Selkirk Merida - Hobo Style - Bike Magic

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Selkirk Merida – Hobo Style

Steve Waters

Ride time 6:03:19

The first thing I learned about big enduro events is that you need to get close to the front and hold that position to avoid severe bottlenecks. Otherwise, I can imagine it being severely frustrating.

There were some surprisingly technical sections on the route, with even the 25km route having some drops and jumps on it. There were plenty of highlights – dropping from a sunny forest track into dark woodland singletrack, being totally blind behind my sunglasses and hitting a tree; the fast-flowing singletrack section along the final ridge with the wind behind, safe in the knowledge that there were no more serious climbs… And looking back, I even enjoyed the monster climb – I thought I had prepared myself for it, but I just couldn’t believe it went on for so long – surely physically impossible given the height of the hills around there!

The low point for me was a pinch flat at what turned out to be less than half a mile from the finish. I could hear the loudspeaker but didn’t realise how close I actually was, so I elected to replace the tube rather than just run which would have saved myself a few minutes. But still, it’s not a race…

Facilities at the rugby club were excellent, providing you got in early on Sunday morning. Just wished we’d stayed the weekend…
Overall it was a great event, with friendly participants always ready to chat, laugh, offer help and check you’re OK.

Karl Holtby

(aka Dirty Karlos) Ride time 6:06:25

I was really looking forward to this round. Having done it the previous year I knew what to expect – some amazing riding! I was also looking forward to meeting up with the Hobo crew again. There had been lots of talk about the event in the week prior to it and things on the forum were beginning to get a little heated. All the competitive banter had gone come race day however, and the atmosphere was excellent.

Unfortunately for me I had next to zero sleep in the campsite. Not because fellow campers were being noisy (I was amazed at how quiet it was) but because blow-up beds are bloody awful. So I awoke in not the best frame of mind, but the sun was shining and that perked me up a bit.

The start of the ride was fine for us, having started near the front of the pack – we never encountered any of the apparent bottlenecks further down the field. I started off riding with Andrew but Carl and Steve disappeared, it seems they were on a mission!
After about an hour and a half I wanted to call it quits as I felt so tired through lack of sleep but then I would hit some amazing singletrack and that would perk me up, time after time. I just kept plodding away. Hobo, Steve and Carl had gone, no sight of them for sometime, so I was thinking that they must be way in front of me until I reached the second feed station and all three were sat there. I had a bit of a rest and watched them set off again. “Bugger,” I thought, “I’ll never catch them at this rate.”

Then again I caught up with Andrew in some forest singletrack, managed to get past him and caught up with Carl and passed him too, so I made it up the legendary Minch Moor climb before the two of them which pleased me greatly. I had a bit of a rest and took in the magnificent views. They both set off before me again, even though I was up there first, so I set out again after the Hobo crew.

The descent off Minch Moor was truly amazing but just one of some fantastic downhill sections throughout the day. The rest of the race is a bit of blur of climbs and endless singletrack. I passed Carl at some point but didn’t see him, I then passed Hobo again out on some moorland – you couldn’t miss him with his BM jersey. I then managed to pull out what I thought was a considerable lead on the two of them in our private little race. But little did I know that Hobo had me in his sights all the time. With about 5km to go after the amazing final descent I took a corner a little slowly having got cramp in my fingers and he snuck by on the inside. My cramping fingers went well with the cramp in my legs which I had been suffering from on and off for the last 20km, so when Hobo went past I thought it was Game Over. But I kept on his tail as we really picked up the pace for the last 2km or so.

I got my head down and spun my legs like crazy and managed to sneak past Hobo at quite a pace with about 400 meters to go. Much, much to his disgust, judging by his comments at the time… About twenty metres from the line cramp set in to my thighs like never before, truly agonising and I just hoped I had enough momentum to get me over the line as my legs would simply not move round anymore – thankfully I made it across the line about a second ahead of Hobo.

I still can’t believe that after such a distance we could have finished that close, this did much for our spirits though and we were both highly entertained by such a thrilling finish. Steve had finished four or five minutes ahead of us two and then Carl came in about ten minutes later!

The atmosphere was fantastic and a perfect way to end an amazing days riding. I’ll definitely be back again next year but staying in a B&B to get a good night’s sleep. Then none of them will be able to keep up with me…

Andrew Kinnersley

(aka The Littlest Hobo) Ride time 6:06:32

As part of the ever growing Hobo Style thread I have had the pleasure to partake in more excellent rides over the last year or so than I could have imagined possible. We also seem to have caught the ‘event’ bug and having entered two trio teams in Ten Under The Ben and performing better than expected we came to the conclusion that something a little different was required. This is where the Selkirk Merida event came in. 100km of riding over some of the best man made and natural trails of any enduro event in the UK, all in (hopefully) glorious sunshine. Perfick!

Unless you keep an eye on the Hobo Style thread you may not appreciate the ‘friendly’ banter that goes on. Prior to the Merida we had a new member of the crew make the journey up north, his name was Karlos. This chap rather upped the ante with regards to banter and having proven his mettle on a rather lunatic Lakes epic which Saintly put together he was firmly part of the team, even if said banter tended to stretch a few tempers.

