Rough Riderz founder member, Phil Hall, has relaunched the bike building project and started work on the next generation of gravity bikes! Various deals have already been arranged with some high profile, industry leading suppliers… to compliment the exciting and aggressive new bike design. This means a new look, a new direction and a new era for the UK’s gravity biking scene. More news and details on these latest developments will be coming very soon across all our social media platforms!
To be continued…
The Rough Riderz club returned to the Alps for the third time, to enjoy the huge range and choice of downhill mountain biking trails. The trip resulted in another amazing week of riding, with some regular club members joined by two very good friends from the Metal Bikers crew, based in sunny Tenerife!
Rough Riderz regret to announce that we have had to make the difficult decision to sever all links with Project Enduro team, based at Gower College, part of Swansea University.
This was originally a concept initiated by the club, via our ‘Project Gravity X’ campaign. However, after having secured hundreds of thousands of pounds in Welsh Government funding, this bike building enterprise appears to have completely lost sight of the main objectives and goals set out by the club during it’s inception:
• To build an affordable, and therefore more accessible, gravity bike in the UK.
• To provide an easy to maintain bike using MTB parts, instead of custom-built components.
• To create a better gravity bike design for improved ride-ability and overall performance.
Unfortunately, the club has been excluded from key design decisions, important product testing and overall progress reporting for the majority of the project’s final year, with key feedback/suggestions going unheeded. As a result of this marginalisation, the club does not feel that the project meets any of the above criteria and so has now officially resigned as a project partner.
We felt that if we were to continue our affiliation, then this apparent approval would lend false credibility to their designs. We are therefore unable to promote and/or recommend their final product(s) to any potential customers.
However, please stay tuned to the site and our social media platforms for fresh news on Project Gravity X in the near future…
The Rough Riderz have just returned from another adrenaline filled week of downhill mountain biking, involving four wheel, three wheel and two wheel mountain bikes. The week was a huge success and the first time that the club has been able to use the ski lifts to get to the top of the mountain.
Some members of our Committee have had to jump through hoops to be able to do this, having been denied access to the lifts on our previous trip last year. These bikes are not the first four wheel machines to be ridden in the Alps but they are different from the other types of bikes that have been ridden there, so we were initially denied access to the lifts.
After a year communicating with the lift authorities, and taking the bikes back on a separate trip, we finally got approval to use the lifts. The effort proved well worth it as it meant that we could all ride together (without needing our uplift vehicle), giving greater access to the many trails that the Portes du Soleil has to offer. This enhanced the experience for the disabled riders, and further promoted the ‘fully inclusive’ nature of this exciting sport.
The lift attendants in Morzine and Les Gets were exceptionally helpful, getting the bikes and riders onto the chairlifts without any problems. The new Pleney gondola lift was a different story however, as unfortunately the doors weren’t quite wide enough to wheel the gravity bikes straight into the lift. So the riders had to transfer onto a chair, whilst the bikes were loaded on sideways, then the riders were helped into the next carriage. This wasn’t a major issue though and, after a few attempts were able to get in and out of the lifts fairly quickly, without holding up the rest of the queue.
Although we tried all the trails down Pleney over the week of our stay, the black run was the fastest and most fun to ride! From the top of the gondola it crosses an open, rocky top section which fires you round some small chicanes and into the top of the forest. Once into the woods the conditions were very sketchy after massive amounts of rainfall over the season. It became a battle to keep control of the bikes and stay on line, as we slid around in the deep mud. This whole run is steep, with small jumps, berms and a lot of trees to deal with, exiting on to a small, open area of the hillside before firing back into the trees again.
Further down the run the track had started to dry out a bit, giving better grip on the rough and rocky parts, before hitting some dusty sections of fire road. This had some a fast, flowing bends and two small table top jumps, before its back into the woods for another muddy, twisty part of the trail. After riding through a narrow tunnel, there are more steep, tree lined sections to negotiate, with deep ruts to avoid, and several different lines options. After some very tight final bends, with a couple of technical drop offs, the trail ends on the fire road. Its then a fast run, across rocks and drainage ditches, to reach the open area at the bottom of the lift station, with a small rock garden and hip jump to finish this crazy but exhilarating trail!
