With the EWS clock rapidly ticking down, Round 2 of the Enduro World Series is almost upon us, and this time it is the turn of Scotland to play host! Over 650 international racers will descend upon the quiet hamlets of Peebles and Innerleithen, bringing the bright colours and carbon exotica that has become synonymous with the EWS. However, The Tweed Valley is no stranger to mountain biking, the area has forged many a Scottish Champion, and the lucky locals all ride, and ride fast!
The valley found its true fame with the opening of Glentress Trail Centre many years ago, offering adrenalin filled adventure for riders of all levels! Over the years Glentress has become a monster, pioneering a movement and drawing riders from all over the globe! But the Valley is so much more than that! For under the tree covered hills hides a true riding nirvana of technical, challenging and crazy steep natural singletrack! Generations of hard work from the proactive riding community has shaped the tweed valley into a secretive enduro paradise! With more and more riders moving to the valley every year, the veil is about to be lifted, the EWS is coming and soon the world will know!
I am one of those lucky enough to call the Tweed Valley my home, and thought I would share some information with you to help you get the most out of Round 2, the Santa Cruz TweedLove World Enduro presented by Sweet Protection!
Location and Course
The Tweed Valley, lying just south of Edinburgh, Scotland, is the beating MTB heart of the Scottish Borders. The Santa Cruz TweedLove World Enduro presented by Sweet Protection will start and finish in Peebles, a picturesque town rich in history and right on the banks of the River Tweed! The main race village and Expo will be located on Tweed Green found in the centre of town and at the head of the new cycle way linking Peebles to Innerleithen. Here you will find all the EWS teams, trade tents and industry giants, and it will be a cool place to meet your favorite riding stars.
The course however will take in much more than Peebles, the actual stages are still a well guarded secret, but I can say that the course will take in amazing trails all the way down the valley to Innerleithen 6 miles away! So during racing and practice you can expect to pedal out and back along the valleys new cycle way (a flat scenic trail by the river). So whether you are staying in Peebles or Innerleithen you will be well connected via the cycle way for both practice and racing. The stages will all be reached by pedal power alone, and with 300m hills and 4 (almost top to bottom) stages each day you can factor at least 1500m of climbing per day, and between 50-60km of riding over the weekend, so it is going to be physical! Most of the climbs will be on forestry roads and trail centre singletrack, and timings are rumored to be tight for E1, so have a look at your bike setup to ensure that you have the right equipment and gearing for the long race days!
Terrain and Tyres
When it comes to trail surface, this race will be dictated by the weather! The course takes in every type of trail imaginable, from buff and fast trail centre sections, fire road sprints, to the steepest, rootiest technical single track that you have ever ridden. If it is dry the trails will be grippy, fast, furious and exhilarating! If it is wet, then prepare to get wild in the natural sections, the many polished roots will lie in wait for those heavy on the brakes, and the steep trails will soon develop a slick, clay like coating making rapid changes of direction tricky. Whatever the weather, the racing will be extremely exciting, but make sure you are running the best tyres for the job. The riding will be physical too, both in length and technicality! The natural trails in the valley are cut into forestry plantations, so the ground undulates like a short pumptrack, so you will need to find that balance between ‘aggressive’ and ‘smooth’ to hold good speed. Falling steeply between Larch and Pine the trails are littered with loose rocks, off camber roots and fast changes of direction.
I would never try to recommend tyres as it involves so much personal choice, but after riding most of the EWS rounds last year and riding for many years in the Valley, I can say what works well here. In contrast to the sharp rock of Val D’Isere and Finale, the natural Tweed Valley trails feature minimal rock and square edged hits, instead they are strewn with roots and mud/dust. With the race taking in not just the rooty trails, but also some armored surface, fire road sprints and long climbs, you will not find many locals running super heavy dual ply tyres! Most rapid riders in the valley opt for lighter weight enduro specific mouldings that combine some form of sidewall protection with fast rolling speed, to keep the weight to a minimum.
Most of the long stages in the valley involve short uphill sprints on fireroads between the singletrack so it may pay to plan for that when it comes to tyre choice, if you are running spikes you are going to feel the burn! In the wet locals run slightly lower pressures to gain maximum traction so tubeless is key to keeping things rolling. You will also see a lot of the top riders fitting something fast rolling to the back if the weather is dry! A 140 -160mm Enduro bike works really well in the terrain here, and you will be sure to see a lot of long travel 29ers on the start lines!
Helmet and kit
The Tweed Valley EWS is unique in the series in that Full Face Helmets are not obligatory, you do have to wear a helmet at all times, but the organisers are permitting the use of trail helmets on the special stages. This will come to quite a shock to those used to racing on the continent! With two days of long transfers and climbs you can be certain that a lot of locals will be racing in Trail helmets only. However the stages will be tough and fast, and with trees very close to the trail be sure to wear what makes your comfortable, and a lot of riders will be carrying both. Knee pads are obligatory so do not forget them.
You are probably now starting to get your race kit together, and will no doubt be worrying what spares to bring. Aside from all the trade stands in the Expo, there are also a number of Bike shops in the valley that are gearing up for the EWS. Both Alpine Bikes (01896 830880) and i-Cycles (01896 833848) can be found in Innerleithen and both have fully equipped workshops and carry a range of race ready parts. You will also find an Alpine Bikes store (01721 724522) in the grounds of the Glentress Forest park, again with a fully equipped workshop, experienced mechanics and a good range of spare parts. So if you suffer any major issues during practice, there is plenty of help on hand. Though certain spares will be in high demand, things like Reverb barbs and mech hangers are like gold dust when the EWS moves in.
Finding food and ‘that’ Scottish Weather
Scotland has always been know for its ‘temperamental weather’ so pack accordingly. We may be lucky and be racing in T-shirts, but it is always worth bringing a light waterproof jacket, front mudguard and goggles. Both Peebles and Innerleithen have well stocked supermarkets and all the bike shops have a large supply of energy gels and drinks, so when it comes to race fuel, there will be no problems. There will also be feed stations scattered around the course dispensing food and water. The best places to get food while out practicing the course are the ‘Whistlestop Cafe’ halfway up the Highstreet in Innerleithen which does a mean sandwich, the Peel Centre Cafe in Glentress Forest Park, and the Caberston Cafe in Walkerburn. After the riding has been done, in the evenings there are many great restaurantsm pubs and take-away’s in both Peebles and Innerleithen!
So lets keep our fingers crossed for good weather, it will be an excellent event, and ENDURO magazine looks forward to seeing you there!
Words and Photos: Trev Worsey