Pete Connolly is on a mission right now… with the TopSpeed Event in Quebec coming up, he’s been warming up to find out just how fast he can really go on his skateboard.
First stop was a lonely pass somewhere in the North of England… clocking some of the highest speeds ever recorded in the UK on a longboard, ever. here’s Pete’s take on it…
“Lush Longboards have used that phrase for a few things now, including the graphic on my Speedbyrd deck. It is certainly a phrase that is close to my heart…
With the TopSpeed Challenge in Canada only two weeks away, Skating Faster is on my mind almost continuously right now.
Wanting to get into the right mindset and test some new aero equipment, I decided to head back to the fastest road that I have skated in the UK, for a training session. That involved a bank holiday skate trip in the van as it is over a 500 mile round trip.
This is not the sort of hill you can skate by yourself, so a crew was needed. Aaron Skippings & Kami San are the other UK skaters who are attending the TopSpeed Challenge, seeking to skate the fastest they have been, so they were the perfect crew for the job! We all packed our best aero gear and gps gadgets and met up Saturday morning to go be geeks in a van, many miles away from the rest of the population, where phone signal ends and sheep roam free…..
Bank holidays are always busy and we got caught up on the M1, leaving us standing around on the motorway for a while on our way up to County Durham. Time flew anyway as we haven’t caught up for a while and so conversation flowed for the 5 hours it takes us to travel north.
Arriving, neither Kami or Aaron had seen the hill in the flesh yet, and it is a good sight. When you stand at the top and see a mile of ribbon rolling down the hill it is epic (for England). That is one of the things that makes this hill special, from the top you can spot the road for miles and know when one of the occasional cars is approaching. With just a little bit of patience you can skate without cars at all….
This is good as the tarmac has LOTS of UK character and getting a line down through the chunder section is the key to hitting speeds here. We start by walking the hill and talking about all the bits of road we hope to skate, and the bits we hope never to skate, instilling a sense of respect for the 17% gradient we plan on bombing come dawn.
Fast forward the bit when 3 lads cook, eat, sleep in a van and then drink tea early in the morning thinking is skating worth it? I might just go back to sleep..?
First run, I just want to practice that line that threads through the pothole and lets you access the next half a mile of straight fast road. That, and remember what it feels like to have an extra 3kg weight bolted to your board to make the setup weigh the 7kg max weight for the record attempt in two weeks.
I ease into skating the hill over the next two runs and creep up to 59mph. I find that feeling and decide to skate tighter next run, 64mph that’s close to the my top speed from last year, damn this is going to be a fast day….
Three runs and it is my turn to drive while Kami and Aaron get some skating. Both of them get their tucks on and experience the undulating ripples and vibrations from skating the rough surface for themselves…. On his second run Azzy has a sheep run across right in front of him, a near miss that left him feeling he had just spent one of his 9 lives.
We spend the next 15 minutes chasing sheep across rolling bog land to ensure none are even in the proximity of the road, and from then on leave one rider mid hill, just after the blind crest, to be on sheep watch at all times.
My next couple of runs and I hit my old UK top speed of 65Mph, I want to try the speed suit out next. I haven’t skated in the speed suit yet and that thought is sitting in my mind as I drop in, I don’t tighten up fully and uncurl early at the end of the run, 63mph, hmmmm, must try harder.
We drive up again and it becomes apparent that the front discs have died on the van, they are now grinding metal on metal, terminal. In that moment clouds blow in and we white out, unable to spot the bottom of the hill anymore. This might amount to the end of the session.
We decide to take lunch and take the shortest route back to civilisation possible to find some phone signal. It’s Sunday on the bank holiday weekend, getting parts while being unable to drive is not going to be easy. We have conversations about getting towed home and everyone gets out their leathers.
We had travelled too far to just pack up and go home, so got on a mission instead. After two hours of calling round and searching the web I am speaking to John from Rochfords. He has found some pads and is going to do the 2 hour round trip to pick them up and get to us in order to fit them road side! We dropped him a pin on maps for the bottom of the hill and told him to meet us there, and all of a sudden it was game on!
Parked back at the bottom of the hill Kami and I start the mile long hike to the top for another run, my 7kg board is not my friend anymore and there is no way I’m hiking in the speed suit! The tail wind is now in our faces and the scenery is apparent at the slow walking place, when we reach the top I have a grin on my face and a new appreciation for the spot, but Kami and I need to rest a bit before skating!
After nearly packing up and going home, followed by hiking the hill, I don’t know how many more runs I’m getting here. Time to send it.
With a big grin and all the morning’s reservations put aside, I drop in from a bit higher than I had been, and tuck tight, aiming for that one line through the rough section. I feel like I flow through the gaps in between the potholes at around 50mph and tighten down again, holding my tuck all the way down, through the permanent puddle that oozes out onto the road at the fastest point. Aim for the puddle, to the left is a filled hole, to the right is an open hole. 66mph. That was worth the hike!
Kami is not far behind me and has a grin on his face when he stops. Moments later a pickup truck pulls in driven by a local who watched our last run, he is as stoked as us and gives us a lift straight back up the hill, no hike! Another 66mph run. At the bottom John the mechanic pulls in with the brake pads for the van, good timing!
Another break from riding and John has the van fixed, what a diamond! While the van was being fixed Kami went to change his wheels too. Undoing his wheel nut resulted in his axel falling out! With the wheel still on the axle we had to cut the wheel off the bearings to sort it out! We clear the hill of sheep again and roll on.
Feeling good I keep pushing it every run, 66.96mph makes me want to push more. I drop from higher up and hold my tuck that little bit longer, oh hang on, that was fast, no time to set up to footbreak, absolutely on the limiter trying to stop on the steep gradient from high speed before the next cattle grid! I get out of shape, but make it with a very hot smoking foot, thank you TikiBrake…
67.81mph Skating Faster now….
What would the speed suit do?
Still feeling conscious when I have the speed suit on, and concerned that I will run out of shutdown if it’s too fast, I don’t push it as hard – 67.44mph.
It’s getting late, is there any more in the can? I decide to push it again. Waiting for a clear road at the top I drop from another 10 meters higher, get a good line, and fly over the blind crest to see a motorbike’s headlight coming at me. He must have flown up the hill to be there now… His unexpected appearance makes me uncurl and air break.. there goes that run.
I’m spent though, shutting down from those speeds has sapped my legs and although there is one more run in me, it’s just for fun. I carve in from the very top, mind you it was still over 60mph. What a hill. I am coming back, I know there is more speed to be had here. I think I might just stay up here next time until I hit 70mph… 70 in the UK has been a dream for a long time!
Thanks to Aaron and Kami for getting on a mission and being up for staying to skate more when everything was against us. Looking forward to skating with you both at world record attempt in September. Skate Faster.”
You can read the Part Two of Pete’s mission for Top Speed: a trip to Switzerland for some equipment testing.