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The Hamsterley Beast

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480+ riders primed and ready to take on the Beast

The Hamsterley Beast has been and gone for another year, and its roar was even louder this year.

Many events start off as an idea around a pub table amongst mates after a ride, and this event was no exception. “Why don’t we put on an event, why don’t we raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance (GNAAS)? Let’s give something back” And so it began.


This rider was one of the first I saw, climbing a hill ominously called “The impossible dream”

Mountain biking is well known for being a sport that pushes riders to the limits, not only physically but also through high risks. Bikes are routinely being manufactured to go bigger and larger through jumps, rocks and roots. Falling off in trail centre rock gardens now a days has really high consequences and these places are often very difficult to get to due to poor access and being off the beaten track. This is where the Great North Air Ambulance comes into play, it is not uncommon to see the helicopter flying over Hamsterley Forest on a weekend from month to month. So those 3 lads around the table decided it was time to give something back.


Tom Hardy (Scouting for Trails), after 26 miles still finds the energy to style it up on the new trail K-line, these being the types of trails that have high consequences if you off. Photo John Latham.

To give it some perspective, every time the GNAAS is called out to an injured person, not only does it cost £4000 to treat that person, but that person also has a greater chance of surviving life threatening injuries. The GNAAS has an internationally enviable team of medics, paramedics, pilots and support teams. The 3 helicopters need servicing like everything else, but you wouldn’t expect much change from £1,000,000 each time. You may even hear folk complain that it’s a disgrace such a valuable service is funded by charity, but their Chief Executive Grahame Pickering states it helps them remain independent of government regulations and policies. Grahame is one of the most inspirational people to meet. He started the GNAAS off as a paramedic with time spent flying on the region’s air ambulance, and through sheer determination, dedication and his expertise the GNAAS became the charity it is today.


The GNAAS supplied help on the day, in the form of a dancing mascot. Photo Carol Solomon
The event has grown year on year, and 2017 turned into more of an event festival. With more people camping the night before than rode the first Hamsterley Beast in 2015, the organisers arranged local bands SRS, RockMonsters and a headline act Black Nevada. The campers bought beers and the atmosphere was all too good the night before a challenging mountain bike event.


Bands entertained the campers for a good few hours, SRS another local band. Photo Adam Sherratt


Local band Black Nevada provided a headline act

This year 486 people out of 580 who signed up turned up to ride the challenge. The route was brutal this year as the focus was more on a challenge ride than gravity and technical trails. (You can blame someone from last year’s event complaining that it was too easy). Approximately 20 miles were within the Hamsterley Forest, finding as many hills to climb, some more than once. For you strava fanatics, you’ll know one climb as “the impossible dream” that sums it up perfectly. There was some reward as riders were able to sample a new trail by the name of “K line” for the first time, the trail is not complete yet but the vibes from riders were most encouraging. Total respect to the Hamsterley Trailblazers for building this one and letting the event use it.


K-line received so much praise, it’s going to be a belter when it’s complete. Photo John Latham

The other part of the 40 miles was out into the moorlands and Bollihope Common. Private land that the organisers worked miracles to use involved a prolonged beast of a climb and into soul destroying head winds too.


Miles away from Hamsterley forest and into strong head winds, the spirits were still high. Photo Stephen Brian

There are always moving stories to tell at events like this, often too many to mention, however, one that has to be shared is that of Jade Calvey who has raised £3,162.50. His brother in law Alex Wright had ridden the 2 previous Hamsterley Beasts, but sadly passed away not long ago. Jade rode the challenge on Alex’s bike in his memory, when this was mentioned on the day as a tribute, there was a very moving spontaneous applause from the riders waiting at the start. A further emotionally charged moment was at the start, moments before the riders set off a flyover by the GNAAS helicopter in acknowledgment of the riders and organisers for their efforts.


Jody Sellars riding the Beast for the 3rd time seen here during the 40 mile mass start. MUSCLES!

For more information regarding the just giving page follow this link here. Not only does much of the entry fee go to the GNAAS, but individuals were encouraged to support the event and gain as much sponsorship as possible. Along with Jade, Carl Davies, Chris Dixon, Jonathan Parsons, Jon Barnett, Ben Jolly, Stephen Hardy and Gav Miller have all raised over £400 each, but please head over and see for yourselves how people are doing.


It was great to meet up with these guys. The Conister Bank Longest Day Longest Ride crew, go check out their gruelling event

Event photographers also volunteered, some of which had been involved in the event before, but also are experienced event photographers. All the photographs can be seen through roots and rain here, Seb over at roots has supported our event 2 years in a row.

More information and thanks/acknowledgments can be seen on the Beasts website here and their facebook page here. Everyone who has helped and made this happen will get a shout out.

A big shout out to Inspiral cycles and Gary Ewing in Bishop Auckland who loaned me a Diamondback ebike for the event, I’ve honestly always looked upon the assisted bike thing very negatively, but how wrong I was. So much fun to ride! I ended up playing far too much instead of taking photographs, but it had me zipping around the forest all day long doing jobs and chatting to riders, many of whom wanted to switch bikes with me! Go and look Inspiral up here


Not only does he run a “good honest bike shop” Inspiral Cycles, but Gary sure can ride a bike


More people camped over night and enjoyed the festival atmosphere than rode the first beast


Philip McCormick riding up a normally superb downhill trail


Olly and James from the Trailblazers did a recourse ride, James on the right rode the course twice and supported riders back to base. Massive kudos


The impossible dream climb had to be negotiated twice this year, yes, someone complained last years was too easy!


The centre of the event was littered with riders and bikes from early on. Photo Carol Solomon


Fancy dress was encouraged, but the weather was hot and sunny with evil headwinds across the moors


During the nights entertainment, Tom Mellows shows he’s a dab hand at stage diving….

So that’s it, the 2017 Hamsterley Beast has been and gone. The intention this year was to raise and hand over a cheque to GNAAS for £20,000 (previous years £10,000 and £17,500) and we look set to smash it this year.


Until next year, the Beast sleeps!!

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