See previous report for more information…
■ La Roue Libre (Les Gets)
■ Tutti Frutti (Super Morzine)
The club was also able to offer two new guys the opportunity to have a go at gravity biking during our visit. A group of Swiss friends, who had been in touch with the club before the trip, arranged a surprise day of gravity biking for their friend, who had broken his back a year ago in a motocross accident. The look on his face when he finally realised what was happening was priceless! Michi loved the experience from the word go, proving to be a natural gravity biker, so we’ll no doubt be seeing more of him again soon.
The other rider to get a taste of four wheels, Dan Carracio, actually lives in France. Dan broke his back in a snowboarding incident 5 years ago, but after a few years of rehabilitating in London he decided to move out to Morzine. Dan only had time for two runs in a gravity bike, but he was immediately hooked too! So, hopefully we will be able to get some gravity bikes located in Morzine in the near future, so Dan and others like him can participate in this exciting sport on a regular basis.
Serge and Annick from Defisport (based near Martigny in Switzerland) came to ride with us on their three wheel Explorer bikes. It was great to see these machines in action alongside the four wheel machines. Unfortunately Serge suffered a rear tyre blow-out on his last run which meant he had to limp down the mountain, but that didn’t stop his enjoyment of riding the trails with us in Les Gets.
All in all it was a great week for everyone. We met a lot of great people, and our hosts at Bike Morzine were very friendly and helpful. They even interviewed us and filmed our activities for this Rough Riderz at Bike Morzine video. Plus, their excellent accommodation facilities at Chalet Arthur meant it was a great place to stay, for accessibility as well as it’s central location… and we will be back next year!
The Rough Riderz club were lucky enough to be invited to attend the 24hr de Finale racing event in Northern Italy at the start of the summer, kindly arranged by Enza Marino, Riccardo Negro and The Ultimate Bikeshop. After an epic drive of nearly 1100 miles, across England, France and Italy, we reached Finale about 20 hours later! We met up with Riky and Enza that evening, to discuss the MTB event and the best trails to ride on four wheels.
The race event is held about 8km from the city, in the mountains above the coast. It is a non-stop 24 hour race on 11 kilometres of trails, in two separate categories: a solo race, and a team event. We attended both days of racing and created a real buzz with our gravity bikes, even though most people were watching and/or competing in the events too.
Alongside the event, we also got the opportunity to try the trails that had been recommended to us. We drove up into the hills, to a heli-pad next to an old Nato Base, in an area called Calice Ligure. This was our start point for the most suitable downhill trails, with the two trail named after the two main features in this location. We rode both trails as many times as possible during our stay, to familiarise ourselves with the route and the varied terrain.
After a 20 minute drive up into the mountains overlooking Finale, you reach the end of the road, at an old helicopter landing pad near three wind turbines. The entrance to trail is at the top of the woods, and drops quickly into thick vegetation, snaking around the hillside on a rock and dirt surface. The trail width is narrow, with lots of twists and turns to avoid the trees and gullies. This natural route has many features including rock drops offs, off-camber corners and deep berms. It winds it way through the dense woodland, with a steep section of chicanes, before crossing the road and straight back into more thick forest.
The second section is full of similar features, with some very rough, rocky sections to manoeuvre across and tighter turns and berms. It also has a steep drop off into a bomb hole followed by another short, steep chicane section which drops out onto the road once again. Across the tarmac and back into the trees the final descent starts with a series of fast turns, then opens out into a wider, faster rock garden section. After more drop offs and tight bends through the forest the surface turns to rough bedrock, funnelling riders through a steep sided gully. This channel takes you to the end of the trail, exiting on a wide bend further down the main road, in a convenient spot for the uplift vehicles to park and collect riders.
