24hr Mountain Mayhem completed!

Having first straddled a unicycle 13 months ago, I figured I was enough of a veteran to enter a 24 hour race (as part of a team of 4). I had arranged to borrow a campervan which happened to be the width of a mini and about 5 metres long, with a tasteful 1970’s brown awning. chugging along a traffic-stopping maximum of 60 miles an hour (downhill, slip-streamming a juggernaut) was a relaxing way to (eventually) reach Eastnor Deer Park. Onsite the yellow, 12-foot high unicycle flags were clear and taking a straight line towards then meant sliding sideways through the mud, and going back again to find the correct, circular route. Once settled in, nerves took over. Would I let the others down? Would I cause a crash? Would I obstruct the serious racers? With over 2,000 other riders, I was sure to see most of them overtaking me!

The mass start at 2 was an impressive sight, and I was glad I wasn’t in it. after a long, frustrating & nervous wait, It was my turn. Setting off at a murky dusk, heavily laden with batteries and drink. in the first 500 yards I must have had 5 UPDs (none on the start-finish straight though!) and one faceplant immediately in front of the last tent. I started walking. and walking. with the helmet-mounted lights I had the visual depth perception of a one-eyed mole with cateracts. there were some short rideable stretches, where if I did UPD I was less likely to take out riders. there was some really nice singletrack too, but the constant stream of riders put paid to the nicest bits. the mud varied from sticky like fly paper, to boggy, but was not all-encompassing.

Of that 10 1/4 mile lap I probably rode 1 mile at most. At times I was incredibly demoralised. just trudging along, constantly looking over my shoulder, standing out of the way. However, banter with other riders and marshalls, as well as the occassional view of lights tracking around the other side of the valley was very encouraging.

The best part of the lap was the ride-in. at the 10-mile marker the campsite starts, and the route is wide and smooth. I arrived at around 1 a.m. to a quiet arena and handed over to Sam Wakeling (who I had warned that I thought I would be slow), and told him to take it easy! after a wonderful night’s sleep I woke to discover my 2nd lap would probably be the last for the team, so, to my relative delight, I would have to take it easy. I set off again at 10:30 a.m., with a larger audience and come cheers, which was good. being able to see improved matters hugely. 1 gentle UPD with a small audience was fun, and then off and away. much more riding, some nice treacle tart from a marshall and much more banter.

The pleasantness of it all off-set by the hills, the much higher speeds of the riders and pain. My knee problems were returning, so it was starting to hurt when I rode. However, my shoes were not good enough for all the walking I was doing, so my feet were very very sore. most of the hills were taken anti-clockwise, and the difference in foot pain showed the camber. So it hurt if I rode, and hurt if I walked. Riding was less painful but less possible.
Around 1/2 way I was caught up by a bloke on a fully suspended, disc-braked, 26"/10" wheeled Penny Farthing. it cost him £50 off Ebay, and he was there to do a slow last lap he thought he may as well try it out. On some downhills he was overtaking expert riders! his rear wheel wasn’t turning properly, and as he left me the front brake fell apart (but he got it back together) I was not as impressed when I discovered it was a 3-speed freewheeling hub!

In daylight the bikes speeds were much faster, verging on lunacy. After the race the air ambulance arrived for one rider who had probably broken their neck. I was brushed by another who decided to pass me on the narrow, bumpy side of the route as I was dismounting. if he was 1/2 a second later he would have hit the uni, and the following 6 riders berated him & checked up on me.

Just before the arena I stopped for 15 minutes to compose myself & recover, and then headed in. just before the nice bit was a short singletrack downhill that riders were hurtling down at ridiculous speeds. As I saw a photographer at the bottom, I was determined to ride down (I had walked past 5 out of 6 photographers so far), but had to wait 3 minutes for a clear enough track. around, through the campsite to cheers & praise and up through the timing tent. Immediately after that is the handover area, and a sharp turn onto the gentle downhill start/finish straight. at the handover area, instead of going out the back way as before, you had to go down the straight, past the crowds. I was feeling a bit reluctant, but used a marshall’s shoulder to remount, and rode down to the end, physically and emotionally drained.

I only said I would never do that sort of thing again during the low points of the lap. by the end of both laps, if asked to come back next year, the answer would have been yes, and still is. the other uni riders,the supporters and most of the bike riders, were all really helpful and encouraging.

I doff my hat to anyone who’s ever done anything similar, and I encourage everyone to do it, even if it’s only once!

Any idea how the teams and the other riders did?


Re: 24hr Mountain Mayhem completed!

