So having returned from Livigno feeling like I could rival Ratboy in the skill stakes (that may have been the Aperol Spritz talking!) I thought it an opportune moment to tackle one of Britain’s best and most well attended Enduro events; cue me and 3 riding buddys rocking up at ‘Ard Rock Enduro nr Swaledale in the awesome Yorkshire Dales. Having bought some new XT brakes (excellent kit) I arrived at the event campsite bright and early to fit them to my clean and well fettled bike, this went surprisingly well and left me with a warm fuzzy feeling as my mates arrived to see me set up like a king in the Camper van, beer in hand and Stumpy raring to be ridden.
So onto Saturday ‘practice’; fabulous weather and all of us in a positive frame of mind saw us fly up the first climb and all clean the first timed stage with huge smiles and possibly even just a little bit of style; drifting through steep turns in a normally closed quarry immediately showed us just how special ‘Ard Rock is. We pushed on (sometimes literally as it got very steep!) in positive spirits finding a lovely pub for a spot of lunch and some minor mechanical fettling. Timed stage 3 came and went with the same helpings of awesome technical rocky descents and swooping grassy singletrack but then came the sting in the tail, stages 4 and 5 saw some brutal and long transitions with some difficult and tight climbs, the hike a bike up to stage 4 being particularly noteworthy! Undeterred we pressed on and as we crested stage 5 transition and saw the grassy descent through toppled down signature Yorkshire dales dry stone walls our spirits lifted; the camp was in sight and it was reached by a great looking final timed stage. Tired but suitably enthused we all cleared the stage and made it back to camp exhausted but satisfied. It was at this point we bumped into Joe Reynolds, event organiser, general MTB expert and all round good bloke, he asked how the day had gone and upon our explaining we had completed the whole course he looked somewhat shocked and said ‘most people don’t do that in Practice, in fact we made it longer to put people off!’. We shrugged this off and headed back to the van for some burgers, beer and sleep.
Sunday dawned with drizzle and cloud and the 4 of us feeling rather tired with Joe Reynold’s words echoing in our head; nonetheless we hopped onto the bikes and peddled off for our 10am start. The first climb was a different proposition on Race day, we were much slower, there was very little banter and we eventually slogged to the top of the first time stage. It was here I sat back a little and ‘had a word with myself’ my concentration was wavering and I was struggling to hit any clean lines which didn’t bode well for the descent! Suitably mentally fortified I reminded myself how fast we had rode this descent yesterday and set myself the challenge of beating yesterdays run (in the shape of overtaking my slightly faster mate!). Things started ok with the top steep & loose gravel section allowing me to build some confidence back; that was until I went into one corner just a little too fast lost the back of the bike and only just managed to stay onboard, confidence shaken again! Another little internal chat to psyche myself up and I put the hammer down again dropping into, the by now very sloppy, rutted grassy switchbacks on the lower slopes; then it happened. Lacking in confidence but bursting with bravado I tried to rail each switchback harder than the last but then confronted with a nasty looking rutted muddy drop-off my confidence ran out and I stupidly grabbed a handful of front brake whilst pointing across a turn, downhill in mud; cue an acrobatic excursion over the bars and an unfortunate landing on top of the bike; I immediately knew I was quite badly injured but nonetheless got back in the saddle and gingerly picked my way to the bottom. At this point the marshals pointed out there was blood dripping down my frame from my elbow and left leg and that perhaps they should check me out, I tried to step off the bike and immediately realised my left thigh was badly numb and I couldn’t really move, falling to the ground ungracefully was not in the plan but was the only option. The marshals patched up my scars and with bravado kicking back in I tried to soldier on; I made it about 200 yards up the next climb before realising I was in a bad way, dejected and frankly furious with myself I made my apologies and goodbyes to my mates and slowly wheeled the mile downhill back to the event site, handed in my timing chip and went back to the van.
My mates arrived back 5hrs later brimming with stories but absolutely shattered; I busied myself with cooking whilst they recounted the day; I didn’t really want to hear it, I was still kicking myself for such a rookie mistake but slowly as the night wore on (and beer was consumed) I started to accept it for what it was and get involved in the banter. By now my thigh was twice its normal size and a healthy shade of purple; needless to say the 6 hr drive back to Bristol in a 1980s VW Camper with the world’s heaviest clutch didn’t help! This crash has cost me 2 months off my bike and multiple physio sessions to heal what I now know to be a severe quadratic haematoma (really really bad dead leg to you and me!) but it has prompted me to think a little about how I approach our sport. I have always known that you need as much confidence as you do skill and that having the ‘kahunas’ to look ahead let the bike run and flow faster through technical stuff is the way to gain speed but what I have now learnt is that when confidence turns to bravado it must be tempered; a little bit of self awareness does no harm and I now know I overstretched myself in the run up to the race and indeed on the day.