The second trail is slightly longer and more technical, starting just above the heli-pad, behind the decaying buildings of an abandoned military base. Entering the thick woodland again, this trail has a rougher surface, with lots of loose rocks and boulders strewn across it. It twists around the tree line too, with many more rock slabs and drop offs to negotiate along it’s route. The trail is also fairly fast, adding to the adrenaline, as you concentrate to swerve some of the larger obstacles in your path. It also features some very steep, rutted sections, where commitment is essential to avoid crashing on the rough terrain. It winds it’s way down the hillside, permanently covered by thick vegetation and a canopy of trees until you exit onto to road. The final section then links up in the same place as the last part of other trail, dropping back into the trees and exiting from the narrow, rocky gully to the same pick up point.
In the summer of 2013 some of our club members took a their first road trip to this mountain biking Mecca in the French Alps. Just as popular in the winter months for skiing, the area is also the perfect environment for downhill MTB during the summer. After a long drive from the UK, we finally arrived in the resort and checked into the accessible accommodation we had booked at Residence L’Aiglon in the centre of town.
Unfortunately, once we got to the chairlifts, the operators told us we would not be able to use the facility with our gravity bikes. This was due to French ‘red tape’ and thus prevented us from accessing most of the trails in the area! Although we were bitterly disappointed by this unexpected turn of events, we were determined to make the most of our visit. We gained permission from the local tourist office to drive on any of the fire roads we needed, which meant we could at least enjoy riding some of the trails. So we resorted to running our own uplift service, with the club van, but could only access two of the main trails in this way.
Driving up the nearest fire road, our start point on this trail was about a third of the way down, after the cattle grids that cut across it. A wide track runs straight down from here, bending around the side of the woods, over a few small jumps and through a small gap in the trees. The trail then turns rougher as you drop down, at speed, into a series of very tight, rutted chicanes. It then opens out into another fast section, littered with braking bumps, before turning through the trees again, into a open area of hillside. You then reach several massive, fast berms turning left and right, descending quickly to the ‘jump park’ area of the trail.
A wide patch of ground here offers several lines, with hip jumps or table top jumps to get some air time, running across well groomed terrain and up over a wooden bridge which straddles the car park below. You then enter the final part of the run, with the smoother surface quickly changing back into gravel and dirt. After the last table top jump the trail enters another series of big berms, twisting from side to side, with small bomb holes between each one. You can carry lots of speed through this section as it gets smoother and faster again, with the final few turns dropping away very steeply, and ending on open grassland just above the entrance to the chairlift station.
We were able to access this trail right from the very top, via a forest road which led up to the top of the chairlift station. Its a fast and twisty track right from the very start, with a well groomed surface making the speed easy to maintain. The trail drops around the hillside in a seemingly endless series of bermed corners, and a few small doubles added to the mix. It fires you out of the bottom, crossing a small fire road, right back into more berms snaking left and right until you reach an open section with two large table top jumps. After this there are even more bends, with a small section of north shore before two more, even larger tables to launch over.
Once past the final few turns of the dusty trail, it runs through the edge of some woods, getting faster as you head down onto a gravel path, with deep ruts and tree roots to traverse. The path then turns sharply, continuing to get faster as you pass old farm buildings, and then opens out and drops away across open ground. After swerving past a larger woodland you continue at a pace across the grassland, passing a mountain cafe before turning into the final rough, rock strewn descent. The trail ends as you drift around a sharp final corner, braking hard as the start of the chairlift suddenly comes into view.
In the summer of 2012 I set off on a month long trip to Tenerife, this time taking my van with me and driving to the rock, with my hand bike and my gravity bike on board. This was quite a major road trip, which involved catching the overnight ferry from Plymouth to Santander. Once in mainland Spain I had a full day of driving until the sun began to set. I slept in the van, and continued my epic travels the next morning, arriving at Cadiz that afternoon. I then boarded another ferry for the 48 hour crossing to the Canary Islands. I was tired but relieved to arrive in Tenerife two days later and headed to my friend’s house, which would be my base for the duration of my stay.
