Living in the big smoke is the biggest hindrance to getting any decent riding in after I’ve clocked out of the office. I often long to get out to the surrey hills after a speedy spin home, but until I can guarantee the weather I don’t feel I can reap the reward of getting out there from my base in the south west of the city. So do I have any other options?
My first and almost final Beastway experience
Last year Bike Magic contributor Dave (Arthur) took me to a race series at the Redbridge Cycle Centre called the Beastway. It was great fun but I was disappointed with my performance, suffering a few asthma related issues (well, that’s my excuse). After only doing one round I vowed to return and give it a better shot, but then unfortunate news came out that this long standing series had come to an end.
Thankfully SIP events and Privateer magazine have stepped in to keep the legacy of the Beastway going, and with a reputation for putting on a fine race this was great news. Especially for me as this gave me an option to get competitive and see if my longer commute combined with riding a whole lot more would bear any fruit of success come race day.
Racing the revamped Beast!
Wednesday 29th May rolled around and despite an appalling night’s sleep (let’s get these excuses going) I was really up for it. I had sourced myself a Torpado Nearco in aluminium and, completely new to me, 650b wheels. Remembering how the course we rode last year this could be ideal, with more short, sharp sprinting and climbing sections going on than long pedally sections perhaps this is where the so called “in between” size would shine. It was however not supplied with the most dreamy of specs – x7, entry level tektro brakes, an RST insert-random-number fork and a rough weight of over 32lbs – I wasn’t handed the dream ticket machine here. But this is grass roots racing and it shouldn’t matter what bike I’m on right? The inner bike snob in me disagreed, but I soldiered on regardless.
Commuting the 16 miles to get in to work (excuses?) was no bother and I was pleased with how the bike rode. 5pm came around sooner than I thought and I was lucky enough to be able to get in to my kit and out the door to meet Cape Epic superstar Rachel Fenton who, after a couple of tweets, was to be my ride out partner. She had assured me (sorry Rach) that she knew the route and we set off out the city. What followed this was to prove to be our downfall in the most essential thing when it comes to racing – preparation.
“I think it’s down here”
“It’s telling me right, but that can’t be the way”
“Wait….think we better turn around”
These are just some of the excerpts of our conversation during what should have been no more than an hour’s ride – but was in fact 2hrs 15 minutes! Here’s the strava map below, which could easily be a drunk’s efforts at laying out a snakes and ladders game:
With 15 minutes to spare we were elated to have even got there. We saw the Alex and Trev from Canyon bikes (@CanyonUK) and, without even as much as a hello, I began unloading my bag into their van. Cheers guys!
Ok, time to shove down a flapjack and a gel in the shorts.
Over to the race organisers, quick – where’s a Pen!
Name, address – why do you need all this?!
Get the timing chip on your shoe quick.
Tyres? Ahh still at 60 PSI! Deflate. Inflate.
Ok good to go. Wait, everyone’s on the startline!
After that brief interlude, to the actual racing…
Trying to find the right place on the startline left me at the back of the seniors group and I’d just reset the Garmin in time for the starter to get us underway. Timing it quite literally to the wire. I was still exhausted and knew any chance of a decent performance had gone out the window, so I just had to give as good as I could.
With no warm up lap I had no idea what the course was and after the worst starting position imaginable I passed a couple of people and tried to keep up. After a grassy and gravel track start we dived in to the woods. It was damp but the good damp, decent traction and you knew you could trust your bike. Out of these and argh – climb! Crunch the gears and I meandered my way up the enjoyable switchback turns. Then came the first down, BMX track like I was at home and started to let it go and trust I knew how to turn, pulling up as hard as I could on all the little jumps with a smile on my face.
Back in to the woods, out again and we made our way across the side of the hill. There was a really odd point where you went over an awkward mound and then up a mellow grass slope – but on every lap for no reason I died on it! I chatted with Rach about this after and she had the same issues, very deceptive and a nice challenge.
I was already way off the pace and concentrated more on enjoying it. Ignoring the horrific spring knocking going on from the forks I started to have fun – and that’s the most important thing here. Only doing 5 laps on a top of the range bike I managed to get 6 this time around which, secretly, I was really happy with. Being more interested in the gravity side of things my fitness doesn’t touch most of the guys competing, but all those racing showed courtesy when passing.
As I crossed the line I collapsed off the bike and promptly got papped by Privateer’s Andy Waterman, crawling around on the floor like a worm that had been cut in half.
The ride home was a bit easier, train restrictions were a thing of rush hour and myself and Rach excitedly chatted about future riding plans and shared stories of all things two-wheeled. We separated at Liverpool street and I headed off to Waterloo. It was now about 10pm and I had no choice but to scoff a McShame down on the train home. I felt I’d done enough to semi-warrant it though. Rolling through the door I hit the shower and had a great night’s sleep.
So it is possible to exhaust all the hours of your free time doing what you love, and I even feel better for it today…perhaps not tomorrow, but that’s ages away. I highly recommend getting down to the Beastway if you live in the City and if you’re looking for a ride out group next week tweet me @paulhaysom.
Photos courtesy of: