Red Flags and Reruns – How to make sure you get a fair race

The ATBA-UK does everything it can to make the BoarderX races safe, fun and fair, and most people enjoy them without too many issues. But, it can be frustrating if your race doesn’t happen how you thought it would and you think that whatever happened wasn’t fair. You could be left feeling dissatisfied/angry/homicidal, and we don’t want that. The ATBA-UK has a number of things in place to make races safer and fairer, and although with such limited resources we can’t do as much as we would like, we do have marshals on the side of the track and rules in place for dealing some of the situations that show up in racing. The best thing you can do for yourself is to know the rules. Let’s take a look at the rules around Red Flags and Reruns.

Red Flags

What does a Red Flag mean?

Marshals have two flags; a yellow and a red. The yellow flag means ‘obstruction ahead, proceed with caution’, or ‘watch out, there’s a rider down but he/she is getting back up and carrying on with the race’. The Red Flag means stop. Do it safely, but do it as soon as you can. A red flag usually means an injured rider is on the track and other riders need to stop so they don’t ride into the downed rider or the first aider.

Its important to remember that marshals control the section of the track between themselves and the marshal uphill of them. If you have already ridden past the marshal before the flag is raised, carry on and finish the race. Also, it isn’t the marshals job to decide if any unfair advantage has been gained by a rider, it’s the lucky ATBA-UK race officials who have to do that.

What to do if there is a red flag

If a marshal ahead of you raises a Red Flag you should stop immediately as safely as you can. Watch out for any riders behind you who might not have seen the Red Flag. Once you have stopped, get yourself ready to go again when the Red Flag is dropped (but make sure you don’t do anything that could be seen as gaining an unfair advantage such as hopping ahead of another stopped rider or uphill to the top of a roller). When the Red Flag drops, the race is on again and you should get riding and get yourself across the finish line.

Riders who willfully disobey a Red Flag can be disqualified. It’s not clever and it’s not cool.

Reruns

What is a ‘rerun’?

A rerun is where the results of a race are ignored and the same race is run again. We use reruns as a way of countering ‘unfair advantage’. So, if a rider lost their position in a race because they had to avoid a buffalo that had wondered onto the track, they would be able to ask for a rerun as the others riders could be said to have an unfair advantage. But if a rider lost their position in a race because they fell off, or another rider accidentally collided with them, they wouldn’t be able to ask for a rerun as none of the riders in that race had an unfair advantage.

When you can ask for a rerun?

If you think another rider has gained an unfair advantage because of something they did or something outside of anyone’s control, you can ask for a rerun. An example might be if a rider left the track, and then joined it again ahead of other riders they were previously behind. Unfair advantage = Rerun. If something happens and you think your race should be rerun, firstly finish your race (in case the decision is made not to rerun). Once you have crossed the finish line, immediately speak to the official who recorded the result of your race. Politely explain the situation and why you think the race should be rerun. They’ll make a decision as quickly as they can and if they decide the race should be rerun, they’ll ask all of the riders to go back to the top of the hill.

Always improving

As always, the competitions can only happen if people volunteer to help run them. So if you, or someone you know, comes to the comps but doesn’t compete being a marshal or race official is a great way to help. And, the more often a person works as a marshal, the better they’ll get at it, which makes the racing safer.

If you have any suggestions to improve the competitions, or want to talk about how the comps are run or your race in particular, we are always happy to chat with you, either after the comp or via email, facebook, etc.

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Round 4 is going to be a hot one – Be prepared

This weekend temperatures are forecasted to reach 30 degrees. And, if you hadn’t noticed, mountainboarding can be pretty physically demanding, even more so in hot weather. So, make sure you are prepared for this weekend.

  • Bring plenty of water and drink it. Dehydrated mountainboarders fall over more. Fact.
  • Wear sun screen. That’s a good name for song.
  • Wear a hat, and a t-shirt. Sun burn is not cool.
  • If you’re going faster than you’d like, let your tyres down. It’s quicker to get down the track in one smooth run than by having to slide out.
  • Don’t leave dogs in cars. Get them out and go dogboarding.

See you at Ironsides for more awesomeness than you ever thought possible.

The History of Downhill Comps

Last year saw the first successful series of downhill mountainboard competitions ever held in the UK. This year is looking like it’s going to be just as good. Let’s take a look back at the history of Downhill comps.

2005 – The history

The first ever UK downhill competition was held in Scotland in 2005. I wasn’t there, but there is video:


By all accounts it was pretty memorable with very few riders making it down the track clean. But then, not much happened in Downhilling for a few years.

2009 – Sewing the seeds

I spent quite a bit of 2009 exploring new places to mountainboard, with more than a few of them in Wales. I started riding long Welsh firetracks with Joe and learning techniques from him. I remember us riding a track called ‘Ballbearing’ because it was covered in small round gravel. I had harder tyres and so should have been going faster (I thought, anyway), but Joe started pumping his board side-to-side and accelerating away from me. I was amazed. That wasn’t supposed to happen. I had a lot to learn from Joe.

The more time I spent riding with Joe the more I realised we shared a lot of the same ideas about mountainboarding. We spent many evenings in various pubs around Wales talking about all sorts; from getting regular freeride meets going, to how mountainboarders had shifted to riding in collectives rather than clubs, to where we saw mountainboarding going in the future. Some of our ideas were a little more outlandish than others. The mountainboard rally may never be more than a few pencil marks on a map, but a lot of the things we talked about set the foundations for how we would come to organise Downhill comps. Using synchronised watches to time riders was one of those eureka moment ideas that should have been obvious long before all the walkie-talkie-stopwatch experiments. Running all the riders together so we didn’t have to worry about which category they were in, or whether they had brakes or not, was also something we thought a good idea. All we needed was somewhere to do it.

Joe was the one who first found Dave. As soon as he told me about it, I had to get over there and ride it. Firetracks, by their very nature, can be quite dull to ride. They are pretty much just a slightly uneven road, without any features or obstacles. Of all the firetracks we had ridden, Dave was the most varied and more interesting. Each corner was different, some were tight and rocky, others were wide and slidey. It had a chicane, fast straights, slow sections, and was without a doubt one of the best firetracks to ride. But at the time, I didn’t even think of putting on a competition there. If I was going to do a competition, I wanted it to be quintessential English Freeride (leafy woodland), and I wanted it to be amazing. Oh, the vanity…

2010 – Don’t say the ‘C’ word

We found out about Cheddar from a guy who runs bike endurance competitions. We checked it out, figured we could put in a pretty awesome track, that we could run an uplift with a minibus, and that the campsite at the bottom of the hill would be the perfect place for the riders to stay. All we needed was permission. We spoke to the campsite owners who said ‘Yes’. Yes, we could all stay at the campsite. And, Yes, we could could clear a track down that there gnarly hill.

It was an awesome track (the videos don’t show just how fast, technically difficult, and physically demanding it was). Anyway, as it turned out, the campsite didn’t actually own the hill and the quarrying company that did were less than pleased about us being there and threatened to sue us if we ever returned. In some ways, I think, we were lucky it didn’t go ahead. The course was a bit too gnarly for a first venture into downhilling. It would have only attracted a very small minority of riders who like gnarly singletrack in the woods, would have had lots of falling off, would have cost more money than it made, and would have most likely set downhilling in the UK back even further than not having a comp at all. So, undeterred, we set out to find somewhere else. It had to have a cool track, that would work for both brake and no-brake riders. It needed to have a way of running an uplift, and somewhere nearby to camp. Surely not too much to ask.

2011 – Time for something different

After what seemed like ages spent searching the internet, driving all over the place, and hiking up and down plenty of hills, we found somewhere with potential. It was a bike track in Somerset, and they already held mountainbike competitions so getting a mountainboard comp there shouldn’t have been too difficult.