My main issue prior to the event was the subject of distance. Having never ridden over 35 miles in one go before I was seriously worried. Being limited for riding time, getting the miles in beforehand was going be an issue. But eventually I calmed down and decided that regular 35 mile Lakes rides plus a few “longer” outings would stand me in pretty good stead. Saintly and Dave Ingleby really helped in this respect, both organising rides of over seven hours which I think helped me enormously.

The next subject was equipment. I ride a Trek Liquid which, with the best will in the world, is never going be light – 32lbs at its lightest. In an effort to cut bulk I fitted a pair of Specialized 1.95in tyres which I found predictable enough and rolled a lot faster than the ones I took off. Other than the addition of a cycle computer the bike was as I ride it every week. My Camelbak Lobo isn’t the biggest, but by taking out the first aid kit (surely someone would help if needed?) and taping the spare tube to the seat post I freed up enough room for my rations – bag of Cheddars, GO SIS energy gels, Jelly Babies, Magic Beans and extra SIS GO powder for topping up bottles.

Finally, clothing. Having acquired a rather fetching BM racing top (very close fitting for extra aerodynamics) I decided to complete the race look with some Lycra shorts. Not sure I like the Lycra look, but I’m sold on the benefits on a long ride.

Upon arrival at the rugby ground I was quite relieved to see that we were pretty early and things were quite relaxed. Registration took one minute and then we went for a nice pre-ride bacon butty and got our gear ready whilst meeting up with further Hobo members Dave Ingleby and Shim. With half and hour to go we were called to the start but somehow got split into two groups. Dave, Shim and Saintly disappeared leaving Steve, Carl, Karlos and I to find a nice place relatively near the front. Then it was off we go.

Steve and Carl immediately ploughed a furrow and disappeared towards the front while Karlos and I went more for keeping pace with those around us. Nothing over the top but enough not to have any crashes. The route started out on road for a few km with some good hills which spreads things out. Then off road we went. I had decided just to ride at my own pace which usefully seemed to fall pretty similar to Karlos and Carl. Every time I had a drink stop or a pee break, one or both of them turned up. This was basically the story of at least 60km of the day. Whether we were climbing up Minch Moor or descending twisty singletrack I was always close to a Hobo team rider. This really helped make the day go faster, I either sped up to catch someone in front or waited for another member to catch up.

Then it all got interesting. I know the Merida is as far from a race as it gets but I thrive on challenging myself. With 10km to go Karlos had put quite a distance between us. At the top of Minch Moor for the second time that day a lady showed me the profile which made the route look nearly all downhill from there. I set off feeling refreshed and strong – downhill is always a good way of boosting your energy levels and shaking out the tiredness. I eventually saw Karlos climbing the last big hill and this gave me enough of a boost to try to catch him on a fast downhill section littered with loose stones with a sharp bend at the bottom. I gave him a bit of a fright blasting past even though I was fighting to get traction. I then put as much effort as I could to put some space between us over the last 5km. I didn’t even realise that I was approaching the finish straight until with a few hundred metres to go Karlos sailed past me and a lady was waving frantically to turn right into the field. I think she was worried neither of us were going to make the turn… I tried to put a sprint in but cramp killed that idea and I rolled in barely a metre behind Karlos. If it hadn’t been so comical I would have been gutted. Turns out Steve had finished only three minutes before us with me and Karlos both in 6hrs 6min which I was more than happy with.

Unfortunately Wendy, our photographer, was busy drinking beer at the time so we didn’t get any pictures of us finishing but we had the pleasure of watching shim, then dave then saintly come in. They’d decided to stick together and drag each other through the course. All seemed fit and well so a 100% result for Team Hobo.

This was one of the best events I have had the pleasure to take part in – professionally run, exciting course, friendly atmosphere. And made all the better for having mates around all day to help out.

Mark Szymczak

(aka Shim) Ride time 7:12:27

Well, what can I say? It was a fantastic event, well organised and excellent value for money – £28, free food and a T-shirt to boot. The course was excellent, with a realy good mix of stuff – it’s not often that you get to ride a course like that without bothering to get the map out and have lots of feed stations on route.

It was very good to see so many good girl riders out there. I was gutted when the singlespeed girl went past out of the saddle on the last fireroad climb from hell. I thought, “She’ll blow up, I’ll catch up with her towards the top…” I never saw her again. (Get ready to be more gutted – she’d already ridden to the start from Edinburgh. Off-road… -Ed.)

I definitely need to travel lighter next time – I crossed the line with 2l of water still in my bladder. Still, carting around an extra 2kg is good training.

One slight niggle was the start. I think that the 100km riders should start at the front, then the 75, 50 and 25 because by default thats going to be the order of ability. I know it’s not a race but up to the first feed station was a traffic nightmare. We saw four crashes in the first two miles on the road, and on the first climb all you could see was a big line of people walking up – people weren’t even trying. You had to laugh, really. We were climbing so slowly that we were actually trackstanding – I commented to Dave that we’d wasted our time training, we should have practiced our track stands…

When we got to the top and started the descent, I thought we were away. We were for a bit, until everyone came to a standstill, then we moved about ten feet and then another ten feet – it was like being on the M25. But everyone was in good spirits and we got talking to some guys who did 10 Under The Ben as a duo. Then we got to the hold up, which was people walking down the first slightly technical bit.

