Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Mole Mayhem – 2011 Mountain Mayhem report

Posted by Tony | June 19, 2011 | 22 comments so far

The weather forecast wasn’t great but Four moles – Dave, Keith, Al and myself all set out this weekend with the aim of riding all 24 hours of the 2011 Mountain Mayhem.

Here’s my breakdown of how we got on!

2011 Mountain Mayhem

Arrival – Saturday morning

After a 5am start, Keith and I arrived on site at Eastnor Castle Deer park just before the main entrance was closed for the weekend and Dave (phone call to say that we were almost there) was waiting to show us where to go.

Dave and Al had done a fine job to set up the campsite the day before with Al’s marvelous 3 beadroom tent already errected. I’ve stayed in smaller hotel rooms! Friday had been good for Al with winning two Kenda Small Block 8 tyres at the Kenda tombola, which he seemed determined to use.

As a further bonus we were next to Andy661’s team, which meant we had a little community feel going on. The early arrival meant for a leisurely morning as we set up the Gazebo and unpacked our kit. Tactics and tyres were discussed and set. One lap per rider and Keith to take the first lap with the “unspecifed distance” run.

The Mole bikes for the weekend were an eclectic mix. Al’s hardcore SS Ibis tranny in lurid green carbon, Dave’s new big wheeled Salsa Spearfish, Keith’s bling and super lightweight Niner Air9 Carbon. Finally my non-niche, boringly 26inch wheeled, geared, steel Orange Clockwork. Although I did get plenty of comments about the bike as I rode round and talked to plenty of RetroBike geeks (obviously me not being a geek you understand, but I did spend 20mins talking to one person about early 90’s Oranges).

At 11am we headed down for the rider briefing. All was as standard rules-wise and the excitement was mounting. The 5min ride down to the start/finish handover was slightly worrying for me, as it became clear that my bike had transmission woes with a skipping/slipping chain.

In what can only be described as a “schoolboy error” I had changed my chain a couple of days before, due to it snapping on one of the recent Wednesday night rides (my “no chain” descent) and not taken out the bike for a shakedown ride. I had broken the first rule of racing – no racing on new kit/components!

At least it gave me something to do as I headed off to the retail area and bought a new middle chainring and cassette, then (a big thanks guys) I headed off to the Cyclo Tools tent and used their pit workshop loaning facility to change my transmission. Thankfully the new transmission worked beautifully over MM.

Once more we headed back down to see the mass start and cheer Keith off. It was an impressive sight as the riders sprinted (well jogged for a Mole) off. An inspiring sight was to see the first rider back. An RAF team rider, showing the rest of the field a clean pair of heels by a big margin, especially good as the rider had been stationed in Afganistan until recently and only had treadmills and turbo trainers to keep fit on.

2011 Mountain Mayhem – the race

After Keith started Al, Dave and I went off for some retail therapy and fast food. Adam – Mole ride regular and race whippet, was working hard at the SRAM tent fixing rider bikes. Everyone was complimentary about the scale of the SRAM service. Later Amanda and Darren dropped by. Unusually not riding this time, since there were tapering for their next big event, a welcome visit, especially more so when they dropped round again on Sunday and Amanda brought around her delicious Brownies.

Back at camp a routine was established. The sequence was Keith, Al, Dave and me. As we sat waiting for our turn heavy showers rolled through the Eastnor Valley, interspersed with bouts of bright sunshine. Then when Keith and Al returned the talk was of a hilly, energy sapping, gloopy course.

The 2011 Mountain Mayhem route / course

Then it was my turn at near 4pm. I had my first taste of what Mountain Mayhem had to offer.

A short flat loop headed out of the start/finish area along the valley to the Kenda climb, which could be seen from the campsite as it zig-zagged out of the valley. The meandering made the climb a middle ring grind but a couple of steep lips made the final 100yds a power blast or short walk.

Over the top, you moved into wooded singletrack which double backed on itself. The bursts of rain had made this singletrack treacherous, with numerous slick roots ready to catch the unwary and off camber corners testing your balance. After a couple of changes of direction the route headed on to a small valley, with a short burst of flat before a brief climb lead into further woods.

These next woods were even worse than the first ones, with a muddy lane covered in treacly mud that halted all momentum, then just when your legs were slowing the track headed downhill through the trees, with an off camber slope, impossible to to negotiate without scrabbling down off the bike.

More lethal switchbacks and it was out of the woods. We headed back along the small valley along a farm track covered in more mud sludge. Finally the track headed back down to the campsite valley, again along farm tracks that needed fine balance and care, with a last section off-camber grassy slopes that washed out front wheels of the unwary.

Into the main valley, enthuastic camps of team supporters lined the route with cowbells ringing and banter a plenty. Small children lined up on the sides to high-five passing riders. The tracks crossed over in the middle of the camp via a steep 10-12ft scaffolding bridge, which required a burst of speed to get over. Next was the other side of the valley, dominated by an Obelisk on the highpoint.

The climb stepped up out of the valley, with long drags, notably a particularly nasty granny ring open crawl (well granny ring for some of us!). Once at the highpoint, we looped round and headed downhill in jeep twin tracks lined with deep wheel ruts.

