Dangerous Downhill Adventures

Getting ready for a mountainboarding roadtrip to the Lake District and Scotland – The Plan

Day 1 – Tuesday

Drive up to the Lake District. Might stop by Surf the Turf on the way.

Day 2 – Wednesday

Ride Helvellyn, the third highest mountain in England at 950m, with a 4km hike up/ride down.

Day 3 – Thursday

Check out the proposed Downhill Track for next year’s competition and maybe ride somewhere else in the Lakes.

Day 4 – Friday

Drive up to Scotland, pick up Marvin from Sterling, and ride the Perth BX track

Day 5 – Saturday

Ride Dunkeld and check it out for a downhill comp next year.

Day 6 – Sunday

Think the plan is to ride somewhere around Crieff.

Day 7 – Monday

Drive home

Things to remember to take with me

My boards; Little Boy, Monster Mash and John Wayne. Tent, sleeping bag, thermarest, and other assorted camping paraphernalia. Riding bag with tools and maps. Books, GPS, and of course plenty of Diet Coke.

Full mooooooon shotover seshun!!

Been in front of a computer all day, its a mild evening with a clear sky and a full moon. What else is a guy to do?

noSno Full Moon Seshun

Rode some of my old favourite runs on shotover with my flexi nosno and snowboard boots. I found not tying the boots all the way up gives me greater ankle control in carves and slides, to the point where I’m sliding on just one wheel and staying up on toe-side slides that would have thrown me on my head with any other set-up. It feels a bit weird, almost like not having wheels.

Another awesome session that should see me right till I get up to the Lakes on Tuesday.

New runs on a new set-up

New set-up nosno mountainboard

Just been on a Remolition freeride exploring new runs in Wendover Woods on my newly set-up noSno with eights on backwards flexi-axles and snowboard boots. Loving the flexis, but my calves aren’t loving the boots. More getting used to, I think.

Dave, downhilling in Wales

It’s been a while since there has been a downhill event in the UK. The last one was in 2005 up in bonnie Scotland. With a lack of big mountains, ski resorts and differing tastes amongst Britain’s mountainboarders, downhill comps aren’t the easiest things to organise, but the ATBA-UK came close last year. However, through a mixture of confusion over who owned the land, who managed it and some protected moss, the event didn’t happen. This year however things were different.

Roger Swanell and Joe Gatley decided to take an ‘arrange-it-and-they-will-come’ attitude. They went out and found a track (‘Dave’ a couple of miles or so forest road in Wales), spoke to the Forestry Commission, spoke to the ATBAuk and sorted out the permissions and insurance the event needed. They figured out a way timing things without trailing cables everywhere, set the date and Robert’s your father’s brother. Come the last weekend in July there was nothing left to do apart from turn up and see if they would be met in the car park by a load of boarders eager to charge down a forest track in deepest Wales.

I went along to take some pics and tweet like my brain was leaking (and turned up late after getting lost due listening to my satnav). So the chances are you have already seen my thoughts from the day.

This is what the most important people thought about Dave the track for ATBA-UK Downhill comp for 2011:

What was good?
“I thought the track was great, not too technical to stop newcomers from riding it, but with some lovely corners to allow the riders with the technique to put in some mega quick times”

“Cool track, lots of peeps, good uplifts, good amount of runs”

“There were a lot of riders who I haven’t met at freeride meets; so evidently the word went out pretty wide”

“Good choice of track (for all abilities)”

“Timings worked perfectly”

“Well organised and no-one was stood around scratching their heads not knowing what to do”

“Choice of hill great”

“Nice friendly vibes from all!”

“Keeping the event simple and light hearted”

“Excellent track for all levels”

“A fantastic track and ace turnout with many people coming 2/3/4+ hours to be there”

“Was a wicked event, my first time competing and I got 1st place in the Novice category, so pleased with that!”

What could have been better?

“But ultimately any uplift is better than none and I got a total of 6 runs in – which was enough”

“Viewing for public and ourselves”

“Earlier start time”

“Smoke grenades”

Would you go again?
“Yes – but mainly see it as a new mountainboard experience on these kind of tracks”

“Absolutely yes”

“Yes – and it would probably be the only reason for me to join the ATBA as well. It is offering freeriders/DH’ers a reason to join that currently doesn’t exist (barring ATB shop discounts)”

“I would definitely do a downhill comp in the future”

Any other comments?
“It could be good to have a real-time leaderboard at the bottom. It doesn’t have to be complicated – a bit of wood with velcro’d names on would be enough. There was time for results to be calculated and posted up while uplifts were happening – and it makes it a bit more competitive. I had no idea about my times until we got to the pub”

“There was a bit of waiting around while uplifts were going on; it would have been good if there could have been 1 or 2 trips up rather than 4 – or if there was an alternate route back to the top”
“The day felt more like a big meet up/reunion than a competition, and that is a very good thing”

“More of this sort of thing, please!”