I must say a huge thank you to Matt and Miriam for putting up with me, and feeding me for a whole month! I had an amazing time, partying with their family and friends, meeting up with other mates on the island, riding my hand bike along the beaches of the south coast, and downhill MTBing at every possible opportunity. The whole visit was well worth the hassle of driving over and, when it came to an end, I really didn’t want to leave…
Heading up the road from El Roque, we drove a few miles past Jama to a spot not far from the next village of La Escalona. The locals have been riding this trail for some time and have made a well worn route through the rough undergrowth, carving a nice but narrow trail in the terrain. They have also added some man made features such as drop offs and small sections of north shore, making an already difficult track even more technical. The run starts on dusty ground, with several rock drops to launch off. The trail then twists and turns across the dry, open scrub land with very little margin for error on some of the bends.
As the route heads further down the hillside the ground gets much harder, with large boulders and big slabs of rock to negotiate, as the whole run gets steeper and faster. The added obstacles of large cactus and small trees demand a high level of concentration, as you hurtle down the mountain trying to stay on your racing line! After an even steeper, rockier section of chicanes and drop offs, which try to pull the bike one way and then the other, you reach a section of north shore which crosses a small but deep ravine. The run then finally widens out into a fast, dusty trail again, with a series of man made dirt jumps, before finishing on waste ground at the back of the village in San Lorenzo.
The start of the trail begins above Vilaflor, Spain’s highest village, around 1400m above sea level. The ground is a mixture of everything, with dry and dusty parts, sections of picón (volcanic gravel), to rocks, boulders and rough scrub land. It begins in very dry woodland, descending across the rocky ground until you reach a recreation area in the centre of the town. The route then takes you out of the village onto tarmac, heading back down the mountain for a mile or so, and cutting back on to rough ground a little way down the road. This is where the trail begins to get very rough, with boulders hidden amongst the thick vegetation.
The line twists and turns across this barren landscape, with a variety of natural features to test your riding skills. Some sections are very steep, with more rocks and boulders to swerve as you race down the challenging terrain. This part ends as you meet the road again, before cutting back into the final section a mile or so later. The ground gets gradually faster, as the rocky surface makes way for another dry and dusty region of the island. Dry stone walls, left over from old farmland, also run alongside some sections of this trail as it continues to snake through the wild vegetation. The finish line is marked by another short section of road near Jama, leading you down to the start point for the San Lorenzo trail (see above).
This ‘secret’ trail is known only to a few locals, based in the north of the island. Covered by thick woods and vegetation, the trail is relatively short, snaking through a tunnel created by the canopy of trees. The fast, dirt surface is narrow and steep, with natural rock drop offs along the route. There are also rocks and roots hidden in the undergrowth, on the sides of the track, ready to knock you off line without warning! I fell victim to these, hitting a small boulder on a bench cut section of the run. It fired my bike sharply to one side, sliding off the narrow path and rolling the bike over as it dropped into a gully. I came to rest upside down against a tree, and all tangled up in it’s branches. Once my friend Manu had performed a minor rescue operation, we continued down the steep trail, crossing rockier sections and a series of tight chicanes before suddenly reaching the bottom, ending at a hairpin bend on the main road.
See previous reports for more information…
■ La Crucita to Arafo
■ Las Lajas to Los Olivos
■ Las Lagunetas to Agua Garcia
Rough Riderz members Phil Hall, Dave Bower and Scott Parry visited the Canary Islands in November 2009 to ride some more of the great natural trails across Tenerife. This trip included another visit to Bikepark Tenerife, where we received another warm welcome from the staff and some of the regular visitors. Unfortunately, the trip started badly before we had even arrived as my old flatmate and friend “Johnny Boy” had an accident on one of the trails in the week prior to our visit, resulting in 2 broken fingers!
If that wasn’t bad enough, when we arrived at the airport I discovered that my case was still in Manchester! Nothing we could do about that until the next day so, the following morning I borrowed a load of protective gear and we met up with Matt, Manu, Juani, Aythami, Eto, Yeray, Peter and the rest of the lads and headed off into the mountains again for some seriously fast fun! We must say a big thank you to Matt, Miriam, John, Rob and Sonia who all helped us out during this visit…
Driving through the town of Güimar we headed up towards the Observatory, to a spot called La Crucita, at around 2000m above sea level. We set off along a wide, dusty trail that quickly dropped off into the tree line. The upper section had a good gradient and some fast sweeping bends, tightening up through the woods. As we got further down the trail the terrain got much rougher, with craggy rocks and sharp volcanic gravel making the descent very loose and slippy. Towards the end we reached a couple of shortcuts which we decided to try. The first one was virtually single track all the way, with deep ruts and rocks to negotiate, so it wasn’t very fast, but lots of fun! On the second one, we launched ourselves down a really steep slope, covered in volcanic debris, whilst trying to keep control of our rigs. After 30 seconds of madness we all slid off the hillside and rejoined the proper trail to continue our route.
