A to Z of Bristol cycling: B is for Bikefest

Posted by: on Jun 2, 2014 | No Comments

Ceelz_and_Rob_bikefest_Oct_13B is for Bikefest. Which follows on neatly from ‘A is for Architrail’. Is someone planning this stuff?

Bikefest (not to be confused with Bristol Cycle Festival) is the annual MTB enduro held at Ashton Court on the first Saturday in June. Next weekend, at the time of writing. Topical.

It’s 12 hours of bashing round the Nova trail plus a bit extra, ridden solo, in pairs, or in teams of four. The aim is simply to complete the greatest number of laps in the available time, either on your own or relay-style. And it is very good fun indeed. With the start at 9am, it’s getting pretty dusky in the woods by the time it’s over, which adds something to ambience.

There’s a sister event later in the year, Oktoberfest, which is pretty much the same but with added pretzels and oompah music. It’s also four hours shorter, which makes it 50% more enjoyable in my (lazy) book.

My (that’s Rob’s) first experience of Bikefest was in 2009. I’d done a few enduros before, but always of the A to B type rather than riding round in circles. I’d never treated any of them like a race and I’d never done one in a team. So Bikefest was a bit of a revelation. It was kind of fun to have a bit of competition, at least among friends. Mind you, I didn’t contribute much to the collective effort. One and a half laps, in fact. This was pre-Nova trail, and the course was a proper quagmire thanks to some less than clement weather. With customary lack of panache, I planted my front wheel in a rut and toppled if sideways onto a log, later discovering that I’d cracked a rib. But I did spend the rest of the day gingerly performing pit duties, so perhaps that was some consolation to the others who had to ride my laps.

Fortunately things have improved since then, and RftS put in some creditable performances in Oktoberfest 2013, coming second in the mixed teams and eighth in the men’s. (See celebratory photo above.) During the intervening years I’d done a few solos, usually retiring at about 4 o’clock to start on the ciders and heckling.

And that’s the great joy of Bikefest and Oktoberfest. There’s a whole lot of non-seriousness, even though the fast girls and boys are racing properly. (This vid from the excellent Wideopen mag gives a good sense of what it’s all about.) These events manage to be races for the people who want to race, at the same time as being a good day out for the many hundreds who have no chance of, or particular interest in, winning anything. That’s a neat trick. Of course the odd whippet gets the hump when they’re held up behind a plodder, but the whole thing seems to be at least 99.9% good-natured. (Don’t bother letting me know if you’ve seen fisticuffs. I’d rather maintain the illusion.)

So a heartfelt ‘Chapeau!’ to Paul (once of Zero G in Bedminster, now to be found in the Giant store in Bradley Stoke) and everyone else involved in putting these races on. They are splendid things, and an integral part of Bristol as a great place to ride bikes.