The surprise hit event of the year is back and set to be bigger and better. Howies Battle on the Beach returns on March 22nd, 2015 with entries opening at midnight on January 1st.
The UK's only bicycle beach race will be held at the same venue as last year; Pembrey Country Park on the South Wales Coast. Once an M.O.D playground used as a munitions factory during both World Wars riders will ride over ex-military tracks, through old tunnels, round pillboxes and along a vast swathe of beach. Hopefully this year the bomb squad won't be called out to look at a suspicious item in the sand whilst the racing’s going on.
Beach Racing has come across the Channel from the flat countries of Northern Europe where over the last few years it’s grown from something silly to do during the winter into becoming quite A Thing; with a series of races, sponsored teams, hundreds of people turning up to race, and even a specialist Beach Racer bike available to buy. Road.cc have had a go at one of these beach races, and despite the distinct absence of hills it was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, and a lot of fun. Once it was over.
While it hasn’t quite taken off in the UK yet where suitable 25km long beaches are in short supply, and those that might be have piers and donkeys on, the 300 places for last year’s inaugural Battle on the Beach sold out within days, so there’s plainly an appetite for this kind of silly over here too. Unfortunately there’s only eight miles of sand at Cefn Sidan to play with, and Battle on the Beach has only managed to secure a few of those so the rest of the course takes in the dunes and woodland singletrack that border the beach to make a loop that riders have to lap several times, making it a little different to your standard out-and-back beach race.
Set against the spectacular backdrop of the Gower Peninsula and coastal scenery of Carmarthen Bay, Battle on the Beach is open to all off-road bicycles, if it rolls on dirt and you can pedal it, it’s fine. Mountainbike or cyclo-cross bike or one of those fat-bikes, the choice of bike is up to you. Will the dropped-bars of a CX bike be an advantage when it comes to fighting into the wind along the beach, or will the wider bars and fatter tyred confidence of a mountainbike be a wiser choice for the singletrack sections? Want to ride a fat-bike instead and have a crack at the Fat-Bike UK Championship? Your decision.
Keen to compare the experience with a proper beach race road.cc entered last year’s Battle on the Beach, and whilst it didn’t offer the excruciating purity of fighting along an featureless expanse of sand into a block headwind, and while it was still incredibly hard work, it was probably a lot more fun, with the woodland sections offering a smiley respite from the wind. The highlight of the racing being pedaling a 29er mountainbike and working in a mini-peloton with a cyclo-cross bike and a fat-bike to survive the beach section. There’s some kind of inclusivity to all forms of cycling tale to be told there.
To get a good flavour of what to expect here’s a video that Charge Bikes made of last year’s event:
Your entry price to Battle on the Beach of £26 includes camping for the Saturday night when there will also be the Kinesis UK Roller Racing for anyone to have a go at. If you want to make a family weekend of it there will be kids races on the Sunday morning plus Frog bike roller racing on the Saturday night, plus the beautiful park and miles of beach means the family will have something to do when they are not shouting at you. But if the kids think watching you race is boring Pembrey Country Park has the longest toboggan run in Wales, Segway rides, pony trekking, a 130 metre long dry ski slope, a giant adventure playground and eight marked wildlife trails.
The course has been designed for both serious racers and those that want a bit of a laugh, with more than a few surprises around the course to keep everyone on guard, although hopefully the headset deep puddles from last year might have disappeared.
There will £1000 cash up for grabs for the victorious, and bundles of swag from the sponsors howies, ENVE, Lezyne and Schwalbe. Entries for howies Battle on the Beach open at midnight January 1st 2015, but be quick, last year the event sold out in 3 days.
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.