Malverns Classic 2022

Over the bank holiday weekend, Owen and I went to the Malverns Classic – a mountain bike festival at Eastnor Deer Park in Herefordshire. Last year, we went as a family, on the way back from our holiday, for Henry’s first bike race, but this year Owen and I just went for the day. We did not have any races planned but did have a rough plan of attack to make the most of our day.

Our first stop was the Steel City Rippers skills area, to get Owen booked in for a skills session, as he was disappointed to have missed out last year. Fortunately, we were able to get him in for the 15:00 slot. From there we went to the pumptrack, bumping into some of our Little Rippers MTB friends in the queue. In a change from last year, pumptrack riders needed a number board, so I had to rush to the signing-on tent to get one for Owen, making it back before he got to the front of the queue. Owen rode well and got faster with each lap.

After the pumptrack, it was time for the highlight of the day – watching Danny MacAskill’s Drop and Roll show. Owen has been a fan of “Danny” since he was a baby, so to be able to see him riding in real life was incredibly exciting! He managed to get a spot right at the barrier, which he was only just able to see over… The show lived up to our expectations, with great riding and playing to the crowd. We were in the prime position for the drops off the van and the end-of-show “banger” – a backflip ending right in front of us.

After the excitement, we had a look around the trade stands, trying unsuccessfully to find Owen some new kneepads, but it was nice to catch up with our friends at Little Rider Co. We also saw Kazzi and Sophie from Ready Steady Riders (Owen and Henry’s balance bike coaches) in the pizza queue, so it was great to catch up with them. The pizza was good too!

Owen had been keen to do some riding, so we set off on the new-for-2022 “Fun Loop” – a singletrack loop up to the obelisk and back to the arena. It was a tough climb up, alongside the downhill trails, but the descent was more than worth it! It felt like we were riding an enduro stage – as the fresh, natural trail was taped like a race trail. There were a few bits that were too tricky for Owen, but he was looking far enough down the trail to realise this and stop, then walk down them. Which I would much rather than him just hucking off everything.

The ride and the hot sun had tired Owen out, so we ended up chilling out in the shade before Owen’s skills session. We watched the dirt jumpers practising their tricks on the huge jumps, and the livestream of the downhill world championships on the big screen. It was probably good to have some downtime, as Owen rode so well in the skills session – conquering each new feature as it was added to the loop. I was particularly impressed with how he handled the “skinny seesaw” – of the riders in his group, only Owen and an older girl managed it the first time without any help, and Owen hit it at a decent speed too (although I think they may have been told to ride up it slowly).

Owen seemed rejuvenated after his skills session, so we decided to watch the Drop and Roll show again. This time the crowd was bigger, but Owen managed to squeeze to the front. I was a few people back in the crowd, but I have never known Owen to wait for anything so patiently, especially as the show was late starting because everyone was glued to the climax of the world championships. We had chosen one of the corners of the arena where the riders congregated between runs, so Owen was really close to his heroes. The show was mostly a rerun of the morning show, but Danny did get out his gym ball, for one of his signature stunts, and the other riders added some new tricks.

We took a leisurely drive back to Coventry, stopping for a KFC, and Owen almost made it home without falling asleep! He said he had an amazing day, with the ride down from the obelisk being his highlight. My highlight was seeing all of the mountain biking families – the future of mountain biking seems to be in safe hands! The event is not exclusively aimed at families, but the organisers have made such a big effort to ensure kids are welcomed and entertained. It was even better than last year, and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for 2023, because I will definitely be going!