December the 7th was the date for round 1 of the Forest of Dean winter series and after raving about how well the new Specialised Enduro goes downhill I thought I’d better test it out against the clock. I managed to get there for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon for a bit of practice and it was a bit of a shaky start. It was quite a rough track with a few big compressions which bottomed out the Enduro every time, it was quite frustrating watching everyone else on downhill bikes who seemed to be up to full speed already while I felt like I was tip toeing my way down. I managed to find some smoother lines during the afternoon and as the track bedded in I started feeling a bit more confided and left feeling reasonably happy with the track and looking forward to race day.
With some pretty heavy rain overnight the track had changed quite a lot by the time we started practice on Sunday morning. All the roots which had a bit of grip the day before were now like ice and the top section had got pretty muddy and slick. I’d made a few changes to the bike overnight and replaced the Specialized slaughter tyre on the back with a butcher for a bit more grip which worked a treat with the fresh mud on track. I also added a few psi to the forks and wound on a bit of low speed compression to the CCDB shock to try and stop it bottoming out as much. The bike felt good but it was difficult to tell if the suspension changes had made much difference because the track was so slippery and I was going a lot slower than the day before.
With a massive start list of nearly 300 people the track was really busy for practice and it was difficult to get a full run without hitting traffic or red flags. We had two goes in a row where we took the start only to hit a red flag at the first marshal point so next time we left a massive gap between the riders in front and went out of the start all guns blazing. This time it was my turn to cause the red flag! I turned in to a corner before a compression which had loads of grip the day before, unfortunately the rain had washed all the grip away and the front wheel started to slide. I managed to hold it going in to the compression but then the front end let go and spat me out the front door something fierce! Luckily I missed anything hard, I just slid through the mud and escaped with just a few bruises. I wobbled the rest of the way down the track then did another full run that felt pretty sketchy and that was practice over. The track was drying up quite well but I went into race runs without much confidence and in a category of 82 riders I was just hoping to get out of there with a top 10.
After cleaning the bike and getting some fresh kit on I headed to the top ready to race. I planned to take it easy and just get a clean run after a pretty ropey mornings practice. I pedalled hard when I could but had a few sketchy moments on the techy bits and was really surprised to be sat in third place when I crossed the line.
Another bike clean and another set of fresh kit and I was ready for the second and final race run. I got to the top with plenty of time to spare and had a good long ride around to get nicely warmed up. The track was still drying and with renewed confidence from my first race run I was on full attack mode. I knew I’d have to shave off a bit of time to stay on the podium so I wasn’t going to hold back this time. I tried to ride it all as if it was as dry as Saturday and despite a few little moments in the top section I carried good speed into the fast bottom section and scared myself trying to stay off the brakes for as long as possible. I managed to take 2 seconds off my first run time and took the win in senior by 0.7 seconds, I was as surprised as I was happy! The bike did an awesome job of soaking up all the bumps and was so much more composed than any other short travel bike I’ve ridden. When I did get it wrong in a couple of corners it accelerated so well and picked up speed again so quickly that it covered up some pretty sketchy riding really well!
I ended up 8th overall out of 289 riders and was mixing it with some really quick riders so I was really pleased with that. However, I was still 4 seconds away from the winner of the Pro-Am category (who was on an enduro bike too) so there’s plenty of room for improvement before we go racing again in the new year.
If you want to try one of the new 650b Enduro’s for yourself Banjo cycles have a demo bike exactly the same as mine, so get in touch with the shop if you fancy taking it out for a spin.