Photo and Video Story: Ard Rock 23

Aug 15, 2023 at 8:56
by ard-rock  
 Mick Kirkman

Words: Ard Rock

As the Swaledale dust, muck, and stone settles after another annual Ard Rock weekend, we take a look back on who and what made it so special.

This year marked a decade since the first Ard Rock, and it was certainly one for the books. Over 4000 racers and many riders, spectators and supporters travelled from far and wide to our beloved corner of the Yorkshire Dales, to meet friends old and new, bounce to tunes into the night, and go against the clock on Yorkshire’s finest Alpine-Style trails. The Expo was packed with mountain biking’s most exciting brands, who all had fresh tech on display for inspection, and were offering advice and support for all riders across the weekend.


 Mick Kirkman
Practice was underway, with riders old and new attempting to find new lines through the unforgiving Swaledale limestone

The sun beat down on those entering Reeth, as the Ard Rockers began populating the campsite. Race practice was on, the airbag was out, and tyres were rolling around the Maxxis Pump Track. Up on the hill, familiar faces started to spring up from the heather. Josh Bryceland was back, as was Steve Peat, both styling it up off the moorland hillocks. There were also murmurs of two RedBull helmeted Scotsmen frolicking through the valley…

 Mick Kirkman
It’s always a magical thing to witness Josh doing his thing, followed by the giggling and whopping of the Cannondale Waves crew.

 Mick Kirkman
Danny MacAskill casually rolling up to the start of a stage.

Joe Flanagan, the voice of Ard Rock, caught up for a chat with freeride legends Danny MacAskill and Kriss Kyle. For those who are new to the sport, Danny is a street trials and MTB pioneer, and Kriss one of the most influential BMX riders in the world. Both were in attendance to race the Enduro, not their usual fare. Joe sat them down for a chat, then headed up the hill for a spin. A lucky handful of riders were in the right place at the right time, and got to witness Danny and Kriss applying their unique style of riding to the classic Enduro loop, stiles were cleared, entire sections of track back-wheeled, and a few slick grass turns were navigated in reverse in a backwards nose-manual.

 Mick Kirkman
Ard Rock veteran Joe Flanagan was showing two newbies, Danny MacAskill and Kriss Kyle, round the course. Big grins and otherworldly manoeuvres.

After a successful day on the hill, the amassed Ard Rockers congregated by the iconic big screen, for a recap of the day, before the Good : Ratio boys and EMF’s DJ Milf took the stage for the first round of tunes and boogie. First day in the books…

 Mick Kirkman
Movie night!

 Mick Kirkman
Tunes all day, and well into the night…


As the sun rose over a sleepy Swaledale, Farmer Ronnie’s sheep were greeted by a strange sight… Hundreds of humans on their bicycles were encroaching up Fremmington edge, in search of fast times and big smiles. Racing was well and truly underway.

 Mick Kirkman

The winner of the previous two years’ Ard Rock, Fergus Lamb, was out with his teammate Joe Barnes, making light work of the hero dirt on the hill. A light but persistent showering overnight was making for predictably slidey corners, but this was nothing for the Scottish masters of slop.

 Mick Kirkman
Joe Barnes pointing and shooting.

The weather was holding, but ominous clouds peeking over the horizon were an indication of things to come. Despite this, energy amongst the racers was electric. Including the riders tackling the Bosch E-Bike Challenge, which challenged the eeb-handlers with not just classic Swaledale descent, but trials-like uphill stages and map-reading adventure.

 Mick Kirkman
A vast landscape with alpine-like exposure.

As the riders were hard at work up the hill, those who had returned, or were soaking up the atmosphere in the festival village, were gathering at the Maxxis Pumptrack Challenge. After a wild display of neck-and-neck battles, 17 y/o Owen Hodgson took a decisive win. Another young resident of that magic part of the North that birthed Sam Hockenhull, Sam Cofano and more…

The final riders blasted down the epic Stage Seven, which took them from the top of the moor, down rocky fade-aways, through old quarries and drystone walls, and into a DH style woods section, all the way back to the village. The results were in. Fergus Lamb had taken another Ard Rock male victory, amounting to three back-to-back wins in the dale. In the women’s category, NZ’s George Swift pipped Polly Henderson to take the top spot at her first Ard Rock Enduro.

 Mick Kirkman

After the podiums, the KMK Band took the stage, setting the mood with the Kaiser Chiefs’ Yorkshire belter ‘I Predict a Riot’. This set the pace for a suitably riotous Enduro afterparty, with EMF’s DJ Milf taking the stage again with some classic bangers. As the music petered off into the night, racers took to their tents, with a familiar pitter-patter drumming off the canvas. On to Sunday…

 Mick Kirkman


The Heavens had opened. After a night of rain-dances, the inevitable had happened, and at least 3 pints of water had saturated the trails above the Ard Rock village. The happenings of the day seemed uncertain, until the start Marshall headed to the gate at 7:30am, to find a fully dressed Josh Bryceland, backed by a horde of eager Ard Rockers, chomping at the bit.

The race was on. Many wouldn't make it to the start line, but those who chose to brave the conditions were rewarded by some brilliant grippy crud. The Swaledale trails seem to magically grip when fully saturated, as long as they are not allowed to dry out, and rubber can make contact with the gnarled limestone beneath the surface. Where there was grass, however, conditions were treacherous. An ice-rink, spectated by sheep, and peppered by sleet.

Rowan Thomas, still smiling.

As the final few riders made their way off the infamous Swaledale sender, and were captured by Joe Flanagan’s equally infamous questioning, the resounding vibe was stoke. The hills, trails, and riders had delivered.

 Mick Kirkman
Line and speed off the sender were hotly debated…

All that’s left is to say thank you, to all the riders, acts, brands, locals, and festival team who made the weekend so special. See you all soon, and here’s to more good times.

 Mick Kirkman

Words: Jim Topliss
Images: Mick Kirkman, Digital Downhill
Videos: Jim Topliss, Catriona Dick, Joe O’Brien, James Emmerson

Author Info:
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Member since Oct 31, 2017
21 articles

  • 8 0
 Sunday was a truly mind-bogglingly awful day out at the races - that somehow was also great fun racing.
  • 2 0
 Proper British Summertime.
  • 3 0
 If anyone found my fox jacket with garmin watch in the pocket on the Sunday, I'd love to get them back.
  • 1 0
 Was such a good event, kinda glad I missed out on main race tickets and did the Epic on the Friday tho - proper sunshine and bluesky!
  • 1 0
 Always Good time but this year the World Championships support and as ever, the weather made it even more eventful.
  • 1 0
 That looks like such a blast. Proper muddy laugh.
  • 1 0

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