Is the British Downhill Series in danger?
"It's nail biting stuff putting on an event not knowing if it will lose you money, break even or make a profit"
We quite often get emails from Si Paton asking us to give the British Downhill Series a little push, but Monday's was different.
With the Moelfre round cancelled earlier in the summer and rider numbers precariously low for Llangollen and Hopton, the world's best domestic downhill series could be going the way of the British Enduro Series - and we're talking as soon as next year.
The British Downhill Series is easily the most competitive downhill series outside of the World Cups and attracts the World's best riders week-in, week-out. It's no exaggeration to say it's one of the main reasons for Britain's domination of the World Cup series in recent years.
At the moment it's really just a case of bums on seats. The series has sold out the past ten years but this year has really struggled to find riders willing to stump up the cash. As soon as we heard, we got Si on the line to hear how bad it was from the horse's mouth.
How did it feel canceling a BDS for the first time at Moelfre?
The series has sold out for the last ten years so this is the first time ever and we only had 130 riders pre-entered. Canceling an event is not ideal but we have to run the series as a business so if an event would run at a loss, we have no other choice than to cancel it which was a painful decision to make.
What was the idea behind the new trail bike category at the BDS?
To boost entry numbers and make the events carry on. I was out in Morzine last month and it was incredible to see how many riders were on trail bikes. There were quite a few familiar faces from the downhill scene past, when questioned why are they not on their downhill bikes a simple answer came back. They can't afford two bikes now they are so expensive, hence a trail bike can almost do both jobs in this day and age, they really are that good.
But it would be a disadvantage racing a BDS on it against riders on full blown DH rigs, hence they have not entered a National level downhill event on them. But now they can on a level playing field.
Why do you think the BDS is lacking numbers this year?
Price. The first three rounds sold out and were a huge success and very well run events, only Nant G round one suffered bad weather on the Saturday. It seems people just don't have the disposable income to race anymore. The SDA cancelled their Scottish Championships around the same time as us, they had less than 120 riders entered.
The recent National Championships at Rhyd-Y-Felin had 240 riders, that is 80 National level riders down on last years event that was up the road at Revolution Bike Park. The cost of diesel, accommodation, food, fresh tyres, spares and race fees all add up and the riders are telling me that funds are tight.
How many riders does a BDS need to run sustainably?
250 riders. The average cost of putting on a BDS is in excess of £30k, the gap is subsidised by British Cycling and our very generous industry sponsors.
How serious is this for the future of the BDS?
Potentially very threatening. Event organising is a crowd funding exercise, so it's nail biting stuff putting on an event not knowing if it will lose you money, break even or make a profit. That is not the way to run a business and an organiser needs paying, after all that's their job.
What does the BDS offer racers, what benefits over say an uplift weekend?
Racing the National series allows you to rub tyres with the Worlds best for starters, you can literally be on track with all the big names, just try and follow them down for as long as you can!
In addition to that:
- Unlimited uplift practice on Saturday all day, expect to get between 8-10 runs in max, even with your lunch breaks, just don't over do it!
- Sunday practice in the morning (2-3 runs) followed by a seeding and a Race Run.
- Free race support from Shimano, Crankbrothers, Hope Technology, e-13 and Sprung Suspension. If you break your mech for example, Shimano will get you back up and running at no cost.
- Free Marshguard Number board holder worth 15 euros.
- Free Monster Energy.
- Free Race Photographs courtesy of Monster Energy.
- Free Bike Wash, Cleaners, Air Hoses (to dry your bike) and Free Lube courtesy of WD40.
- Over 20 trackside marshals and 3 British Cycling Commissaires to ensure everyone's safety and fairness.
- Live Timing both trackside and online with split times and speed trap.
- A share of over £12,000 in prize money and £15,000 in prizes.
Where can people sign up for the BDS? What if they don't have a license?
You do not need a Race Licence if you are entering either the ‘Open’ category or either of the two ‘Trail Bike’ Categories: 19-29 years or the 30 plus category.
If you want to accumulate British Cycling points and climb up the National Rankings then there are three simple steps to enter the British Cycling’s National Downhill Mountain Bike Series.
You must first purchase a membership card directly from British Cycling in either Silver or Gold, this allows you to purchase a ‘Full Race Licence’.
Your membership is valid from the day you purchase it and is valid for 12 months. You can therefore purchase it on whatever day of the year you so wish. Ideally, you should purchase your membership at the same time of purchasing your race licence. Purchase your membership HERE.
The second step is to purchase a ‘Full Race’ licence directly from British Cycling. You can renew this either by phone by calling 0161 274 2010 or online HERE. You can purchase your licence now even though it will have a start date of the 1st of January 2017. Your licence lasts for 12 months and will expire on the 31st of December 2017.
The third step is to ENTER HERE.