Skip directly to content

UK Northern Downhill- October 2018

The weekend saw the return of the Northern Downhill race series to the behemoth forest of Kielder. Kielder forest is the largest man-made woodland area in England and hosts some amazing mountain biking trails, not only for downhill style races, but also cross country and 24 hour endurance races.

When most of the big race organisers in the UK are shutting up shop for the winter across Wales, Scotland and England, in a small corner of the North East of England, the Northern Downhill series comes alive and continues the racing through the winter months. Nothing beats the different technicalities that winter can bring to racers or riders alike. No more dusty trails and warm evening sunshine, this racing is about grit and determination. It's about being able to race in more unpredictable conditions, both weather and trail conditions.


Brad keeping it low over one of the ski jumps. Brad took the fastest time of the day

The weekend was pretty brutal to the racers. On the Saturday Adam, my photography team mate and I rode the trails around Kielder and explored the race line. The course was running super fast and dry. However, through the night there had been heavy rainfall and freezing conditions, the dry course and dusty conditions had turned to slime and mud.

This course had 3 different and distinct sections to it. The highest part was within the thick forest and consisted of smooth sweeping berms and small rocks. Out into the open after a fire road crossing and its into the gravity zone, large ski style jumps, drops, rocks and berms to negotiate, followed by another fire road crossing and into the final stretch of more drops, jumps and berms in a lightly forested area. This course is pretty intense, with many features to negotiate and little time to recompose after hitting each feature.

The race itself is called a TT, or Time Trial. The object of the race is to get from top to bottom as fast as possible. The format of the day is for a short course walk, followed by as many practice runs as you can fit in. Then there is a seeding run, followed by 2 race runs. This is an ideal format, since 2 race runs means there is scope for another chance if you have a mechanical or a fall. The race is also geared towards trail bikes rather full on downhill rigs. This also means you'll see the occasional Hardtail Hero racing.

The fastest time of the day went to Brad Illingworth (30-39) in an outstanding 1:44.41, his second recorded time of the day, less than one second behind Brad was Josh Morris (19-29) 0.75 secs slower, and 3rd place to Tom Ross (15-16) 3.61 secs slower than Brad. This was incredibly tight racing! The top 12 fastest times of the day were literally separated by only 10 seconds. Also of note was the incredible age categories in the top ten overall fastest, from Thom Smith in 13-14 to Steve Melville in 40-49. For a full rundown of the results head over to roots and rain. The women had an open category and the fastest woman on the day was Sian Dillon in an incredible 2:01.41, followed by Hannah Prestwick only 0.23secs behind and 3rd fastest was Rebecca Verry in2:11.50. Another very competitive and close fought battle between the women.

This was prime winter racing at its best. Not only does the northern downhill entertain downhill style races in the Northeast of England and the borders of Scotland at Ae forest, but also enduro races of differing difficulty. The next race is an enduro at Ae forest on 25th November, this is absolutely not one to miss. They will also be hosting a more novice rider/racer event at Chopwell Woods in April next year.

This is strong evidence of Carl Davison's passion for racing and trying to entice all skill levels into the racing scene. For more information on the Northern Downhill winter race scene head over to their website. I can assure you there are races to suit all.

That's it for this race report, if any of this wets your appetite, then do not hesitate to get over to the NDH website and get entered. Nothing beats the challenges that winter racing throws at you, from muddy slimy trails to unpredictable weather. It's where you will find the hardiest of racers, but also a welcoming atmosphere from the Northern Downhill crew and the regulars of their race scene.

We'll leave you with some more images from the day (click here)

Jerry Tatton