EUCC Does Iceland

When Adam first proposed the idea of taking our mountain bikes to Iceland, I knew it was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed. The prospect of riding somewhere so totally alien to anywhere that we had experienced before was a rich, inviting thought and given the images and videos floating around the internet we soon found ourselves bursting to begone, desperate to ride in this incredible environment.

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The Group at the car hire (Plus eccentric car hire man)

Three and a half months and a couple of miles of Gaffer tape later we founds ourselves in the entrance to Glasgow airport surrounded by our bike boxes and bags, each of us wistfully dreaming of the flowing rock and loose ash we would soon be testing ourselves against. The plan went as such: we would arrive in Iceland and collect our pre arranged hire trucks, three Dodges, each equipped with a V8 5.7L engine, throw in the bike bags and be on our way to our rented cottage remotely nestled in the highlands a couple of hours outside of Reykjavik. From here we would spend four days riding and sampling some of the best riding we have ridden to date. Each prospect then, was as exciting as the others.

 

The first morning of the first day blew open every previous thought, idea and conception that we had carried with us to Iceland. It became obvious very quickly that this was a land designed to be rode by mountain bike. The trails had everything we had dreamed of and more. The first mornings riding was at Maradalur beneath the mountain of Hengill and as well as sounding like something from The Lord of the Rings it also looked as such.

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Fergus dropping in…

 

This trail formed of extremely tacky rock constructed from the earth, stickier than spiderman’s fingers, screamed to be played with. Solidified Lava formed natural play grounds with bowls being formed with sides of perfectly sculpted berms. Every corner along the trail threw eye bulging vistas of flat plains banked steeply each side by sharp rock and rugged mountainsides. The tacky rock shelves which had you throwing shapes at any opportunity would quickly vanish in the depths of an ashen gravel surface, looser than a seventies disco, which demanded cutties and to be roosted.

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Adam throwing some shapes in the natural lava berm

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Craig showing some style in the wild

As fun as these trails were it swiftly became clear that to reap the rewards you would have to invest time and energy. With no shortage of climbs and even more hike-a-biking each day was an exhausting effort, Hengill Mountain consisted of a couple of hours hike-a-biking to reach the summit. Although the effort was tough, you simply couldn’t complain, never has a more epic hike been undertaken and never has a view from the summit been more worth it. As if the sensation of standing on the edge of the world wasn’t enough, what followed was more wide open mountainside descending; spacious enough to fit 10 riders riding abreast and full pelt it felt like a different world of riding to anything any of us had ever experienced.

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What goes up must come down and there was a lot of up…

Iceland is a geothermal paradise, ninety-nine percent of the country runs on renewable energy produced by its own volcanic land. Fortunately, for tired mountain bikers this can also be utilised for the best of reasons-resting tired muscles. A monstrous climb from the town of Hveragerði on deep gravel jeep track had the legs screaming for a rest. There were promises at the top of long and distant single track known as the Reykjadalur trail, weaving itself into the vistas below. We weren’t to be disappointed by the descent, undulating, off camber, slick muddy hills with numerous lines to be taken we flew down the hillside, surrounded by tussocks of grass and hikers camping, all of whom are mesmerised by the sight of people riding mountain bikes. All of them cheering and many filming they bolstered our already growing confidence on this wild terrain.

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Fraser, Martin and Craig examine a hot pool- this one certainly wasn’t safe to swim in

Half way down we abruptly stop, whip out trunks and pasty British bodies andmake our way into the naturally occurring hot springs, resting in a never ending hot bath. We share thoughts on the trail before and expectations on the kilometers of descending promised after. We begin to understand just what type of place Iceland is, a land of action, with perfect trails put together by a growing outdoor hiking scene that we as mountain bikers are fortunate enough to feed off.

Rested and suitably sparred we return to the descent, muscles slightly less taught than before. The trail becomes a wide piece of dirt, with drops and rocks to hop and wide corners allowing you to carry sufficient speed into the following sections, all of which have there own character. Whether it be technical rocky, jarring descents or smooth fast, undulating muddy ground, this trail quickly became a favourite of the trip.

