BDS rd1 track preview, a snowy Combe Sydenham

The first round of the 2012 Halo BDS boots off at Combe Sydenham on 14/15th April.

Ace “McHardtail” Woodley put on his thermal pants, filled up his thermos flask and went along to a snowy uplift day at The Combe to have a look at the track.

The first test ride of the BDS round 1 track at Combe Sydenham.  It snowed,  a lot,  a handfull of nutters had a go and I got some action shots,  and a look at the track.  Well most of the track,  the bits that didn’t have toomuch snow or ice on top.

First off the general appeal.    RACING needs you!  Yes you reading this,  if you think you know of a race-able venue,  for local or national,  then get up off your bum and talk to your local race organizer,  or drop Si Paton an email if you might have a lead on a possible national venue.

Second,   DON’T go to Coombe Syd UNLESS your are booked up on an uplift via Don Howe there will be more uplift days pre-race.  The track is on private land,  a working estate,  and it’s still in shooting season,  upsetting  the landowner could endanger the future of the track.   Get in touch with Don to arrange a safe bullet free day out.  

Thirdly,  the track is still a “work in progress” and may well change a bit before the race,  so again riding up there outside of an uplift day may well undo some track work and make more work.    

Right then,  off we go.   The conditions today where horrible,  several riders called off due to bad weather,  the uplift still ran.   This is from my viewpoint,  those that know me,  know I am a wheels on the ground type of rider,  I have raced the Combe many times,  and was interested to see what had been done up there.   The old NPS start has been used a few times with the old South West series,  but mostly we started around the new double,  or over in the plantation  (the bluebell start).

Unknown rider on the new double.  The start is about 100m to my right snaking through the trees.  To my left is the ride over the rocks down to the fire road,  this has been spilt,  in Seb’s video from Roots and Rain they follow the old line (force of habit perhaps) the new line is berm-ed and better flow leading to the fire-road.

Tony Macriner taking the new line,  old line split.  The bus stops are still there,  with the addition of a small double on the fireroad,   it’s roll-able but this is a BDS race,  the jumps are bigger,  not jumping will really slow you down now.  The old track layout had easy options,  now it really favours the faster,braver type of rider.   The bus stops have had some reshaping,  the final one has two exit points,  although nearly everyone uses the same choice.  Some reshaping here.  Normal accidents here were losing the front wheel on cross roots,  a few have gone over the bars and over the edge in the past,  a fair few over cook it and land to flat, even I managed to do that,  really unpleasant on a hardtail.

The final bus stop,  from this angle it looks like a massive gap jump, you can clearly see the marked entry to the woods below.  Look carefully you see the fresh tracks of riders taking the easy choice by going to the right,  most just straightline.   Also bear in mind the track has not been raced for about a year and has it’s winter coat on,  work in progress.

The entry into the woods,  the point of a crash in Seb’s video.  Frozen ground and ice everywhere.  The woods have had a make over with berms being re-cut and smoothed out.  The tape is to point riders the right way down as there are loads of line choices through the woods.  Again work in progress and final route will be taped on the Friday before the race.

This was all new,  some parts of the wood have got so rutted and chopped a good makeover was needed.

The gap jump then 🙂  lots of work done here.  You can see the tyre marks,  the leftside is new and is roll-able,  not as big as the old jump.  The right side is not roll-able and quite a bit higher take off and further back than the old jump.  It appears the landing has been reworked too.  Not being a jumpy type i have done the old gap jump on hardtail,  the new one is bigger,longer  as seen in the next photos.

Dave Walker Blair,  digger driver and test pilot going off the big ramp.

I think this is Seb from www.rootsandrain.comgoing off the big ramp.  The snow/ice doesn’t help but you can see the new ramp is built on top of the old one,  and those that have been before should be able to work out just how much bigger the jump is now.  Some tufts of pine branch mark where the low roll-able ramp exits.

The field then.  Big make over,  the berms have had a reshape,  the first table is now a double double,  this will favour the fast and really slow down slower not so jumpy types,  also appears wider than the old table which is good if it gets windy.  The old tables where being overjumped big time,  although fun there was no real challenge to them for racers.  The track has been moved over to the right a bit and a fresh line cut in,   some berm-ed corners as well,  the old braking bumped washboard run into the second table and double have gone,  the old shallow double is now a big double 🙂  and the awful narrow line weird offset high-line/shallow line double double has at long last gone as well.

As you can see,  weather was a tad off today.  I had to push the ISO to 1600 to get a fast enough shutter speed in some places,  camera didn’t like the snow and cold,  nor did I for that matter,  Don was cooped up in the cab of the tractor with the heater cranked up,  best place to be.  From the double double,  which is bigger than the old set,  you power down to the track,  entry is smoothed over,  you then exit back across the field,  this is a smooth high speed transition (skimmer) into some bermed turns for the new entry to the lower woods.  The old line was exit the double-double then blat straight down the track and straight into the woods,  now more fun and a bit more length.  The trees that marked the old entry have been cut down and turned into a ramp.

Despite the snow you can track the new line into the woods.  The old one went round the bracken on the left of the photo.  The line into the woods haschanged,  but then becomes Combe Sydenham classic to the jagged rock drop.   Final taping will decide where the track winds out round the rocks.   A new double has been put in near the finish,  I bumped into John Cobb here,  who was also checking out the track (he should be racing it,  I won’t)

Overall feedback from riders there was good,  some of the changes are a bit scary to the old track.   The old track was just that…old,  it was made years ago,  last major race in 2004 with the NPS,  riders and bikes have moved a lot since then,  I don’t have the old back issue of Dirt to hand,  think it was Gee Atherton won in 04 with a time around 2.45min,  thats an average time now,  thats how things have progressed,  the track needed bringing up to date.    Keep in mind it’s still work in progress,  the bin in the shot above will be moved by racing 🙂

The final jump 🙂  the two wooden beams are the old foot bridge finish,  you used to come out so fast you skimmed over the track behind,  not uncommon for riders to jump over the timing beam.   I would assume those racing at BDS level can manage a jump like this,  again work in progress….  i don’t know if a roll through will be in place.

Dave Walker Blair one of Don Howes track builders,  the bulk of work is in place,  now it’s some test days,  feedback from riders,  some tweeking and reshaping,  some more changes to line choice,  they hope to see some nice wide taping on race day.    The track need to settle and bed down,  the winter coat needs to come off,  still more work to do but looking good,  the old track has been pumped up and had a serious make over, faster more lairy,  come race day the field will be packed for the big air show.  I will try and get back on a nicer day as lots of smaller tweeks where hiding under the snow.  The boys have been very busy,  go to  to enter the race,  to check out the track for pre-race practice go to  and check for uplift days with Don.



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