By Jon Hornbeck
With the growth of Gravel Grinder type style events hitting the US in a most popular wave as of late others are starting to take notice and embrace the Gravel style as well. The Dirty Reiver was first put on last year with it’s inception and struck a cord with the European contingent of Gravel enthusiasts as they had four hundred participants their first year. Coming into year two they sold out quickly with eight hundred participants.
Based out of the Kielder Castle which is just on the border of Scotland/England the venue holds a true Gravel feeling to it and not your standard road/paved cycling event. The Dirty Reiver is not for the faint of heart as well as it’s at a distance of 200km (130km route option as well) with over 4,000 meters of climbing. The climbing is scattered through out the length of the route in standard British rolling terrain as the climbs are no longer then one to two kilometers but offer very punchy ascents. It should be noted as well the the course is primarily made up of gravel/off-road roads. I would say maybe 5% of the course consists of pavement where it basically connects you to the next gravel road.
Getting the opportunity to travel to the UK I jumped at it as I am a big fan of the gravel movement and anything to get me back over to Europe I’m all for. Traveling from LAX across to Iceland for a layover then a couple hour flight to Edinburgh where I would meet some other participants of the event who would give me a lift to the Kielder Castle. Arriving in the afternoon I headed to registration to pick up all my packet info and to meet the crew from 3T who we’re letting me ride one of their new Exploro LTD bikes for the event. Once all checked in a rather good size dinner followed to a quick bike check as I would dial in my 3T for the following day.
A start time of 7:00am which meant an early somewhat still jet lagged morning to get a good size breakfast in and kit up for the event. Fortunately we we’re staying close to the castle as once we we’re at the venue getting parked and bikes ready I realized my shoes were still back in my room, yep that happened. A quick high tale back to the room to grab them and even quicker drive back to the start and I just managed to sneak my way onto the first wave as the riders were setting off.
Our gravel adventure began just a kilometer after our initial roll out and soon enough we were in the forest climbing with the sun just peeking through the branches. The pace quickly lifted as within a few kilometers there was already a set front group. Unfortunately the rider who was feeling extra trigger happy this morning decided to take us off course and down a private dead end road. Once we realized we we’re off course we turned around to rejoin the course to now see we were in the deep hundreds of the Dirty Reiver participants. The next hours were loads of fun though as we all we’re racing hard to get back to the front of the group riding full gas through these narrow Forrest jeep trails jumping from one side to another while still trying to find the smooth line through all of the riders. Not your average jumping from group to group on the road scenario.
Tomorrow we pick up Part 2 from the Dirty Reiver.
Photos: Marc Gasch