Endurance mountain biking is about 2 forms of balance, the obvious one with you and the bike staying the right way up; and the less obvious one of knowing your own limits and knowing when to push yourself to those limits (and maybe just beyond them so you get faster!), get that right and you have amazing days on the bike, get it wrong and you get 2 months of physio!
I’m back on the bike now and have a long weekend of Welsh riding coming up (Bike Park Wales is well worth the trip by the way!), here’s hoping I strike the right balance in every sense!
One of the things we, here at MonkeyMTB, love about Livigno is it is a place you can go biking with mixed groups or as a couple. With the flow country trails accessed via lifts and the varied trails in the bike park, you are sure to keep the most daring members of your group and those wanting to push themselves and learn more, equally entertained all holiday. But being one of the best bike parks in the world, Livigno felt it was time to open a brand new trail which was truly suitable for EVERYONE.
Eas23 is a very streamlined course, which can be ridden fast for the more experienced but is also very safe for beginners thanks to an average 6% gradient. It is 2100m long and starts from the Mottolino gondola top terminal. The trail runs under the lift coming down to the overpass where it comments to other trails. Although plans are in place to continue building this trail down to the bottom before the summer is out.
So if you fancy riding this, or the must do DH 2005 MTB World Cup track, MonkeyMTB can offer guided riding on the trails, lift passes, bike hire, half board across the choice of three hotels and airport transfers from Milan. www.monkeymtb.com
Well summer is well and truly here. Horah! While it’s baking hot back in Blighty, here in Livigno the sun is shining, the snow has melted and the trails are filling up. It’s been a fantastic start to the summer mountain biking season with the Nine Knights festival showcasing their amazing skills on Mottolino with visitors getting to ride with some of the world’s best freeride mountain bikers. Plus all the excitement on the mountain spilled into the town for the the après-ride with beers and aperol spritzers being served on the street into the small hours. Good job the gondola ride and the fresh air helps clear your head the morning after!
We’ve also seen Hans Rey on the trails riding with us regularly and capturing his days on the mountains on his Instagram feed. We love riding with him, especially when you think you can keep up only to realise he’s going easy on you as he wheelies, does a 180 and rides off into the distance leaving you for dust.
And this week we’ve seen the opening of a new EAS23 trail on Mottolino. A nice flowing trail which for experienced riders allows you to ride fast with plenty of jumps ,or if you want to warm your legs up, provides a smooth decent with an average 6% gradient so great for those starting out. Check out this sneak preview.
So if you fancy joining us for the key season of August, where the bars and trails are in full swing, get in touch as we have some spaces left during the peak season – with no additional or overinflated charge for travelling during the holiday period. Our prices are the same throughout the season.
We always love it when Hans comes to lead our groups. That man has some skills!
Want something a bit different from your MTB trip this year? Why not head to Livigno during the Nine Knights MTB Festival from 16th to 21st June.
Watch the strongest bikers in the world tackle jumps and tricks on huge structures built next to the Livigno bike park. Plus get in on the action too with our packages including lift passes.
We can offer you 4 days bed & breakfast in a 3 star hotel in Livigno plus 3 days lift pass from €299 or why not upgrade to Lac Salin, our luxury option for €449 for 4 days. Based on 2 sharing.
Get in touch to find out more
So to me the best part of mountain biking is flowing down some loamy dry singletrack with the occasional jump or drop-off to get some air; that feeling where you and the bike seem to flow and glide as one and (briefly at least until your skill inevitably runs out!) you feel like you are an indestructible riding king!
Aside from that though there is certainly some joy to be had in getting some shiny new kit, but there is a health warning to be had here as I found out last weekend. Long in the planning was last weekend’s loop of Cutgate in Derbyshire’s Peak District; bikes tweaked, cars packed and mates suitably excited we headed off bright and early to make sure Andy could be back in time for a late afternoon family meal. It was at this point that my best mate and riding buddy Luke proudly announced he had some new winter riding shoes and he would doubtless have the warmest feet of our little trio for the forthcoming ride.