The trail remained a reasonable width for the rest of the way down, with the good gradient making for some exciting, fast sections to ride. The trail continued until we reached an old road that led us into one of the villages above Güimar. We then negotiated the tarmac roads, concrete slopes and steps throughout the centre of the village, doing a bit of “street style” gravity biking at the end of the run, whilst trying not to upset any of the locals!
These man-made trails now offer various suitable routes to enjoy on four wheels. The overall layout has been changed quite a bit since my last making it even more suitable for our bikes. The first trail has all the features you would want on a trail, with steep, rocky drops, looser gravelled sections, berms and a variety of jumps. This is now a nice long trail too, with very little pushing required to negotiate the entire route.
The other trail is an alternative run on different terrain. The top section is made up of softer dust and dirt, with heavily banked corners to stop you sliding across the trail and into the nearest cactus… ouch! The trail cuts across the main road in the park and on to a large north shore ramp, dropping very steeply into a table top jump. This carries on through a “toboggan style” section of berms , down into the lower part of the park. There are some great features along the bottom section too, carrying lots of speed as it drops down into the ‘dust bowl’ at the end of the park.
See previous report for more information…
See previous report for more information…
■ Las Lajas to Los Olivos
■ Las Lagunetas to Agua Garcia
The ‘Castle to Castle’ challenge was successfully completed on July 3rd 2009 by Rob Bailey, Paul Martin and Steve Smye. The main purpose of this 320 mile bike ride was to raise money for a gravity bike for our club. In conjunction with the sponsored bike ride, we also held numerous other events including a Raffle Prize Competition, an Easter Egg Hunt, a football memorabilia auction, a sponsored walk, demo days at mountain biking events and car boot sales!
We also received a lot of anonymous donations, both online and from meeting members of the public. All the monies raised were used to help boost the funds from the challenge, with 10% of the total being donated to The Back-Up Trust. In total we raised nearly £8000, which is £3000 over our original target!
The team started their adventure, from Muncaster Castle (in Cumbria) early on the 1st of July. During the first day the riders covered a total distance of 107 miles at an impressive average speed of 16mph. They spent nearly 7 hours on the road, climbing to a maximum altitude of 1250 metres, and finishing at Haltwhistle in Northumberland at around 4pm in the afternoon.
The second day meant covering a distance of over 95 miles in just over 6 hours, with an average speed of 15mph. The slower speeds were caused by climbing to a maximum height of 1660 metres, in the sweltering summer sun, reaching their next stopover in Berwick-upon-Tweed at around 4.30pm that day.
The final leg began in very wet conditions, and on the last day they covered a total distance of 97 miles in just over 6 hours, with another good average speed of over 15mph. They reached a maximum altitude of nearly 1150 metres before cycling triumphantly in to Edinburgh Castle at around 4pm, popping the champagne to celebrate their achievement!
With some of the money raised we bought a second hand R-One ‘Fourcross’ bike, for the club. The remainder of the cash helped pay for the safety equipment and training needed to start hosting Taster Days. So thanks again to everyone, for their support and generous donations in helping us achieve these goals.
Special thanks go to everyone who helped us over the last 12 months!