Unfortunately the place was owned by a crazy millionaire land-owner who would only communicate through letters, and despite site visits, test rides, and numerous letters, I eventually had to accept that it was going nowhere. For a while I was struggling to see how we could ever get DH comps going, and then, finally I realised my mistake. I had been trying to take the way we do comp’s at centres and move it into a remote location, one without power, water, toilets, etc. I was trying to be too big too soon. It just wasn’t viable, financially or logistically. It was never going to work. We needed a different way of doing things.

The realisation that we didn’t need to use the two-day centre-based way of organising comps and could in fact do a downhill comp in one-day was a pivotal point, and actually came as a bit of a shock to me. It changed the way I thought about things and opened up the possibility of a downhill comp actually happening. Joe and I began talking more seriously, and Joe’s project planning skills came in really handy. We began to work out what were the important parts of a downhill comp. We only wanted the vital aspects, nothing extra. Just what the riders really wanted, rather than what we thought would make a comp look impressive. And if there was something that we could do, but it didn’t add any real value to the comp, it was thrown out.

We decided that rather than having to arrange things like a campsite, catering and toilets, we could let the riders take care of themselves. We’d point them in the direction of a local campsite, but one of the benefits of doing the comp in a day was that riders could turn up just for the day if they wanted. We threw out the idea of practice runs. Why did we need to waste riding time practicing when those runs might as well be timed? We wanted riders to get as many runs for their entry fee as possible and a quick bit of maths said we could aim for at least five runs. We didn’t need a complicated digital timing system, synchronised watches and paper would do just fine. We didn’t need a huge team of volunteers. The comp could be run with two people; one at the bottom recording the finish times, and another driving the uplift and recording the start times. We knew our ‘minimum viable product’, to use entrepreneurial speak, would be a standalone downhill comp that could be run by two people with basic timing and an uplift. All we needed was the riders.

Twenty four riders competed at the first ‘Dave’ comp. We were expecting eighteen. They all piled in the back of my car with smiles on their their faces and rode a dusty Dave again and again. To no ones surprise JC won with a time that was 14 seconds ahead of second place. Seeing him riding was like seeing some rare animal released back into it’s natural environment. Pretty much everyone seemed to have a good time and encouraged us to want to do more downhill comps.

Dave was undoubtedly a success. It got the UK Downhill ball rolling. But if we were going to grow Downhilling we would need to learn from Dave so we could improve. So, using Eric Reis’ Build-Measure-Learn loop as a model we surveyed those twenty four riders, thought about what told us, and gave ourselves realistic feedback. We decided that next year we needed to use riders numbers to make it easier for the person doing the timing to identify riders, we needed a bigger uplift, and a quicker and more reliable way of working out the times. And we needed more comps.

2012 – The Three Nations

For 2012, we wanted a Series of three comps. Having one in England, one in Wales, and one in Scotland seemed geographically fair, and gave us more scope for finding places to hold comps. The comp in the Lake District came about because while a group of us were riding there one day, the head ranger offered us a lift over to a track on the far side of the hill at Whinlatter Forest. He said that if we ever wanted to organise anything there, to send him an email. So we did. Riding at Dave was an easy choice for Wales. We already knew the track, the ranger, and how to run a comp there. And for Scotland Dave and Allan wanted to resurrect the track used in 2005, albeit tamed down a bit.

The work that went on behind each comp had it’s challenges. Even though all three comps were on Forestry Commission managed land, each FC Office had their own way of doing things and their own rules that had to be had to be followed. In Scotland, the uplift had to have seat belts, which is how we hit upon the idea of getting a minibus to take riders from down south up to there in the most cost effective way, and use it for the uplift too. We didn’t get enough people interested in getting a minibus to Scotland, but at least we know that now (and it’s all about failing fast and learning lots in new endeavours). Wales is the most expensive with CROW access (gotta let the birds in). The Lake District had its own logistical challenges including lots of walkers.

We had seventy nine entries over all three comps, and just over 20% of those riders had never competed in centre-based comps. That’s a pretty good growth in competitor numbers and proved to us that the riders want Downhill comps. The problem for us was that we realised that we had reached maximum capacity with about thirty riders. Any more than that and we wouldn’t be able to get them to the top of track and set them off quick enough.

