Archive for the ‘Bike Racing’ Category

Sleepless In the Saddle 24 Hour mountain bike race

Sleepless in the Saddle, also known as “Sleepless” or “SITS” in mountain bike circles, is a 24 hour mountain bike race held in Catton Park, Staffordshire in August of each year.

Sleepless is kind of seen as a baby sister event to the mighty Mountain Mayhem 24 hour event held earlier in the year (it is organised by the same people), but in my opinion it has a whole different atmosphere and vibe to other events.

The time of year helps as it is towards the end of the summer, the vibe is low key and relaxed with time to reflect on previous events, cycling tans are in abundance – people are here to race, chill and kick back.

The whole event has a real festival feel to it with on site camping, trade stands and a 24 hour laid back vibe that is difficult to capture anywhere else. In 2011 the team at duffbag will be at Sleepless, both competing and with our own trade stand offering all kinds of bike bags including our extremely popular duffbag, which is a favorite amongst mountain bikers that want to keep the interior of their car, van or camper clean after the event – ESPECIALLY if it is raining and we experience the familiar Sleepless Mudfest!

The Team Columbia team - sponsored by duffbag just before the event

The course itself is undulating rather than hilly with only 100m of elevation available, although it can get cut up and rutted with braking bumps and lines forming on certain sections, oh and if it rains, it rains!

Our home for the weekend

As with any 24 hour event camping is the order of the day, the beauty of Sleepless is that with less people attending than some of the bigger events you can choose from a spot right in the action of the pit village or a more peaceful spot out on the outer field, whatever suits.

The race itself starts on Saturday afternoon, running through the night to finish 24 hours later on Sunday afternoon and riders can enter in the following categories:

  • Expert: Men and Women (4)
  • Enthusiast: Men and Women (4)
  • Mixed (5)
  • Veterans (sub-cat.) Pairs: Men, Women, Mixed (2)
  • Solo: Men and Women (1)

The idea is quite simple – the person or team that completes the most laps in the allotted time wins. Each team member has a transponder fitted to their bike or ankle (depending on the system used for timing), race control log the timings for each team and rider, clocking up the lap totals during the race. The running results are displayed on a large monitor in the food tent, so you can check your results as you refuel – neat!

The teams operate in a relay system, each member of the team passing over to the next as their lap(s) are completed, tactics are at play here with stronger riders resting between stints as other teams play their hands. Add into this night section illuminated by hi- power bar and helmet lights and you have a recipe for fun and tantrums…

With many hundreds of competitors starting at the same time, the race is started with a short run round a part of the circuit to the bikes in the controlled paddock area and then it is off and the racing can begin. Now when I say racing think London Marathon – there will be elite riders out to destroy the competition, whilst others are there for fun and just to get round, it is this mix that gives the event the atmosphere and vibe for which it is duly famous for.

As the racing settles down and night begins to fall, the lights come on and the whole place looks completely different, it is certainly quieter and if the weather is hot, noticeably cooler. If you are riding then a 3am stint is something that you won’t forget! I can remember circulating in the wee small hours of the night, nothing in front, nothing behind, you mind starts to wander – have I lost the track? Why am I awake at 3am in the middle of nowhere? Can I hear music? Is that the beast from the cover of that Iron Maiden album out there in the shadows? But as dawn breaks a kind of sanity returns and punches you through the fatigue of a long night session.

By dawn the race pattern is well and truly established and leaders are emerging amongst the top teams and the race is then down to a handful of winners and the talk around the timing screens is of heroic night time trips to the local A&E or ingenious fixes for broken derailleurs using gaffer tape and bamboo.

Inevitably the event draws to a close, friendships are made and hand shakes exchanged with promises of see you next year and medals proudly worn. podiums are climbed and prizes awarded.

The team at duffbag will be there in 2011, both as competitors and with our own trade stand, if you see us be sure to come over and say hi.

