Bikes and post race beers. Now in its 5th year, the Halo Bristol Oktoberfest is the season ending race for many, set on the same iconic trails as the Summer Bikefest and sharing the same cracking atmosphere and buzz. It may lack the high  temperatures and dusty trails of mid summer, but it has an altogether different attraction with the changing colour of the flora and leaves littering the trails, even more so when it stays dry.

Familiar faces mixed with plenty of new ones. The headline sponsors Halo wheels and VW Heritage, were pitched up showing off their latest offerings along with a number of other trade stands such as Niner Bikes who had the brand new full suspension RKT frame on display. Food was catered for by the ever excellent Luff Bus. Their tortilla, meat or veggie, is perfect recovery food!


Wideopenmag put together a great video

With less available light, the format is 'only' 8 hours or a choice of the am or pm 4 hour event. Being mid autumn, the 9am start was super chilly, down jackets replacing T-shirts for those supporting and holding bikes at the start, for the 'dreaded' run up the bottom section of the gravel climb. It's always a spectacle, a mass of cyclists trying to run as quickly as possible in stiff soled shoes. Just don't forget where you left the bike!

By the time I had arrived for the pm 4 hour, racing was well under with riders having settled into their pace, especially the 8 hour soloists. Editor Steve had been going for 4 hours by the time I started and was feeling the relentess pace set by those at the sharp end of the solo category. Knowing the course is always an advantage, with lap times around 27-28 minutes depending on 'traffic' and the legs.

The 4hour pm race got away with doing a long run (yippee!) so as to avoid getting in the way of those out on course, running to the bottom of the gravel climb only. The gravel climb may only be brief but it still spikes the heart rate by the top, dropping into rolling singletrack is a welcome relief!

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The trails here never disappoint, rolling, fast, fun singletrack interspersed with short, sharp, lung busting climbs. A course which requires skill and fitness for the fastest times. The speed of the fastest guys and gals on the singletrack is impressive, looking almost effortless going into each turn where my tyres are seemingly at the edge of their grip, but lacking speed. Not being a proper local anymore, it took a few laps to learn the best lines again. It's one of those courses where you can get into the flow of trails, improving on each lap,  grinning more and more as you drop in and out of each twist and turn and every lump and dip faster and faster. A short travel full sus is a perfect bike. The Specialized Epic I was using smoothed out the trail, making me able to ride faster and reducing fatigue. The advantages of a fully far outweighed the added weight.

What's particularly great about this event is the spirit inwhich everyone races, being there for a crack at a podium spot or a personal and fun challenge. Everyone was so courteous when asking to pass them, it was never too much trouble. Thanks all.

Having a pit crew always helps. My partner and her 2 boys of 6 and 8 did a sterling job of handing out bottles and gels. Although I need to remind the boys of what the difference between gels and bars is! Shouts from friends and family and the sound of cowbells coming into the arena is what makes this such a great, local event, despite being able to smell the waft of cooking food and wanting to stop and eat what's cooking!


As the hours passed, the fatigue was telling in everyone on the gravel and steeper forest climb. 8 hour soloists were still tapping it out and many a singlespeeder succumbed to walking up the forest climb, its gradient and lack of grip on the damp stoney surface taking their toll on the legs.

With all laps having to be completed before the 5pm cut off, my 8th lap was to be my last. Coming into the arena with 20 minutes to go, I could relax and look forward to a huge slice of the Luff Bus's tortilla at last! I had done enough to win the 4hour solos overall and the vets solo, beaten overall by the pairs team of Clee Cycles.

[caption id="attachment_13430" align="aligncenter" width="300"]1 someone else was pleased at my trophy too![/caption]

A great haul of prizes; 3 bottles of beer and the much coverted Oktoberfest Pretzl. Which I didn't get to eat much of as someone else ate it!


Now onto some cx racing for a few weeks. That's going to be a shock to the endurance legs.

Thanks to sponsors Tredz, GoreBikeWear, Rotor, Topeak, Ergon, and Torq

Editor Steve had a crack at the 8hour solo, but started the 8hr race with a massive doubt about the distance as his longest ride this year has been 4.5hrs so it was a  jump  into the unknown.
I was hoping the muscle memory will return and the legs would remember what to do when the lactic builds and the body hurts so I was happy to have my KTM Scarp with its plush suspension and fast handling of this fun course around Ashton Court.
Also I was testing tyres for Vee Tyre co, their new tyre the Rail Tracker 29x2.1 synthesis nano. I wasn't sure when fitting them and to be honest I thought great another semi slick fast but no grip and a crash waiting to happen but holy hell never have I felt nothing like it rolled like a slick  but come to cornering I couldn't unstick it no matter how hard I tried, the only slight thing was on the switch left to right and vice versa you go across the centre line which could be interesting on gravel bends but overall I thought it was a great tyre.
Back in 2011 when I last started the Oktoberfest 8hr solo I was a hardened solo endurance racer but a heart condition after that event kept me down in short course racing for a few years but getting down to the bottom of the gravel round the old feelings returns and the sensible head kicked steady pace eat a lot and ride at a set pace no faster no slower!!!
Sounds simple yes?
Well the race started and that went out the window full gas through the crowd pass everywhere get near the front and save nothing for the first lap and let thing settle down, and after the chaos the race settled with George Budd flying away down the trail and we all tried to keep him in sight and for the next few laps I had a few shakey moments as I tried to find my pace but manage to settle at a constant 30min laps which I was very happy with considering my lack of hours and started to pick of the fast starters over the next few laps.
The challenge of ultra distance is the mind as the brain like to play games one min saying your so strong the next your going to die but a challenge shouldn't be easy should it?
Getting up to lap 8 and half distance the distance started to feel achieve able and hopefully with a podium spot so started to feel confident but to say this was fool hardy is an understatement as I moved into 4th in the 8hr a few seconds of 3rd I started to dig in a bit more and on lap 10 when starting the big climb the legs said no more and I slowed right down, basically the lack of hours finally showed but this did reignite my passion for the stupid and thought turn to 24hour solo racing in the near future!
Hopefully the wife doesn't read this!
I pulled up after lap 11 and was I disappointed? no not really as it was an experiment to see if I had the appetite for the distance and I have but need to spend more time with my bum on a saddle.
Thank you KTM for the amazing Scarp and Vee tyres for the test tyres.

Check out Bristol Bikefest's other events at

Photos by Wideopenmag and Robert Barker