So we pulled into the car park and with a little jealously on Andy’s part and mine we watched Luke pull on his arctic capable looking footwear as we waded through the frosty puddles in our trusty but ‘battle-worn’ shoes. We quickly put the cold behind us as we hit the first rutted, muddy, rocky and generally bloody tough climb; it was at this point Luke requested a multi-tool (he’d remembered his new shoes but not a multi-tool!) because his feet kept unclipping without prompting, pedals suitably tightened we continued for another 500 yards before the problem resurfaced, we tightened the pedals yet further and continued for another ½ mile before the problem arose yet again; yet more tightening and an exploratory ride of Luke’s bike by both Andy and I established the pedals were plenty tight enough (I couldn’t unclip without assistance!). We decided to persevere and made it to the top of the first climb and over a traverse when Luke swore loudly as a pedal slapped his shin for the 7th time in as many minutes. My natural engineer (and desire to keep riding given I’d come all the way from Bristol for this!) kicked in and I eventually worked out that his cleats were set so deep in the (too narrow) cleat gap in the soles that they wouldn’t clip in to the pedals; a fundamental design flaw on a brand new pair of shoes which Luke (understandably) didn’t want to solve with my suggestion of hacking down the sole with my Leatherman! Cue a moment of what (we thought) was trailside inspiration; half a chain-link jammed under each cleat we got another 250 yards up the hill before all we could hear was Luke’s profanities again.
It was at this point Luke succumbed to the futility of being in the rocky, slippery (awesome) Peak District but being totally unable to clip into his pedals; we had a long discussion, got very cold and dejected and then did what all good riding buddies do, we turned back to the car as a group (never leave a man behind!). So after one very short descent which Andy and I squeezed every inch of fun out of and Luke endured with stoic good humour we were back at the car having covered 7 miles in 2 and a half hours (with less than an hour of moving time!).
So what’s the moral of this sorry tale? Well I think there are a few:
· Check new kit thoroughly before you go riding, faulty equipment is the easiest way to run a great ride; this wasn’t even a proper mechanical and somehow (trust me on this) that is far far more frustrating!
· No matter how good or bad a ride is, it’s always memorable and that’s why we love our sport; yes I didn’t get a proper trip into the Peaks with its brutal climbs and epic descents but I did have a laugh with 2 good mates and we will undoubtedly laugh (at Luke!) about it in the future.
· And the final (and most important) moral… Ride in Livigno in summer; you don’t need bloody winter shoes then! And of course Monkey MTB can help you get there too!
Want model trails? Livigno has become a silver level IMBA Ride Centre. And we're not surprised, we have always known Livigno's potential and every year it gets better and better!
"Long known has a highlight on trans-Alps routes, Livigno and the surrounding area has more than 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) of mapped trails — it's possible to ride for weeks without even scratching the surface. In 2009, Livigno built the first IMBA-designated "Flow Country" trail, and plans are underway to build many more such purpose-built bike trails in upcoming years. The small town offers shopping (duty free), diverse accommodations and plenty of other activities. Trail maps, guided tours, retail and rental bike shops, bike instruction schools, a pump track, circuits for kids, and shuttle service to nearby rides, such as the IMBA Epic Bernina Express."
Check out the full article here:
Having moved to Bristol in the UK I wanted to take advantage of the strong biking scene here as a way to get fit in time for the 2014 season. With alledgedly the worst traffic outside London, driving is a nightmare and biking has become such a popular way to commute. So I bought a road bike and some new gear and started riding to work two weeks ago. The ride to work is fabulous. 3 miles virtually all down hill. 10 minutes door to door. Result. The way home is a slightly different story. I work at the lowest point in the city and live at the highest. Cue burning thighs and bad helmet hair on my return home.
I hate hills. I love nothing more than a sweeping downhill off road, I just hate the climb to get there. But slowly, day by day I am finding that a daily commute is a great way to build of strength and stamina without you really noticing the effort. I love maximum output for minimum effort wherever possible.
I am blessed to have Ashton Court and Leigh Woods so close to hand to get some off road practice in. And with Wales and the Forest of Dean on the doorstep, I am looking forward to getting to know this part of the world. On my bike. Preferably downhill with a pint waiting at the end.
So bring on 2014 in Livigno. I am already in ‘training’.