With Iceland being formed by volcanoes and ran by volcanoes we naturally jumped at the opportunity to ride our bikes on a volcano. Not just any volcano either, perhaps one of the most notable in the world, Eyjafjallajokull; best known for its eruptions in 2010 and people’s inability to pronounce its name. Nevertheless we decided on the highly irresponsible and amazingly long climb from Skogafoss up to the huts high up on the snow caps on the pass of Fimmvorouhals which sits between Eyjafjallajokull and Katla-another volcano. It is safe to say that this was a day out certainly not suited to the faint hearted, a climb of 4,921 feet was what it took to reach the top and the looks we received from the hikers high up in the snow certainly cemented that.

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What else do you do after almost 5,000 feet of climbing? Props to Craig.

The descent from the furthest hut was on the ash freshly settled from the 2010 eruption, allowing us to carve our way back down to the snow caps, cutting between rocks and throwing out our rear ends. Once we had descended on ash, snow and loose rock we reached what we had come to ride. A beautiful, snaking piece of dirt running alongside the inspiring Skoga River. Long wide corners and natural berms allowed you to throw yourself at top speed into everything and anything, as well as containing multiple line options with plenty of pop. The ground seemed to have a magical ingredient which oozed grip, even the normal dirt had us playing around with it, having no fear of washing out or slipping it encouraged faster riding. It didn’t take long for all the riders to realise that we had reached nirvana; with the conclusion at the bottom of the trail unanimously being that this was the finest piece of natural riding we had ever done.

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Singletrack nirvana

Iceland truly is a world of it’s own, a place where every day consists of opportunities to do something on two wheels that you simply have not ever done. Whether it be carving down a scree slope, cutting through ash, riding up the side of a volcano or resting mid trail in a hot spring it really is a land filled with the uncommon. A place of adventure that is completely overlooked by riders seeking a holiday destination, it cannot be recommended enough.

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Beside Skogafoss, at the bottom of Ejyafjallajökull

Photos: Adam Ramsay
Words: Rupert Radley

Successful Weekend for EUCC!

This Easter Bank Holiday weekend EUCC celebrated a double success with results in both the BUCS MTB Downhill and BUCS 10 Mile Championships. Calum McRitchie, Calum Mackie and Adam Ramsay claimed the coveted Gold Team Medal at the DH in Wales with McRitchie also finishing just off the podium in 4th place. Over in border in Cambridge Harry Bulstrode came away with a Silver medal in the 10 Mile TT, with Anton Aro and Duncan Ewing both finishing with strong times resulting in Bronze medal in the Male Team. Detailed report to follow.

XC Trip to Fort William and Laggan

With the bikes all loaded in the van and their riders contorted and squished into the cars it was time for EUCC to head up north to tackle some of Scotland’s finest riding. The plans for the trip were primarily trail centre based, with the intention of riding Fort William on the Saturday and then traveling across to Laggan and riding there on the Sunday. However, before any of this could happen, first the group had to find dinner…

What happened in Perth boils down to Craig’s car (myself included) struggling to find a chip shop. Racing around the streets, managing to find every Kebab and Chinese possible but no chip supper. Finally, after some very dubious directions (‘left, left, right and all the way round’) we finally found a chippy/Chinese to replenish the energy spent searching for the place.

However, the weekend was not about eating fish suppers, it was about riding bikes and Saturday morning arrived and EUCC descended on the Glen Nevis range. The first riding involved the long slog up to the top of the World Champs XC, an interesting climb which involved one very loud tyre explosion (myself included). Before long we’d reach the top black section: a cornered rock garden into a little drop which then continued into a long, big bermed red descent with optional trail hucks. Following this, we continued along the red descent back down to the car park.

Next up, we fired along the same climb as before but diverting off to push up a techy, natural trail which included greasy corners, thick mud and ominous drops. Most people handled this natural trail fine (myself not included) and we were promptly climbing again, this time to try out a section of the blue. What we rode here was to become the favourite trail of the day: a fast, well corned trail with large berms and north shore sections we sessioned this at least four times as well as ending the day having photos taken here.

