-made surfaces, the trails were slick and sketchy and offered very little by way of cornering grip owing to the ice which persisted all day. I saw a few near misses and suffered a couple of rear-wheel-steer moments myself during practice, but nobody seemed put off, the skating rink conditions were just adding to the atmosphere.
Chilly practice out of the way, hot chocolate consumed and serviceable gear cable installed (thanks to Escape Bikes for being prepared when I wasn’t) it was time for racing.
The format for the day’s racing was a single lap of a 6 mile course taking in four short timed sections. Then wait for darkness, rinse, and repeat.
Let the games begin!
Stage one was straight out from the event centre, a swoopy, bermed descent with plenty of icy puddles to wake you up on the way. Avoiding the trolls/lethal ice on the bridge after the end of the stage was the most difficult part of stage one, but barring a few expletives and the loss of a billy-goat-gruff I emerged unscathed.
Stage two took in the Home Baked descent, a tight and rooty affair with a rocky staircase thrown in the mix to keep you on your toes. A misplaced shoulder cost me precious seconds whilst I briefly entangled myself with a tree, a mistake I really should have been able to avoid. I emerged grinning and ready for the fire road climb regardless.
The Hope Line made up stage three, a more gravity-orientated stage than the rest, but nonetheless requiring quads of steel and lungs like bellows to make it count. Watching other racers make unplanned U-turns on the first icy corner threw me off my stride and I tiptoed into the stage far too timidly.
The berms and tabletops of the Hope Line aren’t really what I’m any good at, but by the second jump I’d thrown ice-induced caution to the wind and was loving life. I tactically (nothing to do with being rubbish at jumping) squashed the last few jumps and pedalled off to the next stage.
Stage four was the most leg-burning of the lot and required maximum attack to be maintained for a full 2 minutes. Lots of strength-sapping dips and tiny climbs had me cursing my winter layers and noodle legs. Great fun!
Back to base to check my times, scoff some chilli, cuddle some dogs and chat some nonsense.
Hope had very kindly offered demo lights out to women who were racing and I collected and fitted these with glee. No more racing with dubious LEDs duct taped to my bike and body – not tonight at least!
The night stages took in the exact same course as the earlier stages, which should have made them easier, even for someone with a peculiar ability to forget trail features almost instantly.
Unfortunately, the thrill of actually being able to see where I was going in the dark was too much and I got carried away with going straight forwards, rather than in the direction of the trail. I ended up on the wrong side of the tape entangled in a spruce thicket on what should have been the simplest part of stage two. A stupid mistake which cost me time and frustrated me in equal measure.
Racing in the dark is always great fun, but I’d forgotten just how much more entertaining the darkness makes things. The 1,400 lumens of extra riding confidence that the borrowed Hope R4 provided were very welcome and I enjoyed the night racing even more than the day’s stages, despite the stupid crashes.
I made it back to base in time for a warming fire and handed in my timing chip with a twinge of regret at having made some daft and in-correctable mistakes in my race runs. Ah well, that’s racing!
Podiums were my kind of thing, with so many categories represented that it seemed every niche was catered for. Especially impressive were the junior categories, with some of the youngest racers putting in some seriously quick times – watch out world!
I ended up finishing fourth overall and coming home laden down with Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery “Enbeero” beer. Cheers! The women’s win was taken by Hope’s own Katherine Sharp. Various other extensive category results here.
Hopetech Women (who loaned me the lights) meet for regular rides at Gisburn and throughout the country, have a look at the Hopetech Women website for the next ride near you.