Some tracks flatter your riding ability, flowing smoothly from one sculpted turn to the next, Kinlochleven is nothing like that! Kinlochleven is a full-bore assault on the senses, a cask strength slap to the face, every meter of descent is hard won on the rugged mountainside. The No Fuss Events Kinlochleven enduro is a two-fingered salute to the machined flow trail.
Kinlochleven has been hosting iconic enduros for many years, a location scorched into the minds and skin of hundreds of racers over the UK. Water and wind frequently change the trails, new lines open while many more close. This is mountain biking in its purest form, old school, no rollable features or dumbed-down tech, just big rocks, pin-ball chutes and waiting wheel holes. Kinlochleven is tough, it’s also the best enduro in the UK.
The photos do the talking, but Kinlochleven is certainly the most beautiful host for an enduro race, and over the years many personal scores have been settled and battles won and lost on the shifting rocks of its rugged, flanks. For many this would be the last race of the season, a final send-off before the race plates are hung up until the spring. There would be many who would question the sanity of a high mountain race in Scotland in November, indeed conditions in previous years have tested riders senses of humour, but the forecast was good and it looked like the 2017 season would be sent off in a blaze of Scottish gold.
Kinlochleven’s story began with the smelting of aluminium, and after the construction of Blackwater Dam and resulting ambitious hydroelectric power station became the first village in the world where every house was connected to the electricity supply. The smelting plants may have stopped, but Kinlochleven is now a pilgrimage for adventure seekers, especially with the opening of the Ice Factor climbing centre with the world’s biggest indoor ice climbing wall. But for this weekend, the centre was full of keen mountain bikers, fuelling up on cake and bacon rolls, getting set to take on the mountain.
Racing was simple, climb into the Mamore mountains, soak up the impressive views of the flanks of Binnean Mor and the Pap of Glencoe, before a white-knuckle charge back to the shores of Loch Leven. The day featured 3 tough stages, 1 and 3 were all about gravity and confidence at speed through the deep and unrelenting rock gardens, while stage 2 included punchy climbs and a need to keep stoking the pedals to hold speed. If you can ride fast in Kinlochleven you can ride fast anywhere.
As an official EWS Qualifier Series round, a good ranking here could guarantee priority entry to the 2018 EWS season, and the round had attracted many fast riders. When the final times were in, as with so many events these days it was the juniors who dominated, with Charlie Aldridge and EWS champion Ella Connolly setting the fastest times of the day for the men and women. Callum McCubbing took the Senior Men win, joined by Nicola Fell who put up a great fight to take the win in the Senior Women. The Veteran category was won by Dan Greenwood and Sally Evamy, Nick Smart won the Masters round and John MacDonald took the Grand Vet male win. While there can only be a few who stand on the top steps, everyone who left felt deservedly like a winner.
If you have never raced at Kinlochleven, then it’s one for the bucket list, as raw and Scottish as it comes. The mountains of Kinlochleven are the real deal, unsanitized and challenging at their easiest, fiercely technical at their worst. If you like your racing undiluted, then we hope to see you next year.
Words: No Fuss Events Photos: Trevor Worsey