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Fraser at the top of the natural trail

Further excitement arose upon finding Joe Barnes’ 8 Wild Terns location, where we spent time watching some of the group session these to varying degrees of success-most ended in a face full of mud, much to the hilarity of spectators. Finally, some of the group decided to have a mess around on the 4X track after lunch, with the most exciting/terrifying moment being Fraser’s spectacular nose case crash which had major chance of death and very little chance of success.

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Crog hammering 8 Natural Terns

Death avoided however, Sunday rolled around and we departed to Laggan for further riding fun times. A quick blast of the Orange provided a solid warm up before the group split between the Upper Red and the Black. The Black claims to be the most technical trail in Scotland and it probably isn’t far from it with rock slabs, large drops and technical rock gardens it required all the attention that you could muster but was hugely rewarding.

Following this, we blasted around the red, witnessing Craig’s double puncture hucking into Air’s Rock before rolling back into the car park for lunch. Post refreshment we remounted and heading up to the top section again before splitting once more between the Upper Red and the Black. The Upper Red whilst being far less technical was far faster than the Black and provided thrills, with long straights encouraging riders to squeeze more cranks in. Frustratingly however it had no berms so all those extra cranks were duly lost in the flat corners making for an exhausting trail.

Blue route

Smashing the Blue at Fort Bill

What resulted was a successful trip up north which resulted in good feels and fun times which packed in plenty of great riding.

http://vimeo.com/90425346 Check out the video from the weekend here!

Rupert

XC Sec

XC Day Trip to Innerleithen

It was with great sorrow that we arrived at the CSE car park at 8.00 in the morning, and it was with even greater sorrow that we were forced to acknowledge the ferocious weather; winds and biting rain.

Having arrived at Innerleithen (where there was still ferocious winds and biting rain) we decided that we would head up the hill to ride the enduro tracks whilst sampling some of the XC and downhill routes at the same time. Unlike the other riders there we had no uplift so instead we pedalled our way up the hill; resting briefly to watch Duane, Craig, Fraser and Cameron gap the road.

Before throwing ourselves headlong into the enduro trails we decided that it would be worth a warm up descent so it was with relief that we threw ourselves into Make or Brake, with flowing corners and some jumps to hit it was a sweet relief to the uphill hauling we’d just put ourselves through.

Following a further section of uphill grunt work we were greeted with the first enduro trail; a great, highly technical descent stuffed full of drops, roots and rocks; allowing no time for rest and leaving forearms and hands burning upon reaching the bottom.

Fortunately, the next trail mouth led straight on, meaning no more climbing. A steep downhill wallowing in mud funneled us straight into a tight, undulating tree lined trail which (unless you got lost) spat you out nicely on to the XC loop.

After playing around on a section of the red whilst punctures were fixed, it was time to be off, firing up a fire road to the most brutal climb of the day, and not in terms of gradient; the ferocious wind and biting rain was back again. This time strong enough to push you of the single track climb and leaving faces red raw. Pleased to make the tree cover, the group decided to split for the final descent.

After a brief fire road climb we were back at the original Make of Brake, followed by more downhill trails back to the car park. Despite the weather, Innerleithen still remained in great form.

Rupert

XC Sec

Dudes of Hazzard Enduro

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As the exam period lurks in the shadows waiting to strangle every ounce of social life and cycling life that we have left at this time of year, EUCC set out to the Dudes of Hazzard Enduro in Kinlochleven as a ‘last hoorah’ before hanging up the race plates for the year. A band of ten brothers made the trek up north on Friday night to check into basecamp for the weekend at the Glencoe SYHA. 2 kilos of rice and chilli concarne later we were sorted for the following day of practice.

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We woke on Saturday to heavy skies that were about to burst at the seams and headed to race HQ at the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven. The scenery on the road to Kinlochleven did not disappoint. With the surrounding mountains and the dramatic clouds above we felt all the more anxious as to what the landscape will have to throw at us. After many a faff the group were up and running ready to head up to stage one of three.

