“A true challenge is one where a finish isn’t a certainty”
Last Saturday I rode the fantastic Dirty Reiver “gravel grinder” through Kielder forest.
I hadn’t spent more than ninety minutes on a bike since the summer before, so it was tough – a 200km course with almost 3500m of ascent, an endless procession of winching climbs and screaming descents with your tyres rattling over hard packed forestry roads.
The course was super neat, with only a couple of short links on tarmac and three slightly rugged rocky sections (think easy mountain biking more than “driving my 7.5 tonner through the forest”) to join up massive sections of forest road. There was even a ford, which finally put paid to my hopes of keeping my feet dry!
My commuter largely held together except for an unfortunate flat on the (tubeless) rear early on. It would have been nice if someone had told me I’d left my hub dynamo switched on before the first feed stop though… doh!
The feed stations were excellent and all the marshals were unrealistically happy and enthusiastic about standing around the middle of nowhere as four seasons of weather blew over.
After a bruising 175km we hit the shores of Kielder reservoir for a fantastic hour of zooming and tricky cornering on manicured dirt – it felt like velodrome boards in comparison to what had come before!
I got back to the finish line at Kielder castle with nothing much left in the tank, to find free beer and warming soup on tap. It’s hard to believe the first major UK gravel event went so smoothly, massive congratulations to the team who put it all together.
And yeah, it was very tough but not too hard as some may suggest. I’d say just about right, it was a genuine challenge that left me feeling battered and satisfied with my memorial cloth badge. The strap line on the event T-shirt (see subtitle above) sums it up nicely for me…
May there be many more events like this!