Sunset gravel
sunset

Dishing the dirt on The Dirty Reiver – Episode 1

Three rider’s talk us through their experience of the epic Dirty Reiver, held in Kielder forest last weekend…

Grit magazine and pie Jeremy Stain

The perfect recovery? Photo Credit: Jeremy Stain

Rider:  Jeremy Stain

I had watched the growth in popularity of the DK200 whilst living and cycling in the US a few years ago, so when a friend told me about the DR200 I was straight on the web to get an entry in. What I hadn’t paid any attention to was exactly where Kielder was and how much of a monster journey it would be from the South East….well worth it though!

I was also a bit complacent about the North-South temperature divide, a hard frost had formed on the bike overnight and on Saturday morning I felt a little nervous for the day ahead. But, we warmed up well enough…until THE river crossing…from which there was no return for my feet.

I rode with a small group of mates, we struck a reliable and steady pace from the start, looked after our tyres on the rougher sections and all managed to get round in just under 12h free of any mechanical, physical or emotional dramas. Sure, we all had our own little private moments – particularly after the second feed station where the climbing seemed to go on forever – but these were easily straightened out with good camaraderie and jelly babies.

All in all, I thought it was an excellent event, a well-planned route and everything seemed really well organised.

Quote of the day from Torben, a rider from Berlin I had breakfast with on Sunday….”Holy $h1*, it’s like a f&*%ing tree graveyard out there!!…”

Rider: Ben Smith

The thought process went:  “I can ride a 100 miles so a 200 kilometre gravel event should be fine”.

Then I saw the route profile, a jagged row of sharks teeth. This was going to be tougher than I had bargained for. I suddenly wished that I’d actually done some training and my ‘taper’ hadn’t involved so much drinking. Cue start line nerves and wishing that I hadn’t had that last beer the night before.

As predicted it was tough. I thought I was doing ok up until the second feed station, slow but feeling comfortable. However the two climbs after that point broke me. Maybe I didn’t eat enough. My speed dropped and on occasion I was off the bike and walking. I was unhappy. This was now as much a mental challenge as a physical one.

However, at 130 kilometres when the marshal asked me “are you continuing? You’ve got plenty of time” it didn’t take much for me to slog on, keep turning the pedals, walk occasionally and drag myself round the course in 14 hours. I was slow, I had to ride the last 10 kilometres in the dark but I finished.

Afterwards, the general consensus was that there wasn’t a flat section of the course. You were either climbing or descending. The climbs were long and arduous, whilst the descents were great fun but over far too quickly. The reward for this effort was scenery and views which were stunning. A fantastic route in a beautiful part of the UK. Maybe next year I’ll do some training.
Loaded bike Nigel Leech

Rider: Nigel Leech

Locked and loaded. Photo credit: Nigel Leech

Initially I kicked myself for signing up to the Dirty Reiver as it would take me about seven hours to drive there and on the same weekend the local XC series was pitching up minutes from my house! Still, I was on the list and 200km around Kielder Forest was going to be better Tour Divide Prep than 90 mins around the grounds of a stately home!

I rode the bike I intend to use on this year’s Tour Divide, a Charge Cooker Ti 29er with rigid forks. It was interesting seeing how different bikes and riders coped with the varied course, not all fire roads are created equal and on a few sections the 29er was the right choice, anything smooth though and I was left for dead by the skinnies! I’d not ridden around Kielder before and was impressed at how “out there” a big organised ride could feel.

So, despite the long drive I’ll definitely look to take part again, the organisation, facilities and general atmosphere was fantastic. Getting nearly 400 riders started with no queuing or bottlenecks was impressive!

Sunset gravel

Photo credit: Nigel Leech

Don’t let the sun go down on me, wrote Elton after his DR200 experience. Photo credit: Nigel Leech

Stay tuned for more tales of gravel and hills later in the week.

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