A short spin along the main road took us to the bottom of a miserably long climb. At this point it began to rain. At this point I also managed to snap my chain. Twice. Not the ideal start and I hoped that this wouldn’t be setting the tone for the rest of the day. (This reminds me, I owe Cameron and Crog a powerlink each…). At the top of the lung buster climb we reached the start of stage one. We didn’t hang around on the exposed hillside for very long. The group dived into the loose and soaking wet rock trail. The top half of the stage was pretty wild and steep. Once we were past the rock field and hit the tree line the stage flattened off and provided the dreaded race run pedal that nobody was looking forward to. Two river crossings and one bog crossing later the trail steepened again. The stings in the tail of stage one were the two tricky rock slab switchbacks. These were tough enough on practice day let alone riding them after racing the rest of the stage. We regrouped at the cars and tried to stay warm before heading up THE SAME climb again to reach the start of stage two.

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MC doing what he wants.

This time we were required to climb even further up the same road to part of the mountain that really did feel like wilderness. The view from the top was epic. From our vantage point we could see the length of valley in front of us. Unfortunately the weather as far too rotten for us to appreciate anything other than how cold and soaked through we were.

Stage two began much the same as stage one although this time instead of choosing a rut to ride in we had no option but to choose which river. I have never seen such an amount of water on a trail before. It was awesome. The much longer top section was followed up by some really good corners and rock gardens in the woods but the lack of pedaling in the stage was compensated for by the inclusion of a flat, churned up and sloppy bog for 50m to the finish. A brutal end to another physical stage.

Following a much more swift stop at the cars we put our heads down and pressed on up a different climb out of Kinlochleven for the third and final stage. The third stage proved to be a completely different beast to the others. The freshly cut trail that seems to be what was originally taped off was nowhere to be seen. Instead it had been churned up beyond recognition. Huge holes on the course were concealed by half a wheel’s depth of thick mud. This lead to some entertaining stories about people’s off-bike experiences. Once you’d beaten the mud slide you were faced with a long and stressful pedal which seemed to last forever. This left you blowing oot yer arse for the final few corners which were thankfully nothing treacherous.

Three stages were enough and we were all relieved to be done for the day. We then hung around for the race briefing and passed some time on the bucking bronco! Back at the hostel a filthy amount of pasta was consumed (2.5 kilos to be exact) and the mandatory line choice discussion took place whilst reviewing GoPro footage (see screenshots below).

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The weather played into our favor for Sunday race day. The rain had held off overnight and skies seemed to be clear for the whole day. This time we knew what to expect on the climb which allowed for plain sailing up to the start of stage one. Stage one didn’t disappoint. From reports when we reached the bottom everyone seemed to have some sort of mixed bag of events! This included over the bars, blowing feet off and bog snorkeling. No matter, we pressed on.

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All the lads lined up ready to go on Sunday

A quick stop for food and we were back up to the top of stage two. Just before the start of the stage my pedal decided to part from its axle. There was no chance of fixing it on the trail so cable ties had to suffice. We were able to bodge it so that it gave me a platform to stand on but this left me unable to pedal with both feet. The bodge job gave in half way down the stage so there was no option but to complete the stage riding on the axle! We all headed off down the stage. This time it was equally as eventful as stage one. The bog at the end provided some good entertainment with many riders falling foul of the treacherous off camber.

A distinct lack of pedal

A distinct lack of pedal

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Adam on the start line of the final stage

The climb to the top of stage three was tough by this point. Close to running out of energy we burned the last of the fuel in the tank and went at it hammer and tongs. Cameron had the biggest nightmare of the day puncturing twice and having a mechanical. The first of his punctures exploding as he went over the bars near the start line.  Completely burst, we headed back to the cars to exchange the miseries of the final stage and dry off. Everyone had such a mixed bag of experiences out on track that we couldn’t really tell how we got on. The results came out a couple of days later and are as follows:

Calum Mackie – 7th

Calum McRitchie – 10th

Craig Pointer – 24th

Adam Ramsay – 25th

Rory Swann – 76th

Jacob Essex – 84th

Cameron Taylor – 106th

Andrew Hainsworth – 107th

 

Fraser Rae – 10th Junior….