Again these were muddy and slippy so you just had to choose your rut and go with the flow, although many didn’t manage that. With a couple of turns the route continued to drop along the doubletracks before heading into the woods with off camber singletrack, again needing you to thread a fine line. A long drag brought us back to the top of the hill, before heading onto more woods with dicey wet polished roots and more ruts.

A final gloopy climb lead to the descent into the campsite which was disappointingly bumpy and limited the enjoyment and speed (I was shaking so much I couldn’t see – Keith).

Finally it was a seemingly never-ending (when your legs were tired) loop under the bridge and back to the start-finish.

2011 Mountain Mayhem – how it unfolded

Throughout the day the showers continued and the course slowly became more gloopy. Al was doing sterling work on his single speed, whist Keith and I spun round. Dave was probably wishing for a lower gear than 1×9, eventually succumbing to walking up the climbs.

I probably used my granny ring during those 24 hours more than I had the rest of the year combined! Lap times of 1:10 to 1:20 were the norm. Lights had to be on after 9pm, although the light was still good and full lighting wasn’t essential in the woods until 10pm.

After 10pm the rain stopped and course slowly dried out. Although lap times lenghten as more care was needed in the dark. The Moles proceed without any mishaps (some small off’s), no mechincals and not a single puncture, which was more than could be said for Andy661 who had mechanicals, off’s and two tyre blow outs all in one lap.

At around 2am a heavy dew settled over the campsite. The part-dried course soaked the moisture up and the mud returned with a vengeance. As dawn broke each Mole had done just 3 laps. Dave and I had seriously stiff backs and a general weariness had come over the group. It was certainly a tough route with 1400ft of climbing in a 10mile loop.

By 8-9am the the course was finally getting quicker as the wind built up and the sun came out. With a quirk of the start positions I finished my fourth lap at 10am. Dave and Keith were not up for another lap, but Al “group hero” headed out again. Single speeding wasn’t too appealing and he went with the luxury of 20 gears on Keiths Niner instead. I was the only option left for another 5th lap however the stiff back had taken it out of me and although the legs were fine (my fourth lap was my fastest) I wasn’t up to it.

The final tally was 17 laps for team Muddy Moles. Not a big total but reasonable given the conditions.

A superbly organised event, at a great location, Mountain Mayhem is an event I’s thoroughly recommend. I think the Moles will return!

Filed under Rides in June 2011


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  1. Toby says:

    Nice write up, I was looking out for the ‘Moles’ in particular Dave as he was the only one there I would recognise without ‘Mole’ kit on. Tough event but very enjoyable – any idea where the results are online as thats what I really want to see.

  2. paul901 says:

    love the write up Tony, if the riding was up to your high reporting standard then teams Mole did very well. I was thinking you should club together and hire a soigneur! I bet it would have made all the difference to those stiff backs and would not have harmed the leg muscles either.

  3. Jez says:

    Good effort all round. Sounds like a energy sapping course. Were the singletrack bits good fun?

  4. Tony says:

    Hi Jez. The singletrack wasn’t too good until late sunday morning since it’s was too slow and you were too busy concetrating on staying upright for the first 20hrs. On a dry course it would have been a blast.

  5. Matt says:

    Well done guys, I did spare a thought as I looked at the showers coming down during Saturday afternoon in Surrey. Apocalyptic.

    Sounds like a great event, I’m a bit disappointed I missed out due to other commitments but you’ve done us proud!

  6. Dave says:

    Hi All,

    Couple of general comments about the event. My overall impression could not be better, this is a very well organised event. Plenty of toilets (that were well maintained), showers, bike wash and a food tent that didn’t require a credit check on entry. Plenty of stands and fayre to keep us all interested and a supurb atmosphere.

    The course was hard for me. 29er wheels and no granny ring saw me walking up more and more of the main climb heading up to the monument. One section that Al names “sticky wood” was just prior to the first technical down hill felt a little like you were righing through glue. The little technical downhill was OK and I rode it and all the other singletrack each lap, only having one mishap on a simple corner. Basically the back wheel stepped out on me sending me down. I think my Mud-X were the correct choice but on hardpack soil with a greasy layer on top they just don’t work well. Would anything?

    I was constantly impressed by the soloists as well as some of the team riders as they shot down some rocky, greasy descents. Take the long main climb out and I’d have loved the course much more! Might have to think about a granny ring again. ;o(

    During the night lap I paired up with a local rider, John, and we seemed to be well paired in terms of performance having each done our second lap in about 1:30hr. I started with 1:20hr and then lost 10 mins per lap until the 3rd lap but 4th was pretty much 1:40hr again. Having someone to ride with between 1am and 3am is a luxury that helped me no end. Would be up for this one again.

    The spirit on the course was always very high with general comradery among riders of all abilities and types.

    • James says:

      Hi Dave, good to see you on Sat at MM.

      We managed 4 laps each in the end. For comparison, we managed 19 total last year with much the same team and fitness. I think this years’ course was much harder including the ‘Plasticine Woods’ that you speak of! I broke a brake lever in a small incident in those woods. Did the rest of the lap with just the front brake! Hope fixed it for free in 30 mins when I got back – nice.

