Bristol seems very flat and crowded after last week’s Welsh coast to coast trip with @roughrideguide.
Some biking buddies are bringing this very timely film to Bristol. Go watch, yeah?
When the event organiser says “It’s only 93 miles, but it’ll be 100 including the wheel-spins”, you know that you’re in for an epic day on the bike.
So began the first ever Dorset Gravel Dash 100, billed as the UK’s first ever gravel race. Only not a race. And not 100 miles.
We loved SSUK in Dorset last year, and we were itching to get back and ride there again. The combination of big but friendly hills, cracking views and welcoming pubs makes for a uniquely English sort of riding. I’ll take a long A to B ride over multiple loops of the same course, and a long ride on a cyclocross bike over a long slog on a mountain bike. The Purbecks bridleways are mostly gentle enough to be tackled on skinny tyres, and there are lots of them, so it seemed like the perfect area for this type of event.
Lining up at the start (at a pub, naturally), there were mountain bikes, CX bikes and all points in between. The most noticeable absence was anything full suspension, although there was quite a sizeable fatbike contingent. As one wag pointed out, we were just a bit of average age and a café stop away from being a branch of the Rough Stuff Fellowship.
Organiser Charlie gave us a race briefing, including his new favourite catchphrase “Don’t be a dick”. With those sage words ringing in our ears, we set off to see what 10 hours of enforced off-road cycling felt like.
I love long rides, but I hate routes that go back on themselves or do convoluted detours to make up the distance. The start of the route was an out-and-back to the edge of a cliff, which made me wonder whether the day was going to be full of pointless mile-grubbing. But after that, it headed out through Dorset and got rather spectacular in places.
The route covered enough different types of terrain to avoid any sense of deja vu. There was some road, but not loads. There were some bashy techy descents, but they didn’t outstay their welcome. It was a nice mix.
It had rained quite a lot just before the event. Some of the route was fine, some of it was muddy, and some of it was submerged.
Inevitably on really long rides, there’s a bit of a mood pendulum. Vowing never to ride a bicycle again is fairly standard, as is hurling your machine into a hedge, then fishing it out and carrying on.
We got through these ups and downs, as well as the usual navigational upsets and minor mechanicals. We toyed with the idea of shortening the last bit of the ride drastically by using an A-road. I’m glad we didn’t.
By the end of the day, our bikes were caked with a dozen types of mud, no amount of vile energy products could revitalise our rubbery legs, and I had managed to use up an entire bottle of chain lube (the “dry conditions” stuff that bike shops in the UK really shouldn’t bother selling).
There were some prizes for the winners, a new frameset for the rider of the most unsuitable bike (insert your own punchline), and a tyre giveaway that was decided by a hula-hooping contest. There should be more events like this. Who wants to help organise a Bristol one?
A strange, rambling response which was pinned to one of the new “No cycling” signs at the edge of the SSSI in Leigh Woods.
For the record, mountain biking isn’t unwelcome in these areas because of ‘elf n safety, it’s because it’s a regionally important site for nature, and you skidding your way down it is not something that the people trying to conserve it for future generations want to see.
If you want to ride steep, challenging trails, there are local sites like Ashton Hill Plantation where these are being developed with full support from the landowner.
Every year I hope they’ll bring this event down South… but still, Leeds isn’t that far away.
#CityCross 3 Entries now open! citycross.co.uk #leeds #june #preTdF #citycx #berms #steps #alleys #cobbles #music #beertent
Bristol premiere of Won’t Back Down is rammed! Big up @architrail and @tayloredcycles for organising it.