I named this blog ‘Ride-Everything’ because I like to ride all types of bikes. My newest two wheeled passion is mountain biking. I spend a lot of time riding my road bike so when I take the MTB out I prefer to ride down hills rather than up. There is no better feeling than pinning it down a trail as fast as you dare over rocks, gaps and roots, around berms, and down drops.
Juliet and I were lucky enough to get places at this years Steel City. It has a reputation of being one of the most fun events in the MTB calendar and is rightly known as the biggest smallest race of the year. This years event did by no means disappoint, from moment we arrived we knew it was going to be a great day. The course was located at the now legendary Grenoside, and due to all the hard work of the locals and sunny weather the trails were looking smooth and running fast.
It was a relatively short course, most averaging around the 1.35 mark for a run, though Josh Bryceland managed to get down the track in an incredible 1.13 to secure overall first. Steel City is now in it’s fifth year and is the brainchild of downhill legend and Sheffield local Steve Peat.
The event is immaculately organised and it’s popularity increases each year, the atmosphere is amazing and the cheering and heckles of the crown really encourage the riders to give it their all. The race itself in split into no less than eleven categories, one of the most standout features is that they had three categories for women. I was really impressed by the number of women racing and the standard was really high! The organisers worked incredibly hard to promote the event and to get more women involved, 72 out of the 300 riders were women and the Steel City organisers have set the bar for equality in cycling events.
The format of the race is simple, get down the course as fast as possible. Each rider had to complete two practice runs then two timed runs; the fastest of which counted as your final time. The locals did have an advantage as they were used to the track, and a number of participants headed down a few days early to get some practice in. To keep everyone on their toes the organisers made a few last minute tweaks to keep everyone guessing.
I knew I wasn’t going to win the race and I was there purely for fun, and this is exactly what I had. It was a grey day and the rain was imminent, though it held off long enough for everyone to put down some good runs. Two practice runs isn’t a lot to learn a track but it was enough to ensure I had plenty of fun.
The course was really smooth, flowy and fast. As soon as I dropped in off the start gate it was a flat out sprint for the first part of the course, weaving between trees around the tight berms and over small tables. There was then a gap jump followed by a speed trap section; the rider who clocked the fastest time won a prize, followed by more berms, tables, a small rock garden then a long gap followed by the Bomb Drop and a short sprint to the finish.
I was so excited when I started I couldn’t stop grinning, I might have been a bit too excited and I overcooked it in one of the corners and narrowly missed a tree, I had to steer off course to avoid it; ducking under the tape over a few tree stumps and back under the tape onto the course. This definitely lost me a few seconds but I didn’t care as I was just having too much fun.
When it was time for my second run the weather had taken a turn and the rain had started. Everyone was talking about how greasy the hard packed, wet course had become; it was obvious I wouldn’t be setting a faster time. But what I would do was have even more fun on my second run and hopefully stay on course. I crossed the line satisfied that I had completed my goal; I had a great run, yes it was slower but as I had decided to just ride rather than race I got to spend more time in the air and it was awesome!
I am now officially hooked on MTB and am planning on doing as much as I can, I am now thinking of ways to acquire a full on downhill rig. I am not sure how I am going to fit in all these cycling disciplines. I like to feel that I have prepared for things and training for such a variety, but the most important thing to me is the fun factor. Having had such a great experience at my first MTB race makes me want to get out and ride more.
Massive thanks and shout out to all the organisers, marshals and the awesome crowds that came out to cheer. I hope I manage to get a place on next years event, in the mean time we are off to the Forest of Dean for a bit more riding.