Sellafield Ltd, The Forestry Commission, Whinlatter Forest Park, Keswick Bikes, Cyclewise, The Necessary Angel, The Lakeland Pedlar, Fulwood Leisure Centre, Muncaster Castle, Barney’s Print Shop, The T-Shirt Printers Ltd, Aden Tudor Printers, Howarth Austen Solutions, Nuneaton Signs, Matrix Muscles, J McCann, Keswick Mountain Festival, Bull Beck Snack Bar, Patrons of Devil’s Bridge, Whitefield Primary School, Preston Masonic Lodge, Sellafield Snowball Committee, Sellafield Employees Charities Committee, The Holy Family Pensioner’s Club, Booths, Halfords, Leisure Lakes Cycles, Forward Magazine, Newsline Magazine, West Cumbria News & Star, Whitehaven News, Lancashire Evening Post, The Tenerife Paper and The Back-Up Trust.
Rough Riderz founder member Phil Hall visited the Canaries in April of 2008 to check the accessibility of different trails for gravity bikes. The various trails and locations I visited are all suitable for both 2 and 4 wheeled riders to enjoy, and my trip also included a visit to Bikepark Tenerife, to help advise on layout and track design to create a ‘fully accessible’ MTB facility.
After spending the first couple of days settling in, enjoying the local tapas and wine bars, and catching up with old friends, I then began five awesome days of pure downhill! Along with some of my Canarian friends, I began exploring the different MTB trails that this beautiful island has to offer. I must say a big thank you to Matt and Miriam, Manu, Bruno, Zeno and everyone else involved in the success of my first European tour…
From San Miguel in the south, we drove up the tourist road through Vilaflor and continued towards Mount Teide, into an area known as Las Lajas around 1400m above sea level. The first section of the trail is wide and covered in gravel, with a good gradient and some tight, twisty bends. The descent gradually became steeper, with bermed corners, and increasingly rough terrain. At the end of this section there is a shortcut around the wide looping trail, so we turned off the main trail and bombed down a steep slope, littered with loose volcanic rocks and stones.
The next stage took us into the pine forest offering more twisty bends, and a good gradient creating some very fast sections. As we fired out of the edge of the forest the track became faster and rougher, with some steep drop-offs and a mixture of good natural jumps. The further we got the dustier it became as parts of the south coast came into view. Along this last section we encountered rockier terrain, with a selection of different corners and jumps to overcome. Here the rough stuff ends and the tarmac begins… so we rode down through a small village, and after a mile or so of fast downhill and hairpin bends we finally reached our destination at Los Olivos in Adeje!
We drove to La Laguna in the north and headed up to Las Lagunetas, an area about 1400m above sea level. This wide dirt trail starts in dense woodland, with thick fog formed by the cloud cover. A good gradient meant plenty of speed, and with the compacted surface giving a fairly smooth feel to the ride. The top section features lots of wide corners, some of which had great natural berms. The tighter corners were equally as fast but more technical, and included various obstacles such as fallen tree branches and very rooty sections
Coming out of the mist, we reached a small clearing in the woods. Here the trail terrain changes, as the ground becomes drier and dustier, with plenty of good bends and a series of small jumps. The underground irrigation pipes provide an interesting variety of lumps and bumps to test riders’ abilities. This track ends as you enter the village of Agua Garcia.
Set in Tegueste, the trails available at Bikepark Tenerife are well worth a visit. Whilst some of the routes remain unfinished, there are still many sections currently suitable for gravity biking. The first track I rode is designed for beginners. It’s nice and wide, but still has some very good features, including table-tops jumps, sections of north shore, bermed corners, and small dirt jumps. Some alterations are planned to this track, removing the flatter sections of terrain to make it easier for anyone to ride.
Another track aimed at the more experienced rider is a great trail for both 2 and 4 wheel mountain bikers. The whole route is fast and exciting with narrow sections of woodland, hairpin bends, rocky drops and bermed corners, A series of table-tops and dirt jumps at the end of the run make this route a real adrenaline rush!
The last track is a section designed for expert riders. This black run incorporates parts of the current trail, but the plan for this unfinished track is to re-route gravity bikes around the narrower parts via a different line, to avoid dangerous obstacles such as massive drop-offs and narrow sections of north shore.
Whilst we have not yet tested the following trails, we understand that they are all good, wide natural routes, also suitable for gravity bikers.
■ Observatorio Geofisico to Güimar
■ Los Organos to Puerto de la Cruz
■ Las Mercedes to Santa Cruz
■ Cruz del Carmen to Taganana