See the clue? It's tied to the pine tree in the midde.

See the clue? It's tied to the pine tree in the midde.

A bright, frosty car park in the Midlands and, in amongst the hundreds of riders about to set off around Cannock’s Follow the Dog trail, were ten very lucky and slightly anxious looking people. These nine contenders (we’re counting husband and wife duo of John and Sylvia Horner as one), as well as being some of the most stubbornly determined riders we’ve ever met, were our Killer Loop winners; each of whom held a metaphorical golden ticket to the grand finale and the chance to head home in a few hours time with a brand new Cannondale Rize 120 and a holiday for two with Saddle Skedaddle.

We devised the Killer Loop competition in 2008 as an incentive to lure people away from trail centre captivity, coming up with the idea to stash 13 bottles around Britain’s finest natural rides. The whole thing culminated in a trailquest style orienteering challenge in Grizedale Forest, in which everyone who’d found a bottle competed for the grand prize.

Since January 2011 it’s been happening all over again. From a precarious cliff in Skye, to the relative civilisation of the South Downs more plastic bottles have been cunningly hidden, and both old hands and new faces have been hunting them down. A few bottles, such as Coed y Brenin, the Peak District and Ullapool, remained undiscovered, but by mid-January enough had been found to assemble all our treasure hunters at the Birches Valley visitor centre in Cannock Chase for their final challenge.

The challenge

In keeping with the theme of the competition, our hopefuls would be faced with an orienteering test. The previous day we’d hidden six laminated A4 sheets around the forest; they were mainly zip-tied to trees, although one was attached to an old bit of North Shore woodwork in the Stile Cop bike park. Each one had a number on it, and when all six had been collected, these numbers could be arranged to form a grid reference revealing the hiding place of the grand prize.

The task for our competitors was to work out the fastest route around the checkpoints (any purpose-built singletrack had to be ridden in the correct direction), noting down the number and a cryptic clue written on each one. Once they had all six, they had to hot foot it to the final hiding place. To aid their search, each contender was issued with both a trail centre map and an OS map of the Chase marked with the six checkpoints.

Finally, we decided to add an extra frisson of tension by setting each competitor off at five-minute intervals. Therefore the first one to arrive at the grand prize might not necessarily be the fastest, giving us the opportunity, we hoped, for an infuriating X-Factor style pause when we revealed “and the winner is…”

The video

You can read the full story in the March 2012 issue of MBR, out February 8th. In the meantime, check out the video for a flavour of what went down.

Video: Killer Loop Finale from Mountain Bike Rider on Vimeo.

Video: Chris Seager