26 sep. 2023

THE MERIDA EX presented by Shimano - the highlights

Wow - 7 years of THE MERIDA EX, presented by Shimano! 

7 whole years of vintage tea stops, gourmet singletrack, stunning vistas, unforgettable climbs, iconic clifftop beer stops, dinner parties, discos, BBQs, all-you-can-eat cream teas and night stages.

7 years of 80 riders, all experiencing what we feel is the ‘perfect’ version of racing.

Way back in the day, we set out to create a race through our own lens. One that was less about winning things or beating people. It's not so much about who could go the hardest, the fastest or even the most of anything at all.

THE EX is more about that harder-to-define experience that brings you back year after year. The feeling that leaves you buzzing with excitement to return, pining for the event when you’ve returned to normality, racing to enter again the following year and to bring a few more mates along to experience it for themselves. 

More about the best craic in the evenings, the most beautiful transitions with the most iconic views. The best tea and the biggest slices of cake. Mountains of home-cooked food, served up by a master chef and a live band playing after dinner. Timed stages that just leave you beaming at the end and proclaiming, “No, actually, that one was the best stage ever!”. 

Some get it, many don’t. And that’s ok.

The concept of THE MERIDA EX, resented by Shimano, is pretty simple. 

3 big days in Exmoor National Park, from Friday through to Sunday. Several timed stages each day, all against the clock and all mostly gravity-focussed and on fun, flowy, natural downhill trails. Entries are open to just 80 riders, with all the food and drink included. Uplifts at the start of each day. All the drinks you can drink, scones you can eat, cooked breakfasts, homemade evening meals. The full works. 

Home for the weekend is the cosey, chocolate-box village of Allerford that just happens to be at the foot of the hill where many of our trails drop. We take over the village hall and playing field to eat, sleep and celebrate, boosting that ‘weekend away together’ feeling and creating a community around THE EX.

Friday started, as is our tradition, with a midday kick-off and an uplift to one of Exmoor’s highest points. Four timed stages and then back to base for a cuppa and some scran. 

Then, Exposure Lights stepped in and strapped super-bright Six Packs, Toros and Diablos to our bars and helmets for our special Night Stages. We pedalled out in the golden, dusky light and dropped in once the darkness had fallen. Exposure turned night into day, and riders duked it out, battling the clock and that unfamiliar-to-many feeling of tunnel vision, night-time racing. 

With the Night Stages done, it was down to the local farm for locally sourced food on the BBQ, plenty of Bristol Beer Factory and a toast to a big, dry, warm and dusty first day.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed in racing. Least of all, in that hilariously unpredictable British end-of-summer period. We woke up to light taps of rain on fly sheets on Saturday morning, steadily turning into drum beats through to Sunday.  

Saturday was huge. 1600m of climbing. 9 timed stages. 40km of distance. Every type of terrain, from rocky and open moorland to tight and technical, loamy and rooty forest singletrack. Every stage left legs burning, faces splattered and 80 riders absolutely beaming with delight. Exmoor’s trails just have that effect. They’re technical enough to be challenging, rideable enough to be really, really, really good fun. And when things got a bit much and equipment took a beating, Shimano were on hand to offer tech support. 

And then Saturday night. RaceFace sponsored the Lumberjack competition, the criteria for which included best shirts, fastest wood chopping and most impressive lumberjack dancing. It was ridiculous and hilarious. Famous MTB-chef Luffy and crew (anyone remember the Luff Bus?) filled our bellies to bursting, and we kicked back to a live jazz-funk band that included Si John, the talented bass player behind Ronny Size’s Brown Paper Bag. 

Sunday. Well. Sunday was Sunday. Pouring rain. Thunder and lightning. Near-zero visibility. Rivers down the trails. Rivers down the local high street, in fact. Epic conditions. A few decided they’d had enough; the majority cracked on, determined to see their EX Enduro experience through to the finish line. Congratulations to those that did. 

The full results can be found here on our timing page.

Thanks to the 80 riders that joined us for THE MERIDA EX, presented by Shimano. 

And thanks to our amazing collection of sponsors, without whom the event just wouldn’t happen.

They are Merida Bikes, Shimano, Exposure Lights, The National Trust, Race Face, Silverfish, Bontrager, Disco Brakes, Carbon Cycles, RideGuard and Bristol Beer Factory.

Stay tuned for news on THE EX 2024!

You can find out more about THE MERIDA EX here the-ex.co.uk and follow our updates on THE MERIDA EX Instagram and THE MERIDA EX Facebook.

For further images and videos check out the gallery page here