The Continuum of Gnarl isn’t some God-awful sci-fi comic, full of 3 breasted aliens and too many consonants.
Nor is it a throw-back Goth’n’Roll band - mascara, black clobber, shoe gazing and an aversion to smiling a speciality. No, the Continuum of Gnarl is a way of thinking about the spectrum of mountain bike racing in terms of its technical demands. For us, thinking about the Continuum stops us being one trick ponies, it means that riders across the Continuum are catered for, and it means that those riders will always have somewhere to go to, either up or down the Continuum.
For riders, they can jump on the Continuum of Gnarl at different levels. We’ll let them know the level a certain event is at, they can choose to either remain at that level, back off, or advance to the point where we have to name an ‘A’ line after them. We all have our limits; you just have to be honest and realistic about where your riding limits are before you have to test the limit of how much blood you can lose on the way to hospital.
Here’s how the Continuum of Gnarl has looked so far in 2016 –
Green / Blue. The Summer Soggy series has been firmly fixed in the green / blue category. We have hidden the shovels and made sure that we don’t get carried away by including the technical stuff we often stumble across in our rambles in Newnham Park. The Summer Soggies have been the kind of race courses you can do sat bolt upright in the saddle with a basket on the front. Mums and Dads, kids and Grannies can all ride a Summer Soggy, but you’ll still cream in if you go too quick and don’t pay attention. Short course, pretty flat, the hills were alive to the sound of riders shouting ‘Weeee!’ Welcome to Step One on the Continuum. Survived it? Loved it? Then proceed forthwith to the next level.
Blue / Red. Here on the Continuum of Gnarl we find the Soggy Bottom Winter Series. Admittedly in the past couple of years we’ve included some pretty cheeky ‘black’ sections in order to get them ready and bedded-in for the Nationals, but we never need to do that again, so we are firmly back in the blue / red category. You’ll need to get out of the saddle (yes, even you on the Zesty) and the weather will play a part in the techniness, but mostly blue with a couple of red ‘A’ lines is the order of the day. Bacon bap, flushing (just) toilets and all the SW MTBers in one place for a chat and a knees-up, we’ve always loved it. Too much? Then have a go at the local ‘cross league, of which there are a seemingly infinite number, and we’ll see you again at the Summer Soggies. Survived it? Loved it? Then do the rest of the series and maybe have a stab at a National XC.
Red / Black. Step Three on the Continuum of Gnarl, and as far as we (currently) go at Fully Sussed, are the Red / Black courses we used to do for the National XC. This is top of the tree, National level stuff, so it should be another hefty step above the rest of the series shurely? You’ve got to be able to do all the stuff you saw at the previous level, and then have your balls strapped on pretty tight for the nastiness you’ll encounter here. For the riders who can then proceed along the Continuum of Gnarl to enduro / down-hill / any XC outside the UK, this is still pretty straight-forward stuff, whereas for the rest of us this is as far as we go. Too much? You’ve found your limit, hit the ‘B’ lines, enjoy the ride and go home safe in the knowledge that you are still full of your own Rhesus Positive.
It may be that not all regions have a decent Continuum of Gnarl. Racing in the South West has always given us a healthy challenge and reason to hit the woods on the Monday morning to practice those skills we ballsed-up in the race at the weekend. If the races in a particular region stop at the Green / Blue level of the Continuum, then it’s a hell of a jump to a Double Diamond. We all love the fact that the Continuum exists and love to see the photos and videos of riders at the top end pinning seriously techy sections, jumping, crashing, trashing their bikes. It might not be for all of us, but it has to exist for the spectrum to exist.
We are currently planning our Continuum of Gnarl for 2017. Should be something for everyone!