Two days of Cumbria - Bike Magic

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Two days of Cumbria

Richard Jennings and Catriona Morrison

The Autumn Polaris Challenge was completed by over 400 competitors last weekend, in blustery weather on the West Coast of Cumbria. With checkpoints scattered over a large area, the riders found themselves between the sea and the high mountains. Quite literally, as routes took in the beaches near Sellafield and rough passes such as Black Sail and Burnmoor. Everyone camped over in the green fields of the famous fell runner Joss Naylor in Wasdale, where the dramatic screes tumble into the Lake and the event bonfire and loony tunes burned into the night. Various finishers in all classes walked away with prizes for their rucksack-endowed riding with Steve Heading on the latest Whyte bike winning overall.

Richard Jennings partnered Catriona Morrison for a night in a tent, and two days of action – oo-er!

“It’s a mental challenge, a physical challenge and a lot of fun, it is the Polaris Challenge. Two days of mountain biking in one of the best parts of the UK, where you take with you all your overnight equipment and follow a route that you decide. Polaris is just the sort of challenge which can turn an ordinary weekend into a memorable adventure.”

“This October saw my partner and I make the last minute decision to enter the event just the weekend before; we can both ride bikes, I have done one before, and lots of our friends are doing it, all of the excuses were taken account of. However, this is no ordinary bike ride. For starters, you don’t even know where you are going until the night before, and even then no one knows which checkpoints are going to be open and how much they will be worth. At the start line you are entering into the unknown, the only certainty being that there are just seven hours to go.”

“After two days of great riding, good trails and plenty of mistakes you arrive back at the start to a warm and welcome plate of food, a hot shower and dry clothes. A little machine churns out your score sheet and you look to see if day two was better than day one, or how many points you lost due to an over zealous push for that last checkpoint. No matter how tired you are it’s impossible not to feel good, the smiles on everyone’s faces are infectious. How did we go? Well we held on to our third place and learnt a lot about reading maps and route choices. The trick now is not to lose that knowledge before the next time, as I can guarantee that there will be a next time…”

Want to know more? Further reports and pictures at Or visit the event website at The next event will be the Spring 2006 Polaris, 25-26 March, “somewhere in England”.


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