On arriving I discovered the nightmare that is the Kendal one way system. Okay I am going to rant here. Please, please, please can the organisers produce some decent directional signage next year. Bunting is all well and good but no use to find decent parking or venues. Finally why was the fact that there was free all day parking in a near-by multi story not made abundantly clear. The council and organisers should share blame here. I wasted money on a car park that was further away, got stuck in the stupid badly sign posted one way system for an hour needlessly and had my mood ruined. To top things off the ease of dropping off my partner, who currently has a broken ankle at the main basecamp was a nightmare. The security guard there was amazing and let me in the closed car park to pick up and drop off but again no parking on a one way street and a camoflaged side road full of pedestrians! Really? Extreme sports people tend to hurt themselves and break limbs yet added to the fact that the Basecamp Yurt was hardly disabled friendly this seemed to be ignored except at Bike Night. Please organisers, can you consider this next year. Rant Over.
Anyway. Friday night was Bike Night so I wondered over to Kendal Leisure centre, where was ample free parking, to do my thing whilst Dave and James stayed around basecamp. There was a real excited atmosphere around the venue and an abundance of the long hair and beards which seem to be de riguer on the MTB scene these days. The atmosphere was "enlivened" by an in no way annoying brass band wearing fairy lights and playing contempory pop music at ear splitting volume and conversation buzzed with rumours of who the special guest was going to be. Steve Peats name was bandied about but those in the know were predicting Guy Martin. Santa Cruz Syndicate rider and former Junior Downhill World Champ Josh Bryceland had already been confirmed as an extra guest by this point.
Things started about 20 mins late. Which as a roadie is unforgivable but I remembered I was MTB territory and sat patiently watching many of the broken limbs I mentioned earlier filed past and we began. Ed Oxley was our genial host for the night and started by asking if there was anybody in from Yorkshire? Followed by "Anybody from the rest of the world?" "So we have have the whole world here!!"
An oldie but a goldie which leads me to ask why all bikes in Yorkshire aren't belt drive? Afterall chains is wrong! (Sorry).
Ed took through a few films and it soon became obvious he was filling. The special guest was late. It was Guy Martin but he'd been last heard of approaching J36 of the M6. (He did arrive at 1AM I'm told) So to my joy Martyn Ashton came on early. Because Martyn lives in Port Talbot I consider him to be local to me, even if he originally hails from Windsor or as Ed put it Posh Slough. For those that aren't aware, Martyn Ashton is a trials rider who best know film is Road Bike Party. He was seriously injured in 2013 whilst in the middle of filming the follow up (although not whilst filming). This year he filmed Back on Track with the likes of Danny Macaskill and Chris Akrigg in which he is basically strapped to a bike and rides down Snowdonian terrain. Go and watch this video. The skills required are immense and is wonderful film.
Martyn's talk was also very very funny and entertaing. Only really mentioning the accident in passing instead the audience was treated to an array of ancedotes and mickey taking which went down a bomb, Martyn Ashton is a seriously engaging witty speaker and he and Ed Oxley bounced off each other with ease. So we than moved into what was supposed to be a twenty minute interval and the reemergance of the band.
This is where things went downhill (pun intended). After nearly an hour we recommenced. More films were shown and after a while they started to merge into one. Yes they were all very pretty and some great riding but Drone shot after Drone shot and the same music each time. The only break was a film about some sort of exercise regime resulted in Greg Minnaar and Josh Bryceland join members of the audience in trying out the exercise. It involved big sticks but by now I was getting bored, it was past 10pm and I was thinking I needed to get back to basecamp and brave the stupid roads. So sadly I left before Greg Minnaar spoke missing out on what would have been a highlight for me.
The next day I plonked Julie down in basecamp to watch the speakers and went in search of more bike stuff. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't a huge amount. The afternoon had a few films in the Shakespere centre though so all was not lost. After accompanying Dave and James to a BMC press event (I'm starting to learn the jounalist tricks for free food) I pootled along. After ten minutes of sitting in a blast furnace on an uncomfortable chair it was back to listen to the speakers in the yurt. This was far far more enjoyable. Even though climbing isn't my main interest I do enjoy it, despite what noises may be heard over the Roaches when I'm there.
Listening to the real athletes talking was great and this was the part of Kendal Mountain Festival I enjoyed most. They didn't have to be big names. The people inspired me. The films well, nah. Left me cold if I'm honest and bikes seemed very much on the periphery of events so it had to be the people for me. I actually got to shake Martyn Ashtons hand as well. Once a fan boy always a fan boy. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to shake Cav's.