12-hour night DH ride for SportsAidWeek - Very hard!!!

Posted by Sov Atkinson at

SportsAid is a charity that supports the next generation of British Athletes. I felt compelled to support their fundraising SportsAid Week, as they have provided me with a lot of support. With the my parents’ assistance, we brainstormed ideas to fundraise. I wanted a challenge, something to do with my bike and just something out of the norm. We come up with, night riding at Gawton Gravity Hub. It is my local Mountain Bike Club, with 5 downhill tracks and we decided to do the red track (the least technical one), as the other black tracks might be a bit too technical to do at night, plus we had to stick this out for 12 hours. We set a date, 1st October 2016, and got in contact with SportsAid.

To advertise this event, we made posters and stuck them up in local bike shops, my school and my mum’s work place (Plymouth university), plus dad’s work place (HMS Ocean). We also posted an event on our local bike club Facebook page, Gawton Gravity Hub, and all my social media pages. We were hoping that people will come out and ride with us throughout the night, as my dad (he is deployed) could not be with us to act as security when we ride back up (or push up) the hill; the woods can be a bit scary for just mum and I.

Saturday morning (01/10/2016)

My mum and I agreed NOT to wake up until 11:00 in the morning, as our weekend sleep-in is 08:30 at the latest, usually. So, it was a luxury to just stay in bed. We prepared by having pancakes for breakfast of course! My mum made some SportsAid bunting and blew up the SportsAid balloons. We arrived at Gawton at 17:30 and we tied the balloon at the start of the track and the bunting on either side of the start of the track. We also laid out some glow sticks along the side of the track. It did not look great when we looked at it in the light, but come dark, it looked pretty cool!! We also taped 3 glow sticks to the spoke of each of our wheels. Our base camp for the night is the club hut.


My 1st run, still looking quite clean!

Then, the darkness sets in and the track looked pretty cool with all the glow sticks, lighting our way down the track.

We got to the start ramp just before 19:00 and the rain started to chuck down. We rode our 1st run tentatively as it was dusk and we’ve never ridden here in the dark. The track looked totally different to when it was light and seemed more technical! Who knew?! We rode up the push-up track (12% gradient) together, trying to plan our night; this usually takes about 15 mins ride up, at talking pace or 25 mins of walking and pushing the bike up. There is just the 2 of us, as no other riders were there to ride with us yet. We wished that my dad was with us, as he would be banterous as always with his puns and the ride up won’t be so bad when you are laughing at silly puns.


Chaz Lamely (the Gawton Racing Officer) and his wife, Mandy, turned on the generator in the hut for us whilst we were on our first run. He also connected some ferry lights to the front and inside of the hut and had a fire burning in the hut for warmth. Now that we have power, we had charging facilities for phones and batteries, as mum was worried that the battery may not last for 12 hours.


Lighting up Gawton Gravity Hub hut (our base camp for the night), with Chaz Lamely and Sean Algar for the support.

By our 3rd lap, we had Arron Jones, Chris Lamely and Andy Boyle (all Gawton members) riding with us. They were fresh and they were quick, they may have forgotten that we already did 3 laps before they joined us. Arron, Chris and Andy left us before 12:00 and we were joined by Harry and Rob Barnaby plus their dog, Ziggy. Mandy and Chaz were our assistants for the night; they stayed the whole night to keep us company, kept the fire burning. They made teas, coffees and bacon baps throughout the night. We are then joined also by Sean Algar, another club member, for a few laps. He also has never ridden during the night; he crashed a few times and overall enjoyed it! He left us before 03:00 as he had to work the next day. It was great to ride with other young people you may not have ridden with before and the chatting on the push-up was great! Mum pointed out that Harry, Sean and I are all doing sciences at A-Level and intending to do science at university and all like to ride bikes! So, now there was just us and Harry riding for the rest of the night.

Chaz Lamely, Arron Jones, Mandy Lamely, Andy Boyle and me enjoying a cup of tea!


Mum and I looking  very muddy and wet but still quite perky at this time.

We made sure we were eating and drinking after each lap but we were so hungry by 02:30 ish. This was my low point, I wanted to give up at this point, and I was tired and wet. The rain did eventually stop, but it was still so cold!! My mum remained ever cheerful and upbeat, pushing Harry and I to keep going, she is riding with us every run! Our goal was to do 12 laps that is at least 1 lap per hour, which seems doable. I have done 12 runs before, but with uplifts and in shorter amount of time and during the day. However, mum being the most enthusiastic of all, said let’s try to beat the uplift day. On a paid uplift day, the driver will take you back up 14 times, or 14 runs. So, we did the 14 runs, we were so exhausted and we barely chatted as we just wanted to get it done and go to bed!


Harry and Maya on our 14th run.

However, when we got back to the hut, we had 30 mins left and mum said, we should try to beat the uplift day and make it 15 runs! Why the hell not!!! So, we did!

 We got to bed at 08:30, after cleaning the hut and the track up. Bloody exhausted!!!

Operation clean up, after a quick nap.

Overall it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but knowing the money raised would go to a good charity made it all worthwhile. We raised £642.05; all thanks to my school friends, staff and students at Plymouth University (my mum’s work place), staffs on HMS Ocean (my dad’s workplace), Gawton Gravity Hub (visitors/riders, committee and non-committee members), Woodland Riders Racing (Chaz and Mandy), neighbours on my street, MTB Chix and Trails and my fellow riders who brave the night to ride.

A big thank you to staff at HMS Ocean for their donations.

Thank you for reading.

Maya Atkinson

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