Why Real World Racing?
Racing can be a route to pushing and developing your skills; it's amazing what a little bit of adrenaline, mixed with a bit of friendly competition with your mates, and some good craic flowing can do for your riding. Mostly it removes some of the inhibitions - the skill being not getting carried away!
Below are some details and links to events you might consider at whatever level you ride, and also links to races competed in from 2015 onward. You will also find links to one-off events in the Facebook feed for Real World Riding.
Want to hear about the exploits of the Real World Racing 'team'? Follow the link to the race reports page and hear the story from the inside
Of the disciplines here, possibly Enduro is the closest to what we might choose to ride on the trail, and is the discipline I would advise (and have gained the most from).
Enduro is a European format, this is the unruly wild child of the mountain bike events. Recently dropped by British Cycling it's booming in the UK with several national series, and a range of local events and series. Similar to rally driving (but without the motor) Enduro is a stage event often run on a single loop of trail up to 35km long (or longer in some cases), where the (mostly) downhill stages are timed to give an overall time which gives your result in the race. Usually these races have categories for pros and in age bands.
Whatever the flavour of enduro event, it all comes down to flow, reading the trail, and being ready for the unexpected.
Even if you had a practice day, you can't remember the whole route of the race, so there's always some surprises en route.
There are several types of Enduro event in the UK, and the format you choose will affect the fun you have. This is also influenced by where the event organisers are coming from.
Seeded: The UK Gravity Enduro Series, for instance, is run so that each competitor has to do a timed 'seeding' run on the first practice day, and this then places them in the line-up. They will then be given a start time for race day, and a set of start times for each timed stage. This ensures that you race with a slightly faster person in front of you, and a slightly slower person behind you, so passing is less of an issue unless the person in front is lying on their back part way down the track somewhere, in which case they are relatively easy to overtake. There is usually about 20 second gaps between riders, and a time penalty for not being on time for a section start. As your start times are set by your seeding run, mates are often split up, but it's a great way to meet other riders and a very sociable atmosphere, especially as all the riders around you ride at a similar pace.
Dibbed: The Scottish Enduro Series, for instance, allows a day practice as for UKGE, but doesn't seed. Instead, competitors choose a start time, and groups of competitors start at intervals. This means that if you are co-ordinated, you and your mates can ride together and race each other through the event so makes it a fun way of riding in a group. Starting and ending a timed section means registering with your dibber (an electronic tag on your wrist) which can be a bit of a faff for the un-initiated. Being mixed with all other riders means that you can also rub shoulders with much faster riders and watch them, as well as meaning that occasionally you may have to pull over to let some podium crazed lunatic past you - but this is done in a very friendly manner (and in fact you can be penalised for being unfriendly!)
Single Day (Blind) events, such as the Highland Perthshire Enduro and Tweedlove King and Queen of the hill, are run as dibbed events, but riders are not allowed to practice the course the day before. This means there is less time commitment, but also room for more surprises. Racing at 110% with your hair on fire will commonly see you off the first blind corner. Again, the mix means you need to keep an ear out behind, but you can ride with your mates, and this (if you can enter) is the nicest entry into racing.
Things to Know
KIT - UKGE for instance is now asking for you to ride all timed sections with a full-face helmet on, and to hold personal injury insurance. They come from a Downhill background, and while the events are suitable for all, some sections are very committing and would have appeared in Downhill races back in the day. So far they have all been 100% rideable by mere mortals and the management are really friendly.
Other events will have different requirements. Most other organisers are happy to see you in a cross country helmet (although new 'Enduro' helmets have better cover at the back than an XC helmet). Many of these organisers come from a cross country or endurance background.
BIKE - There is no specific Enduro bike type. There are often even hardtail categories to race in, but it is undeniable that the terrain you'll be on, and the speeds you may travel at will be easier ridden on a full-susser. If you're running on 26" or 650b wheels, then 140mm to 160mm will do you proud. Aggressive tyres, and reliable brakes will make your life easier and keep 'rubber side down' and then the only other advice would have to be "don't love your bike too much". Depending on the event it can take quite a bit of abuse, so wincing your way down worrying about the beautiful paint Job will not help your enjoyment - things do get broken.