Sleepless in the Saddle – an event not to be missed

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Aston Hill Black Run Race March 27th 2011

Just got back from a very busy weekend over at Aston Hill Bike Park over in Buckinghamshire for their annual Black Run Race. Duffbag were a sponsor and had a trade stand in the busy paddock.

Over three hundred riders entered the race and despite a cold early spring start the sun came out and with it the atmosphere picked up for a really good early season event.

We talked to a lot of people over the day and managed to sell quite a few bags – which was nice.

Duffbag donated a duffbag classic kit bag to each of the winners in the nine categories, the winners were:

Elite Men

Jack GEOGHEGAN – 1:25.050

Expert Men

Natahn Vials – 1.25.240

Hardtail Men

Daniel Jary – 1.37.440

Juvenile Men

Alistair Warrell – 1.44.560

Youth Men

Philip Atwill – 1.30.670

Junior Men

Jono Jones – 1.26.610

Senior Men

Josh Lane – 1.30.270

Master Men

Chris Spooner – 1.27.790

Veteran Men

Trevor Harvey – 1.32.410


Amie Wills – 1.50.640

All of which now have brand new duffbag classic kit bags to store all their gear in post and pre-ride

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Mountain Mayhem 24 hour mountain bike race

Mountain Mayhem is a 24 hour mountain bike race held in the UK each year on the weekend closest to the summer solstice in June and is the largest 24 hour mountain bike race in Europe attracting 2,500 competitors and up to 15,000 spectators each year.

The first Mountain Mayhem race was held in 1998 at Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire, moving to Sandwell Valley Country Park in 1999. In 2004 the race moved to The Deer Park of Eastnoor Castle Herefordshire and has occupied the same location since.

The whole event has a real festival feel to it with on site camping, trade stands and a 24 hour buzz that is difficult to capture anywhere else. In 2011 the team at duffbag will be at Mountain Mayhem, both competing and with our own trade stand offering all kinds of bike bags including our extremely popular duffbag, which is a favorite amongst mountain bikers that want to keep the interior of their car, van or camper clean after the event – ESPECIALLY if it is raining and we experience the familiar Mayhem Mudfest!

The event is usually around a 9 mile loop and teams compete as teams of four, five or ten or even individuals there are various categories of entry:

Individual Male, Individual Female, Mixed Expert, Mixed, Open Men, Open Women, Sport Men, Sport Women, Tens

and the following subcategories:

Guests, Services, Singlespeed, University,Veteran

The race typically gets underway with a run to grab the bikes and then an orderly walk over the line and away, this prevents carnage at the first corner or pinch point and settles any start line nerves. Each team has a baton that is passed from rider to rider as they take over and each rider has a electronic timing chip attached to the bike that race control monitor, through their computer system, giving teams and spectators real time updates on laps and timings.

As the race settles down the riders get spread out over the nine mile course mix of double and singletrack whilst the rest of the team settle into their campsite routine of trying to keep fed, hydrated and depending on the weather – warm.

There is inevitably quite a bit of hanging around between riding stints, but plenty to keep everyone occupied with bike fettling and repairs, eating and of course sleeping in preperation for those lonely night laps.

But the countryside and circuit is quite beautiful and lush at the heart of an English summer

As night falls the atmosphere changes to one of excitement and trepidation as a final testing and charging of lamps takes place and spare batteries and torches are stashed amongst the energy bars in the hydration packs.

As night really starts to take hold it is really inky black out on the course and of course the temperature drops dramatically and riders ride along in their own tunnel of light and spectators get to see “space aliens” with head torches and bar lamps emerging from the darkness

Daylight breaks and riders emerge from tents, ready to take over from their team members, tired and bleary eyed but still loving every minute of it, honest!

As the following morning rolls on the miles have racked up as well as the tales of bravery and skill during the night which seem to get ever more wilder and exaggerated as time goes on, but nobody minds, it is all part of being a 24 hour weekend warrior, but there are some very tired legs out there.

Inevitably the event draws to a close and winners are announced and teams give each other a well earned pat on the back for all the hard work and training that goes into an event like this.