Duane Walker – DNS

 

Yet another top weekend with EUCC.

 

Adam.

 

DH Sec

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XC Trip to the Lake District

Eleven of EUCC met at the CSE to begin the journey down south to the Lakes to sample some very natural riding, of which the lakes has no shortage and also some of the best trail centers that end of town has on offer. With the vans loving the country roads (Drivers not so much) it wasn’t long before we had arrived at the hostel from the middle ages; no plugs in rooms, no wifi and no signal or any of the other amenities students are used to, here begins a tale of adventure…

Helvellyn

Saturday morning was an early start as we had big plans in terms of riding. Helvellyn is the 3rd highest peak in England and it had been decided, sensibly, that it should be tackled head on and recklessly. Without a warm up we kicked off from the hostel into a leg burning climb; after ascending for what was a far too longer period of time we got lost and had to cut upwards (again) back onto a different trail. Back on track it was hike-a-bike to the next ridge line. By this point however the weather had come in and EUCC got the first snow riding of the winter season, although it was more like blistering hail. In near zero visibility and with faces more chafed than a runners nipples our heads overcame our hearts and with tails between our frozen legs we had no choice to beat a hasty retreat back the way we had come. Whilst this was somewhat disappointing, the ascent up made for a long and sweet switchback descent back down so at least by the time we arrived back at the hostel we were buzzing and ready for more.

After being defeated by Helvellyn we headed to Grizedale trail centre for some afternoon riding. With the weather still wet and fairly miserable we piled on to the trails consisting of undulating singletrack which encouraged furious cycling, sketchy off camber boardwalk and elevated stretches of boulders. EUCC set a fair pace around it; returning home to the carpark in the late evening gloom, satisfied with the days riding.

Hike-a-bike Helvellyn

 

The next mornings riding consisted of another natural ride; this time staying low we followed the contours of the hill next to Ullswater Lake and put together a tight loop. This ride was spot on; technical climbs and even more technical descents gave sustained highs, boosted further by the endless blue sky views. After a myriad of bike related woes (including a complete write off) we arrived at an endless, punishing hike-a-bike climb which brought us to the summit of a valley where we were greeted with a view of the snow capped peaks of the neighbouring mountains and the prospect of a delicious, technical descent.

EUCC are good with Maps

Following the Ullswater escapades EUCC were keen to crowbar in one more ride before heading north so we jetted off to Whinlatter trail centre for another afternoons riding. The grins on the faces returning to the car park explained it all to those unfortunate enough to not to be able to ride due to aforementioned  bike issues. Either way the weekend allowed the sampling of some serious all mountain terrain, treacherous weather, superb techy natural trails and some trail centres to boot.

Majestic Scenery…

Rupert

XC Sec

Pitmedden DH Trip 3/11/13

Sunday saw the first downhill trip away from Edinburgh this year to Pitmedden. We were on the road by 9am and driving over the bridge after a brief petrol/coffee/meal deal stop.

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MC getting his pose on.

After unloading we decided to warm up on a trail close to the car park which involved pedaling up the fire road (heaven forbid). Fair play to Max and McRitchie for getting up there on their DH bikes! The trail did not disappoint. Although rather flat, it got us warm and ready to hit the better tracks.

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“My real name’s Flinn!”

We pushed up the slightly overgrown exposed track and sessioned for a while before moving on to a crazy tight trail just in the trees. It had some formidably tight corners and off cambered roots to throw you off. It made for some interesting shapes being thrown by all.

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The boys doing an push.

Flinn then lead us over to what he and I remembered to be a really fast and straight trail but to our dismay it seemed to have been driven over all the way down by a massive tractor… Unfortunate but the corners on the trail beyond made up for it.

