Although skateboarding and luging is my passion, SP8BOARDS is first and foremost a business and a summer full of orders has meant my racing has had to take a backseat for a while. Indeed, my last race was Tregarron on 16/17 June. However, whilst we are in a lull between the end of the season and the pre-Christmas rush, I am determined to make the most of the last few events of the year.
So it is with great anticipation that I turn up to compete at Bleek on 1-2 September.
As is usual when skating in Wales, I set off on the Friday. There are a few people at Sheepey and so
I head there first. We have a bit of a skate there and decide to set up camp. It is a very clear and beautiful night in the Welsh mountains and for once there is NO RAIN. Star gazing with a beer in hand is the perfect way to end the evening.
Next morning, it is back to business. Bleek is about one hour’s drive away and I am keen to see the track. My first impression is that it is a very long road. I have already heard from others who have been before that it can also be very fast. It seems like a perfect place to test out some new prototype luges I have been developing over the summer.
The first is Half Pint, a mini-luge which is race compatible but as small as possible to make storage and transportation easier. I am happy with the design but I feel the set up (3 standard 42.5 degree Ronin trucks and 85mm Seismic Speed Vents) needs a real life test.
The second is a new full size luge (still to be named). Although I am happy with the Asylum R (my current standard race luge) I am trying to develop a new luge which is faster but, at the same time, is easier for beginners to handle – giving it wider appeal. My new prototype has a lower centre of gravity to assist handling at speed.
For my first practice run down, I try the Half Pint. It isn’t a great run, but this isn’t really due to the board. I have used go-kart tyres to create a sole for my shoes and they are just too grippy. I am having to choose between harsh braking or not breaking at all. Gradual stopping or slowing down isn’t an option and I am too nervous to go all out. It is clearly the fastest hill I have ever been on. My previous fastest time on the Half Pint was 48 mph (in the Peak District). Here, my first run (with over-effective shoes) is 52 mph. I end up getting 56 mph after a couple of runs but I feel there is still a lot more speed to be gained. On some of the kinks and corners I am getting a bit of a twitch, which is clearly down to the angle of the trucks and the bushing set-up. Get these right (and sort out my shoes) and the Half Pint is clearly a viable contender.
I decide to switch to my prototype for the remaining practice runs. The brake shoes are still not helping but now I am familiar with the track and feeling more confident. I realise that I can still survive if I do not brake until the bottom of the hill! With this strategy and some slight tweaking of my bushings, I am ready to start the racing.
The racing is scheduled for Saturday afternoon and takes the form of a round robin. This involves each rider racing every other rider head to head in twos. I decide to track my speed and in the race against Ben Bewley, despite losing to Ben, I clock up a personal best of 96.8 km p h (60.5 mph). I am overjoyed at this (and at the fact I am still alive!!)
Overall, I come 5th in the event but I am happy with that and with the board’s performance. The only thing that is stopping me going faster is my ability to push off – some stamina and strength training is definitely needed. The luge itself was steady as a rock, even at 60 mph.
On Saturday night, we all go back to Sheepey to camp. The next morning, we skate Sheepey again. I use my Tour deck and have a great slide session. Others take the opportunity to free ride.
Thank you to Tom, Ryan and Dan of the Brianne Collective for organising such a great event.
And here is a video of the "fast run":