Author Archives: hazel

Welsh Downhill Championships

  • Posted by hazel
  • 17 August 2012

The track was so fast; real flowy and dusty to the point your tyres would slide out of the bermed corners, making it super fun. With the sun was out and a relaxed atmosphere around the site, everyone seemed to having a cracking day.

Peer pressure and gentle persuasion is a powerful thing. I’m a sucker for it and just can’t say no. I hate missing out on things so my outside-of-work life becomes quite choccer-block.

This was the case come Friday last week. I was beginning to feel pretty beat, it had been a long week and tiredness was starting to set up camp in my muscles. So the thought of going off to race in a downhill mountain bike race at the weekend was not looking that appealing… but you know I’m not one to miss out…

With race day on the Sunday and practice on Saturday, we set about learning every inch of the course, well I say we – mostly Jon, Sam, Si and Josh! I have trouble learning courses. I think it’s from the many years of riding XC - I'd rather just ride it and deal with obstacles as and when I reach/ hit them.So with a van full of bikes, snack and the Season’s soundtrack turned up, myself, Jon from decent world and Cardigan’s own Jesus set off at the crack of dawn towards Moelfre for the Welsh Downhill MTB Champs. We met up with the other Ceredigion riders and set up camp. With Si Williams aka fretter, Sam aka fretter junior, Tomos and Aled aka Axe and Shotgun!

The track was so fast; real flowy and dusty to the point your tyres would slide out of the bermed corners, making it super fun. With the sun out and a relaxed atmosphere around the site, everyone seemed to having a cracking day.

Roll on Sunday…

Oh wait it’s absolutely peeing it down – what a surprise. And what’s that, yeah I’m sat in my tent wearing a woolly hat, merino softshell and thick socks! This is summer! Ah well, nothing that proper cup of tea can’t sort out.

Heading up in the uplift trailer along with 30 other riders for the start of our first timed run, there was only two subjects of conversation – the weather and what tyres to run. I participated in neither of them mainly because I thought there’s no point getting down about the weather and secondly I can’t take my front wheel out so there was no chance of me changing my tyres. I’d just have to like it and lump it.

My first run went well - I wanted to keep it smooth and consistent as the course was becoming quite slippery. The bottom section of the track was my favorite with a couple of jumps that you could launch off, nothing like the feeling of fresh air between the tyres and the ground. I managed to take the lead with a good amount of time between 2nd and myself.For my final timed run, I thought I’d open it up a bit and try pedaling more - "Giving it the beans". It paid off and I was able to knock 5 seconds of my first run. Awesome. Plus it meant that I had a comfortable lead to take the win.  Woohoo, I just won the Welsh Champs, what a result!! As always, I’m glad I went!With banter on tap and some great riding the weekend ended up being so much fun. Jon and myself are now the proud owners of a Welsh Champs jersey. Also in the Ceredigion camp, Si took 2nd in the vets, Sam took 10th juniors and Josh was 24thin the senior cat. Not bad at all!Thanks to MIJ racing for a brilliant race, Jon for playing taxi, tea maker and bike mechanic. Tomos, Aled and Josh for the hillbilly entertainment, Si for his constant fretting and Steve and Vicky for being loud marshals!

You guys made the weekend, the result was just a bonus!!

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I’ll set the scene, it’s Friday evening, you’ve just driven 5 hours to a race site and you’re pitching your tent, it’s all going well.


You then catch up with some old riding buddies and sit by the fire relaying stories of past bike exploits. You then think, well it’s time for bed, gotta get that respite before the race tomorrow. So you’re in your sleeping bag getting all snuggled when suddenly the heavens open and for the next how ever many hours you lay there listening to the torrential rain tearing at your tent walls.

The wind then picks up, you’re thinking ‘well I’m either going to be blown away or float off when the river that I’m camped next to burst it’s banks’. Envisaging BBC news the following morning – lost campers found stranded out to sea!!

