The Dirty Reiver Was Not “Too Hard”

3,500m of ascent, 200km of gravel, and cake. It can only be the Dirty Reiver…

“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!

5 thoughts on “The Dirty Reiver Was Not “Too Hard””

  1. Hey Douglas,

    I was on a Planet X London Road. It has 650b wheels (Hope Pro2 / Stan’s Crest) with Compass Babyshoe Pass tyres, which are a little over 40mm.

    I had them set up tubeless at a little over 30psi IIRC. This was too optimistic and I lost the rear hitting something square edged on a descent (it might just have burped and lost too much air to stay up – I threw a tube in which is still in there so haven’t checked!)

    30psi @ 42mm was too low on the front tyre for three of the descents which were particularly rocky, I could feel the rim bottoming out quite a bit and don’t know how I managed to get around without damage. At the same time it was a relief to have the soft tyres most of the time, as otherwise the vibration would be pretty relentless. I might try and go up to the 48mm version for next year…

    You don’t need much tread at all – the Compass tyres have none and that was fine for me. There were just a couple of short sections of mud on last year’s course and they had to be ridden slowly anyway / lots of traffic on the route. Most of the time you’re on hardpack and just want something that rolls well 🙂

    Any questions let me know!


  2. Awesome, thanks for getting back to me.

    I love the idea of 650b wheels and fatter gravel tyres, seems to be the consensus to use bigger tyres with little tread, and the 650b wheel is a great solution. What else do you use the 650b wheels for, are they permanently on the bike, or was that a one off for this event?

    Think I need to have a chat with my local wheel builder about some options here. Initially I was just thinking of 700c wheel, approx 38mm tyre run tubeless but the 650b is a pretty cool idea.



  3. It’s just how I have the bike set up for commuting. It’s a 700c frame but the wheel circumference on 650×42 is almost identical so it handles fine.

  4. Hi Dave
    I’m considering 650b wheels for my London Road too. What’s the maximum width tyre you think the frame can take?

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