Words: Mike Rose
Photos: Nathan Hughes
The Red Bull Hardline is probably the gnarliest, scariest and craziest downhill race in the world! Set in the far off wilds of west Wales (UK), Hardline is the brainchild of ex-downhill World Cup racer Dan Atherton. Now in its seventh year Hardline gets a little bit bigger, and a little bit faster every year, as bikes and bodies have to push themselves further and further in the pursuit of victory. It’s safe to say that it puts the fear of God into many of the riders. It is often a case of just getting down in one piece, who cares what the clock says?!
The jumps, drops and gaps are all on steroids. Man and nature seemingly working in harmony! The mountain itself is steep, exposed at the top, then wooded lower down. It’s a mixture of ancient loose rock, slabs and boulders, wooden, metal and earth shaped ‘booters’, trees and roots, massive berms, with riders eventually being spat out across the finish line into the calm ‘green, green grass of home’.
INTENSE team rider Oscar Härnström has been fortunate enough to attend four Hardline races over the years. It is an event that suits his ‘freeracer’ style. We grabbed a few words with him after the event to catch up on what went down.
You’ve raced at the event before, but what were your first impressions this time around?
This was my fourth Hardline, and the new drop got me and all the other riders a bit shaky! Also the bigger version of the road gap made me a bit ‘ill’! I’m not a big fan of wooden drop features and this time it was really big.
For someone who has never been to Hardline or seen it on film how would you describe it?
Super gnarly, technical downhill sections with massive drops and jumps in-between. All that makes Hardline one of the most unique mountain bike events in the world.
It is a bit of a one-off but is it the kind of event that you like?
Unfortunately that is correct… because I love this type of riding and I wish there were more events or races like it, or why not a Hardline series!?
Do you have a favourite section or feature on the track?
This year’s dry weather and ‘dust fest’ made the new drop and the open wood section right after it really cool to ride. I really enjoyed that section.
And one that you really don’t like?
It’s probably the wooden road gap. It’s the easiest thing to ride but so scary at the same time.
This year it was dry, that must have made a big difference?
I loved it, it brought out the best of Hardline and the Welsh mountains.
Can you talk a bit about bike set up. You were on the M29, what did you have to do differently for this event?
I normally run my bike park/jump settings really hard, so I tried to do the same, but it was impossible to ride the more ‘downhill’ sections in the middle of the track with hard suspension. So I had to soften it up a bit. Fork, 135psi main chamber, 240psi second chamber. Rear shock, 320psi. Tires, front 2.00 bar rear 2.40 bar. So still quite hard ha ha!
It was too windy on Saturday for qualifying, did that effect you in any way?
Just in a good way. I was the first rider down because I picked the #1 jersey so I wasn’t super keen to ride down in that much wind. Big up to the Red Bull crew making the right decision to cancel qualification.
So how did your race run go?
I’m super happy how the whole week went and how my riding was, I’m just a bit bummed about the small crash, but overall I’m super stoked.
You were looking really good up until that point? Was it just a simple, silly mistake?
It was kind of tricky to ride that section fast when it was that dusty and the rocks where moving around.
Do you have any idea where you would have finished without that crash?
I haven’t checked how much time I lost but I know I was on a good one, I also had a mistake near the top that the camera didn’t catch. Next time.
And next year, will you be back?
For sure, and I’m hoping to do more events like it.
Any final words?
Thanks to the whole Red Bull UK crew and the Athertons for putting the best event together.