Living on the edge of the Peak District, I have a plethora of great trails at my disposal. In fact, with the bridleways and old railway lines of Nottingham, to the gritty outcrops of the Dark Peak and the Limestone landscape of the White Peak, I think I have it pretty darn good when it comes to riding.
So, it was with a certain amount of scepticism that I signed up for Round 2 of the Scott MTB Marathon Series in Wantage Oxfordshire, surely there can’t be any good riding down there… can there?
The Scott MTB Marathon Series are single loop off-road rides held throughout the year at venues across the country. With 3 route options (mini 25km, half 60km, full 80km), it caters for all abilities of MTB rider.
The event started on Friday evening, so we headed down with the Alpkit pop-up shop for the weekend, with one eye on the stormy weather forecast. Saturday saw a steady trickle of people turn up to camp, but the rain and thunder seemed to have kept many riders at home weather watching for the time being.
They all turned up on Sunday morning though! 750 riders gathered at the start line: with pro racers, young children, and even a man carrying his dog in a rucksack needless to say there was a wide range of people and bikes.
I was riding the 60km half marathon on Sonder demo-fleet Frontier 29er – a bit of a change from my usual Broken Road but a bit of a change-around is never a bad thing! Rumour had it this would be a flat and fast route, so I swapped the 32t chainring for one of our new 34t Love Mud Infinity chainrings (ahem, product testing) in the hope this would give me better speed on the flats and without compromising climbing. Time to see how the Oxfordshire trails compared to the ones back home…
10 am came and we set off on mass, quickly leaving the roads and heading onto The Ridgeway, an ancient byway and Britain’s oldest road, which runs for 139km from Avebury Ring to Ivinghoe Beacon. The route was fast - the chainring upgrade paid off - and hugely varied with a great mix of bridleways, byways, and singletrack and passing through some very scenic villages as well as more remote areas. Things can’t always go to plan though, and although the route was well signposted, some tampering from members of the public led some riders on an unplanned detour.
Overall it was a great event: really well-organised (as they always are) and the route rebutted all my preconceptions about riding in Oxfordshire – it turns out there is good riding down there, it was refreshing to get away from the local haunts to ride somewhere new.
In fact, I am already planning my return: ‘The Ridgeway in a day’ has a bit of a ring to it… now where’s that demo XL broken road gone?
For photos from the event, head over to Scotts MTB Marathon Facebook page.We'll see you at the next one!