Peaslake MTBO 26th April 2014. I did very badly :-(

Peaslake MTBO.

This is the second time I've done the event, and my worst performance so far. I'm going downhill rapidly!

For those that do not know, an MTBO is an event where you are given a map, and then have to go off and find some stamps. There were twenty of these stamps, dotted around the countryside.

So the day starts in the classroom really, finding the points on a map and devising a strategy whilst drinking coffee and eating cake. In my case a strategy designed to maximise my time penalty at the end! Did I not tell you that? They give you three hours to do this thing. Go over, and you get ten points deducted for every minute over. I lost 400. Buggeration. Some people only need two hours to find the lot. I needed four hours to find half. In fairness a bottle of wine the night before didn't help.

It's a great event, though largely male dominated it must be said. The organisation is spot on, with coffee and cake on arrival; burgers at the end. The maps and instructions clear, and the stamps easy to spot. The organisers say tactics and map reading skills are as, if not more, important than fitness. Do not believe them. You have to be fit.

Now, the two hour crew. Different level really. They must fly around. No idea how they do it. They must have the most amazing three dimensional view of the world. You don't see them, or if you do, they fly, really fly. Where I ponder and decide, they just do. No indecisiveness, no looking at the view or chatting about the event. They get to the stamp, get their stamp, move on all within a few seconds.

The inbetweeners. Well now. The "cheat" word. I followed the bridleways and roads, and avoided private land or footpaths. I'm fairly confident quite a few people cut these corners, mainly because you see them doing it. I rode down to quite a few checkpoints, only to have some guy walk up to them through the trees. Other times riders would pop along footpaths or private roads. These weren't the fast, two hour crew; you don't see them or when you do, well you realise that they are just insanely fast riders, very focused. Nope I'm talking average Joe like me.

It's not cheating, it's cutting corners. Perhaps I'm still miffed over my time penalty - which equated to the loss of a third of my time. It was galling, however, to slog up a trail to a check point only to see somebody riding through a field to it. Or some bod walking up a trail to get their stamp.

In fairness I was just on a crap strategy. Last year I rode out to the furthest point and worked my way back. Any excess time at the end was used to get extra points. This year I did the exact reverse; got all the local markers first then with fifty minutes spare set off to the furthest point. It ended with a whimper. I got my 180 maximum points right at my finish time..... a good hour's ride from the start/finish point. I managed to slice 20 minutes from that time, yet even so I was 40 minutes late. 400 points lost, two hour's riding wasted.

Lesson learnt; avoid the time penalty.

It's a great event, it really is. For the main, probably more than 90%, people do it properly and in a very friendly fashion. It's great to see them zipping through the woods on different strategies. Sure it's annoying to see somebody riding a footpath, or whatever, but as there's no prize, then they are only cheating themselves. Mentally I cut them out of my focus, and started to compare myself with a handful of other riders. You soon know when you are winning or losing. Generally the solo males zip by, and the teams are stood by the trailside. You get an eye for who's doing what and how. Really, there are some great people out there. Very inspirational.

Honest, it is. You're with some guy at a checkpoint. Quick chat, off you go. He goes left, you go right; whose going to get the most points? You next see him either in front or behind. Has he got more, or less, then you? Oddly you soon get a sense of where they're at without a word being spoken. Sometimes that puts a smile on your face, others you put an extra bit of effort in.

My hero was the guy with the beard, and the team on downhill bikes. Beard because he always had a smile on his face and was clearly doing something right. The downhill boys were not having a good time with their bikes, but were having a good time and were always friendly.

My kit.

Last year my map was on a piece of string around my neck. This year I bought a £20 map holder for the handlebars. It wasn't any better. Well it would have been had it actually worked. You see it was held on to my handlebar via friction. Bit of wetness, bit of vibration and it soon lost the plot, falling off the bike. Totally useless then, and cost me a good ten minutes.

My North Face Enduro 13 pack was comfy and I didn't lose a water bottle. Indeed it proved really easy to grab a bottle and drink whilst on the move. However, even with just a banana, chocolate bar, inner tube and pump, there was no space to put my jacket. This meant wearing it all ride. Not ideal. The pack is great, just needs to be around 2l bigger. That or tie the inner tube to my bike?

Bike. Hmm, took a hardtail which was fine. I'm inclined, given the amount of roads involved, to think that something less gnar and more speed would help. Not necessarily a lighter bike, more one with narrower tyres. On the climbs having a lot of front suspension worked against me, as did having front brake pads suddenly decide not to work!

String. It's worth the effort to tie the paper for recording the stamps around your neck.


Just great. A really enjoyable event. If Peaslake hasn't been sold off to the Chinese, I'll be back. This time on a Fatty. At least then I'll have an excuse for poor performance :-)