And what they said on Facebook

Chris Benstead
“Tiring day to say most of it involved rolling downhill… Came 2nd in the novices though – so woot!”

Jessica Gatley
“is realy chuffed on how well the first downhill comp went this weekend :)”

Mark Childs
“OMG! 1st place masters category, 5th overall;-);-);-)”

Milly Gatley
“Came 1st in the ladies uk downhill mountain board competition :D”

Jason Langdell
“this weekend i will be mainly doing this”

Lawson David
“Great fun UK Mountain Boarding in Wales the longest 3 mins 50 seconds of my life!”

Ed Richardson
“Came 3rd today in the UK downhill comp”

Brennig Hughes
“Awesome time at Dave”


JC – 3.24
Grove Sykes – 3.38
Lawson David – 3.50
Mark Sullivan – 3.59

Josh Campbell – 3.39
Zak Campbell – 3.46
Ed Richardson – 3.39
Tom Lewis – 4.09
Rob Holmes – 4.29
James Morris – 5.32

Milly Gatley – 4.46
Jess Gatley – 5.11

Mark Childs – 3.58
Mark Peck – 4.11
Ade McCordick – 4.34
Martin D’Arcy – 4.47
Lee Campbell – 4.48
Steve Morris – 4.53

Travis Birdsall – 4.07
Chris Bensted – 4.23
Brenning Hughes – 4.27
Jay Langdell – 5.54
Phil Holmes – 8.03

Good Times!
Intro by Smilie and comments collected and editored by Roger Swanell
Photo’s copyright Smilie snaps and Decreate

Originally published on Remolition

Mountainboarding progression

Been thinking about how mountainboarders learn and progress again today. A while ago I wrote an article for Remolition about how mountainboarders learn their skills, and what they can do to improve the way they learn. I want to add to that with the idea that progression happens with a sudden and often very noticeable jump up and then continues at that level, rather than in a steady constant progression. This ratcheting mechanism applies across the board, to individual riders, to a discipline and to an entire sport. Some examples:

I was riding with a Grove today who’s at the point of wanting to push himself and move on to the next level. He’s a good rider whose riding has plateaued recently and as quite often happens, he pushed himself a little too far and paid the price by leaving little bits of himself on Cleeve Hill. He will progress and improve.

Whilst this was going on Brindy and Dicko were stepping up Freestyle by stomping double backflips. Andy Milenkovic did one not so long ago, and more recently Brindy and Andy Packer nailed 900’s within minutes of each other. Just goes to show that the discipline of Freestyle progresses in the same fashion with periods of fast improvement which will then slow to intervals of almost no improvement.

So, apart from well done to Matt and Joe, and get well soon to Grove, it’s good to know that mountainboarding is in a healthy state of incremental progression and that it will all only get better.

Mountainboarding Wiki-site – The accumulated knowledge of mountainboarders all in one place

Mountainboarding wiki-site

I’ve been thinking about an accumulated knowledge-base for mountainboarding for quite a while now. It would be a place where all the mountainboarders could add their knowledge and experiences to create the ultimate reference guide to mountainboarding, and because it would be written by the community it could have not only factual technical information about things like board weights, but also contradictory opinions on things like the best way to do a powerslide.

So I started a wiki-site for all us mountainboarders to begin adding our knowledge. The first step was to put some section headers in to give it some structure and provide a bit of guidance on what to include and where to put it. Once it has some content I’ll have another look at how it is organised and move sections around so they make more sense.

So, all you mountainboarders out there, go to http://mountainboarding.wiki-site.com and add what you know.

Learning from Dave

What we learned from Dave, the Downhill comp #1

Track (location and layout)

The track at Dave worked really well. It was a ‘medium’ track which meant that is was gentle enough for novice riders to feel ok some of the time and challenged some of the time, and for pro riders to gun it all the way and enjoy it. The location of the track (just off an A road) meant it was easy to find and not too far away from civilisation.


Obviously, timing at a DH comp is really important. We used a simple synchronised clock system that has been around for decades (maybe even longer, who knows?). The advantages of this system is that it is really really simple and it doesn’t require any communication between top and bottom. What it does require, we found out, is reliable switched on people running it, and doing the calculations. Well, as I found out, a simple spreadsheet can do the second part. Formatted as ‘time’, the spreadsheet will do calculations that we can’t do with a calculator (because our system for measuring time isn’t decimal). The spreadsheet can be run on a laptop, which then brings in the issue of power on the side of a hill, on even on a smart phone. Now that’s truly the future of DH comps.


