Let's go surfing now, everybody's learning how.

Have you ever raced in conditions as bad as this? Kudos to the PMBA Gisburn Forest Enduro racers and the organisers for not just calling the whole thing off.

>>> Mud-proofed bikes are 20% faster and over 600g lighter

Despite the weather, it looks like everyone still enjoyed themselves. Credit to the event and competitors. They breed ’em tough up North eh?

PMBA Round 1 Gisburn Forest race report

Words: Jerry Tatton & Kev Duckworth | Photos: JWDT Photography

The Hope PMBA kicked off its season, as is tradition, at Gisburn Forest. The anticipation for many riders was pretty electric leading up to the race, with winter coming to an end and spring around the corner, people wanted to get back into the saddle and get on with business. However a wet and wild one greeted them; and showed who had been putting in the winter training.

>>> The best mountain bike mud tyres

Driving to the forest early in the morning, you could tell this was not going to be an ordinary race. With biblical rainfall overnight the approach roads to the forest were flooding, the rivers had started to burst their banks, and the odd car could be seen turning back not willing to brave the deep “puddles”.

Arriving at the Gisburn hub it was clear to see spirits were high. The marshals were already gathering, the banter had already started, the café was open and breakfast buns were going down a treat. It’s always fascinating listening in to the debates and conversations amongst the organisers pre race, especially if the weather is not playing ball. “do we close down the exposed stage 3?”, “should we shorten stage 4?” Rider safety and enjoyment is a huge task the PMBA team take very seriously. After a inspection and some slight regret stage 4 was shortened; there was too much flooding of the valley floor.

>>> The best mountain bike jackets

Kev Duckworth, one of the key men behind the PMBA, was determined to run a race at Gisburn with some more natural off piste trails, one off piste stage had been swapped in the run up to the event and then the final part of stage 4 was surrendered . So for the race itself, it was mainly trail centre stages and half the downhill track, but it wasn’t an easy course, Stage one was a reverse climb, well three climbs, providing tight corners, narrow trees and rocky sections and then there’s stage 4, the DH line, a more demanding trail with drops and tabletop jumps that can send you bucketing over the bars if you loose focus.

Trail centre stages or off piste mud, racing is racing, you all know the phrase “when the gate drops, the bullsh*t stops” and with some amazing prizes from a huge sponsor list.

>>> The best mountain bike front mudguards

This event was a sell out at 350 riders and despite the weather 313 riders turned up, and 296 finished to braving the wind, rain and flooded trails. Stage 3 itself had riders past the knees in water in one deep puddle, it was definitely Mudhugger weather!

There were 4 stages in total with approximately a 14 mile total circuit.

Stage 1 normally a technical ascent provided riders with tight corners, narrow sections with bar banging trees and rocky ditches turned into river torrents.

Stage 2 was a familiar downhill singletrack trail but with some hard on the pedals flat and up hill sections, again technical if you ride hard and fast due to narrow trees, sharp corners and a crafty rocky staircase type drop.

Stage 3 was brutal… From Whelpstone cragg along to the fireroad there were deep puddles and typical trail centre built berms and jumps. Then came a long and muscle burning sprint up the fire road to the second section of the trail, known as Hully Gully.

>>> How to stop mud from sticking to your bike


Even though the weather was brutal all day there were some stunning times recorded and the overall fastest time of the day was James Swinden in a staggering 9:58.979 over the 4 stages racing in the elite category. The overall 2nd place was hotly contested by Ian Austermuhle in 10:04.440 and 3rd overall was Callum Russell in 10:06.460. What an incredible race for the top 3 spots, with only one rider going sub 10 minutes over the 4 timed stages.

In the women’s race Polly Henderson had the fastest time in the under 21 category in a superb 12:19.360 closely followed by Lucy Allan in 12:30.480 and Abigale Lawton in 12:30.480.

Elite men

  1. James Swinden 9:58.979
  2. Ian Austermuhle +5.461s
  3. Callum Russell +7.481s

Under-15 boys

  1. Toby Campbell 12:39.010
  2. Matthew Briggs +1:14.359
  3. Ollie Avison-Fell +1:18.590

Under-19 men

  1. Tom Wilson 10:16.270
  2. Harry Shepherd +22.630s
  3. Max Milnes +23.509s

19-29 men

  1. Matt Gosling 10:30.210
  2. Mathew Woodall +1.210s
  3. Daniel Bladon +9.240s

30-39 men

  1. Mat Wright 10:22.459
  2. Ben Whitehead +2.621s
  3. Ben Clarke +3.051s

40-49 men

  1. Ian Cation 10:43.390
  2. Martyn Alderson +2.100s
  3. Rob Carr +2.340s

50+ men

  1. Chris Norman 11:17.850
  2. Howard Stuttard +7.280s
  3. Alex Cameron +32.850s

Open women

  1. Lucy Allan 12:30.480
  2. Sally Fletcher +1:25.060
  3. Toni Fryer +1:58.899

Under-21 women

  1. Polly Henderson 12:19.360
  2. Abigale Lawton +14.700s
  3. Katie Clark +1:13.040

40-49 women

  1. Catherine Hart 13:15.200
  2. Kate Ratcliffe +1:18.790
  3. Elaine Dowson +2:32.730

The KS Drop

Riders always have a chance to style it up now in the form of the #KSdrop, and more spot prizes for the best pic on instagram. Gisburn final stage 4 (Gas to Flat) contained the feature, and while impressive this week we have built the #KSdrop over at Graythwaite for the National Champs – check it out…

(Warning: video contains swearing)

So that’s it, the PMBA season has started with a bang! The next race in the calendar is the Datatag UK National Championships at Graythwaite and Grizedale, covering 55km and 10 stages.

For more information head over to the PMBA website (click banner above) here there are still a few places but with 460 entered so far not that many left!