Friday: Leckhampton Hill, Orange 222.
It all came together today: The sun was out, the ground was dry and most of The Hills Have Eyes crew were riding. Simon was up there, so as is traditional, we spent a good while sessioning stuff. Great fun was had on Stu’s Roosty corners – driftorama! Nick and Si were getting proper sideways on the way through there, Sam Hill stylee. Proper bo!
Saturday: Gethin, Orange 222.
Myself, Anton, Nick and Brett headed over to Gethin in South Wales for the Dragon Downhill uplift day. Unfortunately, the uplift part of the day was shrouded in controversy, but the riding itself was fantastic.
First, the uplift: New Health & Safety regulations were recently introduced, meaning that bikes and bikers need to be separated on the uplift trucks, bikers must be seated and helmets must be worn on-board. The trucks are also speed-limited. No bad thing in itself, except that it halved the number of bikes that could fit onto a truck (we were managing 19-20 per truck), which meant massive queues and plenty of disgruntled riders. Jason Carpenter told us that there were 150 riders on the day and they were only getting 98 up the hill every hour. Clearly that’s not good enough and there is work to be done. Still, kudos and thanks to Jason and the team for sticking with it. Without them we wouldn’t have the Dragon Downhill series at all.
As for the riding, Gethin continues to be one of the best DH tracks I have ever ridden: It’s pretty easy to ride down it (for the most part), but damn hard to ride down there fast. Nobody seems to really enjoy the first section, but then you turn into the woods, put down a couple of pedal strokes and the fun begins: berm, jump, berm, drop, berm… so much fun all the way to the bottom. I was death-gripping through some sections and making lots of whoops and BWAARRP! noises. The cameras caught Nick and myself. Really need to learn to look further down the trail…
Sunday: Leckhampton Hill, Cannondale Prophet.
It started out as a fairly normal XC ride with Weon (who unfortunately had his bike stolen the very next day). We rode up and around the back of Leckhampton, before dropping down “the dragon’s tail”. On the way back up we met a guy on an old Cannondale Super-V 1000. I really wanted one of those back in the day. We agreed to show him some of the trails leading down the hill. I don’t know if it was a competitive instinct or just plain showing off, but something made me push a little bit harder than normal. The result: Me and the Prophet finally clicked.
Up until now it’s been a good bike, but today it became great. I was riding it with all the confidence I’ve regained on the 222 over the past couple of days. Those first couple of corners at the top of the DH tracks are amazing and unlike the 222, the Prophet can be flicked (rather than hauled) through them. That lightness counts through the following berm too – it carries speed beautifully. Ace with a capital A.
Oh, and we scared the crap out of the guy on the Super-V.
Monday: Leckhampton Hill, Cannondale Prophet.
Nick had offered me a lift up the hill with my 222, but I’d had so much fun on the Prophet on Sunday that I decided to ride up on that instead. This time I was hitting everything quickly – Stu (on his Mr Big) was only getting away from me where the track got really steep.
Everything up there that I’ve hit on the 222 has now been ridden on the Prophet. It’s not as easy or as quick (yet), but it’s all doable. Time to push the boundaries a bit further on the 222 methinks. “Brett’s Drop Line”, “2nd Coming” and “La Raclette” need to be conquered properly…