The PMBA enduro makes no excuses. It aims to be the most technical and demanding enduro in the
UK which means you are expected to climb and push-up 3300ft before hurtling down 16+ minutes
of descending through the steepest, off camber, technical woodland in the UK.
This thing is nails; an army of sniper roots and the most technical stages I’ve ever ridden, though I
am from the Fens.
In 2017 I found the PMBA national champs enduro online and at £75 quid for 3 days riding I thought
brill, good value weekend, so a mate and I signed up. We’d done Ard Rock and few days in Milleu
riding EWS stages, it couldn’t be harder than that, could it?
Full of bravado we were in for a shock. When we actually started riding to put it bluntly, we shit
ourselves. We fell off. A lot. Our objective quickly became to survive rather than race. But we did it,
finishing bottom of the field but just pleased to have finished and not broken bikes or bones (quite a
So a bit of time passed and entries opened for this year’s event, with surprisingly little hesitation we
both signed up again and tricked a few more of our mates to join us.
We all said we’d do lots of training on steep roots and get ourselves prepared, a lot turned to a little,
which turned to “oh shit”!
The rest of my group managed a weekend at Grizedale in April but the horrendous weather and a
descent labelled “Super Steep” or “Golden Shower” depending on who you ask, dented confidence
more than it added.
I managed to sneak in a confidence boosting training course the week before the race where I left
feeling like Steve Peat and before I knew it, it was time for race weekend.
After pushing the van across the soft ground of the campsite thoughts of a dry hardpack race soon
evaporated far more quickly than the water. Tyres were quickly changed to something with a bit of
meat on, or in my case something with some actual tread on it!
Kev Duckworth had listened to feedback on the 2017 event and stage 1 was designed to ease us in.
An open fire road sprint made interesting by patches of slop led into a loamy blast though the
woods, this was awesome. Super quick stage not too difficult. But boy did things change quickly.
Stage 2 is the hardest stage I’ve ever done apart from when it was stage 1 in 2017. Long, slow and
technical with blind rollers, an army of freshly exposed roots and a couple of steep sections and
more grease than Guy Martin’s workshop.
I fell off. Then I fell off again. I was trying to ride too fast and clipped a rock wall and then my bars
didn’t fit between the trees on the line I was riding.
At the exit to the woods feelings across the group varied from the massive grins of some to grimaces
of pain from our tree hugging hippy exploits. That was tough, an awful lot to remember especially
when dealing with the fear and racing red mist.
Across the afternoon and a few more crashes, I was beginning to struggle with my head space and
stages 5-6 became a fight for survival rather than fun, but as my morale was hitting bottom barrel I
had one more stage to complete.
Stage 7 I remembered from 2017, and a few breathing exercises later I was excited to ride a more
open fast stage, more intrinsic to what I’m used to.
It did the trick and I launched the KSdrop with a massive grin on my face and rolled into the campsite
with a beer in hand.
The enjoyment and confidence of stage 7 stayed with me over night and I woke to excitement and
confidence that I could not only survive but actually do ok!
Stage 1 was ok, I put in the cranks at the top and hit the first section of track fast and to the applause
of the marshals, this spurred me on until I caught my friend in front with a slight delay as I missed
the first opportunity they gave me to overtake. It didn’t stop me posting a respectable time
Stage 2. I had committed my-self to slow and steady at the top but got a bit of red mist in the woods.
It started well but a wall of marshal tape greeted me as I entered a shoot straight rather than make
the right hander. I obviously wasn’t the first or the last to make the same mistake but I was fully
committed to the line and couldn’t adjust. I was following the tracks rather than looking ahead. I
could hear the disapproving voice of the coach in my head. Worse still, my mate took the
opportunity to sail past me as I untangled myself and charged after him as the track opened out of
The group reconvened at the bottom but we were a woman down. A call on the marshal’s radio
confirmed Helen had twisted her knee two thirds of the way down stage 2. The disappointment was
clear on Helen’s face even through her gritted teeth. As we headed up to stage 3, her heroic
boyfriend Dom headed off to the van to pick her up and we lost another rider as he opted to make
sure Helen was alright.
Stage 3- I was determined to make up some time on this one. I started great and actually thought I
was hitting the lines I'd picked out during practice. I made up 45 seconds on my friend and was
about to pass him on the high off camber line when the dreaded hiss of a nicked tyre deflated my
mood quicker than the tyre. I rolled as far as I could before running to the bottom of the stage. It
was costly and frustrating.
Stage 4- This started on an open ridge of felled woodland. Stumps and roots littered the ridge but
the sun had baked the starting loam. I popped over the crest to surprise the photographers, I was on
a different line to everyone else and entered the lower woodland section. The loose corners had
survived practice but an off camber traverse forced me to half tripod. I managed to stay on the bike
and cleaned the rest of the stage.
I waited for my buddies at the finish and witnessed Scott stack hard into a tree on finish straight,
frustration and a grimace of pain across his face. He was in a similar mental position to me on the
previous day, making multiple silly mistakes.
Stage 5- This was also a mixed bag. The top steep section I rode seemingly before a big crash on a
small bridge across a stream. I let off the brakes and on the transition to get on the pedals only to
bounce straight off the bridge head first. Remarkably I was not in pain and my bike was ok apart,
from some rotated break leavers so I hopped straight back on to finish.
Stage 6- I went into stage 6 with the aim to survive and ride as much of it as possible even if slow.
This went mostly to plan apart from an off camber slab littered with wet roots that I obviously hadn’t
paid enough attention to the day before. Stage 6 would sit well in any EWS. I wanted another go, if
only there was uplift…
Stage 7- I was looking forward to this stage. I cranked hard into the top section and hit the more
technical middle section at good speed. But halfway, disaster! A hidden rock roller had blown out
during the afternoon’s practice and I went straight over the bars. I was ok apart from my pride. Paul
who was following me shouted his concern and continued on. I scrambled to my feet but my bike
was stuck in a tree above my head! For what seemed to take life time, I untangled branch from bike
and pulled the bike free. I Jumped back on and cranked hard to the “Sadist’s Surprise”; a 10ft high
bank to run up. I hobbled up as quickly as I could manage with my dead leg and after a moment to
enjoy the airborne weightlessness over the KS Drop I crossed the finish line!
Now the wait. The time slip was printed straight way but I waited for my fellow group to compare.
55 th result - a solid improvement of 30 places on last year. More importantly, I’d beaten my close
mates and earnt myself bragging rights till our next race together.
I’m left in the strange of limbo of euphoria for not dying but feeling I could have shaved 5 minutes off
my time by not falling off or having punctures.
The team celebrated with some beers and a bbq before hitting the late hour of 10pm and crashing
out from exhaustion from two days amazing but extremely difficult riding.