The whole Fastest known time or FKT thing has been around for a while now starting with ultra running routes but eventually filtering across in to the mountain bike world. In the UK the Self Supported Net website logged some challenging ultra routes and captured the times for many years but in a fairly basic non social media driven fashion, which was kind of nice and low key. The South Downs Double was the crown jewel in the ultra record setting with it being THE ultra MTB record to hold. Indeed it has its own website which has seen some seriously fast riders lay down times. The leader board is also cool as it logs all registered completions not just the fastest time.

However a gap was there to be filled to get the word out that we have some awesome challenging MTB routes in the UK that people might want to have a crack at. Step up fastest known times UK based out of Epic Cycles who have done a great job of pulling together a webpage, attempt to figure out some ‘rules’ from the minefield of options and most importantly create a platform and community around people challenging themselves.

As a fairly frequent self challenger of silly things, when the new FKT UK site popped up I was keen to support it. If the growth in the number of routes and attempts at those is anything to go by FKT’ing has captured people’s imagination. As a busy dad, DIYer, flower farm slave labourer and MTB fitness trier the concept appeals as I can’t now really justify getting to as many events as I would like both in terms of time and cost so finding local FKT routes gives a goal and something you can do on your own terms.

So naturally I started looking around for which FKT I’d have a crack at. Inevitably whilst procrastinated and looking in the mirror at my less than ‘race fit’ self the FKT’s that I thought of began being ticked off by various faster less bedraggled humans. I don’t think anyone that ‘trains’ ever feels like they are at peak fitness but I’m definitely still at the building back in to it stage so anything I attempted wouldn’t be my best self but hey ho things change and better to have a crack than indefinitely procrastinate.

I’ve been helping organise events with MTB epics for a year now and following the success of the Cotswolds 200 we wanted to introduce a more accessible shorter 100 mile version. Still a very tough route but doable in a one hit ultra or else a couple of long days bikepacking if you wanted to chill a bit more. So we planned the route with Andy Deacons local knowledge and it covers the same terrain as the 200 apart from the cut across.

We thought like the 200 it could become an FKT route. Naturally it would need a full route recce so I set out in May to give it a good stab to see how long it would take. At the last minute friend Soph joined and met me part way round. She wasn’t planning to ride the whole route but after a great day out together she carried on to loop back to her start point. 104 miles on the MTB with only a day notice, not bad eh! It was a great day out together and time flew by. I reached out to the FKT crew to say I had done the route (9hr 16) and that Soph might also submit her time. Apparently though the rules state no group rides, not quite sure how group is defined as event group starts are ok. Is it a % of time people had ridden together? Anyway you have to draw the line somewhere and sure they get a lot of questions on rules so wasn’t that bothered as I was going to ride it anyway. And more to the point of course it was the FKT anyway as we were the first riders!

After dining out on the ride in Finale Ligure a week later riding enduro trails and consuming lots of beer and ice cream I had an itch to do another long day out. Although riding together was great I had a nag that I wanted to do something solo as I think it’s a totally different mental test. A day popped up (fathers day) where I could get out so I was looking for another route. I’m not ashamed to admit that having been denied setting a time, in the back of my head I wanted it ticked off officially which would also help to promote the route and event.

So part due to lack of easily accessible local alternatives I thought I’d give the Cotswolds 100 another crack. So off I set on Father’s Day, travelling sustainably to the start whilst saving the legs with battery power (I received some looks). The trails had dried out a fair bit since the last attempt but with this came with the different weather. It’s been hot recently but not only that on this day humidity was up at 80% which was oppressive from the start. I knew exactly what my nutrition should be so carried everything I needed and just topped up at two pre planned water stops. I felt on the verge of blowing up all day which was weird but probably just the heat. It was a much tougher mental challenge doing the route solo. The route is a great mix of terrain and the road sections are welcome to keep on top of some of the steep and technical climbs and descents. The middle section around Slad is particularly tough with lots of steep ups and downs that had sweat pouring out of me. I managed to stave off any cramp until 2 miles from the finish coming through Bath where I had to back off and spin to make it to the finish. I shaved some time off the first attempt coming in at 8 hours 56. Pretty satisfied to get it done and manage the effort and nutrition. I had 6 litres of water with energy powder 10 normal torq gels, 2 caffeine gels, 2 energy bars and 1 protein bar.

So some tips if you are thinking of giving one of these FKT’s a shot (aimed at those looking to beat the times but still relevant to others).

1. Do your research ahead re the water and food points. Past riders might even share their insights.
2. Faffing whilst stopping is more likely to have the biggest impact than raw speed. (I had 10 mins less stopping time second time round).
3. Carry as much food as is reasonable rather than buying on route. The extra weight is probably better on balance than having to source food.
4. Say hi to everyone on route. This really helps your mental state as it’s proven that connecting to people can dig you out of a hole.
5. Pick your weather day. You hopefully have some sort of choice on when you do a route so you might as well pick a good day!
6. Don’t be shy to give it a try. You will never think you are fit as you’d like to be. You don’t have to set a fastest time to enjoy the process of challenging yourself (perhaps the FKT crew could also give some Kudos for route attempts in future at any level?).

Shout out to Andy for finishing off the cots 100 route so well and Lee at Advance Cycle Coaching for dragging me towards some fitness again.