12 hours of Bristol - Bike Magic

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12 hours of Bristol

Yes, that’s dust

2005 is the third year that the Bristol Bike Fest has been held. The centrepiece of the weekend is the 12 hour enduro, run on the really rather fine trails of the Ashton Court estate. The local trail pixies had been out filling in some holes and generally tidying up, and the course was running very fast indeed. It’s got more than its fair share of roots and rocks on it, though, which made my bike choice (a rigid carbon singlespeed) perhaps marginally ill-advised. But hey, it was light.

This year everything seemed to have cranked up a notch. The race arena was more arena-like, the toilets flushed, the campsite had marked pitches but the pleasingly low-key vibe was still present and correct. The 9am start meant we had to get up pretty early, but it did mean you didn’t need lights right at the end. To be fair you didn’t need lights with last year’s 10pm finish, but they were damn handy…

One of the great things about the Bike Fest enduro is that it’s a proper race. Most of the stuff we’ve done this year has included bridleways and roads and things and therefore can’t officially be a race (not that that seems to stop organisers posting results sheets and lap times…). But here it’s official – you’re racing. It might seem like a detail, and when you’re trundling along having a chat to a fellow competitor it doesn’t feel much like a race at all, but it does seem to lend something extra to the proceedings somehow.

Tool for the job

The Bristol course could be characterised by words like fast, swoopy, narrow, rooty, rocky… And flat. So the perfect bike? A rigid singlespeed? No. [Ahem – Mike] Hardtail? Nope. A light 4in full sus that handles like a dart and only likes going at warp speed? Oh yes!

We’ve been impressed with Marins in the past. Some people don’t like them, but that’s largely to do with their apparent ubiquity. A quick call to race sponsors Marin and we had a Mount Vision for the day. Sorted. But was it the perfect bike for this course, and this type of riding? Yes, I reckon it was. After 12 hours in the saddle, you want to be able to walk to the burger van, and with the Marin I could.

The only problem with the bike (aside from the front tyre which liked to give up traction at the sight of an apex) is that the bike just wanted to go faster, and faster… You can see the problem here. If you have the legs, it’s a supremely rewarding bike, always ready to take an injection of energy and squirt up the trail like it’s got a rocket up its arse. This doesn’t mean it can’t cruise at lower speeds, but the fact that it wants to go faster is always apparent. It’s like an excited dog eagerly waiting for you to lob a stick into the air.


Racers were split into solo or teams, with teams having between two and four members. Dave and I were racing solo, him in the amusingly-named Solo Fun category and me in Solo Singlespeed. Which isn’t as hard as it sounds – give me gears and I blow up trying to push big ones, and there’s not really any hills on the Bristol course. It fits my style – ride slow, eat lots. Not that squeezing energy gels down you neck strictly counts as eating, but still.

Up the front there were people going mad fast, though. The Bike Bristol/Marin team, led by Paul Lazenby, managed a lap more than anyone else with a mighty 30. Possibly even more impressive was Rob English’s successful defence of his solo title with 26 laps, which is something in the region of 136miles. John Ross won solo singlespeed for the second time, too, with 24 laps.

As with almost any race, though, for most people it’s a personal battle between them and the course, or possibly you and your nearest rival. On a long, multi-lap race it’s nigh-on impossible to figure out how well you’re doing (although the same bloke passing you every fifth lap is a good clue) so you just tend to carry on as best you can and see what happens at the end.

It’s a great course for this kind of thing, though. Dragging yourself out for another lap is a common problem with multi-lap enduros, but when it’s this much fun (and it’s basically downhill for ten minutes from the start line) it’s an easy hurdle to overcome.

And then there’s an evening of food, beer and music from the DJs and live band (who seemed to become more and more ramshackle as the evening wore on – we assume someone eventually just turned the generator off…) before retiring for some well-earned sleep.

Oh, and the rigid thing? My arms threatened to fall off after nine laps, so I swapped to something with a suspension fork. And a bouncy post. Bliss.

Big thanks to organiser Paul Newman and his team for another cracking weekend. Full results at Timelaps. And we’ve got over 700 pictures from the race, all searchable by race number – find yours here.

All pics: Simon Kirk


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