Tea in china cups, lashings of food, top secret trails and high quality cake – this is how all Enduro races should be run, right? Ewen Turner found time between gorging himself silly on the finest fayre to actually do some racing in the new DMR EX, held in Exmoor last week.
DMR Bikes Presents The EX
I feel like in the UK at least, while the Enduro bubble may not have burst, it has certainly deflated somewhat. Races have been so numerous that riders have been spoilt for choice, with events every weekend, but rising to the top of the pile has not been the most prestigious events, but those with a combination of the best trails, and the the best atmosphere. The three day format of blind racing for the EX has taken the lead from classic European events such as the Trans Provence and the Trans Savoie, and although smaller in scale, it’s a proven formula.
“Blind lips are launched, corners railed in hope, and the skid marks of previous riders the only warning signs that things may be getting spicy.”
Choosing to race the hardtail category was an easy call, with few events offering this, and the race being sponsored by DMR, it seemed highly appropriate to be racing the Trailstar. The addition of the hardtail category was another indicator that this event is for everyone, and you don’t need to have re-mortagaged your house to get a bike for the race.
Blind Leading The Blind
Anyone who has tried racing blind will know that it is absolutely the best form of racing. This is a bold statement I know, but it is a true test of rider ability and keeps everyone on a level playing field whilst the sense of adventure is turned up high. Some of the trails for the event were so new, or so secret that not even the marshals could give much indication of what was to come. Pedalling off the start, not knowing how hard to push it, or even how long the stage is makes for an exhilarating experience. Blind lips are launched, corners railed in hope, and the skid marks of previous riders the only warning signs that things may be getting spicy. There is no double taping, no marshal every 100m, at times you feel alone in the woods, only your own inner competitive chimp urging you on and on, looking constantly for the next arrow or strip of tape. Between the stages, we regroup with mates and cruise on to the next stage, I say cruise, but over 100km in three days takes it’s toll and cruising is replaced by winching.
With access difficult in a national park, the organisers have done an awesome job by allowing us to race, but some trails just can’t be competitive due to the sheer density of dog walkers. This was where some of the best times were had, riding as a bunch on a new trail, not against the clock, just hitting turns with mates. This combination of proper racing, and great chilled out riding in between really made the event for me. This is not to say the top end wasn’t fiercely contended, but competitive spirit was definitely not required to enjoy this event.
Tea, cake, beer, cider. Several times every day we were treated to a fine spread of foods and drinks worthy of a classic British picnic to keep us trucking on through the Exmoor hills. We even stopped off at Mike’s (the head honcho) home for tea served in proper cups and saucers! This is the antithesis of corporate mega events, this is a weekend where you stop at your friends house for tea.
“Feed everyone well, at least 5 times a day, making sure breakfast and dinner are enormous affairs with huge variety and choice!”
The terrain in Exmoor is ‘picture postcard England’ and could easily be overlooked, with it’s sleepy seaside towns, rolling hills and wild horses it doesn’t scream mountain bike heaven. Yes we could see Butlins from the top of the hills, and yes there are plenty of old couples enjoying a Thermos on a bench, but hidden amongst the forests are a network of trails to rival the best. Locals have been digging and creating for years, with soil and ground conditions ideal for steep twisty trails between the trees. To contrast this, the high trails from Dunkery give flat out rocky madness and winding singletrack with grand vistas across the national park. All in, it’s one incredible network of trails, just don’t expect to find it on a map.
How To Make A Great Event
First, find somewhere with a huge density of awesome trails, secondly let people ride loads of it and maybe give them a little lift to the top now and again. Thirdly, feed everyone well, at least 5 times a day, making sure breakfast and dinner are enormous affairs with huge variety and choice. Finally, this is the tricky bit, get a bunch of the nicest guys you’re ever likely to meet together to organise it and pull it off.
Mike, Paul and the team have definitely pulled a blinder with the EX, managing to combine all the above to create a brilliant, friendly and memorable event. With only 80 places, getting into next years event will be tight, but totally worth it if you’re one of the lucky ones.
Photos- DMR/Roo Fowler
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By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.