There is a myth whispered quietly between mountain bikers of a prize often looked for but rarely found. What it is isn’t entirely clear, the biggest rush, the smoothest jump, the longest – maybe never ending – trail, no one really knows. You don’t win the prize by entering a lottery or answering a question. To win you must first search for and find a thing esoteric and known only in a mountain bikers heart; all that is known is that it can be ridden and once found you must ride it like the world is ending behind you. The thing has a name, it’s called the Gnarr, and to ride it like the world is ending just behind your back wheel? That’s less complicated, you shred it. (apparently).
So we began our quest for the myth, the first question was where to look? We took our cue from that other legend – Arthur, Glastonbury, the round table, Avalon. We headed west, in this case to UK Bikepark – Dorset.
First off this is a downhill mountain bike park, there wasn’t any obvious XC loops (although there are plenty of trails around the Dorset countryside) so if you are going to the park prepare to point your bike downhill and hit the obstacles until you ride/slide to the bottom. The park is set in woodland which makes its way down into an old quarry. There are two or three black runs and a couple of reds some of which you can mix and match on the way down. The reds have really fun ladder jumps and tabletops worked into them (all roll-able); there are some pretty big gaps on one of the black trails but the ones we rode mainly consisted of steep steep steep singletrack with perilous switchbacks and challenging piles of off camber roots down yet more steep steep STEEP sections. Falling wasn’t a huge problem on these trails because whilst it happened a lot it tended to be at lower speed. Although one particularly chalky rocky switch back caught three people out in a row which led to most of us walking/falling down it until Rob merrily rode the whole thing without dabbing.
Once at the bottom there is a large motorway section with a variety of lines including a road gap, several doubles and some huge tabletops.
The uplift is provided by an ex-army lorry which grunts its way in a torrent of torque back up the park after each run. When you get shaken up one way on the way down you get shaken the other way on the drive up to the top. It’s driven by the one guy on site who also makes the coffee and sandwiches at lunchtime. I’m fairly sure he carved most of the trails out of the hillside himself too.
Brighton mtb pretty much had the place to ourselves and the weather behaved itself for us although it was still damp in places from the rain the day before which made the roots on the black runs even more challenging than they would have been anyway. There were a few punctures and a few tumbles so strong big tyres and as much protection as you’ve got are recommended, it’s pretty much a full face helmet type of place unless you are Laurie and good enough not to fall off.
So the question is did the gnarr get shredded? By some people definitely; even those taking it easier (me) were getting in the air a fair bit and enjoying the sense of controlled falling. Shredding the gnarr? Maybe not, but perhaps it got a little bit scratched.