The End 2 End Mountain Bike challengeThe Isle of Man is well known for racing on two wheels with the World famous TT road race. However the island is also home to some fantastic road cycling and mountain biking with events taking place year round. The End 2 End is one such challenge. taking place in September each year.
At Island Escapes we ourselves are keen (but fairly amateur) mountain bikers so this year we decided to enter the gruelling End 2 End mountain bike challenge. With a mass start at the Point of Ayre the course takes in a fabulous 75km route through the Manx countryside finishing at Port Erin in the south of the island. The End 2 End has been running since 1996 and draws many visiting mountain bikers to the island to take part in this mighty challenge. The route has changed slightly over the years with the organisers working hard with Government and private land owners to ensure the event remains fresh and continues to challenge all those that take part.
Having both completed the event a few years ago we were really looking forward to taking on some of the new sections this year. The event has been great for the sport on the island as much of the funds raised have been used to create a legacy of trails for riders to enjoy year round. This year saw the introduction of a new category for e-bikes completing the half course from St John’s to Port Erin.
So fully fuelled and equipped for a great day out we headed up to the Point of Ayre for the start. Greeted by overcast skies and a strong south westerly headwind we lined up for the mass start. The first 100 seeded riders set off first, with the remaining split into two groups setting off at 5 minute intervals.
The course takes you on a diverse journey from North to South. Setting off from the Point of Ayre we headed through the Ayres Nature reserve, an area normally excluded for mountain bikers before picking up the road to Ballaugh. I found this section a particularly tough start with a brutal headwind, nobbly tyres and a general dislike of cycling on the road! But it is all part of the challenge, and soon we found ourselves heading uphill through the Ballaugh plantation and our first taste of the altitude of the Manx hills! The field was fairly spread out by this point. Crossing the road and feed station at Brandywell the course takes on some fairly fast downhill firetrack balanced out with a few uphill slogs. The reward being a fun descent down to St Johns and the half way point.
At St Johns there is an option for those wanting a less challenging option to enter the half End 2 End course, which starts at this point, along with the e-bikes. Passing through St Johns we continued south up the steep Barnell track, at this point David seemed to be particularly slow, I was wondering what was happening when I saw him pushing his bike along the flat track at the top, it was the end of his ride for the day unfortunately as the rear hub had failed on his bike. So, on my own I carried onto the single track decent through Arrasey plantation. Probably my favourite section of course, the trail weaves through the trees downhill steeply in places to the valley below and is great fun! This section has been developed in recent years and is available to enjoy year round thanks to the legacy of the End 2 End.
When you find yourself at the bottom of a valley with hills all around it does inevitably mean one thing, a climb. And the infamous “pipeline” climb is one mountain bikers from the island are all too aware of. Fully rideable on a good day the sun was now beating down, and I’ll have to confess for pushing most of the bottom section.
At the top though a combination of single track and firetrack takes you to the Sloc, where you will enjoy stunning views to the south of the island and Calf of Man. A satisfying blast down the mountain bike trail on the side of Cronk Ny Aree Laa makes up for the earlier climbs and soon the end feels like it really is in sight!
The finale is the climb to Bradda Head above Port Erin bay, after which a mighty decent down what is normally a public footpath right along the edge of the bay provides an incredible setting for the finish. The noise of music and commentary echoing around the bay lets you know you are nearly home!
Crossing the finish line you really do feel a sense of achievement, no matter the ability it is a gruelling day out and a real challenge – what more could you ask for? Just a pint of Bushy’s Manx ale and some fish and chips on the wall outside The Bay Hotel – perfect!
The End 2 End takes place every September, but there are many more mountain biking events to enjoy on the island including Cyclefest in May, Longest Day Longest ride (a great 24hr event that can be completed solo or in a team) in June and the Manx 100 in July. In addition the Manx Mountain Bike club organises smaller events throughout the year.
Alternatively, the Isle of Man has an extensive network of greenways connecting an ever increasing network of sculpted single track downhill tracks which vary in difficulty from novice to expert, interrupted with handy coffee stops on route, to allow you to explore at your own pace.
Some useful links:
End to End Challenge: http://www.end2end.im/
Longest day, Longest ride: http://www.ldlr.im/
Manx 100: http://manx100.com/
Isle of Man Cyclefest: http://www.iomcyclefest.com/
Manx MTB club: https://www.manxmtb.com
Trailforks – IOM MTB routes: https://www.trailforks.com/region/isle-of-man-14558/
Credits: Chris Watson and ManxMTB club for photos
Blog by John Keggin, Island Escapes