July 20th 2023

Riding to new heights: 4Mercian mountain biker on tackling Snowdon and the National XC series

Second Lieutenant James Payne is a keen adventurer and cyclist who has embarked on adrenaline-filled trips on his bike in 2023.

Through his service as a Reserve soldier with C Company, 4Mercian, the University of Nottingham student kick-started his season with a camp in the picturesque Welsh countryside.

Organised by Army Cycling Union (ACU) between 27-31 March, Exercise Welsh Epic Mountain saw 2Lt Payne spend 10 days developing his mountain biking skills and fitness under the watchful eye of Army Team riders and other highly-qualified instructors.

The riders were based out of Capel Curig in Conwy and ventured to Glydr Mawr’s rocky trails, Antur Stiniog bike park, hit steep chutes in Betws-y-Coed, and encountered endless mud and slippery roots at Machynlleth.

2Lt Payne’s highlight was a day spent at Atherton’s Dyfi bike park riding some of the best trails in the UK. This includes the fast flow of the park’s latest creation Lovely Dyfi and the rough unrelenting rocks of Racetrack.

The final day was an early rise as the group climbed the 3,560ft of Mount Snowdon on their bikes to snap a quick photograph before plummeting back down to Llanberis for a well-earnt coffee and cake.

2Lt Payne said: “The exercise was a resounding success for everyone attending and especially myself having been awarded an ACU coin and ‘most improved’ over the week. It provided a springboard for the start of the season and hopefully will contribute to successes on behalf of the battalion in the coming months.

“It was great to see such a wide representation from the Army attending – every regiment and corps was represented, and it was a great networking and social opportunity.”

Second Lieutenant James Payne on Mt Snowdown

National Cross Country

Following his pre-season training camp, 2Lt Payne was selected to represent the Army’s Cross Country mountain bike team in round 2 of the National Cross County (XC) Race series on 15th May – his first race at a national level. The series saw 2Lt Payne return to Wales, this time to Margam Park.

2Lt Payne said: “The course was certainly vertical, with a huge climb to start that served to separate the pack in the race and was certainly a burner by lap 4.

“The descents were fast and flowing with a noticeable lack of technical features which came as a surprise. The highlight was a refreshing line through a stream to cool off mid-lap. The speed of the race came as a surprise and physical graft was needed to stick with the main pack, finishing a respectable 24th in my category.

“I was very happy with my position for my first race at this level but it’s clear to me now; I need to improve on some aspects of racing. My aim for this year is to improve in each race hopefully beating my last position by at least one place per race.”

Find your closest Reserve Force unit and discover for yourself the bounty of opportunities available.