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Flinn with eyes on the prize

A short ride back over the hill took the group back to the majority of the DH tracks. We left McRitchie by himself to ride those tracks in the morning so we felt we needed to check on him to make sure he wasn’t just sitting in his van pretending to be riding.

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Comoron smashing ruts.

After lunch we tackled the main DH tracks in the woods by the car park. These tracks were a bit more dug in and established which allowed us to get some more speed up. These trails were particularly slick since they weren’t properly dry. We had good fun sessioning some tricky and steep corners.

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Jacob hitting a berm on one of the main tracks.

A couple of crashes and several runs later we all agreed to hit the road. We all made it unscathed and agreed that Pitmedden is a place worth coming back to.

XC riders take note: Pitmedden has some awesome xc loops and hidden gems that can all be ridden easily in a day. Worth a trip.

Adam Ramsay

DH Sec

Glentress Freshers Trip

Freshers Glentress Trip

It was with great excitement that a mixture of just under 40 old and new EUCC members descended on the Pleasance car park at the ungodly time of 8.30 to pack the van and the numerous cars with bikes and people… Safe to say that the early start was worth it.

With the chance to hire bikes available this year from Alpine Bikes there was the chance for novices to try their hand at the sport and there is nowhere better to do this than at good ol’ Glendanger (as the kids say). Either way the sun stayed out long enough for us to shred the red. With energy in our legs and spirit in our hearts the monster group of us took off up the red route from the bottom car park and fired up the early climb. Having styled some skinnies and ripped our way up the ascent we found ourselves at the Buzzards Nest car park.

Continuing the climb upwards we eventually came to Spooky Wood; the king of all woods. Here time was spent taking the photos, chowing down on gooey food and allowing new members to get to grips with the first few obstacles of the descent. Soon EUCC were snaking their way through the berms downwards. This downward trajectory continued until Mushroom Pie which we sessioned; every section was being boosted and pumped under the old no pedals no brakes rule.

Soon we had descended back down to the Buzzard’s Nest where we kicked back with some top EUCC barbecuing. The triumph of this is not to be downplayed, much plastic cheese was consumed although perhaps the meat was a different matter… Either way we hadn’t come to eat food we had come to ride and it was time to style the freeride park and Berm Baby Berm. A great section to practice skills it saw both old and new riders getting involved.

However much this was being enjoyed the time came for the final descent to the bottom car park giving a last blast of stoke to end a great day. Some crashes, some plastic cheese and a lot of enjoyment. What more could be asked for?

 

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Props to Craig for this one

 

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Firin’ up the BBQs

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Duane dropping in

Rupert XC Sec

 

 

 

 

 

Bonaly DH Session #1

Sunday the 6th of October saw the first of this year’s DH sessions at Bonaly, just over Edinburgh’s bypass.  Seven of us battled against the wind on the road ride out but thankfully the wind subsided once we were in the trees.

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Callum getting far too stoked for his own good

The trails were running fast and dry (prime) for most of the morning until a light shower came in and glazed the trail making it even more fun to get a foot out.

 

Duncan being his usual smooth operator

Duncan being his usual smooth operator

There had been some minor but generally positive work done to the trails. The hip jump on the right has had the lip steepened AND the landing dug out down to the rock beneath making for a pretty wild ride into the groomed right hander that follows. The word ‘gap-able’ was thrown around for a brief moment but nobody could walk the walk. The challenge still stands…

Cameron the resident Ronnie getting throttle happy.

Cameron the resident Ronnie getting throttle happy.

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Callum showing how the new hip layout is done

Overall, a very successful day’s shredding and a good way to get the DH ball rolling for the year! Next EUCC Bonaly session sometime in November!

Adam

DH Sec

 

Freshers Trip to Glentress

Saturday 21st EUCC will descend on the Glentress trails in the tweed valley for a day of banter and cracking riding. This is a social day, one to get to know the rest of the club and to get a feel for how the club works!

Here is a link to the Facebook event:

https://www.facebook.com/events/571610502900841/

Here is a link to the sign up:

https://www.regonline.co.uk/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1298389

Get involved!