Wrenching at the Kielder Chiller 24 hour bike race
We were invited to the amazing Kielder Chiller 24 hour mental fest that took place over the weekend of February 11th & 12th where we provided free mechanical assistance to any racers that needed help during the event. It was a total blast to be involved with such a bunch of maniacs and as usual, Kielder did not disappoint when it came to its reputation as an eater of bikes.
Our weekend started at 0400 on Saturday morning when we set off from Gateshead with a van laden with hundreds of spare parts, tools, food, warm stuff (or so we thought) and a couple of beers for the wee small hours. It’s fair to say that the early start stung a little but any thoughts of hardship were soon forgotten when we got to site and saw that it was already buzzing with activity. Turns out that Barry from High Fell Events had already been awake since the day before so we realised that we had nothing to complain about!
We got ourselves set up in the dark next to the main event tent which competitors would be zooming through for timing dibs. It was an excellent spot to be based at and we really appreciated the warmth of the gas heater in the main tent when things got chilly later on. (Note to selves – bring a gas heater next year!)
As the sun rose we watched from our gazebo as 20 other teams and soloists set up their camps in the top two car parks. What we didn’t realise at the time was exactly how many other competitors were set up around the course! There were loads of teams and soloists set up around the entire course. Things were bleak up top by all accounts as the winds and snow drove in during the early hours, so big respect to the teams based up there that kept smashing through all that stuff for 24 hours!
The race started with a quick briefing at 1145 and then set off fifteen minutes later on an abridged lap that missed the first two sections of single track. The full lap came in at 7.5 miles and took in a few short but sharp climbs and some fun downhill sections. The first riders were back at the start a mere 37 minutes later! Blistering speeds that were maintained throughout the day by the top riders, with top soloist Richard Rothwell averaging 50 ish minutes throughout the day and night.
Before the start and during the night before it had been snowing / raining pretty consistently and the ground up top was destined to get hammered by hundreds of tires, which meant mud and lots of it, which means mechanicals at some point but we had no idea how quickly we’d have people at the marquee looking for help. We had riders two laps in that rolled up with no material left on their brake pads, metal on metal action not giving enough stopping power apparently! Many people were shocked that they’d gone through their pads so quickly but that’s what happens when you’re riding sandstone.
This was the theme of the day, ‘can you change my pads please guys?’, and so it went all day and all night long. It did seem to let up during the early hours as if the wind had dried the mud a little but we must’ve changed over 55 pairs of pads during the 24 hours. We were swapping pads out in seconds, one handed and with our eyes closed by the end of the race.
Thankfully there were no major mechanicals that we couldn’t help with apart from a snapped mech hanger and in that instance the rider was happy we couldn’t repair it (can’t imagine why?!). Oh and this unusual looking fork that popped half way around a lap. As you’ll see the rider used a pine cone and some sticks to keep the fork up. Nature’s damper in effect!
We had a really great time at the event and were really impressed by the professionalism of the organisation, the mental and physical strength of the racers and the bike eating capabilities of Kielder Forest. It was a properly fun day out for us and we know that everyone we spoke to enjoyed the event too, even if their faces may have said otherwise.
Big thanks to Barry Kemp from High Fell Events for inviting us along and to all the racers, support crew, marshals, first aid team and spectators that made the event possible!
And an extra MASSIVE thanks to the dream team that came to help, Dan (North East Cycleworks’ number 2) and Katie (Ben’s wife). Dan made some legendary brownies and flapjacks that were hugely popular with riders and event crew alike and that combined with Katie’s non stop coffee supply and smiling face made the whole thing a lot easier!