But somehow you manage to get some shuteye, and as you open that door zip and look out, you see carnage!! I’m talking gazebos that have been up rooted, tents that have collapsed and probably the most horrific, your kit bag sitting in the middle of a large puddle! Pants. Good start to a 24hr mtb race!

I’ve been riding this event for years now and have always had an awesome time. It’s a super course that has a bit of everything including British mtb history when the Grundig world cup was held there in 1998, which I also raced in! Showing my age now.

I think sometimes when conditions are at their worst it somehow becomes that much more enjoyable, everyone is in the same boat. Having to walk that blasted off-camber singletrack section or put on those cold wet muddy shorts from your previous lap. It’s character building I reckon.

With a team of 5 consisting of myself, Chris, Rune, Jason and James we managed to complete 21 laps putting us into 6th position overall in the mixed cat, which was a nice bonus to the weekend.

It was an absolute pleasure riding with those guys, non-stop banter and James’ enthusiasm that never faltered! We also managed to avoid any mechanicals or injuries, which was pretty lucky seeing as a snapped mech and chain was a common occurrence throughout the race.

Even though my bike now runs like a bag of spanners and my mountain of kit washing doesn’t seem to be reducing I wouldn’t have changed anything about the weekend, it’s was brilliant and I came away as usual with a massive grin on my face that I got to ride my bike and hang out with some lovely people.

That’s what two wheels are for!

Getting vertical

  • Posted by hazel
  • 14 March 2012

Riding downhill on any bike is always fun, but add in 180 mm of travel, full body armour and a full-face helmet and yer laughing.

I rode Cwm-Carn on Saturday with a group of local shredders who made me push myself and laugh until my ribs hurt. We managed to get 10 solid runs in which was brilliant, but painful on the old fingers. I had permanent claw hands for the majority of the day. I felt pretty rusty riding the DH rig, but after a few runs down I soon got into the swing of things and was loving the rhythm section at the bottom of the course. With one particular hip jump that just felt awesome with the wheels off the ground.

After a long winter it was just what we all needed and has given us the motivation to start organizing more trips and begin digging our local trails.

Here’s a small edit by Jon Becket at Descent World of our Saturday Uplift session:-

Cwmdown Cwmcarn DWR from descent-world on Vimeo.

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My legs are still killing me today but I guess that’s what happens when you enter an Enduro somewhere as hilly as mid Wales. It’s self-inflicted pain and i shouldn’t really be moaning or making those achy leg noises every time I get up from my desk but I do, and will continue too for the rest of the day.

On Sunday, myself and two friends Josh and Rune turned up at the brilliant trail center Brechfa at 7:45 am with bleary eyes and a feeling of excitement that the day ahead would be filled with riding our bikes, and generally having a good time.

This year’s enduro had a slightly different format because it would be the three timed stages that counted towards the final positioning, rather than trying to get round the whole course as quick as poss. I really like this, as it meant you could take it easier on the in-between bits and then give it the beans on each stage.

With a staggered start it meant less congestion at the beginning, and gave people time to get sorted. Us three being keen as custard got going straight away and set out to conquer the 30 km course with big smiles on our faces!

The first timed section was the 3 minute downhill which was super fast and flowing with some tight corners that made you squeal. I love riding downhill quick so I gave it some welly and managed to get down to the bottom in one piece with only a couple of near misses. Our smiles were even bigger now!

The second time section was the undulating stage, this consisted of a horrible switch back climb that makes your legs and arms burn, followed by a swooping downhill that required concentration and momentum. For me this was the hardest part because after the  climb, my body felt like jelly but my bike was accelerating downwards at a rate of knots, so I just hung on and flowed through all the twists and turns!

Three quarters of the way round was a feed station with banana’s galore. We loaded up on these and stood around speculating about where the final stage could be. The general vibe was great too and everyone looked like they were having fun. Fueled up, we continued onwards to the final leg.

