Last weekend, 350 riders took part in the inaugural Light & Night event. They had a total of 12 hours to accumulate as many checkpoints as possible, choosing to cover as much ground as they wished between Settle, Horton, Grassington, Kettlewell and Malham. Some elite riders clock up outrageous distances and altitude gains.
Mick Smith brings us his report:
It was the event we had all been waiting for - the inaugural Polaris "Light & Night" - a new format for a tried and tested classic event - whereby an hour's riding was to be shaved from both the Saturday and Sunday rides to give an "extra" ride - two hours in total darkness on the Saturday night! The other big change was to run all three stages from base camp, with no "wilderness" camp - that one will be saved for what will now become the spring "classic" event.
But Organiser Gary Tompsett was hardly taking any risks with the new format, as he chose the stunning corner of the Yorkshire Dales that surrounds Malham as the backdrop for the event, and enduro/MTBO legend John Houlihan (Santa Cruz) to set out all three courses.
Friday afternoon gave a promise of the weather to come with Malham welcoming us with a rare dose of early autumn sunshine. We pitched our tent within easy reach of what was rather optimistically called the "toilet block", rebuilt our bikes, signed in and eagerly devoured the Saturday day-time map. I'd been here before and was pleased to see that some favourite trails would feature in our rides. The campsite was filling up fast. Everyone seemed to be comparing this season's "must haves" - brand new halogen light sets!
A chilly night was replaced by a gorgeous morning and we were soon forcing noodles down our throats on top of the previous evening's spaghetti ready to fuel the day's exertions. We elected for an early start and soon found that climbing out of Malham was harder than escaping from Alcatraz, but once up on the moors the riding was fast and furious - totally awesome and exactly what mountain bikes were made for. Our modest loops took us along the Stockdale Road then via Stainforth to Malham Tarn then past Street Gate for the big climb towards Hawkswick Cote. No casualties to report, unless you include the cow standing guard over its long-dead calf just south of checkpoint 19.
Back to base and time to push pasta into our faces and fit those shiny new lights. Boys and their toys! Saturday evening grew very dark, very cold, with no moonlight and no city street light haze. Everyone seemed eager to be the first to try out the long awaited night section, and soon the fells surrounding Malham were done up like Christmas trees. Words just cannot do this experience justice, but here goes. Awesome. Bizarre. Surreal. Get the idea? Throw in some drifting mist around Malham Tarn and you found yourself as an extra cast in remakes of "An American Werewolf in London" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". Out of the pitch blackness would appear a silent blue-white haze, then dancing blinding blue airborne lights, then totally mad people thrashing bikes around trails navigated by touch as much as sight. Never has two hours sped by so quickly. And never has the phrase "battery life up to two hours" been so sorely tested! Incredible!
Sunday's ride might have been an anti-climax but it wasn't. More top trails, top weather, and topped off with a Wilf's classic end of ride meal. He who dares - wins! And Gary and the Detail Events team have struck gold with this format. See you next year!