On Mon, 27 Jun 2005, mikepenton wrote:

> Having first straddled a unicycle 13 months ago, I figured I was enough
> of a veteran to enter a 24 hour race (as part of a team of 4). I had
> […]
> I doff my hat to anyone who’s ever done anything similar, and I
> encourage everyone to do it, even if it’s only once!

Great stuff! Thanks for posting the report.




we (Chris Dobbie, Keith Griffiths (Keg) and Sam Wakeling (Redwelly) did the minimum 8 laps in 24:17, the others did a wee bit better - dunno details but DeadlyDes did a ridiculously fast 1 hour 23 lap (the fastest bikes did the first 2 laps in 1hr 45).
Joe McLean & Steve Robertson as a pair did 7 or more laps, Steve ending his race early with an extra-large knee.

The girl who was air-lifted out is fine. She was put on a bodyboard because she’d been knocked unconcious for 8 minutes. She’s got a black eye but is joining in the discussion on SingleTrackWorld.

We’re still waiting for full results to be posted on http://www.singletrackworld.com
Should be available later today.

I think Roger, Steve, Phil and Des did 12 laps,
Paul, Leo, John and I did 10 laps and, as Mike said,
Sam, Chris, Keith and Mike did 8 laps.


Sorry but what is a UPD, something to do with a wreck but…

What an excellent weekend.

I was on the list as a reserve, and showed up with mixed feelings, not sure whether or not I was relieved at not having to ride. Then, while still putting up my tent, Steve has a phone call to say Sam Dobbie can’t make it due to his back, so I’d better get in the mood for riding!

Such hard luck for Sam D, having waited three years to be old enough to compete, then having to pull out. Sorry Sam!. Handy though, that I only had to change the surnames on the registration sheet.

Lining up for the start run was probably the best single thing for me, it just being such a unicycle… [uuh… edit: unicy… nope, unique… my fingers are too used to typing that other word!] occasion. Coloured helmets and shiny lycra as far as the eye can see, then a BANG, and it’s bouncing helmets and undulating lycra as far as the eye can see.

On the start line Roger realised that Paul and myself had his total age split between us, so he had a reason to show us whipper-snappers how to do it. I kept with him for the run, but shortly after riding the first flat section, I UPDd, and saw him next, back at the campsite… where he’d been waiting for half an hour.

My other lap was a night one, which was an interesting experience. I borrowed Keith’s brilliant (… boomboom) light, and rode off after Mike, who quite rightly told me to “take it easy”.

I think I managed to get around the first corner after the start straight before UPDing. Then it was a fairly familiar occurance, with bumps that don’t exist in a single head beam turning out to be substatial potholes. The ones I could see, weren’t there at all - the 10000 or so tyres passing over the dips had squished the fresh mud flat, but a different colour, into the puddle-moulds. Magic.

Lots of running, more walking, a few instances of plucking myself from hedgerows and recovering the uni about 10 meters behind me, more running, some cursing of the Evil Sports Suppliments I’d quaffed, and I finished up before the battery did.

Then, as dawn broke, sleep had rarely come so easily.

Yes, fantastic. There was even a chap doing it solo with an ironing board, for Extreme Ironing.

Leo gets my award for the biggest grin on return from a lap. Almost had to remind him to sit still and at least attempt an appearence of exhaustion. :slight_smile:

Now only 364 days left to get fitter for next year. Can motivational tapes make you fitter in your sleep?

Sam :slight_smile:

Sounds really good, thank you for your write-ups.

What did you all ride on? I’m guessing 29’s or cokers?

EDIT: And what size cranks were on these wheels?


Lots of 29ers with 150s, one with 145s (Leo), one with 125s (John). A few Cokers with 150s I think (Roger, Des, Chris). SteveR used a 26x3 and I think Chris did his dawn lap on his 24x3.


Congratulations everyone! Sounds like it was brutal like last year. Last year the lap counts were the same, 12, 10 and 8. Was the route this year the same as last year? It’s good to hear my insane teammates Roger and Des are still fast as hell.


“Weeeell, the weather can’t be as bad as last year”… I’ve heard that a few times since the slimy goop-fest of the Mountain Mayhem last year. It was true, it wasn’t, but it was quite spooky how similar the weather over the weekend was.