Who ever planned the course must have been having a chuckle to them self because the last part just seemed to go up hill. I can only imagine the amount of colorful words being spoken from tired mountain bikers! The final timed checkpoint was an 8 minute climb!

I maintained a comfortable pace and reached the top with a time that I was pleased with. That’s the hard part done, now just got to reach the finish…

The final section back to the finish was a fire road decent, which if you let off the brakes you could really cut loose. I followed a guy called Paul who drives trains; he was a great person to be behind because he just had no fear! Ace fun indeed!

Through the finish line I got off my bike and stood there with the same smile that I started with. I’ve been riding mountains bikes for 16 years and it just doesn’t get boring, I still get that great feeling!! Buzzing.

And to top off an already top day, I managed to take the overall win in the women’s category. It was Tracey Mosley who presented the prizes which was amazing! She’s awesome, definitely a rider I look up to!

I’ve rattled on for long enough now sorry, but what can I say MTB’s are just rad!!

Thank you to Bike Brechfa and Brechfa bike club for putting on such an ace event. To Josh and Rune for being top riding companions, and to all the marshal who stood out in the freezing conditions.  Roll on next year!!

Hazel
howies Clothing Designer & Technician

Urban DH race in New Quay,Wales

  • Posted by hazel
  • 9 November 2011

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Starting a fresh can always be daunting experience and that’s how I felt when I relocated to Cardigan to begin working at howies. It takes time to meet new faces, find people to ride with etc, so I thought what better way of introducing myself to the Welsh mtb scene than entering the Urban DH race in New Quay.

Practice began on Saturday so I turned up around mid-day to be met by riders hurtling across the car park and onwards towards the town, looks fun!

After assembling my bike and having a pre practice snack I headed up to start line. First run is always abit nerve racking as you never quite know what to expect, or how much speed you’ll need for particular sections. My plan of action, take it steady!

Dropping in off the top fire road and onto the field was ace as there was a muddy rutted berm, that if you hit right would shoot you out the other side, and then continue into another muddy drop in. From here the course ran along the field, which was like riding through a clay pit with an added tabletop jump to contend with. Legs beginning to burn,

Once out of the clay pit, it was then over a wooden volcano style obstacle and down two grassy banks, this section was so much fun! You could really go fast down these and launch of them, love having all that suspension!

Out of the grass and into the streets, this is where the race really started to get interesting. With sections of flat out pedaling and slight inclines it would be the fittest that could gain the most time, and though I consider myself fit trying to sprint stood up on my full suss bike near enough killed me! Wish I had lock out on my triple clamps!!

One particular section had my heart in my mouth; this was the steep narrow set of steps with a hairpin turn into it. Each time I would hit my hip on the railing as I came into the steps too tight, but you also had to stay off the brakes due to the mud. So basically I just held on and hoped for the best!! Out of the steps it was then into two grassy banks that were just so fast to ride, loved these! This shot you back out onto the road where it was a head down and pedal for you life to the finish.

I ended up doing lots of practice laps, not because I checking lines out but because I was enjoying it so much.

Sunday was race day! First run went well but felt quite laboured, my time was 2:12. So I decided for my second one I would just take it easier through the corners and try flow through each section rather than attacking them. This paid off because I managed to knock 4 seconds off my first run time, which I was pretty stoked about. It also meant that I came third out of the women, being beaten by Manon Carpenter and Aimee Dix. Both absolutely amazing riders!!

After each lap I thought my lungs had blown up but the pain was soon replaced with a smile the size of New Quay harbor. I met some super people and must say thank you to Dave and Dan who supplied me with hot tea though out Sunday!! (As a northerner this was better than winning the lottery!, well maybe not).

I also felt very privileged to be stood next to the current junior World Champion Manon Carpenter on the podium.

This was the first year that Mij racing have put on this race, I hope it’s not the last as it was bloomin mint!!Thank you to the organizers and Si!

Image courtesy of Ian Ramsbottom

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