Mountain Bike Orienteering (MTBO) is a competitive discipline that sends riders out to find checkpoints hidden on bridleways, forestry trails, and purpose built mountain bike trails.
Each checkpoint has a score according to its location and distance from the start point. The aim is to visit as many as possible in the allotted time (up to three hours) - and the winner in each category is the rider or team who scores most points.
Mountain Bike Orienteering: The event begins...
You set out with a laminated map on which you plan your route before you leave the ride HQ (in this case, the village hall!). The event can be won or lost at this crucial stage and there is much discussion within teams about the best route.
The map for the Peaslake event covers quite a large area from Leith Hill to Winterfold and beyond - so most riders don’t manage to get to every checkpoint within three hours (and there are time penalties for exceeding it) so you need to plan carefully.
Peaslake MTBO started several years ago and is run twice a year by local dads as a fundraiser for the village school. It's popular with both male and female riders with 3-hour categories for solo women and women’s teams alongside the equivalent men’s and mixed team categories. There’s also an open 2hr event and a kids trail, all riding through the beautiful – and sometimes challenging - Surrey Hills trails.
One of the joys of this event is that there is no mass start – instead, you set off when you’re ready and follow your own route. You meet other riders out on the trails, but because everyone is following their own plan you have no idea of how they are doing until the end.
It’s also a super relaxed event - some riders ride hard and go for the win, while others treat it as a ride out with friends, with a bit of a challenge thrown in.
More than 160 riders took part in this event, and it even attracted local riders who know the trails inside out (though not where the checkpoints are positioned, which is top secret until the day!), competitive orienteers and triathletes, and even a mum and son combination – on the same bike: “I did explain that there were alternative routes around the singletrack sections," said organiser Charlie, "but Gina told me that she was quite happy to ride them".
Gina Dowding and two-year-old Hugh, we salute you!
Once back at HQ you submit your score then feast on the array of homemade cakes on offer, chat to other riders and, fingers crossed, soak up the sunshine while you recover and wait to find out who won the prizes provided by sponsors Pedal and Spoke, amongst others.
The next Peaslake MTBO takes place on October 1st, 2017 - and it's a great event that I'd definitely recommend!
Find out more about British Mountain Bike Orienteering here.
Photo copyright: Paulmitchellphotographer.com