Words by Hanna Jonsson, photos by Petri Paananen

Most mountain bikers in the northern hemisphere, especially us living above the 49th latitude, know all too well about the depressing November greyness, short, cold days and never-ending sideways rain. But I have a suggestion – instead of dreaming about sunny bike park laps, go join the rain and get sideways yourself, racing dual slalom against your mates. You might end up having the most awesome November day ever.

Oscar Härnström and Oliwer Kangas side by side overlooking Stockholm.

Last year I wrote about the Dual Slalom races Lina Skoglund and I organize in Stockholm. That time I was stoked to say that we had tripled the amount of racers than when we started out 3 years ago. This year we had even more people turn up,  and that is pretty impressive since we had the worst weather yet. Like seriously, worst ever!

Lina and I trying to explain the rules while getting hit by sideways rain.

We woke up to sideways rain and wind howling outside our window. It was so grey and nasty outside that even my English boyfriend (who is quite used to shitty weather) suggested we stay inside. The hill where we host our dual slalom races is completely out in the open, overlooking Stockholm, with no trees to provide shelter. Dressed up to our ears in waterproof gear we braved the elements and headed out to set up the dual slalom course.

When we were almost getting blown off our feet,  we started to question how many riders would actually turn up on a day like this. But before we had even finished setting the course, people with bikes started walking up the hill. Psychos were braving the weather to get some good old drift action and to race their friends down some flat, grassy turns.

Joe Bowman felt just like home on the muddy course.

As soon as riders started to slip and slide their way down the course, everybody forgot about the bad weather and the usual game faces and race-banter was seen and heard along the track. I was sidelined from racing this year because of a knee injury, but watching everyone’s muddy, smiling faces made me stoked on bikes.

Dual slalom is so great since it is something anyone with almost any bike can do. This year we had men and women, World Cup racers and complete beginners racing each other. We saw people on hardtails, full suspension bikes and even a guy getting wild on a cyclocross bike. It’s also not just a race format for us grown-up kids, it is a race format for actual kids, as 9-year-old Love showed us by smoking half of the adult field.

9-year-old Love drifting his way down the slippy corners.

Due to the sideways rain, we had to improvise with the timing setup, but anything can be solved with some imagination. By driving my car up the hill, we could use the trunk as shelter and that way keep the timing papers *kind of* dry. Everyone was getting sideways on the muddiest, sloppiest and hardest dual course we’ve had so far. It was hard to know what the best tactic of the day would be - whilst some were having proper wipeouts others were absolutely nailing it. The only right move this day was to have mud tires on. The rain did easy up later in the day, but racing still became a nail-biter as you were never really sure if a rider was going to be able to hold his drift and make the next corner.

Lina setting off Anton and Oliwer – no fancy timing system needed, just a good old “ready, set, go!\

Trying to stay on the bike was not easy – concentration faces were on!

In the end, fast and consistent turned out to be the name of the game as Ragnar Sylwan managed to claim both the fastest time in qualifying, as well as winning the race. In turn, Daniel Chapuis managed to put down the fastest time of the day and also grab 2nd place, whilst 4X rider, David Axelsson, slid into 3rd. All of them put down some amazing times and impressive runs.

Your Top 3 of the day in front of the amazing pile of prizes.

It is cool to see how much fun you can have with a bit of organization and some help from your friends. As always I’d like to thank Lina for being my amazing partner in crime, Jonte for braving the rain and writing down times, DropinBikes for providing hot dogs and a tent to shelter us from the rain, Petri Paananen for photos and Steve, Joe and everyone else who helped out. And, last but not least, everyone who turned up to race. A massive thank you to our sponsors who provide us with amazing prices time after time – POC, Addnature, Bikester, Houdini, Hope Tech, Kask and Five Ten.

Organizing a race doesn’t mean you can’t race it. Lina showing that you can do both!

November in Sweden will always be grey, cold and depressing. And I am sure we all have a “November-kind-of-month” wherever we live in the world. So next time, instead of dreading it, start planning it. Go buy some poles, grab a bunch of mates and go out and get sideways, because dual slalom might just be the best thing ever!

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