Interested in trying Enduro?
Follow the link to the RWR article "Having a go at Enduro" for more information and advice
or check out our Enduro specific training package in the Professional section
SO WHY DO IT? - Enduro racing is a fantastic way to push your limits, skills and confidence. I have only ever done one event (twice now) that had a section (two corners) that I refused to ride on the event, but I have ridden many bits of trail that as I crested the rise I thought I wouldn't be able to ride. Then I saw all the others, picked a line, and tried it, and discovered that I was better than I thought. True enough I have ridden a number of sections all over the place but I got down them. Out on the trail, be it trail centre or natural trail (especially natural trail) I have ridden numerous sections with confidence because they were less complicated, less steep, or just less scary than things I've raced on. And lets be honest here; sometimes it's confidence in your ability that makes all the difference. I've also discovered riding spots all over the UK that I wouldn't know otherwise, as well as locally - The King and Queen of the Hill in Peebles for instance showed me loads of new trails I'd never visited before.
Prepare - but don't take it too seriously - Training for fitness will be useful as these events are all day, but you don't need to be an athlete to take part, especially the dibbed events as you have a lot more flexibility. Fitness will help in your general 'state' at the start of a section, and certainly if you're racing with timed 'transitions' then your fitness will be a factor - Getting to the top of the last section in the Dovey Forest UKGE event In 2013 is still burned in my memory as I dragged by sorry carcass into the stage area on the dot of my arrival time, and then had about 2 minutes to recover and prepare myself before the maddest and longest section I've ever done - so mad I overtook one person on my backside with my bike on top of me, blew through all my suspension on one drop-off, and two wheel drifted almost 20m across one grassy section - madness (!) - oh the stories!
There are other events not listed on this page as they are fairly unique and quite specialised. If you want to find out more about some of these more 'interesting' events, follow the link below, or read on for a few notes about other disciplines.
Follow the links for information on other mad events, or to the links page for links to some of the events organisers own sites
Cross Country Events - There are a range of national and local cross country events, mostly either arranged by local clubs, or in association with British Cycling. The national series for the really competitive gives points from results, and ranking nationally, resulting in a national champion. For mere mortals, there are a number of different ways to enter these events, which make them quite accessible, from a lower level of competition, fun races, and also single lap races. These are good for you if you like the buzz of competition, a single day of events, and enjoy the fitness and stamina element. BC has a calendar of events, which local clubs may or may not place events on, and many of these races will require you to have a licence or day licence, which will cost about £10 plus entry fee on the day.
Endurance Events - There are a wide range of endurance events (some might say that include cross country events) these range from a couple of hours to some of the more epic events. Muckmedden run a 6 hour endurance event, there's the 10 under the Ben run by no-fuss at Nevis Range, and of course the epic 24 hour winter Strathpuffer. These events can be ridden in teams, where you get to decide how many laps you do before a break, and these can usually be teams of 2 or 4, or for the really special experience, they can be ridden solo. Solo endurance riding is less a game of riding than a head game. Successful soloists talk of eating only what they crave, of having celebration shorts for the second half, and of the mind games that they play. Having done one 8 hour solo endurance race, I can say that even at that length I did reasonably well simply by finishing, unlike at least half the other soloists. I did throw up all over my bike on the last leg and ride the last downhill whilst blacking out, and had taken a 45 minute lie down in the middle, but at least I kept going. It takes a special kind of person to enjoy this kind of thing, and a really special person to enjoy in on their own. The craziest endurance event I ever tried was the (now deceased) Fort William No Fuss Downhill Endure. It was so foggy I had to find my way down the world cup course almost by feel, and unfortunately broke one of David's rules and almost a second; I did end up in hospital (and I was the first there) but I completed a whole lap, so came second from last!
Just across the line at the Kirroughtree 8 Hour endurance event, sporting my 'wee dram' handed to me by Fraser from No Fuss.
- A proper 1000 yard stare!