The Event
This is an informal downhill event held between me and a couple of my friends when we at school. Basically who gets down the fastest. Usually held a couple of times every summer in Lymme Park in Stockport, UK. It's a short event, measured in minutes but some of the fastest stuff I've done without a motor of some kind.

The Day
Organisation was never much of an issue. We would usually be chatting during a break at school on a Friday and arrange to meet up at Anthony's house because it was on the way. On the Saturday (it was always on a Saturday for some reason) we would all make some sandwiches in the morning and pack a small back pack each with the lunch, puncture repair kit etc and head of to Anthony's. From there we'd go to the shop, and get some sweets "to keep out energy levels up" and then head off.

Anthony lived in Bramhall so we hit the back streets and footpaths to get to Poynton where we joined the main road. From there we traveled eastwards until we hit Ansons Road and started the climb. By this time we'd usually been travelling 30-45 minutes depending on the wind conditions (god I hate head wind) and we were just getting warmed up. We'd be cocky and daring, trying to race cars across the junction in the centre of Poynton - which is do-able if you go from a standing start, if you're fit and the car isn't, and the driver has to change gear halfway. The uphill always put a stop to this larking around and we settled into a comfortable pace, steadily making our way to the Middlewood Way. This was a good place to stop for a quick rest. We'd break out the water bottles and chocolates and explore that part of the old railway line turned bridle path. At the top of Ansons Road there was a pub, I forget what it was called, but we never dreamt about going in or anything, we were still too young to be thinking about that sort of thing. Soon we would get bored and head off again, up a steeper incline.

Now we were coming off proper roads and onto some rougher terrain, more of a wide path than a road. There were half bricks embedded in the dirt, placed there by the farmer who owned the road so that his tractors would have something solid to give some traction when it was muddy. As we climbed further, the way became steeper and we all used the lower ratio gears on our bikes. We'd start to breath hard now as the way strangely seemed to stretch on further. All of a sudden, the road would come round to the right and then flatten out slightly and from there we could see the Wood Farm Gate into Lymme Park itself. This spurred us on and we would race up there seeing who get up first and touch the tall pillars. Of course bikes weren't catered for at this entrance. There was a thin style that we had no hope of getting the bikes through so one person would climb over the chained gate and wait for the other to pass them over. From here it was a short way to The Knott, a large mound of earth covered in short grass that had a gouge down the centre. We would stop here for lunch and then go 'Jumping the Knott', racing up one side, shooting down the dip and seeing how high we could jump on the other side. We eventually tired of this and rode around the park for half an hour or so.

Eventually, it would be time for us to go home and we would cycle to the top of the path toward the West Gate. This was it - the main event!

The Course
The course consisted of 2 stages:
Stage 1, about 800m long on a relatively hard but rough path with a layer of light coloured loose gravel and small rocks. The grade wasn't amazingly steep but just enough to get your final speed up to an interesting level. While the path was more than wide enough to fit a large car, the loose terrain meant that you could't make any sudden changes in direction or speed. The added danger of other people on the path made sure that we kept our eyes skinned at all times. Just before the bottom of the run, the ground levels out just around a corner giving a small stopping zone. For those times when we were trying to break records, it was necessary to start braking well before the corner so that we didn't slam our selves into the gate.

Stage 2 was around 1.5km of proper roads. After getting out of the West Gate, a short ride to the left and up the hill gave us the start to the second stage. The start consisted of a T-junction that led downhill into the first straight section. This stage was very fast. The combination of downhill and flat tarmac allowed us to pick up speed and only have to worry about steering. It wasn't unusual for us to try and get some extra air into our tyre to build up the pressure and reduce rolling resistance, giving us higher speeds. The bends were sharp but low angles that didn't take any speed off the run if you used the width of the road properly. Being a normal road though, there was always the danger of cars coming in the other direction and on the later sections cars going in the same direction that weren't going fast enough. The end of this stage was poor, the last 50m or so went back up hill so there was no daredevil, nerves of steel braking manouvers as with stage 1, just a gentle rolling finish that took us back to the Middlewood Way, not far from where we had crossed it earlier.

The final speeds attained on the first stage did not really go much above 25mph. The combination of the terrain and the number of moving obstacles meant that we had to control the speed or risk falling into the small valley next to us. The speeds reached on stage 2 were a different matter and mostly depended on how brave you were feeling. If you used all of the space on the road and there were no other cars, it was possible to reach nearly 40mph on a simple mountain bike.

The Winner
As you may have guessed, this was a competitive event! As such, it was important to determine who the winner was. For this we resorted to the age old method of arguing. Given that we had no formal timing methods, we were reduced to comparing notes on what had happened (with the usual stretching of the truth). We would talk about how fast we had gone (we all had speedometers on our bikes), who had overtaken who and the most spectacular incidents. The winner was rarely agreed upon but we all went home feeling like it had been worth the effort anyway.

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