We will be there for Mountain Mayhem 2011, with two teams from our cycle club The BogHogs, one team of four and a fun team of ten, plus Team Columbia Bikefood, who are sponsored by duffbag will be fielding some very competitive soloists for the event. It is a great event, with a unique atmosphere, the weather can make it or break it, but whatever it does it will be great fun, see you there.

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Duffbag sponsor Aston Hill Black Run Race 27th March 2011

Duffbag are a sponsor of this very early season downhill race and will be at the event for the whole weekend with a trade stand and goodies to give away to the winners. There are many other sponsors including SRAM, Troy Lee Designs, Truvativ, Identiti, Halo, Maddison, Monster Energy, Mountain Bike Magazine and of course duffbag

If you fancy a day out why not come along, there will be plenty to see, or if you fancy entering and really scaring yourself there is still time.

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Winter road bike training for the Hell of the Ashdown 2011

After suffering from a broken foot in a mountain bike accident at Brechfa South Wales on the Raven Trail I had to start getting back to fitness having been off the bike for three months. trouble was it was January, it was wet, cold and dark and I needed some motivation.

The Doc said I could not ride a mountain bike until my foot was back to full strength as I would risk breaking it again and it would be worse, much worse, so what to do?

Road Bike?

I know, some of you call it the dark side and think that roadies can be a miserable bunch and look funny in that skin tight lycra, but hey, I thought I would give it a go.

Now in my book there is no point in just riding for the sake of it so I needed a goal, I was overweight from being off the bike for three months and unfit so what could I do?

Why not enter one of the toughest Sportives in the area against 1200 other riders at the end of February. A sportive that I had failed to finish in the past, it was only 8 weeks away, how hard could it be?

You can read how we got on on the Hell of the Ashdown 2011 elsewhere on the blog, this is a tale of two months winter road bike training in deepest darkest Kent with a bunch of 40 something guys, (well one is 39) and a bloke gimping around with semi healed foot.

The first thing was to get together a group of guys to ride with, that bit was simple I had ridden with the same guys for years on mountain bikes so Gordon, Dave, Rob, Bazza and occasionally Woodsie were press ganged into giving up their Saturday mornings under the premise of winter training, here are some of them

Some of the guys

Lots of standing around

Here is a short video of some errr riding

We started off just on short rides with a few hills and gradually built up the distance from there. At first it was very hard and some of those hills were killers but gradually it got easier and we became quicker pulling 25mph along the road to Sandwich golf course at one point on the flat in a sort of road train peleton thing that looked stupid to other people but in our minds we were Pantani, Chippo, Lemond and Oncana at the foot of the Massif Central building up to an attack on the breakaway.

Some of us even started dieting on a high protein low-carb diet losing half a stone each, we were fast and lean(ish) although we would undo much of the good work with café and chocolate stops

And on one memorable occasion THIS!!!!

You may hide your face but we know who you are…

Oh and don’t forget the road road rage and people turning purple with rage at our temerity of actually enjoying ourselves, plus getting banned from cafés across the district. Where does all that anger come from? Can’t be good.

As the distance got greater, so did the time away from our very understanding families, we were out for four, five or six hour rides in sub zero temperatures, one memorable occasion was chaining our bikes up for a café stop down in Hythe only to break the lock and have to ask the café owner for a set of bolt croppers, Bazza’s bike still bears the scars.

Still we did not quit and rode the 30 miles home despite about twenty punctures between us and rolling into Canterbury in semi darkness despite having left home at 9am.

But for me the icing on the cake has to be the café we rolled into outside Chilham Kent, when the owner said “you can sit in the greenhouse” if you like, nothing could have prepared us for this;

There were Buddhas and wind chimes everywhere not to mention Emus and Donkeys in the garden.

It has been a great couple of months training, we have had some great laughs despite getting freezing cold and soaking wet and managed to get back some fitness into the bargain. So if you see a bunch of grim face roadies in the middle of winter they look that way because it is tough and cold, but you can still have some fun.

Thanks guys.

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