      My 2nd night lap was grim, finishing about 4:15am. I was running tubeless and by then the tyres had started to give up their thin grip on the pressure. I had just given up my thin grip that I had on anything!

      Still, I really enjoyed it – hope your back gets better.



    • Tony says:

      I’ve exbanded my lexicon of MTB terminology today. Reading a STW forum comment on MM the course was described as being covered in ” Velcro mud”. Sums it up nicely!

  7. Barrie says:

    great effort guys, i did sort of envy you going off to do it and i sort of miss the adrenaline rush and the atmosphere, however just dont seem to have the time to do a full on assault! look forward to hearing the tails when we catch up

  8. Andy661 says:

    It was quite epic.
    Lots of climbing and as Keith and Tony pointed out the fudge-like mud made singletrack interesting.
    The wet, dry, wet conditions combined with 2,500 riders’ tyres started to compress the ruts onto something akin to a root-infested pump track!
    On my 3rd lap on the second bit of single track (1st half of the course) I flew, well gingerly skidded, into the depressions and the front deflated with a loud fart (well I think it came from the front…).
    Having reinflated the tyre, the same thing happened again! Additionally on this occasion the dismount loosened my cleat AND my bottle cage decided to come loose.
    On a normal ride this wood be frustrating.
    At 0530hrs it took a very deep breath to sort all the issues and get going again.
    My night lap had gone really well so it was very frustrating to see an improved lap time slip away.
    When I began the very long climb on the second half of the course I was overtaken by Scooby Doo and I accepted my race was probably done!
    Had had goal of 5 laps this year so to only get 3 in was a little disappointing but it’s spurred me on to focus on regular riding and training.

    On a side note I got a good deal on a 2XU compression bib tight set that also came with recovery leggings which I used last night.
    Whilst I wouldn’t fancy doing another lap today my legs actually feel surprisingly fresh.

  9. Jem says:

    Brilliant fellas. Nice to read that you all enjoyed the event and by the sound of it would compete again.

    I the same as Barrie would loved to have been there competing with you, maybe next year.

  10. Dave says:

    Dorking Cocks 18th
    Muddy Moles 38th

    I said to Al I’d be happy with top 50 so I’m over the moon with that result.

    Was in Cycleworks and spent 40 mins or so talking to Grahman who came 16th in solo men. Dave F even made us a cup of tea.

    Rock on.

  11. Dave says:

    lol…and congrats to Andy 661 for your “1st” place in category. We won’t discuss number of entries!

  12. Kc says:

    It was a long day at work today! What a cracking weekend. Work has, and is, really challenging at the moment and I was not in a good mental state on Friday night. All that changed as I arrived with Tony early Saturday morning. This was a newish experience for me. Stop start endurance over 24 hours is tough, but remarkably rewarding. Add to that the camaraderie and support you get at this venue and it is one for the 2012 calendar for sure.

    I enjoy competition and tried to focus on gaining on the guy in front, sometimes the task was unachievable but often I found it dragged me along at a faster pace. Lap4 was different. I found it difficult to motivate myself in the same way and the time suffered; on the plus side it was magical to see the sun rise in such a wonderful setting.

    If anybody is up to it I would be happy to organise some teams for next year. Perhaps we could put up a team to get closer to those Dorking Cocks who performed so well!

  13. Big Al says:

    Well what a great weekend.I really enjoyed myself thanks to Keith,Tony and Dave for making it such good fun !
    The funniest moment for me was while I lay in the tent at 4am waiting for my next lap , I heard voices from the next door tent it went “My Bum Hurts have you got any of that cream” that about sums it up !

  14. KevS2010 says:

    Great result men, I’m envious in a strange sort of Masochistic way!
    Really must enter next year and experience the pain and joy for myself. :-0

  15. JamesProH says:

    Sounds like you all had a great race. Why does it always rain at these events. Maybe next year I will join you as I really enjoyed D2D even with all the mud and rain.

  16. Amanda says:

    Glad you enjoyed it it is the hardest 24 hour you will experience here in the UK. I reckon I would be up for a team if you can handle a girl on the team…… if i dont decide to do a solo and I am sure Darren could be arm twisted in to team as well.

  17. David says:

    Hi I’m taking part in this event in June 2012 and I’m in a team of 5. Can you give me any advise regarding the course. Is it a hard course? I’m looking to do the first 2 laps from the start then maybe take a break.

  18. DaveC says:

    Hi David,

    Did I find it a hard course? Yes but not technical. Hard because you are in a valley, the course goes up one side, down into another valley, up the next hill and then back down, up and down into the start valley. Then you get the really big climb! It was the combination of sticky mud and climbs that did me in. If you are moderately fit though you’ll be fine. Two laps on the trot though? Not unless you’ve done it before. We tried this strategy at the very flat in comparison, Dusk ’til Dawn course, and it wasn’t the quickest. 1 lap seems to be the best and is used by the top teams.

    Enjoy it though! It’s a great event. I’m just trying to rally the Moles up for 2012 as well. Looking like three teams!

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