We’d lost Simon by the first feed station, but just before we were setting off he turned up. He’d been so long that we’d started to think he must have had a mechanical and were debating going back to help. It turned out that he’d stopped “for a picnic” and hadn’t expected us to wait. I had visions of Simon halfway up Minch Moor on a tartan rug with cucumber sandwiches and creamed scones, offering tea to passing riders…

It was great to see so many riders enjoying the day. You could see the determination on some people’s faces – obviously on their last legs, but deterined to finish. Fantastic day and the final descent was brilliant – flat out all the way to the finish. Until next year, then…

Dave Ingleby

Ride time 7:14:46

Just some brief thoughts: Excellent route and very friendly atmosphere. The feed stations were well spaced and well stocked up
The only negative for me was the mass start – I think it should have been 100km at front then 75, 50 and 25 at the back. Doing it this way would ensure the more experienced riders were at the front – the bottlenecks were quite bad.

The main thing is the course, though, and this was very well thought out. It was an excellent idea to include Caddon Bank, Minch Moor and part of Plora Craig from the Traquair XC route. The climbs were lung-busting for most and the descents were superb – the final descent in particular was just such a blast after what we had all put our bodies through.

Simon Bullock

(aka Saintly) Ride time 7:17:37

After all the anticipation, training and a little excitement the morning of the Merida had arrived. A little sooner than I would have wished to be honest, I’m sure that four hours of sleep isn’t the best way to prepare. Fast forward to arrival which was straightforward and well signposted, signing on was very painless and there was plenty of time for a quick sausage butty for extra energy.

After much friendly banter, bike assembly and fettling it was time to line up at the start. Nerves were OK – I kept telling myself that it’s not a race, just a large organised ride. I’m not quite sure why Shim, Dave and myself decided to go in to the main tent and weigh our bikes, though. It’s always good to know what weight you’re dragging with you obviously. Should have weighed my Camelbak too though, all those oat bars and Mini Cheddars must have added a few extra pounds…

So we were all set for the start, but due to our bike weighing we had missed the golden window of opportunity to get near the front of the pack. Oh well, we’re not racing its not really an issue, can’t hold us up that much can it?

And we’re off! …erm, no we’re not, yes we are, no, not yet, I can see people moving, clip in, clip out, clip in, wobble, stop, trackstand, yeah, now we’re off. Nice bit of Tarmac to start, not too technical although the smooth surface was causing some a bit of trouble seeing as we witnessed two fairly nasty looking stacks. I think they may have been doing a different event though – they looked like they were racing!

Soon we turned left on to a fireroad – by the end of the day we had turned left on to at least five fireroad climbs that all started off looking very similar but getting progressively harder as the day wore on, for some reason. The first climb up on the singletrack was hard work, with lots of people pushing, falling and jostling for position. it was a good warm up though, and once resigned to the idea of pootling up I quite enjoyed it, had a chat to a few people on the way and took in the atmosphere.

This scene pretty much carried across for the whole ride. It thinned out a lot at the 50km split and then once more at the 75km split, but the atmosphere was still there. People were chatting and encouraging each other all the way round.

Minch Moor was the point my spirit broke. I’d been riding with Dave and Shim for nearly all of the route up to Minch Moor, but at this point I couldn’t keep either of them in sight. People were overtaking me and the ground felt like it was trying to swallow me up. No energy, a numb arse and a lot of climb in front of me. So I stopped for a picnic. Wolfed down a cheese and jam sandwich, a pack of Mini Cheddars, a couple of oat cakes, lots of dried fruit, some raisins, a Go bar and a bit of Kendal mint cake. Marvellous, that helped a lot and the second part of the climb was slightly less painful, still lots of grinding away but still plenty of chatting and friendly encouragement.

I think that the highlight of that climb was seeing Dave and Shim waiting for me at the top – oops, I’d have rushed my picnic if I’d had know that, sorry guys. Dave asked the question that I’d asked myself on the way up: “Are we doing the full distance?”

Without hesitation I said yes, mainly due to the ridicule I would have received from the others if I returned with a red splodge on my number, although after my lunch stop I was feeling surprisingly good. I am glad I continued – the singletrack back off Minch Moor and the rocky technical bits were great, a nice break from all the climbing.
After that it’s all a bit of a sunny blur – a couple more feed stops, lots more hills, more friendly folk and then a fantastic downhill pretty much all the way back to the finish. A lot of encouragement nearing the finish line and a few familiar faces waiting for me and it was all over.

I actually felt robbed, I was feeling stronger as I hit the finish line than when I set off, I don’t know if I could have managed any more climbs but I certainly didn’t look as bad as Karlos!

So in conclusion, the route was fantastic considering the distance it covered, the organisation was spot on, the riders I met were all very friendly and riding it in a group kept me going. As for doing it again, I’m not sure – now, if I had a lightweight full suss that might be a different matter…


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