The course started out wet, and with thousands of tyre tracks bits of it became pretty much unrideable again. The land rover track from last year made a reappearance; two deep ruts of slime up a steep hill that a few bikes rode but not many. On my first lap I just hefted the 29er off the ground and carried it; without the drag of mud on wheels I could walk much faster than people pushing bikes, which gained a few comments about planning for the weather… :slight_smile:

The disadvantage of being in the silly-fast team was that the gap between laps wasn’t big enough to cover the darkness; where last year I only had the last twenty minutes of a lap in the dark this time I was setting off at around 1am in complete darkness. This time I had better lights, but still ran into the depth-perception problem. Most of the track became a uniform brown colour with the passage of many tyres; even 32 watts of light didn’t pick out the ruts and bumps below. When the ground is that slimy even a small rut or ridge in the lines of tyre tracks can make the wheel slither all over the place. At one spot the track had a foot-deep rut down the left hand side, but with helmet mounted lights the only reason I knew it was there was remembering it from my first lap.

After grabbing a couple of hours sleep my third and last lap on Sunday morning was much better. The return of depth perception and a rapidly drying track meant less flailing around in the mud, and the chance to ride some of the sections that were previously just too slippy for mere mortals (ie. people other than Roger and Des!). On lots of the uphill sections you could keep up or even go faster than the bikes, which was great. I even overtook someone on a downhill section, which was a surprise; they were holding their brakes round an off-camber section, while I just pounded round the outside. I enjoyed that… :slight_smile:

Most bizarre non-cycling related sight was the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing on the Saturday evening. Picture the scene… in a field miles from anywhere, loads of muddy, sweaty bikers sitting in stripey deckchairs listening to an immaculately dressed orchestra playing such gems as Bohemian Rhapsody. A strange sight for a mountainbike event, and it must have been equally strange for the players who I assume are more used to playing in concert halls than country parks!

A few points from other posts; Sam’s 29er had 125mm cranks on as well as John, and I think the fast team - Roger, Des, Steve C and I - did 14 laps; Steve C and I did 3 each and Roger and Des 4, what with them being mental and all.

I was riding when they were playing, I thought I was imagining hearing bits of pop/rock music being played by an Orchestra in the valley below, being introduced by a vaguely familiar voice.

I had nearly reached home when the Radio 2 DJ Ed Steward commented about the unusual experience he’d had the night before. He was introducing an Orchestra that was playing pop music in a middle of a field during a 24 hour mountain bike race - now I know why I recognised the voice! I will have to listen again if I get the chance, I was shocked & knackered when I heard it mentioned.

Back to the riding: What a fantastic and hard weekend, for next time I must try and practice fast riding in deep mud. I was ready for sand, ruts, grass etc but didn’t do much mud training. It is hard to find that much around here out of winter, where does SSMM get it delivered from?


Who’d have thought that sleep depravation and physical pain could be so much fun?! What a great weekend!

I did the first lap, so got to ‘run’ for half a mile at the start then wade through a quagmire for the remaining 10 miles. I think I rode about 3 miles of the first lap.

My second lap started at 11:30 pm so I got to ride in complete darkness with my brand new (unused) lights, I was a little nervous about the batteries running out, so I tried to go as fast as possible, the course was much drier than it had been, most of the mud was in the campsite wrapped round bikes, so I managed a slightly quicker lap despite the dark.

I went for a bit of a kip after lap 2, didn’t really sleep 'cos I was too wired on Go Gel so I really didn’t fancy a third lap, I felt revolting. I decided I’d go out anyway, enjoy it, and take it easy. It was the best lap, I rode loads more of the course which was really dry by that point, and the morning sunshine was beautiful.

Highlight of the weekend was riding out of a single track section on the night lap while being chased by a biker, coming to a really steep bombhole onto the double track and just carrying on because I couldn’t face stopping. I fully expected to come off at the bottom of the bombhole but I carried on, I came to the same section on my third lap, saw it in daylight and nearly bottled out. Moral of the story - try it, it might work :smiley:

I’ll definitely be back next year, but I’ll do more training, I could barely walk this morning. I haven’t stopped smiling all day though.


It was fun. :slight_smile:

The course was not the same, it was longer and they had taken out the little bit or road and put in more single track…

Des was on form and I am certain he beat me on the times. I did the first lap though, which was a bit of a killer. That was like last year but the heat dried things out so even the second or 3rd rider were reporting big impovements and by my last lap even the landrover track was rideable (well mostly).

I am almost totally recovered now, just been swimming and did a full session and my body seamed okish… and I am awake - so that is good.


