The Dirty Reiver, my first gravel event of this year and well…ever!
The event gives riders 3 options; 200km, 130km and 65km through the endless fireroads of Kielder forest.
Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that The Dirty Reiver, is not a race, more a sportive and an opportunity to get the gravel community together and have a good time. I’m all for that, especially because racing makes me feel ever so nervous.
I arrived at Kielder on the Friday at midday, the place was already buzzing with riders, all smiling and admiring the gravel expo and getting ready for registration. My first stop was Shimano, to meet the guys there and get them to have a quick look over my bike to make sure it was ride ready (lucky gal).
The event village is centred in-front of the delightfully picturesque Kielder castle, so I was happy to mooch around the expo. I grabbed some stickers from pannier.cc– I’d been on a bike packing trip with them a couple of weekends back and it was nice to see they brought the same friendly and cool vibe all the way to the Reiver. The Gravel Union stand was up and looking smart, signing up to their list gave you a complementary beer, would’ve been rude not to oblige… By this time more and more riders had piled into the event village and the atmosphere was great.
I met with a fellow Gravel Alliance team rider, Lorena and we headed to registration. I was giving the 65k a blast. Once registered we were instructed to head over to the expo again and get our goody bags filled up by the event sponsors, what a treat!
Now time for bikes. Lorena and I headed out for a nice spin up into the forest with Robbie Ferri (2x world record breaker, just sayin’) We headed up and down the forest roads and farm tracks and had a little explore, the Kielder Forest area is MASSIVE and has so much to offer. The gravel looked sweet and my bike was riding like a dream, all that was left was to check in at our accommodation and chill in the hot tub!
Saturday morning. It was flippin’ cold, but the sun was out so there wasn’t too much moaning from me. With a mass start at 8.00, all 1000(ish) riders were gathered around chatting. I’d tagged along with fellow Komoot ambassador, Tom Hill (24tom). Lucky him! At 8.00 we were off! The hordes of people hitting the first climb was quite comical; I was concentrating so hard on picking the right line, constantly having to grab at my brakes to ensure I wasn’t going to squash anyone.
Once up and over the first climb we were met with some nice loose gravel, and that continued throughout the day! I was sorry to see in the first 10k plenty of riders with mechanicals and flats all pitched up on the side of the road. I was trying super hard to keep up with Tom, and really enjoying letting off the brakes on the descents, putting full trust into my WTB Sendero’s to keep me upright! So many of the corners were super tight, plummeting down the steeps and navigating my way around them at pace was a buzz! We were laughing maniacally coming out of them, once I knew I had survived, as I imagine gravel being pretty rough to crash on.
I don’t want to exaggerate, but it felt like there was A LOT of climbing followed by speedy downs, and the faster I took them, the further I’d be boosted up the next gruelling up.
Along the way I met some great new faces. One lady, (a fellow Cotic rider and escapade owner) was smashing the 200k, incredible woman! I tried to keep up with her (like, really tried) but lost her at the first feed stop! My legs were already shouting at me and I’d already begun singing to try and keep my mind occupied elsewhere.
45km in I was relieved to see the feed station.
I grabbed a handful of wine gums and about 40,000 Jaffa cakes, waved Tom goodbye and carried on the rest of my journey with Lorena. The gravel roads got wider, and the riders became few and far between.
The finish brought us a cold non-alcoholic beer, a delicious veggie wrap, and a slice of choccy cake. Spot on.
Kielder forest really is beautiful and this event gives you plenty of time to take in the scenery, the fresh northern air and really, just enjoy the ride.
Check out the route on Komoot.