When the track is over a mile long an uplift is essential. The idea setting off six riders and following the sixth one down in my car to bring them all back up before setting off the next six was, I think, a good one. Although I’m not sure why it didn’t work out that way. It provides a safety check of all the riders and makes them easier to manage as they are in smaller groups. Having a big uplift to get all the riders to the top in one go has obvious advantages. The main disadvantage is the cost of hiring in a 4×4 and trailer, van or minibus. The other problem with uplifts like this on tracks like this is that it needs to drive up the same track that the riders are coming down (although hopefully not at the same time). Can’t really see a way around this one.


Dave was run with just two staff. One at the bottom recording finish times, and one at the top to record start times and drive the uplift. Compared to BX comps which take ten times the staff, DH are already pretty streamlined in the (human) resources they require to run. Having more organisers would certainly help, especially with things like live scoring (see below) and splitting the job of driving the uplift and running the top of the hill.

Other improvements/suggestions

Suggestions for improvements made by the riders include some kind of live scoreboard so they can all see their times, which seems simple enough with a wipeboard or paper and pens.

Next time….

The idea of having three DH comps next year is still very much top of my to do list at the moment. Dave seems to be easy enough to replicate next year, we’re just going to have to try to get in with the town committee and see if they can get around paying the FC loads of money. Scotland seems very likely as there are a very riders up there who want to get it sorted. And the Lake District is a possibility, although only on the back of an off-hand conversation with the ranger of Whinlatter Forest, but I’ll be following that up shortly.

Trampa Speed Demon Review

Review of the Trampa Speed Demon Brakeboard

Finally had a chance to ride the Trampa Speed Demon (as I’m calling it cos it’s black and red) with built-in go-faster stick (that’s a brake for the uninitiated).

Trampa Brakeboard Review

My normal everyday freeride-in-the-woods board is a short Trampa, but I also ride a noSno brake board, so I was interested to see how this board fits in between the two. It didn’t disappoint. In fact it made me question what I thought I knew about brake riding.

Normal wisdom for riding with brakes is that you need nine inch tyres, you need to be going really fast down mountains to justify having them, and they need to be on the front. This board has eight inch tyres, I was jumping it around tight mountainbike singletrack in the woods in the dark, and it was set up for goofy which meant the brakes were on the back.

So, does size matter? The majority of mountainboarders ride with eight inch wheels. Having brakes that can be used with eights not only opens up a huge market for selling these boards/kits, but it also makes it an easier step for more mountainboarders to get into the kind of freeriding and downhilling that requires brakes. And with more downhill comps on the horizon, more people are going to want brakes. The other big advantage of riding with eights rather than nines is the weight. I ride my noSno with nines and brakes on the front and eights on the back so I can kick the back end around in tight turns. Riding eights all round makes that so much easier to get it into tight turns and the brakes didn’t add any noticeable weight.

Are brakes for going slower or going faster? There’s a reason we call them go-faster sticks. In fact there are two reasons; one, being able to slow when you need to means you can avoid sliding out, and two, they can give you a bit of confidence to ride a little faster knowing you can stop if you need to. So brakes aren’t just for riding long alpine passes, they can enable more mountainboarders to ride more terrain than they might otherwise. Whether that is mountainbike single track in the woods in the dark (which I can thoroughly recommend) or a middle-aged guy who wants to ride at centres with his son but doesn’t like to idea of getting down into powerslides. Riding with brakes doesn’t have to be all about going fast.

Brakes go on the front, right? The science says so. As you brake your weight goes forward onto the front wheels and so adds traction to the tyres increasing braking performance. But I had the brakes on the back. I rode some tight singletrack and tarmac and didn’t notice any real loss in performance. And maybe for my kind of riding having brakes on the back makes some sense. A lot of my speed control comes from scrubbing (which obviously I do with the back of the board) so adding another speed control technique to the back means I can work them together. If you’ve got brakes I recommend trying them on the front and the back, and seeing what works best for you.

Also, whilst I’m on the subject of traction, the Trampa Speed Demon has Primo Alpha tyres. I’m not usually a fan of these tyres. For my kind of riding I find that they have loads of traction up to a point, and then, when sliding, they lose it all at once with no warning. But when it comes to maximum traction for braking in a straight line I’m betting Alphas are the right choice. Set them up hard on the front and bit softer on the back and don’t slide them into corners (use the brake instead).

To sum up, I loved the Trampa Speed Demon! If you have a Trampa and want brakes, these are for you. If you’re thinking of getting a brakeboard, these are for you. If you want brakes but don’t want loads of extra weight, these are for you. If you’re getting your first proper mountainboard and want brakes for a bit more confidence, these are for you.