Our own Chris Hall headed up to the Scottish boarder to tackle Dirty Reiver. His thoughts on the event below.
The Dirty Reiver is an event that has long been on my radar of rides that I need to do sooner rather than later. When Ben and Erik Shimano offered me the opportunity to ride the event with them and I learnt that my pals from G!RO would be heading up - it was a no brainer.
Firstly, the name. What does Dirty Reiver mean? It's something I have been asked a few times and here is my take on it. In the UK, boarder reivers were raiders along the Anglo-Scottish boarder from the 13th century to the 17th century. They were both Scottish and English and raided the boarder without regard to victims. The dirty reiver is a ride that runs along this boarder basically. Sounds intense right? It was.
Our journey started on Friday morning. Bike packed and cycling across from my home in East London to G!RO to load up the van before we headed up to Kielder Lake, a real area of outstanding beauty. So, that was a casual 35km fully loaded on the Quirk to warm up. Or something like that.
We finally arrived at our destination with 5 minutes to spare before sign on. Thankfully we were allowed to all sign on on the Friday evening, making for a bit less stressful start to Saturday. Then, we slept.
An early start on Saturday with the ride starting at 7:30 sharp. My morning plans had already been scuppered by leaving my shoes with the G!RO chaps I was meeting at the start. No signal and relying on hopefully catching them at the start meant the possibility of doing 200km in sliders, which became upgraded to a pair of trainers by Ben. Luckily I caught them at the start and managed to be the LAST person to start Dirty Reiver 2018. I'll take that as a small win.
The first 50-odd km were rapid. Ben and I were on the hunt to catch back on to everyone who we had originally agreed to ride with. Technical sections, winding switchbacks, loose and compact gravel trails. To put it simply smashing about on gravel is crazy fun. You are kept on your toes, but there is nothing quite so exciting and rewarding! We got to the first stop and managed to catch the chaps from G!RO, fill up our water bottles and wait for the people we dropped. The sun was scorching and the atmosphere was electric.
The next 50km were much of the same as the first. Fast paced, technical with sweeping trails switching through forests, across open hillsides and dropping into valleys. Many of the climbs were gravelled meaning you simply would keep the legs spinning and eventually, the top would be found. What I quickly learnt that descending on gravel, you have to hit it hard, fast and furious. That way you almost glide over it. Next food stop ticked off. Music glaring. Good vibes all around.
Now we were about 100km deep on the route, which was just short of 200km. Looking, at the elevation most of the steeper more technical climbs were in this section, along with some interesting descents. Myself, Ben, Matt, Paolo and Jon opted to ride the last 100km together. Often spreading out a bit on the climbs and descends then re gathering on many of the flatter sections. Legs were starting to feel it by this point, but the weather and continual views made it easy to continue.
A sharp descent and one last drag up hill left Ben hitting a large stone and forcing his Di2 into crash mode. An easy solve to just simply reset the system. Just short of 130km we came to the point where you decide weather you go big or go home. Jon, unfortunately by this point was suffering with his knee and opted best to take the shorter route, along with Erik. We were welcomed by a chicken and a Banana Man jeering us on to try and persuade us to go a certain way. We teased both of them many times before finally committing to the 200km route. About 70km to go from here. We knew what was coming. More gravelled climbs and more descents.
We reached the last feed stop. This was almost like heaven. Greeted by filter coffee, watermelon and potatoes in cheese. Perfect way to fuel up as the sun was starting to get ready for its evening. Filling up here we realised we were now a party of three. Paolo, Matt and myself. Ben's bike unfortunately came off much worse than we first thought when it hit the large stone so he regretfully left.
Paolo, Matt and I ploughed on, munching the miles and admiring the continual views we were greeted by. At points it felt like we were in North America, sometimes Spain, sometimes Scotland.
Finally, the home stretch. Riding around the perimeter of the stunning Keilder Lake. Trails made it feel like a go kart circuit as we pumped over climbs, rolled descents, pumped up over again. The legs definitely tired by this point, but happy tired. Lastly you jump back onto the circuit where we had started what seemed like an age ago to start to hear cheers, jeers, whistles and clapping at the base of the hill up to the castle. We all sprinted up the climb and through the finish. Complete. Beer in hand, smiles all round.
What an experience. I have to be honest I wasn't too sure on what to expect of this weekend. It is a long drive or train to get there but it is 107% worth it. I'll be back. Have a look below for the ride on my Komoot account.
I've had a few people ask about my Quirk and what was the set up I used for Reiver. So here is below:
My custom build Quirk Cycles
· Custom build Quirk CX bike, painted by the legends at Cole Coatings
· Shimano Ultegra Di2 Groupset
· Verve InfoCrank power meter with 36/48 Praxis Works chainrings
· Kogel ceramic Bottom Bracket and Jockey Wheels
· TRP Spyre cable brakes
· Hunt Aero Light Disc Wheels with Panaracer GravelKing 38C tyres
· Fizik stem and handlebars, Focus Concept CPX Plus seatpost with a Specialized Romin saddle
· USE Exposure front and rear lights with Wahoo ELEMNT computer
· Two water bottle cages
· Apidura Handlebar bag, toptube bag (mounted to seatpost) and rear tool bag
What would I change on this set up?
There is, obviously a few things I have learnt and would consider changing on this set up and a few things to note:
· Flared bars I think are a definite if running a handlebar bag. You can't get to the drops easily otherwise.
· Hydro brakes are a definite. TRPs are great, but not quite as sharp as I would have liked.
· I didn't have any issues with comfort in my hands, but I think I would probably put some gel pads under the bar tape.
· The handlebar bag came loose a few times. Next time I would choose to run a small frame bag.
· 700c wheels with 38 tyres felt fantastic.
· My gearing also felt like more than enough.
· Suspension in the seat post helped a lot with reducing vibrations.
· Di2 works incredibly well for riding off road. The shifting is flawless.
· BIKE WAS IMMENSE.
What a trip. Get it into your diary for 2019!