2013 – Where do we go from here?

We don’t really want to keep going back to the same places and riding the same tracks year after year. That’s one of the things that limits BoarderX and Freestyle, but with Downhill finding tracks of the right length and technical difficulty that we can actually get permission to ride is getting harder and harder. Having done firetracks, the 2013 DH comps to go in a slightly different direction, into the woods, and perhaps even up a mountain. We’ve chosen tracks would that aren’t too hard nor too easy as we still want to encourage people who aren’t into hardcore DH to give it ago. This way, the Downhill comps can grow with the riders. As they get better, the tracks will get harder. We’ve also got a lot of work ahead liaising with organisations like the Forestry Commission and the National Trust to build a legacy and make sure we’ve got places to go in future years.

UK Series 2013 – Update

With the sad news of Haredown closing we’ve made some changes to the schedule of competitions for the UK Series 2013.

Round 1 – 6th April – Downhill – Head Down, Hampshire.
Round 2 – 18th & 19th May – Boarderx & Freestyle – Hales Superbole, Cheshire.
Round 3 – 15th & 16th June – Downhill – South Oxfordshire.
Round 4 – 13th & 14th July – Boarderx & Freestyle – Ironsides, Herefordshire.
Round 5 – 3rd August – Downhill – Scotland.
Round 6 – 17th & 18th August – Boarderx & Freestyle – Bugs Boarding, Gloucestershire.
Round 7 – 7th September – Downhill – Llangollen, Wales.

We all wish everyone at Haredown all the best.

UK Mountainboard Series 2013 – Competition Dates

The when and the wheres of the UK Mountainboard Series 2013.

Round 1 – April – Downhill – Location to be confirmed
Round 2 – 18th & 19th May – Boarderx & Freestyle – Hales Superbole
Round 3 – 15th & 16th June – Boarderx & Freestyle – Haredown
Round 4 – 13th & 14th July – Boarderx & Freestyle – Ironsides
Round 5 – August – Downhill – Location to be confirmed
Round 6 – 17th & 18th August – Boarderx & Freestyle – Bugs Boarding
Round 7 – September – Downhill – Location to be confirmed

2012 Season – Chairman’s Report

Chairman’s Report 2012

Introduction

This report sets out the achievements of this year’s committee.

Events

This year we had 126 Competitors over 11 competitions with 390 entries (3.7% increase, compared to 376 last year). Average number of competitions entered: 3.09

The Novice/Grom’s category was continued to make it easier for first time riders to enter. This year we had 28 riders who had never competed in an ATBA-UK competition before.

The BoarderX race system has been revised to work better with smaller numbers of competitors. There were 177 BoarderX Entries.

Freestyle competitions for all categories have been run using a Jam format to make the competitions more interesting for the riders and spectators. There were 134 Freestyle entries.

After the success of last year’s Downhill competition, this year we did a three round Downhill Series for the riders who are into freeriding and downhilling. The competitions took place in the Lake District, Wales and Scotland and had 79 Downhill entries. We’ve secured four Centre-based competitions for 2013 and are working on three Downhill competitions.

Membership

This year we have 174 Members (16% increase, compared to 150 last year). The New Riders free membership has been a success bringing in 63 new mountainboarders into the community.

Promotion

Regular Press Releases have been sent to newspapers and national and local sports organisations to raise the profile of the competitions.

The ATBA-UK youtube channel has been utilised to increase coverage of the events.

Resources

We have purchased a laptop and generator to make running competitions smoother and make the ATBA-UK more self-sufficient.

Standards

We are working on the first draft of an updated Instructor Manual which will give instructors a more robust skill set and allow Assessors to deliver the training in more ways.

Other achievements

We provided some rider sponsorship for Joe Dickson and Josh Maddocks to go to Russia to compete in the World Freestyle Challenge.

-Raph La Roche, Chairman

Team Challenge Results

Which team is best at Downhill? Who are the best freestylers? Which team earned the most points in BoarderX? Check out the results for the Team Challenge.