Yeah yet again the weekend was WKD! great fun

our team did 14 laps altogether (as Phil pointed out).

there were far too many highlights to mention but a couple were:

Riding downhill on some twisty singletrack:- heard a bi*e behind me shouted ‘you wanna go on the left mate’ he replied ‘no i am just going to stay here and watch this poetry in motion’

Several times up and downhill:- on the right/left mate then when they see me ‘now that just makes me feel allot better…being overtook by a unicyclist’

a comment by one of the marshals: ‘you are fu**ing amazing, if you were female i would sh*g you’ (classy ay)

Just at the top of that bombhole at the end: someone shouted ‘JUMP IT’ so it had to be done, lots of speed and i got air coming out of it! awesome (coker with 150’s BTW)

Back at camp:- Steve C ‘Des you must really give me details on your diet’ (after continually coming back with fast laps)

memories keep coming back so no doubt i will post a few more good point.

just on a slight bad point though guys we are getting slated a bit here http://www.singletrackworld.co.uk/forum/read.php?f=2&i=1809484&t=1809484 i havent posted there yet as i want to quote my laptimes in the post and they are not out yet (and i am sure they will be comparable to many of their own lap times).

i know allot of what is there is ppl just moaning and generally being miserable bas**rds but we need to make sure we dont start getting a bad name.

i know its a challenge for any of us to even get round and compleat such an event but we dont want to be getting a bad name do we?

i think the ppl who do compeat do need to be able to ride with enough skill and fitness not to be ‘wobbling all over the track’ and not riding sections that ‘could be ridden with your eyes closed’ we are there to show off our skills, and get around the track in as fast time as possible not give the impression to ppl in the MTB community that we cant really ride that well.

sorry if this sounds a bit bitchy but as i said we dont want to be getting a bad name and perhaps jepodising our entries in furthur years.

all in all a very good event and am already looking forward to next year!!

Well done everyone who compeated and supported us!! :smiley:

I agree with you Des. I know it’s not a personal thing, it’s an image thing. SSMM is a great PR event for the sport.
As I knew I was the least experienced, least skilled and slowest rider, my biggest worry was screwing up, causing an accident & giving a reason for unis to be banned from the event. I was extremely hesitant about entering, and nearly backed out several times, thinking I wouldn’t be good enough. I’m [insert extreme expletive here] glad that I didn’t though.

I was the one that the guy was complaining about on the section that ‘could be ridden with your eyes closed’. I’ve signed up to that website & as soon as my account is activated I will be pointing out that I was physically unable to ride at that point. edit - the only complaint I heard about from last year was about Roger, who was being held up by someone else & a witness told him he was riding like an idiot. this new thread seems overall positive (so far…)

A hell of a lot of my time was spent ensuring that I did not get in the way of any riders at all, no matter how slow they were. If I didn’t take that approach, I would have been a lot faster but god knows what bedlam I would have caused. On my 2nd lap I probably rode about the same as Paul’s first, whiich I’m well chuffed about.

There is similar disparity between the elite bikers and fun bikers, and you (and Roger, Steve C, etc) and the likes of me - in terms of lap times and skill. Maybe in attitude too? I was there to survive, and I intend to do the same next year!

PS - if the concern is widespread about abilities of entrants, maybe there could be some sort of vetting system for first-timers, such as with the Uni Tours?

That thread on STW seems to have concluded that a few people are taking themselves far too seriously and the majority are there for fun and don’t mind the unicyclists at all.

Results are up
team 1 189 out of 266 not bad at all!

I agree with Nick the vast majority of the comments are positive, and of the negative comments a few of them are multiple posts by the same riders.

One comment was

“I did nearly crash on the fast downhill bit off the back of the Kenda climb when a unicyclist came off in front of me. But I’m sure I inconvenienced a few riders myself, too…”

…that might have been me. On a couple of occasions I knew there was atleast one very fast rider approaching me and the passing space was minimal so I decided to do a fast dismount into the edge of the scrub to give them more space, it may have looked like a crash to them but it was not a UPD!

Like Mike I was very nervous about harming any of the Pro’s racing, however they were amazing whether they called or not they never startled me they just got cleanly past without seeming to slow down, this included the winning soloist who passed me twice. I suppose it is because they are so fast they get much more overtaking experience.

I saw a few single bike crashes during the race but only one collision. A fairly fast rider passed me cleanly but then tangled with a wobbling bike that changed line 10~15 metres ahead.

I guess one of the highlights for me was overtaking a few bikes when riding uphill, and the great comments from a lot of the riders & marshals. I also noticed some of the best encouragement seemed to come from Soloists.


The results are out:


No Gears 189
No Handlebars 248
No Brakes 260

Teams entered 266

We weren’t last!