The problem with DH racing in the South of England is where to practice. You can take your DH rig to the surrey hills but most people (including myself) will be wondering what you will be riding it on.
The problem is that there are not enough trails that justify that amount of travel. Ok, so it helps you get used to the bike and that’s no bad thing; but really there is nothing there that a good trail bike can’t handle.
With Saturdays skills course cancelled I decided a spot of DH was in order and a few phone calls chose Rogate as our destination of choice.
Friday night saw me swearing at the DH bike as yet another Raceface BB bearing seized after the rain at FOD; and no amount of TLC could get it working again. So the Nomad got the nod and 8am saw me heading for the trails..
For those of you who don’t know Rogate, its down the A3 near Petersfield and personifies the Southern DH scene with a extensive selection of short runs with a wide variety of different levels. Every time I go there I find another few trails have sprung up and its ongoing metamorphosis is one of its delights. The area is littered with trails that cross each other, dodgy jumps and landings, big road gaps, drops, steep technical runs, big doubles and thankfully a sandy base that dries fast.
The area is split in two by a fire road that thankfully is a short push to reach. The top section is steep and technical with the odd smoother runs thrown in. The lower section is where the trails open up and you find the jumps and drops.
The main line starts with a 6ft drop into a berm (recently built up, though I have no idea why as its horrible) followed by several twists and turns that spit you out into the big doubles at the end.
Meeting up with Simon and Matt, the temperature was a balmy -2 deg; but on a plus note the trails were deserted and we had the run of the place till about 11am. The recent mud was frozen solid which meant fast trails and no bike cleaning at the end.
Starting gradually we hit the runs on the lower sections before working our way up to session the more technical runs through the trees. I have to confess to whining like a girl most of the time, I really wasn’t feeling in the zone and the nomad wasn’t running like I wanted. There was nothing actually wrong with the bike, but the steep angles of the nomad left me feeling out of control.
Riding Matt’s new Blindside really showed up how much faster a full Dh bike was, and even the sunshine couldn’t lift my spirits.
We sessioned the trails till midday, with some great runs had by all. Simon and Matt had been there just a few days before and a little video of their day at Rogate can be found on Pinkbike.
For those who want to try DH, Rogates a pretty good place to practice and I will be heading there again soon to get some practice in for my next race. Anyone wanting to join me is welcome.